Miami finally has a win in 2023.
Despite being extremely shorthanded and outshot, 51-24 in a building they haven’t won in since Austin Czarnik was a junior, Ludvig Persson stopped 50 shots as the RedHawks pulled off a 4-1 win over Minn.-Duluth at Amsoil Arena on Saturday.
Miami (8-20-4), winless in its previous 12 games, also ended a nine-year, 18-game win drought in this building.
The RedHawks wrap up their regular season slate against Western Michigan at Cady Arena next weekend.
Last-place Miami will then travel to Denver for the first round of the NCHC Tournament, as the Pioneers clinched the Penrose Cup on Saturday.
RECAP: Miami went ahead with 8:51 left in the first period when Jack Olmstead centered a pass to a wide-open John Sladic, who settled the puck in the slot, skated in, fired a shot off goalie Matthew Thiessen then batted home the rebound.
Minn.-Duluth (14-17-1) tied it with 4:05 left in the opening stanza, as a shot from the left point hit a body and dropped in front of Isaac Howard, who powered home a shot from the slot.
The RedHawks regained the lead 68 seconds later when Red Savage beat Thiessen short side from the inside edge of the left faceoff circle.
Miami extended its lead to two when Joey Cassetti took a drop pass from Ryan Savage and rifled a wrister past Thiessen on the stick side from the high slot 4:20 into the second period, ending the UMD goalie’s night.
Cassetti capped the scoring on an empty netter from behind the red line with 98 seconds remaining.
STATS: Persson stopped 50 saves, his high mark for the season which also tied the second-highest total of his career.
Persson’s top career saves totals:
|55||Feb. 6, 2021||at Duluth|
|50||Jan. 15, 2022||at Duluth|
|50||Feb. 25, 2023||at Duluth|
Aren’t hockey stats the best?
— Cassetti finished with two goals, becoming just the second RedHawk to record a multi-goal game this season.
It was the second two-goal game of his career, with the other coming at Western Michigan on Jan. 3, 2021, just his second game as a RedHawk.
Cassetti is now tied for second on the team in goals with nine, pulling even with freshman John Waldron.
— Red Savage snapped a 16-game goal drought, and Sladic potted his first marker since Feb. 12, 2021.
— Matthew Barbolini picked up an assist, the third point in five games for the junior, who leads the team in goals (10), assists (13) and points (23).
— Freshman defenseman Axel Kumlin earned a helper, giving him three points in six games.
— Jack Olmstead notched an assist, his first since Nov. 19 at North Dakota, and Blake Mesenburg earned the first helper of his career.
— Miami was perfect on four PKs and is 14-for-14 on the penalty kill in its past three games and 31 of 33 (93.9 percent) in its last eight.
— The RedHawks snapped an 18-game winless streak in Duluth that dated back to the teams’ initial meeting at Amsoil Arena on Halloween of 2014, which Miami won, 3-2. The RedHawks were 0-16-2 in the 8 1/2 years since.
THOUGHTS: That’s why they play the games.
It’s a cliche but also an axiom: On paper Miami had no chance to win this game, having not won in Duluth since the Obama Administration while riding a 12-game winless streak that included a January that saw the RedHawks outscored, 32-2.
But the puck dropped anyway and three hours later Miami snuck away from the UMD campus with its first road victory since Nov. 19 in Grand Forks.
It’s easy to fall into the typical lazy media ‘it’s about time’ or ‘where has this been’ mantra, but this win deserves more praise.
Keep in mind that four key freshmen: Waldron, Max Dukovac, William Hallen and Zane Demsey, were all out with illness or injuries.
So while the time of possession and shots on goal were lopsided toward the Bulldogs, Persson stepped up with 50 saves.
Miami blocked 18 more shots, with Jack Clement, Ryan Savage and Artur Turansky rejecting three attempts each. The penalty kill was 4-for-4.
There was a lot to like here, a lot that hopefully a group that saw one of the worst winless streaks in team history snowball can build on and ensure 12-game stretches without a victory never happen again.
— In the postgame presser, it was good to see Chris Bergeron break into a smile at several points, which for obvious reasons hasn’t been the case too often recently. While there was initial concern that he may separate his jaw, apparently he was OK after the interview and returned to Oxford.
The past four years have been hell for Bergeron, who has worked overtime to rejuvenate his alma mater to its glory days of 2008-15, and it was nice to see a facial expression other than his trademark scowl.
— While Persson probably made more radical saves on Friday, he faced a higher quantity of good-but-not-great chances in this game.
Despite going 50-for-51 in this game, his awesomeness level was about the same, and that’s meant as the ultimate compliment.
This was one of the best overall weekends of Persson’s Miami career.
LINEUP CHANGES: There were two between Games 1 and 2.
Up front, Waldron did not play after suffering a UBI on Friday. Sladic was his replacement.
On defense, Alex Murray dressed in place of Nick Donato.
STANDINGS: Miami now has 13 league points and jumped four spots to No. 43 in the PairWise.
The RedHawks have clinched last place in the NCHC and Denver has won the Penrose, so they will meet in two weeks at Magness Arena in the first round of the conference tournament.
SUMMARY: How can Miami not take some of the momentum from this win back to Oxford?
And while continuing to play competitive hockey in league play remains important next weekend, the RedHawks are also hoping to get healthy for the Denver of Doom series that starts 12 days from now.
Once again, Miami showed it has the talent to hang with and beat top-tier opponents, but consistency has been one of its biggest issues all season.