OXFORD, Ohio — Chris Bergeron’s lineup card for Friday’s game might end up in Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame.
The Miami head coach’s newly-assembled fourth line, with skaters that had combined for one point in 28 games this season, generated five points on two goals, including Brian Silver’s game winner, in a 5-3 win over Niagara at Cady Arena on Friday.
Silver redirected a Thomas Daskas one-timer from the slot with 8:18 left in the third period to put the RedHawks ahead for good, as they won their second straight game and just their third on home ice in 2022-23.
This was the first-ever meeting between these teams. The series finale is at 4:05 p.m. on Saturday.
RECAP: Niagara (9-6-2) went ahead with 8:58 left in the first period when Casey Carreau flipped a puck through the neutral zone to a streaking Jay Ahearn, who went in alone and slid a backhander through Miami goalie Ludvig Persson.
Miami (7-10-2) tied it four minutes later when William Hallen stole the puck in the RedHawks’ offensive zone, carried it through traffic to the top of the crease and roofed a backhander in.
But just 14 seconds later, the Purple Eagles regained the lead, as Ryan Cox skated around a Miami defender, went in alone and went top shelf on Persson.
Daskas tied the score by wiring a bad-angle shot just under the crossbar from the right faceoff circle with 9:08 to play in the middle stanza.
The RedHawks took their first lead 3:21 into the final frame, as a loose puck found the tape of John Waldron in the slot, and he buried a wrister on the glove side to make it 3-2.
The Purple Eagles’ Albin Nilsson evened the score at three by tipping a Lucas Bahn wrister from the right point with 12:42 left in regulation.
Silver’s goal with 8:18 remaining was set up by a Frank Carogioiello steal along the half boards, and a centering feed to Daskas that resulted in the tipped one-timer.
Miami’s Matthew Barbolini cleared a puck through two defenders, won a battle for a loose puck and fired into the empty net to seal it.
STATS: Carogioiello had not recorded a point in his first 11 games but picked up two assists in this game.
Daskas also finished with two points (1-1-2), his first multi-point game as a RedHawk. His last came with Air Force on Jan. 6, 2021 against Sacred Heart, in which he also went 1-1-2. He had one point on the season entering Friday.
— It was the second career goal for both Silver and Hallen. Hallen’s came on an empty netter in Miami’s last game, a 5-0 win over St. Cloud State. Silver scored on Feb. 26 vs. Duluth, and like Hallen’s his first collegiate goal also came in a shutout victory.
— Waldron has five goals in his last three games and seven in his last six. His eight markers on the season is tied with Barbolini for the team lead despite his missing four games with illness.
— Barbolini scored for the second straight game, has points in three in a row and has been on the scoresheet 15 of 17 games played this season (!!). He leads the team with 19 points overall.
— Miami was limited to one power play chance for the first time since Jan. 15 at Duluth, and the last time that happened at Cady Arena was Jan. 24, 2020 vs. Denver.
— Three unassisted goals out of five is extremely rare.
Typically 1.7-1.8 assists are awarded per goal. Miami had three helpers awarded on five tallies, or 0.60.
THOUGHTS: While far from a perfect effort, this is the type of game that the RedHawks seemed to lose almost every time last season.
Unlike 2021-22, on Friday when the score was tied 2-2 after two periods, fans didn’t have to seriously consider scheduling a voluntary root canal vs. watching the final 20 minutes.
Miami was without Red Savage, Nick Donato and Blake Mesenburg but found a way to win anyway.
And Niagara is an impressive team, with some skilled forwards that capitalized on RedHawks’ defensive miscues.
MU might’ve taken an ‘L’ against a league opponent in this game, but its meteoric struggles to pull games out and hold leads seems to be behind the team.
— The fourth line was Miami’s best.
A Daskas steal led to Waldron’s goal, although he didn’t receive an assist because Niagara kind-of-sort-of controlled the puck before Waldron’s snipe. Daskas had the blast that Silver tipped in. And oh yeah, what a snipe from an off-angle.
Carogioiello stole the puck and fed Daskas for the game-winner, and he also slid the puck to Daskas from the point to the inside edge of the faceoff circle for that aforementioned Daskas shot that resulted in a goal. Carogioiello deserved one of the three stars of the night.
— Waldron not only scored, he batted down a Niagara shot attempt from knee level and Barbolini ended up doing his thing for the ENG. No assist on the play but Waldron once again showed off his incredible stick skills.
— What an individual effort by Hallen in his goal. He has a lot of raw talent, his ENG vs. St. Cloud State may have helped unleash it, and it’s going to be fun watching him develop the next three-plus years.
— Not sure who deserves credit for this, but Miami had a decent crowd despite students being on break and despite the timing not being optimal, with games scheduled on New Year’s weekend.
— Didn’t see the Robby Drazner hit that drew a major, but it was called on the ice as a disqualification penalty, yet the official box listed it as a game misconduct. A DQ carries a mandatory one-game suspension, so hopefully for Miami that call was amended because the time of the penalty and when the game report was officially filed.
LINEUP CHANGES: Up front, Red Savage (Under-20) and Mesenburg (unknown) were Miami’s biggest losses, especially since they’re two of the team’s best in the faceoff circle.
Daskas and Silver dressed in their place, and their performances are documented above.
On defense, Drazner was in the lineup in place of Alex Murray.
STANDINGS: With the win, Miami improved to No. 31 in the PairWise rankings, and Niagara dropped to 33rd.
FORWARDS: B. Tough call on all three fronts, but this corps’ results were solid, as 12 skaters found the net five times despite a combined 15 SOG. As has become common this season, the freshmen outperformed many of the team’s upperclassmen. A 33.3 shot percentage isn’t sustainable.
DEFENSEMEN: C. Niagara was aggressive on the transition and the RedHawks’ D-men got caught too often. NU had three breakaways in the first period that resulted in both of its early goals.
GOALTENDING: B-. Weird game for Persson. He surrendered goals on both early breakaways, but his third GA came on a tipped shot he had no chance to stop. Persson finished 28-for-31 (.903). Goalies should be able to deny two-thirds of breakaways in the shootout era, during which 1-on-1 is practiced regularly. However, Persson denied a fourth breakaway and made several key saves during the major penalty kill at the end of the second period and the final 20 minutes. He never seemed comfortable, and on multiple occasions during the middle stanza he did 360 spin-arounds, looking like a human auger trying to drill to the concrete.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Miami has been frustrating to watch at times, but this win was the seventh of the season for the RedHawks, matching last year’s total.
The RedHawks’ seventh win in 2021-22 didn’t come until Feb. 26, and this team has reached that mark before the change of the calendar year and against a tougher non-conference schedule.
Ferris State is markedly better, Michigan State is ranked No. 12 in PairWise, UMass Lowell is 21st and Niagara is in the middle of the pack. Only Canisius is ranked in the bottom tier.
There’s a lot to like with this Miami team, which clearly has more confidence than in the past couple of seasons and could start earning poll votes if it can finish 2022 with a third straight win.