OXFORD, Ohio — Miami earned a shutout in its last game, but the RedHawks were deposed in that manor on Friday.
In both teams’ league opener, Carter Mazur recorded a natural hat trick and Magnus Chrona turned aside 24 shots as Denver blanked MU, 4-0 at Cady Arena.
The series finale is at 5:05 p.m. on Saturday.
RECAP: Denver (5-2) took the lead 6:25 into the first period when Miami’s Hampus Rydqvist knocked the puck away from Pioneers forward Massimo Rizzo, and the loose puck was teed up for Mazur streaking through the slot for a point-blank blast that beat RedHawks goalie Ludvig Persson.
DU went up by two on a 5-on-3 less than three minutes into the second period, as Mazur banged home a rebound off a Rizzo slap shot.
With 3:55 left in regulation, Denver stole the puck in its offensive zone and Rizzo fed Mazur from the slot to the edge of the paint for a tap-in to complete the hat trick.
Tristan Broz scored his first collegiate goal when he intercepted a clearing pass through the slot and fired it past Persson with 1:43 left.
STATS: It was Miami’s seventh straight loss to Denver and its sixth consecutive ‘L’ in Oxford. The RedHawks (4-2-1) have been outscored, 34-11 during their current losing streak vs. the Pioneers.
— MU’s streak of five games with a power play goal was snapped, as was Matthew Barbolini’s six-game points streak, the longest to open a season since Jack Roslovic in 2015.
— Miami’s minus-13 shot differential was its second-worst clip of the season.
— Want a positive stat? The RedHawks did finish 31-27 in the faceoff circle.
THOUGHTS: It seems almost cruel that Miami played Canisius last weekend, the slowest of the RedHawks’ four opponents thus far, and have to face this team six days later, arguably the fastest in the NCAA.
Denver played like a defending national champion in this game, taking advantage of its explosive speed and capitalizing on mistakes, such as taking major penalties and attempted clearing passes through the slot.
The RedHawks have turned the puck over a ton the past few weekends and they paid them against the third-ranked team in Division I.
— There was some good that came out this game for Miami. The RedHawks went down one early but had some strong offensive-zone shifts in the first period.
To their credit as well, they battled until the final horn, putting together some of their best shifts in the closing minutes after the outcome was a certainty.
And Miami also had some unlucky bounces on excellent scoring chances, plus Chrona stopped everything in sight.
— Miami was hanging in until a hooking penalty by P.J. Fletcher turned into an extended 5-on-3 when Rydqvist was called for a cross-checking major and game misconduct.
Denver scored on the two-man advantage and almost added another goal, but it was ruled the puck was kicked in after Miami coach Chris Bergeron challenged.
Down 2-0 coming out of that penalty kill, the RedHawks never found that same energy they had earlier in the game.
— I didn’t see the crucial penalty, nor did any of the other people of both sides of the bowl that I asked, but Bergeron called it a bad play by Rydqvist in his postgame interview.
— I’ve never seen a hat trick — natural or not — in which the same scorer had the same two assist in the same order on all three tallies.
LINEUP CHANGES: Forwards Thomas Daskas and John Sladic made their 2022-23 debuts on the fourth line, and they joined Jack Olmstead, who missed the Canisius series.
Out were Brian Silver, Frankie Carogioiello and Blake Mesenburg, who comprised that line in the Canisius finale.
On defense, Dylan Moulton was back after missing three games due to an undisclosed injury. Alex Murray, who had dressed for five straight games, did not play.
STANDINGS: This is the first and only NCHC series this weekend, so Miami is technically last in the league through one game.
It’s again the way-too-early-to-take-it-seriously portion of the college hockey season, but the RedHawks are ninth in the PairWise rankings.
FORWARDS: D-. Goals are really important in hockey, and while the effort by this corps was largely there, Miami didn’t score. And these 12 skaters only tallied 14 shots on goal. If there’s one player that seems to get better every game, it’s Artur Turansky. The puck seems to follow him and he is getting better defensively as well. The newly-formed fourth line went minus-2, although Sladic nearly scored and made a strong case for more playing time.
DEFENSEMEN: D. Denver flat-out skated around members of this corps on numerous occasions, and several more times Miami defensemen were either caught pinching or flat-footed coming back. Much of the credit goes to the Pioneers, but a more cautious approach against this team seems like the better strategy. Nick Donato played a strong game and Robbie Drazner laid out a couple of hits and logged quality shut-down minutes.
GOALTENDING: B. There wasn’t much Persson could’ve done on any of his goals against. The first one was a point-blank rip by one of the best skaters in college hockey with a running start, and the second was on a 5-on-3. Denver also scored on a perfectly-executed tic-tac-toe passing sequence and another on a teed-up blast from the slot. Persson made one incredible side-to-side sprawling save and cleanly gloved a 2-on-1 rip.
FINAL THOUGHTS: It’s unclear how the game would have evolved had Miami not been whistled for a minor and a major within 20 seconds of each other.
Regardless, it felt like the RedHawks had a chance when they trailed by one, but overcoming a two-goal deficit against this team seemed too unwieldy.
Denver’s lineup included 10 NHL draftees. Miami has Red Savage.
The RedHawks — who are regularly dressing nine contributing freshmen — are making major strides, but this game reminded everyone they’re a ways away from returning to that top-5 status they enjoyed in the late 00s and early teens.