Denver pulls away late, sweeps MU

OXFORD, Ohio – It was another fast start for Miami and a lot less energy as the game progressed.

That seems to be the team’s recent modus operandi, as the RedHawks were held to six shots in the final two periods as No. 5 Denver completed a weekend sweep of MU, 5-2 at Cady Arena on Saturday.

Miami is winless in its last five (0-4-1) and is without a victory in its last seven on home ice (0-6-1), with its last ‘W’ in Oxford coming on Nov. 15 vs. Minnesota-Duluth.

The RedHawks are 2-9-2 at Cady Arena this season.

This wrapped up a four-game homestand for Miami, which earned 1 of a possible 12 league points, going 0-3-1 vs. Denver and North Dakota.

RECAP: Denver (17-4-5) scored at the 2:10 mark of the first period on the power play when an Ian Mitchell seeing-eye wrist shot from the right point snuck inside the far post.

Miami’s Derek Daschke (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

Miami (6-14-4) tied it with 9:35 left in the opening frame when Derek Daschke whipped a one-timer from the blue line that beat goalie Devin Cooley.

But with 36 seconds remaining in the first stanza, Liam Finlay fed a pass from behind the net to Kohen Olischefski, who was streaking from the wall toward the net, and he stuffed the one-time feed home to give the Pioneers the lead for good.

Denver extended its lead to two when Olischefski intercepted a clearing pass and quickly slid a pass to Emilio Pettersen in the slot, and he went settled the puck down and fired it top shelf to make it 3-1 with 6:23 left in the second period.

The RedHawks trimmed their deficit to one with 2:49 left in the middle frame when Monte Graham took a neutral-ice give-and-go feed from Christian Mohs, skated into the slot through three defenders and wristed one inside the far post.

But DU regained its two-goal lead 4:11 into the third period on a 2-on-1, with Jaakko Heikkinen shoveling home a Bobby Brink feed into the net from the side of the net.

The Pioneers sealed it when Mitchell tried to center a pass, but it deflected off a Miami skate in the slot and into the RedHawks’ net with 11:17 to play.

STATS: Daschke’s goal was his eighth of the season, which leads all NCHC defensemen. He is tied for third in all of Division I in tallies and is tied for No. 18 in college hockey in points per game (0.79).

Miami’s Monte Graham (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

He has scored four times in the last six games.

It was the fourth marker of 2019-20 for Graham.

Karch Bachman picked up one assist, as he moved into a tie for the team lead with 17.

— Mohs and Brian Hawkinson both earned their second helpers of the season. Matt Barry notched the other helper, his fourth point in seven games.

— There were only 48 faceoffs in the game, and Miami won 27. Graham finished 5-0 on draws.

— The power plays were 4-2 Denver and 7-3 Pioneers for the weekend. The RedHawks generated just three shots on their power plays in the series.

THOUGHTS: The last three games, Miami took early 2-0 leads only to squander them and end up with 1 of a possible 9 points.

On Saturday, the RedHawks again played well enough in the first period to have the lead but found themselves down one at the end of 20 minutes.

Despite being outshot, 10-3, Miami hung with Denver for the of the second period, which featured a nine-minute span without a stoppage early in that frame.

The teams traded goals in that frame and it was 3-2 Pioneers heading into the third period.

But Denver put the lockdown on Miami’s offense, holding the RedHawks to three shots again in the final 20 minutes.

So for the weekend, MU’s shots by period were 25-10-9. Just 44 shots on goal for the series, and 19 the final 40 minutes of both Friday and Saturday’s games.

That means the RedHawks averaged fewer than five shots a period in the second and third periods both nights.

Coach Chris Bergeron talked about the reasons for the drop-off in his postgame presser.

“I’m not sure,” Bergerson said. “Probably (Denver), a little bit, maybe we wore down, which we’ll have to look at, but those are nothing but excuses. If we can do it in the first period there’s no reason we can’t do it in the second and third. Again, I think as a team transitions from where we are right now to where we’re going to be, they’ll underand that it has to be over the course of three periods. Again, when you’re playing teams like we played the last two weekends we have zero room for mistakes and we have zero room to take our foot off the gas, and that’s what we’ve done. When you play big-time teams, then you get the results that we’ve gotten.”

— Not helping Miami’s cause was a 10-minute misconduct captain Gordie Green took early in the RedHawks’ first power play.

He was bumped into the Denver net and said the magic word to the officials as he skated away, earning him the penalty. Though he came out of the box early in the third period, Bergeron benched Green for the balance of the game.

— Bergeron broke up the CKG line, dropping Bachman to the second line with Barry and John Sladic. The response: Bachman was arguably the best forward on the team, firing five shots and notching an assist.

— It was the second game back from injury for Scott Corbett. He has taken a minor in each game, with the puck ending up in Miami’s net both times. He has talent, smarts and a physically ability that few forwards on this team possess. But if he can’t stay out of the box, he’s going to hurt this team more than help.

Ben Kraws was in net, and he stopped just 23 of 28 shots (.821), but his team did him no favors.

“Our margin for error is so small, and way too many pucks are ending up in our net again,” Bergeron said. “I thought that we had kind of got that out of our game, but that seems to be back in our game.”

