OXFORD, Ohio — The Zambroni crew probably could’ve saved time by not resurfacing Miami’s offensive zone after the first period.
Thanks to an extremely slow start, the RedHawks fell behind by a goal early and never recovered, losing 2-1 to Colorado College at Cady Arena on Saturday.
Miami (4-6-2) is winless in six games since league play started, going 0-5-1 in that span vs. NCHC foes.
The RedHawks were held to one shot on goal through 13 minutes and just five overall for the frame, then fired 15 SOG in each of the final two periods, but Tigers goalie Kaidan Mbereko stopped 34 of 35.
Miami dropped to 0-8-1 in its last nine games vs. Colorado College, which had not won a road game this season.
RECAP: Colorado College (5-6-1) took the lead on the power play with 5:48 left in the first period when Stanley Cooley backhanded a pass through the crease to Tyler Coffey, who tapped it in from the side of the cage.
The Tigers went up two on a blast from the left faceoff dot by Hunter McKown after a rip from the opposite side by Gleb Veremyev hit a body in the slot and caromed to him with 36 seconds left in the middle stanza, also on the man-advantage.
At the 36-second mark of the third period, Hampus Rydqvist cut the Miami deficit in half when he wired a wrister home from the top of the right faceoff circle off a feed by Matthew Barbolini.
STATS: Rydqvist’s goal was his first of the season and snapped a 17-game drought. His last one? That came against Colorado College as well on Feb. 19.
Barbolini became the first RedHawk this season to reach double-digits in scoring (4-6-10), earning the primary assist to give him points in nine of the 10 games he has played.
Dylan Moulton, who was banged up and missed three games earlier this season, picked up his second helper of 2022-23.
— Special teams were the difference maker in both games. Colorado College was 2-for-6 and Miami went 0-for-4 on Saturday.
Both teams scored on the Tigers’ man-advantage on Friday, with CC connecting on a power play and the RedHawks netting their lone goal shorthanded. MU was 0-for-9 on the power play for the weekend, dropping to 18.2 percent on the season — last in the NCHC.
In league play the RedHawks are 3-for-29 (10.3 percent), also the worst clip in the league. The PK hasn’t been much better — 74.3 percent and second-worst only to Duluth.
— This was Miami’s first loss to an unranked team. The RedHawks are 1-5 vs. top-20 opponents and fell to 3-1-2 vs. unranked foes.
THOUGHTS: It’s inconceivable a team isn’t ready for a Saturday game after a team that you should’ve beaten the night before tied you and won the shootout in your own building.
Yet here we were, 2,131 strong, watching Miami act like it had never played the game together as a cohesive unit.
The first minute alone was a cry for help, as Colorado College manhandled the first line in a sustained offensive-zone shift, and until the final media timeout of that stanze, the Tigers not only generated all but one of the total shots, they were sending RedHawks flying at every chance.
Miami would’ve been down one in the opening minutes had Jack Clement not sprawled across the slot to break up a 2-on-1 pass.
Finally, inevitably, Colorado College took the lead on the power play after a bad penalty by Nick Donato, who has otherwise been exceptional this season on defense.
A new Miami team arrived for the start of the middle frame, rejuvenated and ready to compete.
But the RedHawks aren’t good enough to play a two-period game down a goal and come out victorious most of the time.
Coach Chris Bergeron made that point after the game.
“What’s eluded us, especially in league play, is that 60 (quality) minutes, right?” Bergeron said. “We’ve had a couple of periods here, a period and a half there, one period here, and you’re just playing teams that are too good to be doing that.”
This team was only coherent for one of two games against Denver, was a no-show for most of its trip to Kalamzoo and earned one point against Colorado College this weekend.
Miami is now 0-5-1 in the league with one point, a quarter of the way through the NCHC slate. I’d say inconsistency has been a real problem.
— Turnovers should’ve gone down with an unranked opponent, yet puck control seemed to get worse. It seems like skaters are trying to play faster than they’re capable. Understandable for freshmen, less so for veterans.
