Unlike most games the past few seasons, Miami had no problem generating shots.
Unfortunately for the RedHawks, none of the 39 they fired on Saturday hit twine.
No. 16 Michigan State’s Dylan St. Cyr stopped all of them, as the Spartans won 4-0 at Cady Arena to earn the series sweep.
MSU (11-4-1) won both games at Munn Arena last season as well.
Miami (5-9-2) fell to 0-4-2 in its last six home games and has not won on its own ice since Oct. 2.
RECAP: Michigan State opened the scoring with one second left on a power play, as Karsen Dorwart wristed a shot from the top of the faceoff circle, through traffic and Miami goalie Logan Neaton with 2:57 left in the first period.
Fifty-seven seconds into the middle frame, Dorwart unloaded on a bouncing puck from the opposite faceoff dot and beat Neaton far post to make it 2-0.
Just over two minutes later, a Spartans shot hit a body in the slot and kicked to the left faceoff circle to Dorwart, who swept it past the sprawling Neaton to complete the natural hat trick, extending the MSU lead to three and giving the Spartans their second tally on the man-advantage.
Michigan State sealed it with 9:05 left in regulation when David Gucciardi intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, skated into the offensive zone and fed Daniel Russell, who went in alone and backhanded it in to push the lead to four.
STATS: Miami’s final shot total of 39 was its highest in a shutout loss since Dec. 29, 2012 against Robert Morris at at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ home rink.
The RedHawks lost that game, 1-0 (Curtis McKenzie had a shot gloved at the goal line and RMU’s league didn’t have replay at the time!) despite tallying 51 shots on goal.
The last time the RedHawks generated that many shots in a home blanking — coincidentally — was three weeks earlier, also a 1-0 defeat vs. Lake Superior State. They finished with 46 in that contest.
— Miami did not convert on the power play despite six opportunities, which is the most chances the RedHawks have had this season in a game that did not see them register a PPG.
MU gave up multiple power plays for the sixth time in 2022-23.
— It was the first start in net for Neaton since the game he suffered his knee injury on Jan. 7 vs. Colorado College. He stopped 25 of 29 shots.
THOUGHTS: Momentum was something Miami was not able to sustain this weekend.
On Friday, Miami played some of its best hockey at the end of the second period, but rather than carry that energy into the third period, the RedHawks allowed a goal 23 seconds into the final frame.
In this game, the RedHawks killed off a 1:53 two-man advantage midway through the first, keeping it scoreless, then not only didn’t feed off the defensive stand, they ended up surrendering a power play goal before the end of the period.
Down 1-0 at that point, MU ended the period with a quality shift in the offensive zone, but MSU stuck the puck in the net twice in the first three-plus minutes of the middle stanza and the game was essentially over.
Michigan State took three consecutive minors in the third period but killed them off and put the game out of reach eight seconds after the latter expired.
Credit to MSU though: Much of that struggle to seize control of the game is a result of the Spartans’ excellent backchecking and their ability to win physical boards battles.
And of course 39 saves by St. Cyr, who was outstanding.
— Speaking of which…this is easier to say while sitting behind a word processor than while controlling the puck while on a razor-thin blade with five 200-pound Division I athletes trying to kill you, but it seemed like too often this weekend Miami’s passes made no sense.
It was almost as if the Michigan State sticks in those lanes were invisible to RedHawks skaters.
At one point a woman turned around and stared at me when I apparently mumbled “who are you passing to?” a little louder than I’d intended.
That aspect of the game has been a problem for the RedHawks most of the season, and hopefully more experience and confidence will mean we see fewer questionable passes.
— As someone who has followed the NHL from a very young age, I’m used to seeing teams make major corrections after multiple goals against. While fighting is an option in the pros to try to turn the tide, it’s obviously not a good regular tactic in the NCAA.
But Friday, Ludvig Persson obviously struggled in the first period, so making a change in net before the game got out of reach may have been a better option than sticking with your ace. This team does have goalie depth this season.
Miami sat on its timeout Saturday after seeing the game slip away on consecutive goals in the first 200 seconds of the second period.
Monday morning quarterbacking is obviously easy, but if these tactics work for NHL teams, who boast the most highly-tuned athletes in the world both physically and mentally, they should be implored at last the same rate for Division I teams with seven freshmen on the lineup card.