Kraws should’ve stopped the first goal, a wrister from the right point.

The Miami defense lost Olischefski as he streaked toward the net from along the boards, as he scored the second Denver goal.

A bad defensive-zone outlet pass by Alec Capstick was intercepted and immediately fired home for goal against No. 3.

Miami got caught pinching on the fourth, and the fifth hit a RedHawks skater at the top of the crease and caromed in.

MU is ranked No. 55 out of 60 in Division I in goals allowed per game (3.62).

GRADES

FORWARDS: D+. Not much energy the second half of the game, few shots, only one goal and costly penalties. Forwards whose last name was not Bachman combined for seven shots on goal.

DEFENSEMEN: B. A pretty good effort by this group, which helped hold a lightning-fast Denver team to 28 shots. Daschke also contributed offensively with the goal, as this corps finished with eight of Miami’s 21 SOG.

GOALTENDING: C-. Kraws should’ve had the first goal for sure and he never seemed to completely settle in, as he juggled the puck a lot on saves. He made one outstanding save and the rest of the A-plus chances found the net.

LINEUP CHANGES: Only one among skaters: Chase Pletzke sat for the first time since October, and Mohs dressed in his place.

It’s unclear if Pletzke was injured on Friday or if it was a coach’s decision. Pletzke has 11 points in his last 11 games.

Kraws was in net for Larkin, as the duo split the weekend for the second straight series.

STANDINGS: Western Michigan won again, so Miami is now 13 points out of the final home slot for the first round of the NCHC Tournament.

With 10 games remaining, catching the Broncos seems extremely unlikely, although they play each other four times down the stretch.

The RedHawks remain in seventh place, two ahead of last-place Colorado College and three behind St. Cloud State, which holds the sixth spot.

Miami remained No. 42 in the PairWise following the loss.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Following the nine-minute stretch without a stoppage in the second period, Miami was no longer able to hang with Denver as it had the first 4½ periods of the weekend.

This was a tough, tough homestand, no doubt, and the RedHawks played well for much of, although they absolutely are not as talented as North Dakota or the Pioneers.

But the last 25 or so minutes of this game is worrisome. It was far from a blowout, but Miami just kind of went through the motions that final period-plus.

Home ice for the NCHCs was within striking distance prior to this weekend. Now it’s not.

But just because the RedHawks will have to win a road series to advance to the conference championship, they can’t revert after making so much progress the first 3½ months of this season.

Bergeron showed on Saturday that he’ll bench his star player if he feels it’s warranted, so there’s no reason do believe he won’t do the same with others who aren’t meeting expectations.

N. Dakota tops Miami on late goal

OXFORD, Ohio – Scoringwise, Saturday’s game bore a striking resemblance to Friday.

Miami took an early 2-0 lead, was ahead by one after the first period, No. 1 North Dakota eventually tied it and scored the go-ahead goal in the closing moments of the final frame.

Unfortunately for the RedHawks, unlike Friday when the teams ultimately skated to a tie as the Fighting Hawks’ last-minute tally was waved off, UND’s marker with 1:04 remaining in regulation of the series finale stood as the RedHawks fell, 5-3 at Cady Arena.

North Dakota (18-2-3) added an empty netter to clinch the win and take five of a possible six points from Miami (6-12-4) on the weekend.

Miami’s Derek Daschke (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

RECAP: The RedHawks jumped out early on a power play goal by Derek Daschke, which he scored on the power play on a wrister from the top of the left faceoff circle off a feed from Casey Gilling.

Miami capitalized on another man-advantage exactly two minutes later, as Gilling’s initial shot from the right faceoff dot was denied, and after his follow-up shot was also stopped, Phil Knies swept home the loose puck to make it 2-0.

Just 43 seconds later, the Fighting Hawks got on the board, as Harrison Blaisdell saw his 3-on-2 shot turned aside by RedHawks goalie Ben Kraws but Judd Caulfield eventually jammed it in during a scramble at the top of the crease.

Twenty seconds into the second period, UND’s Shane Pinto – left all alone in the slot – ripped a one-timer past Kraws on the stick side off a feed from Jordan Kawaguchi to tie it at two.

Miami regained the lead on its third power play goal of night on a tic-tac-toe pasasing play, with Daschke at the point feeding Gordie Green down low and Green sending one through the crease to Karch Bachman for the one-timer to make it 3-2 with 50 seconds left in the middle stanza.

But the Fighting Hawks would run off the final three tallies.

They tied it at the 4:24 mark of the third period when Kawaguchi skated into the offensive zone along the boards, cut across to the slot uncontested and found twine with a wrister.

Cole Smith put North Dakota ahead on a backdoor cut with 64 seconds to play when Matt Kiersted sent a pass through traffic to Smith at the side of net, and Smith shoveled it in to make it 4-3.

Westin Michaud tacked on the empty netted with 27 seconds left.

STATS: Daschke, Green and Gilling all finished with two points, with Daschke going 1-1-2 and the latter two picking up a pair of assists.

Gilling ended the weekend with six points, and Daschke scored for the third time in four games, and it was his fifth multi-point game of the season.

Green extended his points streak to seven games and has points in 13 of his last 14 games.

