Miami can't hold 2-goal lead again

OXFORD, Ohio – Groundhog Day may not be for another week, but Miami has lived through it the past eight days.

On Friday – for the third straight game – the RedHawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, but once again they were unable to secure the win, falling 3-2 to No. 5 Denver at Cady Arena.

The Pioneers (16-4-5) cut the deficit to one late in the first period, tied it in the second and scored the game winner early in the third.

Miami’s Bray Crowder (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

Kohen Olischefski netted the first two DU goals and Griffin Mendel notched the decisive tally.

Carter Johnson and Bray Crowder found the net for Miami (6-13-4), the first of the season for each and Crowder’s first career goal as a RedHawk.

MU is winless in four straight games and 2-7-1 in its last 10 while Denver extended its unbeaten streak to 10 (7-0-3).

RECAP: At the 5:20 mark of the first period, Miami’s Ben Lown centered a pass from along the boards to Chase Pletzke, whose point-blank shot was saved, but the rebound jumped over his stick and was rifled home top shelf by Johnson.

The RedHawks went up two when Matt Barry emerged from a scrum along the boards and found a wide-open Crowder with a cross-ice feed, and Crowder buried the one-timer into the open half of the net with nine minutes left in the opening frame.

Three minutes later, Denver’s Cole Guttman connected with Olischefski all alone at the top of the crease on the power play, and Olischefski shifted from the backhand to his forehand and poked the puck through RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin on the power play.

The Pioneers tied it on the man advantage just 2:26 into the middle stanza as Guttman took a pass in the slot for a one-timer, and his shot was blocked but the loose puck trickled to Olischefski, who batted it just across the goal line inside the near post.

Mendel fired a shot from the top of the faceoff circle with 13:45 left in regulation, and it appeared Larkin had made the save cleanly, but it trickled through his pads and into the net to put Denver ahead.

Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

STATS: Larkin set the all-time career saves record for Miami. He broke the previous record of 2,975, held by David Burleigh (1999-2003).

Larkin needed nine stops to eclipse Burleigh’s mark and turned 30 shots aside on the night. He now has 2,997 for his career, three short of becoming the first goalie in RedHawks history to record 3,000 saves.

— Crowder’s goal, the first of his career, gives him five points in his last 12 games.

Johnson scored for the first time since March 2, 2019, and it was his first point since Nov. 23.

Pletzke, Lown, Barry and Phil Knies were all credited with assists for Miami.

Pletzke has 12 points in 13 games, including eight assists.

Barry earned his third point in six games since becoming eligible.

Lown and Knies both have three assists in five games, and Knies also has a goal in that span.

— Miami gave up two power plays and has surrendered six man-advantage goals in its last four games, as its penalty killing percentage dropped to 75.3 percent.

— The RedHawks have scored 12 times in the first period in their last six contests. Of their nine goals in their last three games, seven have come in the opening frame.

— Opponents have scored in 10 straight periods vs. Miami.

THOUGHTS: On this homestand, Miami has trailed for 18 of 185 minutes but is 0-1-2.

When leading 2-0 in the first period three straight games, especially on home ice, ultimately earning just one of a possible nine league points in difficult to swallow.

Closing out games has been an issue for RedHawks teams for a decade, and recently the issue has resurfaced for the 2019-20 version.

A shot that Larkin would’ve wanted back decided the game, but Miami’s offense did little after the first period and it just didn’t feel like the RedHawks were going to pull out a win, even if Larkin did stop that shot.

— The first period was very choppy, with Miami taking what seemed like 100 icings, and with over five minutes left in the stanza, a pane of glass behind the Zamboni end net shattered and had to be replaced, delaying the game by about 10 minutes.

The RedHawks escaped that frame with a one-goal lead but were stymied offensively the last 40 minutes, generating just 13 shots.

They had one power play the whole game, during which they barely spent any time in the offensive zone and struggled even to string together passes.

— Credit definitely goes to Denver, which appeared every bit as fast and talented as North Dakota, and the Pioneers did not get rattled when they fell behind.

DU pretty much shut down the CKG line (Casey, Karch and Gordie), which has been Miami’s main source of offense this season. The trio combined for nine of the RedHawks’ 23 shots, but all went minus-1 as they were on the ice for the third-period game winner.

And that line seemingly played every other shift all night.

— The first Pioneers goal kind of epitomizes the season. Two MU skaters chased one DU skater at the point, and since it was a power play, that means Denver had four skaters covered by two in the rest of the offensive zone.

