BUFFALO, N.Y. – Miami and Canisius combined for five third-period goals a day earlier, but that scoring barrage did not carry over to Saturday.
Fortunately for the RedHawks, it was Ryan and Red Savage who netted the lone tallies in a 2-0 win over the Golden Griffins at the Lecom Harborcenter.
Ludvig Persson stopped 25 shots as Miami equaled its road win total from 2021-22, and the RedHawks earned their first sweep away from Oxford since Jan. 2-3, 2021.
MU improved to 8-0 all-time vs. the Golden Griffins, with the other six wins all coming at Cady Arena.
RECAP: Miami’s Matthew Barbolini centered a pass from behind the net to Ryan Savage, whose initial one-timer was denied, but he jammed the rebound in to give the RedHawks the lead 6:38 into the first period.
With Canisius’ goalie pulled, Red Savage stole the puck in the neutral zone, skated in on a breakaway and deposited the puck into the empty net with 41 seconds left in regulation to seal it.
Persson made two highlight-reel saves in the closing minutes to secure the shutout.
STATS: Red Savage picked up an assist in addition to his unassisted empty-netter, giving him his second multi-point game of the season and six points overall.
Ryan Savage found the net for the third straight game, joining Joey Cassetti for the longest streak of 2022-23.
— Barbolini recorded the other helper and has now earned points in six consecutive games (3-4-7), the longest stretch for a Miamian since Gordie Green picked up points in seven straight Dec. 6, 2019-Jan. 18, 2020.
He’s the first RedHawks to open a season with points in six straight contests since Jack Roslovic in 2015-16.
— Persson notched his fourth career shutout, tying him for ninth place on Miami’s all-time leaderboard.
— This was the RedHawks’ first road sweep since Jan. 2-3, 2021 when they won both games at Western Michigan during the pandemic when no fans were allowed to attend.
— Miami scored a power play goal for the fifth straight game and is 6-for-16 (37.5 percent) in that span.
THOUGHTS: The most encouraging thing about Miami hockey Version 2022-23 is seeing the team hold late leads considering how many times similar games went sideways last season, many times against lesser-talented teams.
Even from press level the RedHawks’ confidence level is obviously elevated from a team that allowed 57 goals after the third period in 2021-22.
Persson was solid as usual the first 57 minutes and didn’t have to make many difficult saves, but he had to shut down a point-blank chance with his pad and then pushed across the crease to deny a one-timer that appeared destined to hit twine.
The depth up front has been discussed a lot, but Miami is deeper on the back end as well. Opponents averaged 37.5 shots vs. the RedHawks last season — one of the worst clips in college hockey — but Miami has held foes to 29.3 SOG per contest in 2022-23.
Not just blueliners, the forwards have done their part in their own end as well. About half of that corps each night is trusted to kill penalties.
The PK was 7-for-8 this weekend, including a quality kill on a major penalty, and Miami scored shorthanded. Plus the RedHawks shut down over a minute of 6-on-5 in this game and turned that extra-attacker situation into a goal.
At least through six games, when Miami has to protect slim late leads like on Saturday — as an observer — that oh-crap-what-bad-is-going-to-happen-next feeling one experienced every time the RedHawks were up by one or two with a couple minutes remaining has been replaced by a they’ve-got-this mentality.
— The turnovers were an issue again, and if that trend continues, Miami will pay a much higher price for them as the RedHawks transition to their brutal league schedule. MU dressed six freshman forwards both nights and it seems like part of the issue is the first-year Miamians trying to force passes, perhaps overestimating the speed of the game at this level. Nerves may play a role as well.
Fortunately those aren’t fundamental flaws and having watched this team play for a month it’s easy to have confidence those concerns can be overcome.
— Like the effort from the bottom two lines, especially Artur Turansky. The talent and the effort is definitely there, albeit a little raw.
He’s already scored twice in five games, works very hard at both ends of the ice and seems to have plenty of offensive upside. Excited to watch his development.
— And again with the fourth line: Energy. Great speed and forechecking from Frankie Carogioiello and Blake Mesenburg with Brian Silver in for Chase Pletzke on the right side.
— Nick Donato has made a major leap on the Miami defensemen depth chart. He was on the top pairing both nights and largely exceled at shutting down Canisius’ top forwards.
Donato missed the first half of last season with an injury but has been one of the top defensive defensemen on the team early on.
— Ryan Savage scored the only goal of the first 59 minutes but took a bad retaliation penalty midway through the third period in a 1-0 game. In response, Red Savage logged one of his best PK shifts of the season, killing tons of precious time on that kill with forechecking and puck possession.
Red ended up scoring the clincher 5-on-6 in the final minute. Ryan definitely owes Red a beer (DISCLAIMER: VFTG did check and both Savages are in fact 21 years of age).
LINEUP CHANGES: Only one: Silver replaced Pletzke up front. All of the lines and pairings remained the same.
STANDINGS: Way-to-early-PairWise has Miami ranked No. 5, so the RedHawks would play Michigan State in the first round of the NCAAs if the season ended now. The Spartans visit Oxford over Thanksgiving weekend.
MU has the second-highest winning percentage in the NCHC (.750), trailing only St. Cloud State, which is 6-0.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Looking at the October non-conference schedule a couple of months ago, coming off a seven-win 2021-22, the expectation on this end was to at least split against Ferris State, maybe earn a tie at Lowell and hopefully take both games here.
So a 4-1-1 record with two of games coming at a top-15 Hockey East opponent (again, coming off a seven-win season)? Pretty solid.
Factor in as well that the 2-1-1 start came without Axel Kumlin or John Waldron, who both debuted this weekend and showed tremendous promise in the two-game audition at Lecom Harborcenter.
And Ludvig Persson has taken a major step forward, as the junior is ninth in the NCAA in save percentage at .938.
The NCHC gauntlet awaits Miami starting this weekend, with defending national champion Denver opening that slate, but the team the RedHawks have iced thus far seems better equipped to handle the brutal upcoming competition.