He now has 106 points for his career, moving him into a tie with Randy Robitaille and Greg Dornbach for 47th on the Miami all-time leaderboard.

Miami’s Phil Knies (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

— Knies snapped a 13-game goal drought and picked up his third point in four games, Bachman found the net for the eighth time and has points in 10 of 11 contests.

— Miami scored three power play goals in a home game for the first time since Oct. 28, 2017 vs. Connecticut.

— Opponents have preferred the third period, as they have scored 27 times in that stanza in 2019-20, including 17 goals in the MU’s last 11 games.

— The RedHawks scored five first-period goals this weekend and have 10 in their last five games. The opening stanza has been their best in terms of scoring, as they have 28 tallies in that frame vs. 19 in the second and 20 in the third.

THOUGHTS: Miami, which almost lost on a late goal on Friday and did lose that way on Saturday, was out of gas by the end of this one.

Green and Gilling practically needed oxygen masks on the bench as they logged time on each penalty kill, and – of course – all of the power plays.

And there was a lot of special teams play this weekend.

The decisive goal was all too predictable, as Miami was on fumes the final few minutes of regulation, and Kraws was a key reason the score remained tied as long as it did.

North Dakota, like buzzards circling a carcass, swarmed the offensive zone the final couple of minutes, with an exhausted RedHawks corps unable to generate any offense of their own or even clear the zone, before the inevitable happened.

The hockey gods were fair in this one. The better team, the one with more skill, earned the win, but the team with less talent never gave up and salvaged a tie while making the better team earn every one of its five points.

— The power play has made a definite improvement, not just because the usual suspects have converted recently.

It’s not exactly newsworthy that Green-Bachman-Gilling-Daschke are man-advantage studs, but others are starting to chip in as well.

John Sladic scored the tying goal on Friday, Knies picked up a marker in this one, Chase Pletzke has been factor on 5-on-4s as well.

Defensemen Rourke Russell (0-2-2 on the weekend) and Bray Crowder are also thriving on power play time.

And defying any kind of statistical logic is Matt Barry, who was on the ice for all three Miami PPGs but somehow did not pick up a point.

— Speaking of statistical anomalies, Kraws’ last start was Nov. 30 vs. Connecticut, when he stopped 31 of 35 shots. Saturday? Sam exact line: Thirty-one saves, four goals against.

But Kraws was solid in this one. He juggled some pucks early, which is understandable since he had not seen live action in nearly two months, but settled down and made some huge saves on high-percentage shots.

— The RedHawks seemed to get away from their quest for the perfect pass and shot, and they were better for it, as they turned the puck over too much and ended up with a season-low 16 shots on Friday.

— Miami went 30-34 on faceoffs, which was better than Friday but still not great, as North Dakota seemed to win a higher percentage in its offensive zone, leading to sustained, high-pressure possessions.

— Miami led for 44:38 on this series and trailed for 2:38 (credit UND writer Brad Schlossman for this stat, which VFTG confirmed) but finished the weekend 0-1-1.

— Would’ve liked to have seen Miami’s penalty kill tighten up on the left wing after Pinto scored from the inside of the faceoff circle, but UND still had multiple Grade-A chances on subsequent power plays after skaters were left wide open in that area.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C+. The Gilling-Bachman-Green trio accounted for five points, but Knies was the only other forward to pick up a point. Carter Johnson, a healthy scratch on Friday, played with a ton of energy and generated three shots, the second-most of any forward. Bachman of course led the team with five. Monte Graham, normally a faceoff stud, won 2 of 11 draws and was kicked out of the circle numerous times this weekend.

DEFENSEMEN: B-. This corps was OK defensively, and Daschke and Russell accounted for three points. Alec Mahalak, recovering from an upper body injury, played arguably his best game of the season, and his deke and drive to the net drew a penalty that eventually led to a Miami goal. Grant Frederic was very solid in his own end and had one of his better nights of 2019-20.

Miami’s Ben Kraws (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

GOALTENDING: B. Kraws faced a ton of A-plus chances and stopped a few of those, showing off his ability to go post-to-post to shut down 2-on-1 chances. We mentioned above he appeared a little nervous early but settled down to play a very good game.

LINEUP CHANGES: Besides Kraws occupying the net for the first time in nearly two months – replacing Ryan Larkin – Johnson was the only other player to skate on Saturday who was not in the lineup for the opener.

Johnson replaced Noah Jordan.

STANDINGS: With St. Cloud State’s win over Duluth, giving the Huskies 15 points, Miami dropped into a tie for sixth place with Omaha, as both have 12 points.

Colorado College is in eighth with 10 points. Western Michigan holds the No. 4 position with 19 points.

Miami fell one spot to No. 42 in the PairWise.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Considering Miami had opportunities to win both nights, one point on the weekend is not optimal.

But with a first-year coach heading a totally inherited roster, this season is about improving, and the RedHawks led the No. 1 team in Division one for a good portion of the weekend and rarely trailed.

This team continues to battle against more talented opponents and have success.

Miami may have earned only one of a possible six points vs. North Dakota, but to hang with the top team in Division I all weekend shows that after just a half season under Bergeron, the RedHawks are already making progress.

