OXFORD, Ohio – Two individuals celebrated firsts on Saturday, and more importantly, Miami earned its first home win of the season.
Flipping a recent trend, the RedHawks never trailed after scoring twice late in the first period en route to a 4-1 win over Long Island University as the teams split the weekend series.
Logan Neaton earned his first NCAA win, stopping 35 of 36 shots, and Red Savage netted career goal No. 1 on a shorthanded breakaway after he stripped the puck in his defensive zone.
The victory snapped a six-game losing skid for Miami (3-10-1) and was the first win for the RedHawks with fans in the seats since Feb. 29, 2020, days before the pandemic halted that season.
RECAP: Miami took the lead with 6:46 left in the first period when Dylan Moulton wristed a puck from the point and Joey Cassetti tipped it past goalie Kris Carlson.
The RedHawks made it 2-0 four minutes later on the penalty kill when Savage stripped the puck in his own zone, skated in for a breakaway and beat Carlson to the stick side.
The Sharks (1-7-2) cut the deficit to one midway through the middle frame when Bowling Green transfer Carson Musser ripped one past Neaton just inside the far post on the power play.
Miami again went ahead by two just 2:21 in the final stanza when a shot from the right faceoff circle by Thomas Daskas was partially tipped by Carlson, and Matthew Barbolini slammed home the loose puck while crashing the net.
Chase Pletzke stole the puck in the neutral zone and fired one into the empty net with 29 seconds to play, sealing the RedHawks’ win.
(Editors’ note: The NCAA is using a new stats program this season, which is fantastic, but the transition has created some statistical disparities, so numbers vary from site to site, an issue that will hopefully be cleaned up in the future)
Neaton was 0-5 lifetime in NCAA play entering this game – 0-3 at UMass-Lowell and 0-2 for the RedHawks. His save percentage rose from .872 to .900 and his .972 clip in this game was the highest since Ludvig Persson’s shutout of Denver in the Omaha Pod on Dec. 17.
Savage netted his first career goal and Miami’s second SHG of the season, with the other coming on Oct. 3 at Ferris State.
— Barbolini and Cassetti now have four markers each, tied for second on the team behind Ryan Savage. Cassetti had not scored since his illness during Omaha weekend, and Barbolini has all four of his tallies in the last eight games.
— Pletzke scored for the second time in three games.
— Moulton has picked up points in four straight games, a current team high, and Matt Barry and Thomas Daskas both earned assists, giving them points in both games this weekend.
— P.J. Fletcher notched his first point in four games.
— Miami’s last home win – during the COVID year without fans – was Feb. 12 vs. St. Cloud State.
THOUGHTS: This really wasn’t that great of a win, as the RedHawks were outshot by nearly a 2-to-1 margin again by a team in its second season of Division I play.
The passing and transition game should’ve been smoother, turnovers fewer, offensive zone time much higher.
But a win – even an imperfect win – still has to do wonders for the team’s collective psyche after it was manhandled for most of the first two months and had gone into sleep mode for the previous 120 minutes.
From a fan perspective it was enjoyable as well.
Perhaps Friday was truly the proverbial rock bottom for this program, and this team finally is beginning to jel heading into the murderer’s row portion of its schedule.
Western Michigan descends on Oxford next week, and the RedHawks will need to play three levels better to have a chance to earn any valuable league points.
— With a mostly-empty rink due to students leaving campus for the holiday, coach Chris Bergeron showed a rare glimpse of emotion late in the first period when he could be heard dropping F-bombs at the officials for a non-call on a hit on Ryan Savage behind the play.
Bergeron is typically stoic on the bench, but under the circumstances it would be welcome to see fire coming from the coaches or players publicly.
LINEUP CHANGES: Forward Chase Gresock, who had missed four games before returning on Friday and scoring a goal, was out of the lineup again for this game.
It sounds like Miami does not want to rush him back, as he was in a boot just a couple of weeks ago.
From the forward corps, Scott Corbett also sat after playing Friday.
John Sladic and Brian Silver dressed in their place.
On defense, freshmen Alex Murray and Nick Donato were scratched, and Alec Capstick and Andrew Sinard both returned to the lineup.
FORWARDS: C. Like Friday, scoring four goals doesn’t mean you played great as a collective. This corps of 12 generated 13 shots. Against a team that…yeah, we’ve been over this. Passing wasn’t nearly good enough either. Red Savage was in high-gear in every facet of the game all night, and Pletzke was a force early on and was rewarded with an ENG late.
DEFENSEMEN: D+. No way LIU should rack up 35 shots and this group was below average all weekend. It had prided itself on its offense but was a non-factor in that area and wasn’t nearly physical enough. Too many turnovers, a poor transition game and pucks that should’ve been cleared out of the defensive zone weren’t.
GOALTENDING: A-. The only goal Neaton allowed was on a well-placed one-timer. He allowed almost no rebounds and always seemed to be in the right position. Neaton didn’t face a ton of A-plus chances but was very solid on the higher-percentage opportunities he did see. He looked a little sluggish in relief on Friday, but he was absolutely on his game and more than earned the long-deserved win. In the third period, there was a struggle for a loose puck after a shot hit Neaton and bounced over him toward the net, but a teammate was able to clear. Kirk Laursen – Miami’s backup – was sure to retrieve the loose puck by the half boards when the final horn sounded.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This win was a step forward for Miami – even if it’s just largely mental – but it’s far from a leap.
On an individual level, it was great to see Neaton put together a 60-minute game and Red Savage both disrupt defensively and contribute offensively as well for three periods.
The RedHawks will need more than just two of its players to be the best versions of themselves next weekend when Western Michigan visits Cady Arena.