After falling behind by three goals in the first 40 minutes, Miami rallied to set up an interesting stretch run but ultimately couldn’t close the initial deficit gap.

Minnesota-Duluth edged the RedHawks, 3-2 at Amsoil Arena on Friday, maintaining its nine-season, 18-game, home-ice unbeaten streak over Miami, which extended its current winless streak to 12 games.

P.J. Fletcher (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

P.J. Fletcher and Ryan Savage scored 74 seconds apart early in the third period for the RedHawks (7-20-4), who could not generate the equalizer.

The teams wrap up their only series of the season at 9:37 p.m. on Saturday.

RECAP: The Bulldogs took the lead 8:44 into the first period when Wyatt Kaiser was denied on a semi-breakaway and the loose puck was banged home by uncovered Luke Loheit.

With 6:10 left in the opening frame, Darian Gotz whipped a wrister from the blue line that hit a body in traffic and snuck past Miami goalie Ludvig Persson to make it 2-0.

Minn.-Duluth (14-16-1) ran its lead the three when Owen Gallatin seized a loose puck in the faceoff circle, skated it across the top of the crease and backhanded it past a sprawling Persson 5:40 into the second period.

Miami cut its deficit to two less than four minutes into the final period when Red Savage flipped a backhander to space which Fletcher seized in the right faceoff circle and flung through goalie Matthew Thiessen.

Just over a minute later, the RedHawks made it 3-2 when Thiessen cleared the puck along the boards to Hampus Rydqvist, who intercepted it and whipped a shot from the right point that Ryan Savage was able to redirect inside the near post from the faceoff dot.

Miami was unable to capitalize on a major power play that started midway through the third period.

STATS: Fletcher’s goal was his fourth of the season and his second in five games. He has three points in that span and is tied for second in team scoring with 14 points.

Ryan Savage’s goal was his fifth of the season, snapping a 10-gam drought, and the 23rd of his Miami career.

Red Savage picked up an assist, his first point since Dec. 10 vs. St. Cloud State. Yes, you read that right.

Hampus Rydqvist (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

Rydqvist also earned a helper, his 13th point of the season to lead all defensemen. He is fourth on the team in points and scored a goal against Omaha last Saturday.

— Miami finished with exactly two assists for the fourth straight game. Interesting coincidence, if not necessarily a great stat.

— Despite 13 minutes of power play time that included that late major, Miami again failed to convert on the man-advantage. The RedHawks are 3-for-40 (7.5 percent) in 2023.

— The flip side of special teams: The penalty kill was excellent again. Since allowed four power play goals in its Cady Arena low point vs. North Dakota three weeks ago, Miami is 27 of 29 on the penalty kill (.931).

— The RedHawks’ 12-game winless streak is tied for the fifth-longest in team history. The last time this team suffered through a longer drought was in 2018-19, when Miami went 0-11-4 in a 15-game stretch.

THOUGHTS: In Coach Chris Bergeron’s postgame presser, he was asked about the difference between the first 40 minutes, when Miami skaters largely resembled traffic pylons, and the third period when the RedHawks fired 20 shots on goal and outscored the Bulldogs, 2-0.

Paraphrasing here, but Bergeron said that Duluth was ready to play and had tons of energy from the opening puck drop and his team didn’t, and then he said he didn’t know why.

The last part is troubling. It’s game 31 of a 34-game regular season. Everyone has been busting it for the past couple of weekends against highly-ranked opponents. Your freshmen are now veterans, your seniors are in full-thrust mode as they try to establish their final legacy.

And the team just isn’t ready to play? Persson has to stop a breakaway and two other Grade-A chances in the opening minutes just to keep you in the game?

Not blaming Bergeron for making the honest statement, mind you. Whether it’s the head coach’s fault, the assistants’ fault, the players’ fault, the program’s fault, the league’s fault, Trump’s fault or Putin’s fault, the problem is winning — especially in league play — and why Miami is doing way too little of it.

And if the problem can’t be identified, how can it be remedied?

This team has shown amazing gestalt at times and got a lot of people excited for the future of Miami hockey. When jelling, these RedHawks have been extremely entertaining to watch and have even shown up NCAA Tournament-bound teams.

No one expected this to be the second coming of the 33-win 2007-08 team, but at least it wasn’t that 7-25-2 team of last season and had a damned good freshman class with hopefully more of that talent to come.

Then this run happened. 0-10-2 since Dec. 30. What happened? It’s unclear.

Scoring stopped, that’s for sure. Defending badly declined.

And this quickly went from a potential stepping-stone campaign to another failed regular season.

— If an excuse could be made for the slow start, Miami was shorthanded and had multiple skaters back after prolonged absences.

Ludvig Persson (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

— Persson was outstanding early, stopping a breakaway and making a key sprawling save on an A-plus chance. He made another Grade-A stop of the first goal but no one picked up the trailer and he skated in unabated.

The second goal was off a weird carom in the slot that the replay didn’t pick up. Certainly not an unforced error.

No. 3 was on a 1-on-1 in front of the net. Smooth move.

Overall an excellent game by him.

— The power play is a mess right now. Miami had 13 minutes on the man advantage and barely managed a quality shot. Getting established in the zone continues to be a problem for Miami, and winning offensive-zone draws has been a weakness.

LINEUP CHANGES: It was a full line change from Saturday, largely due to illness and injury.

Up front, Jack Olmstead was back after being scratched for the last five games, Blake Mesenburg returned after sitting out the last four and Frankie Carogioiello returned after a rare scratch last Saturday.

Out were William Hallen and Max Dukovac, who remained in Oxford with illnesses, and John Sladic.

On defense, Zane Demsey was out with an upper-body injury, and Alex Murray also sat.

Nick Donato and Michael Feenstra both returned after being banged up recently.

STANDINGS: Miami has clinched last place in the NCHC and Denver is eight points clear of the field, so it’s a near certainty the RedHawks are headed back to Magness Arena for the first round of the conference tournament.

MU dropped to No. 47 in the PairWise and have the sixth-worst winning percentage in Division I at .290.

SUMMARY: Like we said last week, the wins, losses and league points mean nothing to Miami right now since the RedHawks have clinched last place in the NCHC.

But it was hoped that the RedHawks would’ve come out with that nothing-to-lose energy of a team that will ultimately need to run the table in the conference tournament in two weeks. For the first 20 minutes and much of the second 20, that wasn’t the case.

To their credit, the RedHawks didn’t give up and made things interesting early in the third period, but an outmatched team like Miami can’t expect positive results when it spots an opponent the first three goals on its home ice and will likely be plankton in the NCHC Tournament.


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