Miami pulls off win at BGSU

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio Gordie Green needed two points to become the 53rd player in Miami history to reach 100 points.

Miami’s Gordie Green (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

On Monday, Green recorded three, including the game-winning goal and an assist on the clinching tally in the RedHawks’ 4-2 win over No. 11 Bowling Green at the Slater Family Arena.

The win snapped a four-game skid for Miami (5-10-3), which wrapped up the non-conference portion of its schedule.

The RedHawks avenged a 7-4 loss to the Falcons in Oxford on opening night.

RECAP: Miami opened the scoring at 16:23 on the power play when Karch Bachman skated in from the faceoff circle and fed one through the top of the crease to Ryan Savage, who backhanded it in.

Miami’s Christian Mohs (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

The RedHawks extended their lead just 99 seconds later when Derek Daschke stole the puck and threw it toward the net, and after the initial save was made, Christian Mohs crashed the net and scored on the backhand.

Miami made it 3-0 at the 2:46 mark of the second period when Casey Gilling threw a puck toward the net from the point with time winding down on a major power play, and Green controlled it and slid it inside the near post.

BGSU’s Sam Craggs scored on a one-time feed from Max Johnson with 7:09 left in the middle stanza to cut the deficit to two.

The Falcons (12-7-1) made it a 3-2 game when Brandon Kruse jammed a loose puck over the outstretched pad of MU goalie Ryan Larkin at the side of the net four minutes into the third period.

But with 1:28 left and an extra attacker on, Daschke cleared the zone, springing Green and Bachman for a 2-on-0, and Green slid a pass to Bachman for the one-timer into the empty net, giving both their third points of the night and sealing the RedHawks win.

STATS: With a goal and two assists, Green moved into a three-way tie with Pat Leahy and Mitch Ganzak for No. 51 all-time on Miami’s all-time points leaderboard.

He leads the team in goals (8), assists (14) and points (22).

Miami’s Karch Bachman (Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

— Bachman also finished with a goal and two helpers for his first career three-point game. He extended his points streak to seven games, the longest such run for a RedHawk since Josh Melnick last season.

— Daschke ended the game with two assists for his fourth multi-point game of 2019-20.

— Mohs has scored in consecutive games after notching just one career goal previously.

— Gilling tallied an assist, giving him points in three straight, and Chase Pletzke also added a helper, as he has points in five of his last six contests.

— Larkin stopped 35 shots, earning his first win since Nov. 15.

— The teams combined for 53 penalty minutes.

THOUGHTS: Especially considering the way Miami limped into the break, this effort far exceeded expectations.

The RedHawks went into a packed road venue and jumped all over Bowling Green, scoring twice in the first period and coming back after intermission and pumping in another goal.

The Falcons are a quality team and pulled to within one, but Miami bent without breaking and fended off BGSU’s late surge.

For the most part, the RedHawks avoided catastrophic defensive mistakes – an area that has been an issue for most of this season – and made the Falcons create their own scoring chances.

— Miami started out with tons of energy, as Green nearly scored in the first minute, then Bowling Green took control as the teams played for over six minutes without a stoppage.

The RedHawks did little on their first power play, then a rare Daschke turnover resulted in a breakaway, which Larkin snagged cleanly.

Miami finished the opening stanza with two goals in the final four minutes and Bachman was absolutely robbed on a breakaway and an ensuing rebound seconds after he set up Savage’s goal.

Then the RedHawks made it 3-0 early in the second, which saw little 5-on-5 action for the balance.

It was survival mode in the third period, as Bowling Green fired 14 shots, but Larkin was excellent and Miami finally sealed it with the ENG.

— Special teams were just that for Miami, which scored twice on the power play and killed off all five Falcons chances, including a two-man advantage for 1:15.

The RedHawks held BGSU to three power-play shots in 8:45 of man-advantage time, which included the extended 5-on-3.

Savage and Green both scored their goals on the power play.

— The second-period parade to the penalty box actually started with a major penalty with 1:09 left in the first. Miami’s Phil Knies was hammered into the boards, drawing the 5-and-10 to Will Cullen.

Then Pletzke was whistled for tripping. Then Daschke went for holding, and Bachman was whistled for tripping 45 seconds into the Daschke penalty, setting up the 5-on-3.

After Daschke returned, MU’s Scott Corbett and BG’s Alex Barber were called for coincidentals. Bachman and Corbett both chirped with Barber the entire time the three were in their penalty boxes, which did not have glass dividers.

Within a minute of Bachman’s release, he and Green went off for roughing along with two Falcons. Barber and Corbett were still in the box at that point.

Slater Family Arena should be commended for having a pair of penalty boxes that can comfortably seat six.

Miami’s Phil Knies (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

— Knies skated off under his own power but he clearly took the brunt of a major hit to the side of his head. It’s unclear if he will miss additional time.

— Speaking of injuries, Alec Mahalak was a late scratch after being listed on the lineup sheet, so Miami had to play with five defensemen since the RedHawks dressed 13 forwards.

Ironically, Miami had used its extra lineup spot for a seventh defensemen most games this season prior to Monday.

With Knies missing the final two periods, Noah Jordan – the extra skater – played substantially more and was very solid.