Brad Berry made a goaltender move after three goals last weekend in North Dakota and almost pulled off the comeback win, and former NHL and Western Michigan coach Andy Murray would often call timeout or change netminders after two goals, and it worked a high percentage of the time.
— Not sure how much of this is in Miami’s control this season, but its home schedule thus far has been less than optimal for drawing fans. The RedHawks played opening weekend, which meant a Sunday afternoon game, played these two games during a long (get-out-of-town) weekend and have two more non-conference games slated for Dec. 30 and New Year’s Eve, when an uptown bar featuring Lutefisk Night could draw better.
Through eight games, Miami’s average attendance is 1,860.
— Dorwart with the hat trick. Well done by him. How many three-goal games will the RedHawks allow this season?
— How about some positive? Miami has excelled in the faceoff circle recently after struggling mightily the first portion of this season.
The RedHawks won 32 of 60 draws in this game and more than held their own in North Dakota in that category.
In addition to Red Savage and Joey Cassetti improving on draws, Thomas Daskas and Blake Mesenburg have posted respectable numbers on the dot in recent weeks.
— Speaking of Mesenburg, his lines have seemed to be the most consistent in terms of generating offense the past couple weeks. It seemed like most times when Miami had the puck in the offensive zone in this game, he was on the ice.
LINEUP CHANGES: In addition to Persson’s absence from the lineup card, defenseman Dylan Moulton sat for the first time since returning from injury Oct. 28.
William Hallen and Artur Turansky were also scratched up front, while Frankie Carogioiello and Chase Pletzke — who had missed the last five games due to injury — dressed in their place.
Defensemen Nick Donato, one of the team’s steadiest blueliners this season, missed his third straight game due to injury.
STANDINGS: Miami is currently tied with RPI for No. 37 in the PairWise.
FORWARDS: D-. I mean, it’s kind of hard to grade this corps well when the team got shut out although it did some good things. This entire unit played pretty well defensively, and the Carogioiello-Mesenburg-Jack Olmstead line seemed to spend the most time in the offensive zone. The middle two lines were again non-factors offensively.
DEFENSEMEN: C-. For a team that dressed the Dubuque Three freshmen and sophomore Alex Murray — who wasn’t a regular in 2021-22 — this corps has pretty solid overall. Jack Clement committed a bad turnover in the neutral zone that led to MSU’s fourth goal, and the Spartans scored one second before a penalty to Zane Demsey ended, but that wasn’t an undisciplined penalty, as he was stopping a guy driving the net. Axel Kumlin continues to make positive steps each game, although partner and fellow Swede Hampus Rydqvist struggled.
GOALTENDING: C-. Neaton was outstanding in the first period, especially in the extended 5-on-3. Unfortunately, MSU eventually scored late in that frame, and he only turned 15 of 18 aside in the final 40 minutes. The second goal from a bad angle was on him, but he had little chance on the third goal and the fourth was essentially a breakaway.
FINAL THOUGHTS: As usual, there are two ways to look at Miami’s five-win, nine-loss, two-tie, 16-game body of work to start the 2022-23 season.
The RedHawks left Buffalo on Oct. 22 with a 4-1-1 record following a sweep of Canisius, and two days later they ranked in an outlier poll and earned significant votes in the majors.
A nine-member freshman skater class had melded with an upperclassmen corps, and the congruence seemingly developed quicker than expected.
But Miami is 1-8-1 since and has failed to win a home game in 56 days. Fan interest has waned and criticism has resurfaced. Hey, look at all those freshmen on Michigan State, including the team’s two top scorers!
It’s been seven years since Miami hockey has done anything and those that have supported this team are understandably losing patience.
Wait ’til next year only lasts so long, even for Cubs fans.
On the other hand, despite the recent struggles, Miami is still 5-9-2, with 10 of its 16 opponents ranked.
At the end of last November, the RedHawks were 3-10-1, including losses to first-year program Long Island and a Ferris State team that did not beat a Division I team the previous season.
The uptick in talent from 12 months ago is obvious, but regardless, a .150 winning percentage in November and a .250 clip at home overall is flat-out awful.