OXFORD, Ohio – For the first time in almost two years, Miami swept an opponent on home ice.
The foe on both occasions was No. 18 Nebraska-Omaha.
The RedHawks found the net 34 seconds into the series finale and never trailed in a 4-2 win at Cady Arena on Saturday.
Chase Gresock scored twice and recorded five points on the weekend.
Despite its massive struggles the past few seasons, Miami (6-20-2) has now won five straight home games vs. the Mavericks and is 8-3-1 in the teams’ last 12 meetings.
RECAP: The RedHawks took the lead 34 seconds in when P.J. Fletcher rifled in a one-timer from the right faceoff dot off a hard pass through traffic by Matthew Barbolini.
Jonny Tychonick tied it for UNO (17-13) at the 12:13 mark of the opening frame on a power play blast from the blue line that hit a Miami body and popped over the shoulder of RedHawks goalie Ludvig Persson.
Miami regained the lead with 5:24 left in the opening frame when Gresock beat a defender to a dump-in pass along the boards, skated to the goal line and flicked the puck through Mavericks goalie Isaiah Saville on the short side.
The RedHawks went ahead, 3-1 when a wrister from the right point by Hampus Rydqvist caromed off a UNO defender straight to a streaking Ryan Savage, who buried it from the left faceoff dot.
Cameron Berg cut the Mavericks’ deficit to one with 11:39 left in that stanza when he poked a loose puck in from the side of the crease after a blast by teammate Kevin Conley ricocheted off the end boards to the edge of the blue paint.
Gresock sealed it with 11 seconds left when he was taken down on an empty net breakaway, which by NCAA rules is considered a goal.
STATS: Gresock scored twice and was the only Miami skater with multiple points.
After scoring adjustments from Friday’s game, Gresock finished the weekend 2-3-5. He had missed 15 of the previous 18 games and seven in a row due to a nagging injury.
— Ryan Savage’s goal was his ninth of the season and second in as many games, tying him for the team lead with Barbolini. His current three-game points streak leads all skaters.
Fletcher’s marker was his first in seven games as he picked up a point in each end of this weekend series. He is third on the team with 17 points.
Rydqvist notched his fifth point on the four-game homestand after recording just three in his first 16 contests.
— Miami outshot its opponent for just the fifth time this season and had not led in that category its last eight games.
— The RedHawks were scoreless on the power play in four chances, snapping a three-game streak with a PPG. MU was 6-for-8 on the penalty kill and is just 61.3 percent on shorthanded chances its last six games (19 of 31).
THOUGHTS: If it’s possible to read body language under pads that rival those of an astronaut, it looked like Miami was much more confident entering Saturday, following Friday’s win – the team’s first conference victory in over three months.
And after taking a break from in-game competition earlier this calendar year, this team outworked the more-talented Mavericks.
The RedHawks showed they meant business from the opening puck drop, as they outskated Omaha to earn a 3-on-2 a half minute in which turned into a tear-jerkingly beautiful sequence of a drop pass by Red Savage inside the blue line, hard pass through two defenders by Barbolini and precision slam-dunk finish by Fletcher.
Hard work made that happen.
On a dump in that wasn’t going Miami’s way, Gresock challenged an idle defender, stole the puck and sent a puck through Saville.
Hard work again.
Gresock again, forcing a turnover at the defensive blue line, grabbing the puck, skating it through the neutral zone and earning a default goal for being taken down in an empty-net situation (more thoughts on that later).
See a theme?
Hard work + playing with confidence = a team that can achieve above its talent level, as we saw this weekend against an Omaha team that is loaded with skill, especially up front and on the power play.
Let’s not forget goaltending. Persson has suffered somewhat from the dreaded sophomore slump, but he has stepped up recently and showed excellent poise in this game.
It was a great weekend for Miami hockey indeed, which hasn’t been a common occurrence the past six years.
— Hate to criticize officiating, and as usual, we’re prefacing this by saying it didn’t affect the outcome either night, but this was not a great weekend for the refs.
Heavy-handed officiating is not preferable but tolerable if consistent, but the teams combined for 24 power plays this weekend yet several extremely obvious calls – by the strict standard set early Friday – were let go.
— Sounds like Robby Drazner, who appeared to injure his shoulder on Friday, will be out for at least next weekend as well.
That’s a big loss on the blue line for the RedHawks if the shut-down D-man is out long-term.
— Attendance was listed around 2,600, but the crowd was fantastic especially considering this team’s recent track record.
With the marketing budget obliterated the past few years (Nick Petraglia and Jude Killy), whomever is helping pump up these games needs to be recognized.
Someone suggested it was people missing live sports all of 2020 and much of 2021.
Regardless, Miami put on a show for a lot of newcomers both nights, and hopefully that helps the RedHawks gain new fans and new recruits. More thoughts on that in the wrap-up.
— Bold take: If a skater earns a penalty shot with an empty net, he should still have to skate in and physically deposit the puck in the net.
Like a technical foul in basketball, a player should still has to convert his or her chance to be awarded said point.
I do remember Marty Guerin being taken down with an empty net and being credited with a goal at old Goggin: Do any of you long-time fans remember other instances?
FORWARDS: A. This may have been the best this corps has played all season. Gresock seemed to have rockets in his skates as his second line with Matt Barry and Scott Corbett was the team’s best. Despite allowing two fluky power play goals, the penalty-killing forwards were largely excellent, including Corbett, Red Savage, Barbolini and Monte Graham. This was one of the best games Barry has played all season, as he is reunited with his chemistry-bro, Gresock. No doubt Corbett’s best game of 2021-22, as he was a terror on the PK and cleared out space for his linemates.
DEFENSEMEN: A-. A solid game by this corps overall, as Omaha didn’t get a ton of Grade-A chances. And Alec Capstick and Jack Clement both picked up assists. While Miami did allow two power play goals to a super-talented UNO power play, the blueliners made excellent outlet passes worked hard along the boards to kill precious time. Much better than Friday actually. Clement and Derek Daschke both played outstanding games and Andrew Sinard was solid in his return after missing the last seven contests.
GOALTENDING: A-. Persson really didn’t see a ton of high-percentage chances, but he was outstanding in both his positioning and rebound control. His two goals against were both unlucky: A slap shot hit a Miami body in the slot and skirted Persson’s shoulder and the other was off a rebound off the end boards. Definitely one of Persson’s best games of 2021-22, and he’s played much better recently.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Thinking back to the last weekend that Miami hockey was this much fun, that would be the final home series of 2020, the Ryan Larkin double-shutout series — also against UNO — days before the planet shut down and has since been permanently altered.
Seeing a nearly-sold out Cady Arena treated to two well-played, entertaining games was euphoric.
There have been so many new faces at games this season, and the rally Friday and the late drama again on Saturday captivated both rookie and veteran fans.
Hats off to this program for an impressive four-game homestand, coming off what may forever be known as 19-1 weekend.
Sitting at 4-18-2 and probably preferring to watch an ALF marathon to completing the merciless NCHC schedule, the coaches and the players decided they had hit rock bottom and rather than write off the year, they have played their best hockey of 2021-22 the last four games.
The team looks completely different than the one that has still has two potential goals against under review in St. Cloud.
The ultimate goal for a team in Miami’s position in the league and the PairWise is to prepare for the conference tournament and hope to get hot at the right time.
At least the RedHawks are in their top form four weeks from the NCHC postseason.