Green went down to block a shot with his lower body in the third period and scared not only the bejesus but the entire A-through-Z-jesus spectrum out of the Miami hockey world as he practically swam to the bench, but after being evaluated there he returned and later capped off the game with an assist on the empty netter.

— Lost in the madness of this game was the debut of Matt Barry. He played on the third line and was solid defensively, and his best shift was early in the third period when he made a great feed that nearly resulted in a goal then ripped a one-timer that was cleanly saved seconds later.

Miami will definitely be better all around with him in the lineup.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. When Miami has struggled this season, its forwards have often had trouble completing passes, and that definitely wasn’t the case in this game, as its puck movement was good overall. Bachman and Green were the standouts among this corps.

DEFENSEMEN: B-. It’s rare a team plays all 60 minutes with only five defensemen, and that meant putting some guys in critical roles who wouldn’t normally be placed in those positions. That said, the PK was outstanding and the D-men did not make many critical unforced errors. Daschke had the lone two points from this corps on a pair of assists.

Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

GOALTENDING: A-. Larkin stopped 35 shots including a breakaway and turned aside a number of other quality shots. His rebound control was exceptional.

LINEUP CHANGES: Barry’s presence means there’s one less forward spot in the lineup. Brian Hawkinson missed his first game of the season to make room.

Defenseman Andrew Sinard sat for the first time in 2019-20, as Miami went with Jordan as the extra forward.

It was just the second start for Larkin in the RedHawks’ last seven games.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was the signature win to this point of the season for Miami, surpassing the victory at UNO.

Slater is a hostile venue anyway, but throw in the fact that Bowling Green was facing the coach that was hired away by Miami and that made it an even tougher place for the RedHawks to play.

More than just winning, this was an exciting game that had something for everyone. It featured sweet goals, some excellent goaltending, physical play and some post-whistle scrums and the outcome wasn’t ultimately decided until the closing minutes.

BGSU’s fans were taken out of the game early but were extremely vocal when the score tightened, and Miami brought its share from the Cincinnati and Oxford areas as well as some semi-local Toledo MU grads and friends and family of players.

They were treated to a gem of a hockey game.

In a half-season that has seen a lot of ups and down, this was the highest high to this point for Miami in 2019-20, and hopefully the RedHawks carry that momentum to Colorado College next week.

Recapping Miami's turbulent first half

There were encouraging times and frustrating times, but ultimately Miami finished the first half of its first season of the millennium without Enrico Blasi at the helm with a record of 4-10-3.

Considering the turmoil surrounding this team the past couple of campaigns, that’s about on par with the expectation level for the first three months of the Chris Bergeron era.

The RedHawks opened 2019-20 with five straight home games and were pretty much awful. They went 1-3-1 during that stretch and allowed 23 goals, and no one seemed interested in playing defense.

Miami’s Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

The bar was set low at that point heading into a four-game road slate at Colgate and North Dakota, but Miami improved dramatically in its first away series of the series, going 1-0-1 in upstate New York including a 2-0 win in the finale, with Ryan Larkin stopping 29 shots.

Then UND slaughtered the RedHawks in Grand Forks, 7-1 in a Friday contest before a much more evenly-played, 5-4 Fighting Hawks win in the finale.

Seemingly gaining momentum from the latter game vs. NoDak, Miami played a quality home series against two-time defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth, splitting the set and outscoring the Bulldogs, 5-4 on the weekend.

The RedHawks then traveled to Nebraska-Omaha, where they turned in their best performance of the 2019 calendar year. The teams skated to a 3-3 tie in the opener, but Miami dominated the Saturday game, winning 4-1.

That set up a final stretch of four games at Connecticut and at home vs. St. Cloud State. Both teams were ranked in the bottom quarter of the PairWise at the time.

Just two games under .500 at the time, it appeared the RedHawks had a legitimate shot at reaching that mark heading into 2020.

But MU went 0-4 against those teams both named the Huskies and seemingly reverted to its October version.

The biggest difference between the good times and the bad for Miami the first half of 2019-20 was its defensive play.

The RedHawks seemed utterly lost trying to defend their net the first three weeks. They chased the puck in their own zone far too often while frequently allowing defenders unabated, high-quality chances.

Miami really tightened up for its four-game stretch vs. Duluth and UNO, and while the RedHawks still allowed 33 shots per contest during that span, far fewer of those opportunities were of the Grade-A variety.

But MU seemed to revert for its most recent four games. A Connecticut team that entered play averaging 2½ goals managed 48 shots in the opener, with six finding net, and the Huskies tallied 35 more SOG and four markers in the finale.

Miami played well at times vs. St. Cloud State, but once again came up short, with defensive lapses again undermining decent efforts.

So this pregnant pause in the season may have come at a good time for the RedHawks, who open the second half of their season in Bowling Green, the program Bergeron headed the past nine seasons.

And while the end of the first half was less than encouraging, there are plenty of positives as Miami heads into the 2020 portion of its slate.

1. The debut of Matt Barry. Described as a top-six forward by Bergeron, Barry transferred from Holy Cross midway through 2018-19 and is eligible to dress at BGSU. Barry led his team in points upon his departure and will add much-needed offense to a Miami team that has been extremely top-heavy in its scoring the past few seasons.

