Miami won its conference opener two weeks ago, but the RedHawks have now dropped five straight NCHC games since, most in lopsided fashion.
No. 11 Denver pounded MU, 7-1 at Magness Arena on Saturday and outscored the RedHawks, 11-2 in the weekend sweep.
Miami (2-9-1) fell behind, 5-0 before scoring its lone goal early in the third period. The RedHawks have not led a game since the final three minutes of their comeback win in Omaha on Nov. 5.
RECAP: Carter Mazur opened the scoring for Denver (8-4) when he wristed a shot from the right faceoff circle that snuck through Miami goalie Logan Neaton 10:09 into the first period.
The Pioneers went up, 2-0 at the 6:10 mark of the middle frame on a 2-on-1 shorthanded, with McKade Webster and Carter King playing give-and-go and Webster slamming the puck in.
Less than three minutes later, Mazur partially tipped a hard pass through the top of the crease by Mike Benning, and the puck retained just enough momentum to slide into the net before Neaton could recover.
With 6:28 left in that frame, King centered a pass through the slot that deflected off Webster’s stick to Connor Caponi for a tap-in at the top of the crease, making it 4-0.
Denver took a five-goal lead 2:12 later when Bobby Brink was denied on a point-blank blast, but the rebound was directed in by Benning.
Two minutes into the third period, Miami scored its lone goal on a rising, seeing-eye backhander from the blue line by Jack Olmstead that found the far top corner of the net.
But with 6:35 to play, Brink came around the cage and whipped a backhander that found the short-side top corner of the net as the Pioneers regained their five-goal lead, 6-1.
Capioni scored again shorthanded with 1:01 left when King skated into the zone and around the defense, centering a pass from the goal line to the slot for another easy goal at the edge of the blue paint.
STATS: So how about that RedHawks goal?
It was the second of Olmstead’s four-year collegiate career, including two seasons at Michigan.
Dylan Moulton picked up the primary assist for the drop pass, his third point in four games.
The other helper went to Monte Graham, who won the faceoff. It was his first point in five contests.
— The final shot total was 48-15 in favor of Denver. The RedHawks have not been outshot by a 3-to-1 margin in the 12 seasons we have tracked SOG by game.
MU has allowed at least twice as many shots as it has generated in five of its last six games. The RedHawks have been outshot, 227-103 (37.8 to 17.2 per game) in that span.
— The last time a Miami opponent scored two shorthanded goals was on Feb. 10, 2018 vs. St. Cloud State.
Amazingly, the RedHawks were perfect on five penalty kills, their first game without allowing a PPG in five games.
THOUGHTS: The score and stats pretty much say it all.
Most reasonable fans understand that Miami is still working to correct its talent disparity between itself and conference foes like Denver, but this result isn’t even close to acceptable.
The team quit, and that phrase was written on this word processor before listening to Coach Chris Bergeron using those exact words to describe the RedHawks after the game.
The Pioneers – who are outstanding and deserve a ton of credit for executing a dominant two-game performance this weekend – skated around Miami defenders like pilons and scored five times from the top of the crease in this game.
It’s like we were back in 2018-19 when poor defensive play led to opponents owning the slot when they were in the offensive zone.
The third Denver goal was scored on a pass through the slot that four Miami skaters watched and made no attempt to deflect or intercept.
No. 4 came when three skaters were close enough to Neaton to smell what he had for dinner, and a pass was deflected by one to the wide open one – Caponi – who could probably see a giant ‘Easy’ button on the puck as he rammed it in.
Benning scored the fifth one because after Miami allowed a close rip with no defenders in site, no one accounted for him at he burst through the slot uncontested.
The last Denver goal was the worst in a way, as the Pioneers were shorthanded but still manhandled Miami, as King just blew through the RedHawks and found a teammate who – what do you know – was uncovered as he skated through the slot for another marker from inside COVID social distancing perameters.
It’s easy to look at the scoresheet and blame Neaton, but he gave up two goals that he probably would’ve wanted back and the rest were the result of poor play by his teammates in front of him.
LINEUP CHANGES: One at each position.
Olmstead dressed in place of Brian Silver, who showed some jump in his season debut, and Andrew Sinard was back in the lineup as Alex Murray was scratched after playing in four straight games.
And in net it was Neaton for his third appearance of 2021-22 over Ludvig Persson, who had started nine consecutive games.
STANDINGS: Miami is currently seventh in the eight-team NCHC with three points, and Colorado College is last with two points and four games in hand.
The RedHawks are No. 42 out of 59 teams in Division I.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Since Day 1, which was Oct. 6, 2019, Bergeron-coached Miami teams have often been outmatched in talent, but they have always played hard and gave a quality effort that everyone who roots for this team could appreciate.
This game was a disappointment in that most fundamental level.
What is going on?
This schedule was set up with some bottom-third opponents up front, which would hopefully build up Miami’s confidence, a trait lacking for several seasons.
The RedHawks beat Ferris State in the season opener but lost in the finale against a Bulldogs team that finished 1-31-1 the season prior.
Then off to Michigan State, which won a whopping seven games in 2020-21. Miami was swept in East Lansing.
Bowling Green was a bit of an upgrade, and Miami largely stepped up to that level but couldn’t close out a win in Oxford and settled for a tie, then gave the game away at BGSU, allowing three unanswered goals in the third period after leading 40 minutes in.
The RedHawks were outplayed in Game 1 at Omaha but found a way to win, scoring twice late in the third period, but then laid an egg in the finale.
Miami didn’t improve in the six days between that series and North Dakota and the RedHawks were walloped in the opener, and while they fought hard late in the finale the Fighting Hawks were the better team by a wide margin.
Now this series, and another step back, this one major.
All of this has culminated in a 2-9-1 record, which is a winning percentage of .208.
And yes, it seems like everything that could go wrong to this point has gone wrong. Long-term injuries. Illness. A possible key early departure.
Every other team deals with these issues as well, but it’s certainly fair to say Miami has been decimated by those factors more than most Division I teams seven weeks into the season.
For everything that has gone wrong for Miami early this season, its fan support has been excellent and the RedHawks have an opportunity to win over a lot of new fans Cady Arena this season.
MU plays seven of its next eight games in Oxford. If the RedHawks don’t improve their level of play significantly on this extended homestand, they will waste not only a chance to step forward in the standings but an opportunity to retain a potential long-term fan base.