Another game against Denver, another natural hat trick.

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

Joey Devine scored four goals, including those three consecutive markers, helping the No. 3 Pioneers cruise to a 6-2 win over Miami in the teams’ NCHC Tournament opener at Magness Arena on Friday.

It was the eighth hat trick allowed by the RedHawks this season, including five of the natural variety, with three of the latter being surrendered to DU.

MU has lost 11 straight games vs. the Pioneers the past two seasons, with its last victory coming on Dec. 17, 2021 in the Omaha Pod.

Game 2 of the best-of-three series is slated for 8:07 p.m.

RECAP: Miami (8-23-4) took the lead 3:52 into the first period when P.J. Fletcher ripped a one-time feed from Max Dukovac past goalie Matt Davis far post from the top of the right faceoff circle.

Denver (29-8) evened the score less than four minutes later when Devine fired a quick one-timer from the inside edge of the left faceoff circle that beat RedHawks goalie Ludvig Persson through the five hole off a backhanded centering feed by Casey Dornbach.

Devine scored again with exactly five minutes left in the opening frame when his shot from the slot hit the stick of MU defenseman Axel Kumlin and popped over the shoulder of Persson.

Joe Cassetti (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

Devine capped off his natural hat trick and made it 3-1 with 7:57 left in the second period, as he stuffed home a centering feed from Carter Mazur off a Miami turnover.

The RedHawks cut the deficit to one with 1:21 left in the middle stanza, with Joe Cassetti ripping a one-timer from point-blank range on the power play off a feed through the top of the crease by Hampus Rydqvist.

But Devine scored his fourth goal on a pass through the slot that hit the stick of Miami’s Robby Drazner and deflected in at the 2:18 mark of the third period.

Three of his four goals came on the man advantage.

With 10:10 left in regulation, the Pioneers’ Tristan Lemyre backhanded a pass through the crease that eluded Persson, making it 5-2.

Connor Capioni’s empty netter capped the scoring with 1:07 left.

STATS: Cassetti’s goal was his third in four games, tying him with Matthew Barbolini for the team lead with 10. He is now tied for third on the team in points with 14.

Fletcher scored for the second time in five contests, and his 15 points rank him second on the RedHawks.

Barbolini — who leads the team with 24 points — earned an assist.

Dukovac did as well, moving into that tie for third with 14 points.

The other helpers went to defensemen Kumlin — his fourth point in nine games — and Rydqvist, who has three points in his last six.

— Miami has allowed 16 goals in its last three games, and opponents have scored in nine consecutive periods.

— This was the sixth time the RedHawks have allowed three goals in the final frame, and Denver has done it three times in five meetings.

— MU scored its third power play in five games but allowed three PPGs in five chances. It was the fifth time this season an opponent has registered three or more markers on the man-advantage.

— The RedHawks lost their eighth straight NCHC Tournament game. The streak dates back to March 10, 2018, when Miami salvaged one of three in its series at St. Cloud State.

MU has not won a postseason series since 2015.

— Devine’s four-goal game was the second allowed by Miami this season, with the other coming against: You guessed it, Denver. Tristan Broz scored four times, including a natural hat trick, vs. the RedHawks on Jan. 14.

Mazur also had a natural hat trick vs. Miami in Oxford in the league opener on Oct. 28.

So to recap: Mazur, Broz and Devine all have natural hat tricks vs. Miami this season and the latter two have both scored four goals in a game against the RedHawks in 2022-23.

THOUGHTS: For the most part Miami played pretty well and with plenty of energy, but because the RedHawks won three out of 24 league games, they had to face the team that fared the best in NCHC play.

And Denver showed why it ran away with the Penrose Cup by 12 points.

To be fair, the final score falsely implies that this was a blowout, but in reality Miami took the early lead and trailed by one heading into the final 20 minutes.

Another Denver PPG, a 4-on-4 goal and an empty netter sealed it.

— The top two lines were energized all night, but a couple of egregious turnovers also ended up in Miami’s net. The Dukovac-Cassetti-Fletcher line was Miami’s best overall.

— Persson was decent but didn’t affect the outcome. He made a couple of excellent saves and let in one or two he probably should’ve stopped.

— This was a Pioneers team without its top scorer, its fourth-year goalie and its second-best defenseman, plus two other regular starters.

It’s unclear if any of the Denver players that missed this game will be available in Game 2.

— The Pioneers hit two posts on a shot-and-rebound situation seconds apart in the opening minutes and hit four posts and crossbars overall. Davis was also excellent in net for Denver, as he shut down a couple of excellent Miami scoring chances.

— Good Lord the second period took forever. This game had 75 faceoffs, and we’re not wasting time breaking down how many were in the middle frame, but it was a lot.

It took 50 minutes of real time to play those 20. Makes one reminiscent of the days of ESPN roller hockey, which largely did away with faceoffs in favor of teams starting with the puck behind their own net.

— How long have you been a Miami hockey fan? If the fact that the Pioneers’ two listed goalies for this game were named Matt Davis and Jack Caruso doesn’t make you chuckle, the answer is: Not long enough.

LINEUP CHANGES: Lots of changes from Senior Night last Saturday.

Up front, Artur Turansky, Blake Mesenburg and Waldron were back, as Jack Olmstead, John Sladic and William Hallen sat. Hallen is ill and did not make the trip.

On defense, Michael Feenstra dressed and Nick Donato was scratched.

Goalie Logan Neaton started last Saturday but Persson was between the pipes for the fifth time in Miami’s last six games.

STANDINGS: Miami is facing elimination and needs to win the next two games in Denver to extend its season. The RedHawks are 3-19-3 vs. NCHC foes in 2022-23.

SUMMARY: Nothing really surprising here.

Denver is really good. Miami has played hard most games over the past month but didn’t have the guns to hang with Denver. Penalties were costly. Too many Pioneers ended up with open looks in the slot.

The RedHawks will need to buck those axioms if they hope to survive to the Frozen Faceoff, or even Sunday.

Because the Miami effort on Friday was good, but the final score — late goals or not — shows it wasn’t good enough.


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