2. Health. The injury bug made a tough situation tougher for the RedHawks the first three months, and a few weeks off could only help in their recuperation. Alec Mahalak, Ben Lown and Chaz Switzer all missed significant time with injuries.

Miami’s Ben Kraws (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG.com).

3. Goaltending depth. This was a big question mark for Miami heading into this season, with Larkin heading into his senior season with no proven depth behind him. But freshman Ben Kraws has been solid in limited action, and Grant Valentine has taken a huge step forward, giving MU three quality options in net for the stretch run.

4. Freshmen improvement. All of the members of the Class of 2023 have contributed and are continuing to get better. Up front, John Sladic and Chase Pletzke have scored four goals each, and Sladic and Ryan Savage have notched eight points apiece. Jack Clement is second in defensman scoring only to Derek Daschke with seven points, including three goals. And in five games, Kraws is tops on the RedHawks with an .893 save percentage and a 2.92 goals-against average.

Miami’s Karch Bachman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG.com).

5. Surges by returning players. It’s no surprise that senior captain Gordie Green is leading the team in goals, assists and points (7-12-19), but several other Miami veterans have elevated their games this season and will hopefully carry their improved play into the new year. Daschke seems to get better at both ends of the ice every night, and his 4-8-12 line in easily tops among the D-corps. With six goals and nine assists, Karch Bachman has tied his career high in helpers and is one off his Miami best in points. The early candidate for comeback player of the year goes to Casey Gilling, who has already surpassed his goals, assists and points totals from 2018-19 at 5-9-14. He played all 38 games last season. Monte Graham, Noah Jordan, Rourke Russell, Bray Crowder and Andrew Sinard are also better versions of themselves this campaign.

UConn beats Miami in opener

After giving up an early goal, Miami scored three straight markers and held a two-goal lead after 20 minutes.

Unfortunately for the RedHawks, they were outscored, 5-1 in the final two frames and fell, 6-4 to Connecticut at the XL Center in Hartford on Friday.

Miami allowed 48 shots, its highest total of the season as the RedHawks fell for the second time in it last five games.

STATS: Gordie Green extended his points streak to six games, picking up a goal and an assist. He has three goals and five assists in that span and is just four points short of 100 for his career.

Miami’s Chase Pletzke (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

Derek Daschke and Casey Gilling also went 1-1-2, giving Daschke 11 points on the season and Gilling 12, tying him for his 2018-19 total.

Freshman Chase Pletzke also finished with two assists, the first multi-point game of his career.

The most shots Miami had previously allowed in a game was 42 in the season opener vs. Bowling Green.

THOUGHTS: And the above sentence says it all.

UConn, ranked No. 48 in the PairWise entering the weekend, managed 48 shots, six more than any opponent has fired against Miami this season.

Full disclosure: I was driving the entire time this game was playing but had CBS All-Access on throughout, so I was able to listen, occasionally glance at the action and check out the highlights.

But I saw enough – and the stats back me up – that Miami took it to the Huskies after Connecticut’s first-period goal, and then the UConn dominated the final two periods.

Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

Ryan Larkin was back in net after missing last week and stopped 42 of 48 shots, facing at least 14 shots in each period.

— Connecticut scored on an extended 5-on-3 less than three minutes into the game, but Miami was awarded a two-man advantage of its own midway through that frame, and Karch Bachman capitalized after one skater had returned.

— Both teams had three power play opportunities in the first frame but the teams combined for just three chances the balance of the game.

LINEUP CHANGES: Larkin was back in net, replacing Ben Kraws, who earned the win last Saturday.

Grant Frederic returned to the lineup, replacing Alec Capstick. The two have alternated at the seventh defense spot for several weeks.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Again, just listened to the game and saw bits and pieces.

But the Huskies dominated the final two periods and deserved to win this game.

Miami can’t expect to win many games allowing 48 shots.

Coming off such a successful road trip in Omaha, it’s a disappointing loss to a team previous ranked No. 48 in the PairWise.

Miami nipped by Duluth in finale

OXFORD, Ohio – For the second straight night, Miami was outshot by a 2-to-1 ratio.

But unlike in the series opener, the RedHawks were unable to scavenge a win, falling 3-2 to Minnesota-Duluth at Cady Arena on Saturday.

Four of the game’s five goals were scored on the power play – two each – and neither team found the net over the final 24 minutes.

RECAP: Just 3:42 into the first period, Nick Swaney tipped home a waist-high wrister from Nick Wolff in the slot to give Minnesota-Duluth the early lead, the lone even-strength goal of the game.

Miami’s Chase Pletzke (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

Miami tied it in the final second of the opening frame on a tic-tac-toe passing play as Chase Pletzke finished off the one-time feed from Gordie Green through the slot after Derek Daschke slid a pass through traffic to Green.

The Bulldogs took the lead for good 5:38 into the second period when Tanner Laderoute slammed home a rebound into a largely-vacated net off the initial shot by Cole Koepke on a 5-on-4.

Just 97 seconds later on another power play, Noah Cates battled for a loose puck with RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin then gained control of it, wrapped around the back of the net and stuffed it in the short side to make it 3-1.

