Despite its lack of recent success overall, Miami has done one thing exceptionally well the past few seasons: Win its road opener.
The RedHawks, who have not lost the first game of a season road slate since 2016, rode a three-point night by Joey Cassetti and Ludvig Persson’s 38 saves to a 3-1 win at No. 15 UMass Lowell on Friday.
Miami’s last lost in its initial road game of a season came exactly six years ago in Providence. The RedHawks are 5-0-1 since.
Miami (2-0-1), now unbeaten through three games for the first time since 2012-13, concludes its weekend series with UMass Lowell (1-1) at 6:05 p.m. on Saturday.
RECAP: After a scoreless first period, the RedHawks opened the scoring on the power play when Max Dukovac slid a pass from along the boards through the top of the crease to Artur Turansky, who slammed it home with 9:33 left in the middle frame.
Nick Donato whipped a shot through traffic that hit Cassetti’s skate at the top of the crease and pinballed in less than five minutes later to put Miami ahead by two.
Dukovac extended the RedHawks’ lead to three when he penetrated the zone, cut to the slot and pitchforked a backhander just under the crossbar with 11:12 left in regulation.
UML’s Blake Wells ruined the shutout with 40 seconds remaining when he was able to bat a loose puck at the top of the crease past a sprawling Persson.
STATS: Cassetti’s three points established a career high, and his current three-game goal streak to start the season is also a personal best.
Dukovac, who finished 1-1-2, and Matthew Barbolini also extended their points streaks to three games.
It was the first career goal for both Dukovac and Turansky.
— Persson’s 38 saves were a season high, as he raised his save percentage to .956 and lowered his goals-against average to 1.31.
— Donato and Robbie Drazner also earned assists. Donato’s was his first point since Jan. 15 and Drazner had not made the scoresheet since Dec. 12, as he missed the second half of last season with an upper-body injury.
— Miami is unbeaten three games into the season for the first time since 2012-13 and has not gone three games without a loss since a four-game winning streak Oct. 20-Nov. 2, 2019 that coincidentally started with a win over UML when these teams last met.
— For all of its success in their first road games each season, MU snapped a 10-game winless streak away from Oxford. The RedHawks were 0-9-1 in their final away stretch last season.
THOUGHTS: Miami couldn’t have asked for a better start on the road.
From opening puck drop it was clear the River Hawks were a big upgrade over Ferris State, but the RedHawks battled, and battled, and battled and were flat-out better at taking advantage of opportunities.
Miami certainly had some puck luck as well (wasn’t this team due for some after all of those bad bounces in 2021-22?), but the RedHawks did everything right to put themselves in position to have good fortune, both offensively and defensively.
For example, the Cassetti goal hit his skates and somehow found the back of the cage, but that happened because he crashed the net and Donato made a smart play to throw the puck on net.
And on the other end, UML didn’t score until the final minute despite numerous quality chances. That’s because Persson was in great position all game and for the most part Miami’s skaters kept their sticks in lanes and repeatedly hit the deck to block shots.
Hope always springs eternal in September, when it’s easier to be optimistic because to media and fans rosters just exist on paper, but once the season starts, shortcomings are exposed.
However, through three games this season, Miami looks different on the ice.
The RedHawks are battling for loose pucks harder. They’re defending tighter. And when a puck does go into their own net, they’re not slipping into the doldrums and allowing one or two more.
Confidence has been one of the team’s biggest issues in recent seasons, and MU Version 2022-23 seems to be exuding it.
It’s just the start of the season, but it’s been a fun start.
— The second line of Barbolini, Cassetti and Dukovac was the best for either team by far in this game. The threesome seemingly created one or more scoring chances every shift and accounted for two goals and four assists. That’s 13 points in three games for the trio.
— Speaking of Dukovac, the freshman (!!!) will make some highlight reels with his sick backhander that made it 3-0, and he nearly scored again moments later but was denied by a great save. He also threaded a perfect pass from the boards to Turansky for the first goal.
Through three games, he’s tied with Cassetti for the team high in points with five. He’s had an exceptional start to his Miami career.
— Dylan Moulton left the game briefly in the first period, tried to come back but did not skate the final 40 minutes. Miami is thin on power play defensemen anyway, and he has logged tons of ice time in that role the past 12 months. His long-term loss would be huge for the RedHawks. Drazner took over for him on the man-advantage.
— Donato played well against Ferris State but he made a statement in this game, setting up a goal, dishing out multiple key hits and blocking several shots. In one sequence he rejected a pair of attempts and cleared the loose puck out of the crease seconds later.
He was hurt the first half of 2021-22 but is making an excellent case for an every-game role so far this season.
— The negatives? Miami’s passing was too sloppy. Too many turnovers that will result in goals against later this season against NCHC opponents. The RedHawks still need to improve in the faceoff circle. And while defensive positioning wasn’t bad for the most part (way better than in recent seasons), on multiple occasions, multiple defenders chased opponents behind the net, allowing wide-open forwards to set up shot unabated in the slot.
LINEUP CHANGES: Only one: Turansky dressed in place of Frankie Carogioiello and scored his first Division I goal.
STANDINGS: Miami is unbeaten through three games for the first time in nine years and is currently No. 1 in PairWise, which is obviously useless in such a small sample size.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Miami got some bounces, Persson was outstanding and Dukovac made awesome happen all night.
UMass Lowell will likely throw their best at the RedHawks to open Saturday’s game.
MU continues to face tests as it starts its season, and that will be another big one as it tries to build on this high-quality win on hostile ice.