Miami is headed to Denver.
For the second straight season, Miami finished last in the eight-team NCHC – by one point this time – and will face the Pioneers in a best-of-3 next weekend to open the conference tournament.
Western Michigan blanked the RedHawks, 3-0 at Lawson Arena in the teams’ final regular season game Saturday, completing a series sweep.
Miami is 0-7-1 in its last eight road games and 1-9 in the conference tournament since 2015.
RECAP: The Broncos (22-10-1) opened the scoring at 5:41 of the first period when Drew Worrad tipped home a shot from the right point by Mike Joyaux.
Western Michigan extended its lead to two when Ethen Frank skated from the left wing into the slot and fired across his body and into the net for his Division I-leading 25th goal of the season with 5:55 left in the middle stanza.
WMU’s Jason Polin capped off the scoring, picking the top right corner of the net from the slot on a wrister off a drop pass with 4:03 left in regulation.
Miami (7-25-2) had a goal waved off in the first period because it was played with a high stick.
STATS: It was the second time this season the RedHawks were shut out, and they enter the playoffs having scored just 10 times in their last five games.
Despite the score, Miami actually outshot WMU, 32-31, just the sixth time this season that MU has outpaced an opponent on the shot counter.
<has a positive one here somewhere…found one>
— Miami goalie Ludvig Persson recorded a save percentage above .900 for the seventh straight game.
Since 19-1 weekend, Persson has a .925 save percentage, raising his season clip from .875 to .894.
THOUGHTS: It seemed like it wasn’t going to be Miami’s night when its ‘goal’ in the first period was waved off.
It was the right call – Thomas Daskas did touch it at about shoulder height, well above the four-foot threshold of the top of the net – but how often does a goal get disallowed for that? First time I can remember in a long time.
After a sluggish for 40 minutes offensively, the RedHawks were much better in the third period, generating 18 of their 32 shots.
But coming back from two, then three down with four minutes left, is a tall task against a loaded WMU team in its own building.
The glaring thing for the second straight night was the inordinate number of odd-man rushes against, and to a lesser extent Miami’s ineptitude on its own few rushes.
This was an issue early in the season, and while MU is second-last in the NCAA in goals against average, at least the RedHawks had stopped hemorrhaging 2-on-1s and breakaways.
Late in the game when trailing, risky pinching is forgivable, but most miscues occurred when the games were still in doubt.
Persson was outstanding at defending those super high-percentage chances, and Western Michigan missed the net on a few prime scoring opportunities. If both of those weren’t true, either night or both could’ve been a blowout.
— With a strong run at Cady Arena late, it would’ve been a major victory to climb out of the league basement after taking last in 2020-21 as well, but despite getting swept this weekend, Colorado College edged Miami out by a point, 18-17.
That comes after the Tigers went 4-0 against the RedHawks in the regular season.
In one matchup, CC scored with seven minutes left in the third to beat Miami, and the Tigers took each of the final two meetings in overtime.
It’s like the RedHawks are Wile E. Coyote, and every time it looks like they should get the better of Colorado College, those explosives intended for their rival somehow migrate back to them just in time to detonate.
— Denver and North Dakota actually tied for the Penrose Cup, and the Pioneers won the tiebreaker and thus the No. 1 seed.
Miami may have matched up better with North Dakota, as the teams played a close series in Oxford this season with UND earning all six points.
The RedHawks are 0-4 vs. DU and were outscored, 11-2 in Denver on Nov. 19-20.
— Dylan Moulton went down along the boards in the third period and appeared to get run over while his leg was underneath him. He went down the tunnel and did not return.
If he misses the postseason, that would be a huge loss for the RedHawks, as he was the quarterback of the second power play unit and one of their more reliable shut-down defensemen.
LINEUP CHANGES: Just one: Bray Crowder was back in the lineup on defense, and Brian Silver was scratched.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This series obviously didn’t go the way Miami would’ve wanted, but the team still deserves a lot of credit for turning it around after 19-1 and posting three wins against very good teams.
The RedHawks didn’t get blown out again – actually this was their worst loss in the 10 games since, and they ended up with one more shot than the Broncos.
We’ve seen past Miami teams go sideways and never emerge from the abyss.
So on to the postseason we go.
Denver is really, really good, and it’s even better in its own building, with quality crowds and a rink that sits a mile above sea level.
Winning a marathon best-of-3 against this team at altitude is a Sisyphean task.
Hey, the last time these teams met in the NCHC Tournament, Miami won.
That was in the 2015 conference semifinals.
But at least the RedHawks can boast a postseason winning streak against Denver heading into next weekend.