Miami’s Rourke Russell wound up from the point and slung a wrist shot past UMD goalie Hunter Shepard with 4:26 left in the middle stanza to cut the deficit to one.

The RedHawks were limited to five shots in the third period and none of their lone man advantage of that frame.

STATS: It was nice to see Miami generate both goals from sources other than Green or Karch Bachman.

Miami’s Rourke Russell (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

Pletzke netted his second of the season and Russell picked up his first, with his last goal coming on March 2 vs. – of all teams – Minnesota-Duluth.

— Green and Daschke earned assists to extend their points streaks to three games.

— Bray Crowder and John Sladic picked up the other helpers. Crowder has four on the season, and Sladic notched his third assist and fifth point.

— Larkin stopped 32 shots and was named second star of the game.

— The Bulldogs finished with six power plays, including 1:24 on a two-man advantage, while Miami went on the man advantage three times. UMD outshot the RedHawks, 18-3 with the extra skater.

STANDINGS: Four games into the NCHC season, Miami is 1-3, tied with Omaha and Denver for fifth place in the conference, although Omaha has played just two league games.

St. Cloud State is in last, but the Huskies have also logged just one conference series.

Miami dropped just one spot in the PairWise Rankings, from No. 38 to No. 39.

THOUGHTS: It’s easy to blame the officiating, which did seem to lean in UMD’s favor with a 6-3 power play advantage including the extensive 5-on-3, but both teams scored twice on the man advantage, making that a wash.

Ultimately, the better team won. The Bulldogs are two-time defending national champions and ranked No. 6 in Division I for a reason.

UMD’s defenders did a phenomenal job of shutting down Miami in the third period, allowing just five shots on goals despite an MU power play. Actually they defended well all weekend.

Minnesota-Duluth was superior in a number of areas.

But the RedHawks came away with the split and outscored the Bulldogs for the weekend, and while it’s never fun to lose, a 1-1 series against this team, at this point is a success.

Especially the way it happened, with Miami playing the game the right way.

— The team defense once again allowed a high number of shots and a decent number of quality shots, but in previous weekends the RedHawks practically had runway lights down their own slot and marshalls directing opposing skaters toward the Miami net.

— The first RedHawks goal was one of the prettiest of the season. The passing combination of Pletzke to Daschke to Green to Pletzke was even more remarkable considering time was winding down in the period. But none panicked, and the puck crossed the line with 0.7 seconds left.

LINEUP CHANGES: Just one and it was on defense. Alec Capstick dressed for the ninth time this season, and Grant Frederic was scratched.

Ben Lown missed both games this weekend with a lower body injury and is not expected to return in the next couple of weeks.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C-. Same problem as Friday: Not enough shots by this corps with the exception of Bachman. Bachman finished with five SOG while the rest of the forwards combined for seven. For the weekend it was Bachman 12, Rest Of The Forwards 14. Pletzke picked up the only goal among this group and looked right at home on that top power play unit. Monte Graham went 9-3 on faceoffs and was 20-9 on draws for the weekend. Noah Jordan blocked four shots.

DEFENSEMEN: B-. Minnesota-Duluth fired a lot of shots, but as mentioned above, fewer than in previous weekends were of the A-plus variety and 18 of 35 were on the power play. Russell scored the second Miami goal and blocked three shots, and Crowder played one of his better games, also rejecting three shots and picking up an assist, but he took another minor penalty.

Miami’s Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

GOALTENDING: B+. Watching live from close range, it looked like the first goal Larkin allowed was one he wanted to have back, but it was actually an excellent tip in the slot that sent it into the twine. The second was on a big rebound, but from live action and replay it was hard to tell who the puck hit before caroming to Laderoute. The third was a wraparound. Larkin made a number of quality saves, including one in the third period that it looked like hit his skate as he stacked the pads. Very good game overall.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The Miami program took a major step forward this weekend.

To this point, the RedHawks’ defensive play – from both defensemen and forwards – can best be described as haphazard.

Too often, players watched the play instead of participating, skated to the puck rather than hold their position or were so out of position they never got into the right spot to defend.

But at least for one weekend this group figured out that aspect of playing in the NCHC.

Out-manned or not, if Miami continues to play as hard, as disciplined and as structured as it did this weekend, many more wins will follow.

And they will come sooner than later.

Miami drops UMD on late goals

OXFORD, Ohio Chris Bergeron certainly made his NCHC home coaching debut memorable.

Miami had one victory in its previous 17 meetings with No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth heading into this weekend, but on Friday the RedHawks scored twice in the final four minutes to edge the Bulldogs, 3-1 at Cady Arena.

MU snapped a nine-game losing streak vs. NCHC opponents and a six-game skid against UMD, with its last win vs. the Bulldogs coming almost exactly two years ago on Nov. 18, 2017.

Miami’s Karch Bachman (Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

RECAP: The RedHawks led, 1-0 heading into the third period but Minnesota-Duluth tied it early in that final stanza, leading to Miami’s decisive late goals.

Neither team found the net until the 13:28 mark of the second period, when Miami’s Gordie Green carried the puck up the ice shorthanded and fed it ahead to Karch Bachman, who skated laterally through the slot and whipped it across his body and into the bottom corner of the net.