With an opponent talent level downgrade this weekend vs. league powers the past two weeks, it’s incredibly frustrating to see so many poor decisions with the puck, especially considering this team’s talent level is higher than in the past couple of seasons.
— It looked like Red Savage took a shot at the side of the net in the offensive zone in the second period and did not return. He skated to the bench, slammed his stick, took off his helmet and sat with his head down initially but was not on the bench for the third period. Savage left Friday’s game after suffering a fluky center-ice hit.
Savage is tied for second on the team in points with eight, and he also is a top penalty killer. If he misses significant time it would be seriously detrimental to the team in multiple facets of the game.
— Something has to change with the power play, especially with the quarterback role.
Entering 2021-22, Miami was hoping it was set at QB with Derek Daschke and Will Cullen. But Cullen left the team early in the season and Daschke was the team’s lone experienced option to run the point.
Rydqvist and Moulton tag-teamed the other unit late last season, and it’s almost exclusively been Kumlin and Rydqvist in that role since Kumlin joined the team.
Not a coach and don’t play one on the internet, but my analysis is that Kumlin will eventually thrive in that role, and Rydqvist is miscast manning the power play.
Rydqvist had four assists in 52 games heading into 2022-23. He could excel on the man-advantage as a sniper from the top of the faceoff circle a la Alex Ovechkin but isn’t as good at the puck-moving aspect of the QB. Him again partnering with Moulton seems like a viable option.
Defensemen like Daschke that can defend at a high level, pass, shoot and run the power play are not easily obtained, and Miami is clearly missing his prowess.
Another more radical strategy would be to play five forwards like Enrico Blasi did in 2015-16, since Savage, Barbolini and Fletcher are among the team’s top three forwards defensively. Really, could the occasional extra shorthanded goal against be worse than 0-for-9 this weekend including a major power play? Miami already led Division I in shorthanded goals allowed last season with eight.
LINEUP CHANGES: Just one, and it was up front: Jack Olmstead replaced Brian Silver on the fourth line, although Silver was solid on Friday.
STANDINGS: Miami remains last in the NCHC with one point, and North Dakota holds the No. 7 spot with four points. The teams will meet in Grand Forks next weekend to settle the battle for eighth.
The RedHawks are tied with Niagara for 28th in the PairWise rankings.
FORWARDS: D+. One point — the Barbolini assist. This corps simply has to finish more often and turn the puck over less often. The talent is there, and the five freshmen all busted it in this game. Blake Mesenburg likely boosted his stock after keying arguably the RedHawks’ top line over the weekend. That would be the fourth line. His linemates, Frankie Carogioiello and Olmstead, also played with energy.
DEFENSEMEN: B. Rydqvist scored the only goal, and overall this corps did a solid job of shutting Colorado College down. Liked the shut-down game and energy of Robbie Drazner, and Jack Clement was excellent in that role as well. The blueliners helped hold Colorado College to 22 shots overall, and both goals were scored on the power play. This group is still committing too many turnovers but was solid overall in this game.
GOALTENDING: A-. Ludvig Persson made 20 saves and had no chance on the two goals. One was on a pass through three bodies to the side of the net for a tap-in and the other hit a body and went to a wide-open opportunist. Persson raised his save percentage from .913 to .919 and deserved a better fate than an 0-1-1 record for the weekend.
FINAL THOUGHTS: On Oct. 22, Miami left Buffalo 4-1-1 following a sweep at Canisius.
The following Monday, for the first time in several years, the RedHawks were knocking on the door of top 20 in the major polls and ranked No. 19 in an outlier.
Three weeks later, Miami is buried in the NCHC cellar and is scoring at a 1.17 clip in league play that would make a soccer team blush.
League play started and suddenly that abundant energy was sucked away, and opponents have capitalized.
It’s understood that Miami isn’t going to win at the same rate against Ferris State and Canisius as it will vs. Denver and Western Michigan, but the RedHawks’ effort has been unacceptable for large portions of their first six games of league play.
This coaching staff needs to address this problem and do it immediately.