OXFORD, Ohio — Miami was called for and killed off five consecutive penalties, but the sixth straight minor proved costly.
The RedHawks, who led or were tied for the first 53 minutes, surrendered the go-ahead goal on that decisive power play and ultimately an empty netter as No. 3 Denver foiled their upset bid, 4-2 at Cady Arena on Saturday.
Those Miami PKs included 73 seconds of overlapping 5-on-3 time. MU (4-3-1) was shorthanded for large stretches of the series opener as well.
The Pioneers (6-2) completed the series sweep, beating the RedHawks for the seventh straight time in Oxford. They are 8-0 in the teams’ last eight meetings overall.
RECAP: P.J. Fletcher carried the puck into the zone and slid a pass through his defender to a streaking Matthew Barbolini, who stepped into a shot and fired it through Denver goalie Magnus Chrona to give the RedHawks the lead with 1:06 left in the first period.
The Pioneers tied it on a 4-on-2 when Casey Dornbach tapped in a feed by Kyle Mayhew from the side of the net with 14:44 remaining in the middle frame.
Miami regained the lead three minutes later, as John Waldron initially juggled a pass through the slot by Artur Turansky, recovered and roofed it on the power play for his first career goal.
Denver tied it 4:30 into the final stanza on a goal by Carter Mazur, who carried the puck into the offensive zone and beat RedHawks goalie Ludvig Persson far post.
Mazur put the Pioneers ahead with 7:10 remaining when Massimo Rizzo fed him a pass down low, and he fired past Persson on the short side.
Rizzo sealed it on an empty netter from the red line with 1:12 to play.
STATS: Barbolini is now tied with Joey Cassetti for the team lead with four goals. He has points in seven of Miami’s eight games this season.
— Waldron has two points in his first four career games.
— Fletcher’s assist gives him four points in five contests, and Turansky and Axel Kumlin both picked up helpers as well, the second of each’s career.
— Miami has allowed 19 goals this season, with 12 coming in the third period. The RedHawks have surrendered just two first-period markers.
— MU was outshot, 42-20, its worst margin and ratio of the season.
THOUGHTS: Miami’s loss to Denver on Jan. 28 is still fresh on the mind.
It was one of the most devastating ‘Ls’ in a season that saw the RedHawks snatch defeat from the jaws of victory too many times, a game in which MU allowed two late goals and the final dagger in overtime.
To pile onto the here-we-go-again mentality, the 2022-23 team allowing two-thirds of all non-ENG goals in the third period (12 of 18) through eight games is also kind of a frightening stat.
Those negatives are valid, but overall this outcome is an outlier in terms of Miami finishing games in 2022-23.
The RedHawks were actually 4-0 this season when leading after two periods heading into Saturday. Their winning percentage in those situations last season is one of the lowest in the history of organized hockey.
Last year was more of a veteran team, yet there were issues with frustration, lack of confidence and energy consistency.
Miami’s biggest issues in 2022-23 heading into November? Turnovers and penalties.
Those issues are more associated with youth and are fixable with experience. Especially if the players committing those infractions have talent, and all of the members of the Class of 2026 appear to.
This is a young team. Nine freshmen have logged at least two games and eight dressed this weekend.
Also, Denver just won the national championship and appears poised to make a run at another title.
An 0-2 weekend is an 0-2 weekend, especially when losing yet another late lead, but through eight games, Miami is in a much better position than a year ago, and for a multitude of reasons.
— Trying to hold a 2-1 lead and then a tie was nearly impossible against Denver when taking six straight penalties.
Hate to see a team go down two men in the third period — especially after the RedHawks dealt with a 3-on-5 Friday — but the Fletcher call was legit. He pulled his man down as he skated behind the net.
— Speaking of which, four minutes after scoring his first career goal, Waldron was assessed a boarding minor, and as Miami tried to create a scoring chance as his penalty expired, he was returned to the sin bin for touching the puck with his stick before both of his skates were on the ice. Delay of game. I’ve heard reference to that rule but have never seen it enforced at any level in four decades of watching hockey.
— Speaking of penalties II, RedHawks assistant coach Barry Schutte lashed out at the referees multiple times in the third period, and after the handshake line was completed, he again yelled at the tandem from the bench and pointed his finger at them before heading down the tunnel.
— Have to say the attendance was a disappointment. This was a high-profile series that was hyped, and the average for both nights was slightly below 2,000. Seating capacity is just over 3,000.
— Not sure why Persson wasn’t pulled again when Miami had possession in the offensive zone down by two with over a minute remaining. If any team in Division I can believe in two goals being scored in a minute, it would be MU, right?
LINEUP CHANGES: Freshman defenseman Zane Demsey, who has shown tons of potential already, was scratched for the first time in his young career. Alex Murray dressed for the fifth game this season in his place.
Up front, Blake Mesenburg and Frankie Carogioiello were back in the lineup as John Sladic and Jack Olmstead sat.
FORWARDS: C. Two beautiful goals, but this corps didn’t generate ample scoring chances or capitalize on enough of the ones they did. Interesting to see freshmen Max Dukovac and Waldron on the same line, as both have shown tremendous promise early on.
DEFENSEMEN: C. It seemed like this group started to tire in periods 5 and 6 of the weekend after chasing Denver’s elite talent around for 80 minutes. Dylan Moulton’s return is invaluable on both ends of the ice, and Robby Drazner seemed to step up his play, especially in the physical aspect of the game.
GOALTENDING: B-. Two of the three goals Persson allowed were technically stoppable but were outstanding snipes by outstanding players. He had zero chance on the 2-on-0 in front of his net. As usual, Persson’s rebound control was excellent and he made a few high-profile saves.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Bergeron said in his postgame comments he was proud of his team’s play overall in this game. He’s right to be.
Yes, Miami was swept, and yes, this team has done way too much losing the past seven years.
And it’s understandable that RedHawks fans are growing impatient, especially considering the annual success they enjoyed as recently as 2015 followed by the gradual and painful decline since.
But October has not been a mirage like four years ago when Miami started the season 7-2 and finished 2-18-4.
Media are noticing. Scouts are noticing.
Miami and Denver still aren’t in the same stratosphere, but if the RedHawks continue their current trajectory, they can start closing the gap soon.