It was the first shorty for Miami this season.

But UMD (4-4-1) evened the score 43 seconds into the third period when Scott Perunovich whipped a shot wide from the blue line that Tanner Laderoute tipped home from the inside edge of the faceoff circle as a power play expired.

Miami (3-5-2) regained the lead for good on a bizarre goal with 3:58 to play. Phil Knies centered a pass from behind the Bulldogs’ net, and Monte Graham fired a one-timer that was blocked. Nearly everyone on the ice lost site of the ricocheting puck, which came to rest on the faceoff circle, but Derek Daschke skated over and coolly backhanded it through traffic and in to make it 2-1.

Graham capped off the scoring on an empty netter with 29 seconds remaining.

Monte Graham (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

STATS: It was the second career game-winning goal for Daschke, and he has found the net in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.

Graham had never recorded a multi-point game heading into last weekend, but after going 1-1-2 in this game, he has two points in consecutive contests.

Green and Knies, who both picked up a helper, also have points in two straight games.

Bachman’s goal was his fifth of the season, giving him the outright team lead.

Andrew Sinard notched his second career assist and his first point of the season.

STANDINGS: With its first win of the season in conference play, Miami has three points in the NCHC, tied for fifth in the league with Denver.

The RedHawks jumped to No. 38 in the PairWise rankings.

THOUGHTS: This was obviously a fantastic win for Miami on multiple levels.

Despite being outshot by over a 2-to-1 ratio, the RedHawks were able to hang with the sixth-ranked team in Division I that had been Miami kryptonite over the past few years and ultimately win.

This game was fast-moving and had excellent flow, making it fun to watch. Miami moved and possessed the puck well, and while UMD clearly has more talent, the shot margin didn’t do justice to how well the RedHawks played.

Ryan Larkin was flat-out outstanding after allowing 10 goals at North Dakota last weekend. He stopped 35 shots, tying a season high, and without his effort Miami does not earn the win.

— Minnesota-Duluth went on the power play with 2:37 left, but with his maximum-effort work ethic, Scott Corbett powered through the neutral zone shorthanded and was able to cancel that man-advantage by drawing a crucial interference call with 1:05 to play.

— Sinard helped set up the Graham empty netter by wiring the puck from behind his own net to Graham at center ice, resulting in the clinching ENG.

Miami’s Alec Mahalak (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

— Lost in all of this was the return of defenseman Alec Mahalak. Mahalak had missed the first nine games of the season with a lower-body injury, and while he clearly was less than 100 percent, the defense overall seemed to feed off his presence in the lineup and played one of its best defensive games of the season.

— Poor Mahalak, dressing for the first time in 2019-20, had his name spelled incorrectly on his sweater. The third “A” was left off, as it read “Mahalk”.

— Graham and Daschke both were able to avenge third-period miscues. Graham took the late penalty that gave UMD the power play but sealed the game with an empty netter, and Daschke picked up the game winner after committing a rare turnover as he tried to clear the zone, resulting in the Bulldogs’ lone goal that tied it.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C+. Shots on goal are certainly not the be-all, end-all of hockey stats, but this corps finished with just 14, with seven coming from Bachman. That means the other 11 forwards generated just seven. The Knies-Graham-Corbett (with Phil, Monte and Scott – we’ll need a better nickname than the PMS line, although they did make UMD irritable?) was arguably the team’s best in this game. Freshmen John Sladic and Chase Pletzke continue to get better every game, as does Graham, who is becoming one of the best two-way forwards on the team. This corps was solid overall in its own end as well.

DEFENSEMEN: B. Yeah, the Bulldogs finished with 36 shots, but there weren’t the slam-dunk opportunities for UMD that Miami has allowed other foes this season. The positioning by this corps was better, as the blueliners didn’t lose their opponents or get caught watching the play nearly as often. Daschke also recorded the game-winning goal, and Sinard earned an assist on the clinching ENG. Sinard was one of the top defensemen in this game, and Rourke Russell played one of his best games this season. “Mahalk” was not 100 percent but should return to top form in the coming weeks.

Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

GOALTENDING: A. Larkin had no chance on the lone UMD goal and was outstanding otherwise. He faced a lot of good chances but wasn’t hung out to dry like he had been in previous weeks. He gave up a couple of rebounds early before settling in, and he was especially stellar during a second period that saw him stop 19 shots.

LINEUP CHANGES: On defense, “Mahalk” and Grant Frederic were back in the lineup, and Chaz Switzer and Alec Capstick sat out.

Frederic was scratched for the first time this season last Saturday at North Dakota.

This was just the second time this season Capstick has not played.

There were no changes up front, and Larkin started his fourth straight game.

FINAL THOUGHTS: It can’t be overstated what a win like this can do for a team’s confidence after years of getting beat up by the NCHC’s top echelon.

Also, with D-1 players-to-be committing on a daily basis this time of year, the timing of this win couldn’t have been better as the coaching staff tries to nail down recruits to build a winning team for years to come.

It would be shocking if Minnesota-Duluth didn’t come out flying on Saturday, and it will be imperative that Miami fend off that early surge.