The deciding goal came from a player who hadn’t lit the lamp in 13 months.
Miami saw a three-goal lead evaporate before stay-at-home defenseman and captain Jack Clement stole the puck in the offensive zone and found the net, putting the RedHawks ahead for good as they edged No. 19 North Dakota, 4-3 at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday.
MU, which ran out to a 3-0 lead in the first 25 minutes, snapped a seven-game winless streak and had gone 10 games without registering a victory vs. the Fighting Hawks. It was also the RedHawks’ first NCHC win of the season.
RECAP: Miami (5-7-2) took the lead six minutes into the first period when Matthew Barbolini threaded a pass from along the half wall to John Waldron, who roofed a wrist shot from the inside edge of the faceoff circle.
Barbolini extended the RedHawks’ lead to two when he backhanded a rebound home from the top of the crease off a slap shot from Axel Kumlin on the power play with 2:49 left in the opening stanza.
With 14:27 left in the middle frame, Alex Murray fired a puck from the blue line that pinballed through traffic to Blake Mesenburg at the left side of the cage, and he was able to sweep it past sprawling goalie Drew DeRidder, ending the netminder’s night as the Miami lead ballooned to three.
But North Dakota’s Riese Gaber cut the deficit to two when his snipe picked the far upper corner of the net from the top of the faceoff circle on the power play with 4:23 left in the second period.
Just 2:02 later, Gavin Hain batted in a rebound from the left side of the net to pull the Fighting Hawks within one.
North Dakota (5-6-2) completed the comeback when Gaber fed Jackson Blake in close, and Blake went far post with his wrist shot on a 4-on-4 with 14:54 remaining in regulation.
Clement and his Miami teammates would celebrate last, however, as he stripped the puck off a North Dakota stick at the half wall, took a stride toward the net and wired a shot inside the far post with 5:26 to play.
The play was reviewed because it appeared Miami may have been off-side, and while the pass was made from tape-to-tape just across the blue line, the RedHawks were able to get back on-side before it was completed.
STATS: Barbolini and Waldron both finished with two points — a goal and an assist apiece.
Barbolini leads the team with 13 points in 12 games and has points in 11 of those starts. He extended his points streak to five games after starting the season with points in each of his first six contests.
It was Waldron’s first career multi-point game.
— Mesenburg scored his first career goal on Friday and he picked up his second in this game.
— But Clement’s goal was his first in 48 games. The last time he scored was shorthanded on Oct. 3, 2021 at Ferris State.
It was Clement’s eight career tally but his first game-winner.
— Miami scored more than two goals for the first time in nine games. The RedHawks also snapped a three-game power play goal drought.
— Despite the win, MU registered fewer shots on goal than in any contest this season (16) and was outshot 2.25 to one, the worst ratio the team has recorded in 2022-23.
THOUGHTS: This has to be a confidence builder for a team that hadn’t been the same since league play started.
Too many times over the past seven seasons, under both Enrico Blasi and Chris Bergeron, Miami teams for whatever reason have squandered leads and taken an ‘L’.
If the NCAA had a scar tissue award, the RedHawks would have challenged for it annually since, well, 2009.
Like last season, Miami has taken some serious punches in the first few weeks of NCHC play. 7-1, 7-1 again, 4-0, 5-2.
But unlike previous campaigns, the RedHawks are prevailing in a lot of close games. Like this one, in arguably the most hostile rink in college hockey.
And winning with a very young team, with those freshmen contributing, instills confidence that this team is going to get a lot better.
— Making this win even sweeter is that Miami did it without three key skaters — Red Savage, Max Dukovac and Nick Donato. Savage, a Red Wings draftee, has made strides in every aspect of his game, Dukovac has shown glimpses of electrifying talent and Donato has evolved into one of the team’s top shut-down D-men.
— Expanding on freshmen contributing: They accounted for four of Miami’s nine points, including two of the team’s four goals.
Waldron was outstanding — his stickhandling is sick — and he should be a standout for several years. Mesenburg has played as hard as anyone on the team, has proven he can win faceoffs and defend, he has turbo chargers in his skates and now he’s scoring.
Kumlin was recently struggling to adjust to the game, but he was excellent in both ends of the ice and showed off a wicked slap shot.
William Hallen, Artur Turansky and Frankie Carogioiello also played solid games up front, and Michael Feenstra seemed to have shaken any early jitters.
It was very encouraging to see so many freshmen thrive in such a tough building for visitors.
— I’ve never seen a situation where a skater makes a lateral pass with his stick across the blue line to another player whose stick is across the blue line while another teammate gets back onside during its execution and therefore the play is onside.
North Dakota challenged and the no-call was upheld.
— Bergeron has used a number of forwards on the fourth line, and all have played very well as of late. Mesenburg has earned a regular spot in the lineup, and Carogioiello has busted it every shift when he’s been on the lineup card.
Same with John Sladic both games this weekend and Brian Silver when he’s dressed.
— Despite the team’s overall lack of scoring, it’s hard to imagine where Miami would be without Barbolini. His 11-in-12 streak is even more impressive considering the RedHawks had scored 10 goals in their previous eight games.
LINEUP CHANGES: Feenstra and Murray replaced Zane Demsey and Donato on defense. Donato was banged up on Friday.
No changes up front or in net, at least in terms of personnel.
STANDINGS: Miami earned three league points, giving the team four in eight games, as the team remains last in the NCHC, two points behind Omaha and three back of North Dakota.
The RedHawks — who jumped to No. 29 in PairWise — have played two more league games than any other team in the conference.
FINAL THOUGHTS: So now what?
Well, Michigan State comes to Oxford this weekend after a 9-4-1 start that includes sweeps of rejuvenated Ohio State and Wisconsin teams and a split at No. 6 Penn State.
In other words: Another high-caliber opponent.
We’ll find out very soon how much of this game’s momentum bleeds into another difficult series.
If Miami’s effort level matches that of this win, it has an excellent chance to pick off a win or two this weekend.