That’s why Olischefski was so wide open so close to the net that Larkin could smell what he had for his pregame meal.

Mike Babcock said – although the phrase likely did not originate with him – that penalty killing takes no skill. That may not be completely true, but the point is that intelligence, guts and hard work can make any team competitive in that area.

Miami is down to 75.3 percent on the PK, the seventh-worst clip in all of Division I.

On Friday, the RedHawks lost by one and allowed two power play goals in three opportunities.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D+. Just not the crisp passing or overall intensity we saw from this corps vs. North Dakota, especially in the final 40 minutes. The CKG line was shut down and none of the other lines shined. Barry played a strong game and is now on the top power play, and Johnson, dressing for the third time in four games, had one of his better nights this season. This group took two penalties – one on John Sladic and the other by Scott Corbett – and the puck ended up the back of the Miami net both times.

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

DEFENSEMEN: B-. Rourke Russell was the star among this group as he seemed to be all over Denver skaters the entire game, especially early. Crowder scored and has made huge strides in his positioning and staying out of the box. After a nightmarish first half in terms of injuries, Alec Mahalak finally looks 100 percent and is on the second power unit, and Grant Frederic appears much more confident than he has in the past and is playing as well as he has his entire career, exceling at getting the puck out of dangerous areas and winning boards battles.

GOALTENDING: C-. The elephant on the ice is that critical third goal, but Larkin made some excellent saves and he certainly isn’t the primary cause for this one going into the loss column. The first goal was scored when a DU player was left alone at the top of the crease, and the second was on a loose puck in heavy traffic that Denver batted in. It’s a shame that on a night he was honored for setting a school record that he would surrender such a high-profile goal, as he would’ve finished a B or B+ if not for that third one and possibly earned a win or a tie.

LINEUP CHANGES: Corbett returned from injury after missing the last four games, and defenseman Alec Capstick was back after being banged up and sitting the last two.

With that duo back, Christian Mohs and Andrew Sinard did not dress. Mohs had played in six straight, and it was the second time this season Sinard was not in the lineup.

Ryan Savage is still out with a lower body injury, missing his fourth consecutive contest.

— In net, Ben Kraws played last Saturday, but Larkin was back between the pipes for the fifth time in six games.

STANDINGS: Miami is now seventh in the NCHC, two points ahead of Colorado College and three behind St. Cloud State and Omaha, who are tied for fifth.

Western Michigan holds that all-important No. 4 seed and is 10 points ahead of the RedHawks.

— MU dropped to No. 42 in the PairWise, down one stop from last weekend.

FINAL THOUGHTS: It’s been extremely encouraging to see Miami compete with high-end Division I teams this season after being blown out so many times by the NCAA’s elite in recent years.

But the RedHawks are struggling to take the next step, which is earning critical points in league play.

The frustration of earning 1 of 9 in these last three home games that were toss-ups until the third period, all games in which Miami led, 2-0 in the first period, is augmented by Denver and Western Michigan’s recent hot streaks.

Denver is 7-0-3 in its last 10 and WMU is 3-0-1 in its last four, and as a result the RedHawks are now 10 points out of the final home spot in the NCHC Tournament.

With an at-large big to the NCAAs a near impossibility, the only realistic chance Miami has of snapping its national tournament drought is by winning the league tournament.

And that becomes a Sisyphean task when a team is buried in the bottom four and has to win a best-of-3 road series just to advance to the semifinals of the NCHC championship.

Not to take anything away from what this team has accomplished, relative to where it was in the winter months of 2018-19, especially with this four-game homestand coming against the Nos. 1 and 5 teams in Division I.

But for the RedHawks to have any hope of an NCAA berth, they need to figure out how to lead at the 60-minute mark and not just the 20.

Late St. Cloud goal sinks Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – St. Cloud State ruined Grant Valentine’s home starting debut.

Miami’s Grant Valentine (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

A blast by Luke Jaycox beat the junior goaltender with 25 seconds left in regulation, snapping a tie and lifting the Huskies to a 2-1 win over Miami at Cady Arena on Friday.

The RedHawks’ loss was their third straight, and they have won just two of eight games on their home ice this season.

SCSU was previously 0-4 in NCHC play.

RECAP: St. Cloud State (3-6-4) opened the scoring 17:19 into the first period when a Nick Perbix pass up the middle of the ice sprung Jami Krannila loose for a breakaway, and Krannila snuck a backhander just inside the post.

Following a scoreless second period, Miami (4-9-3) tied it when Karch Bachman skated around a defender and fed a pass from the side of the net to Casey Gilling at the top of the crease, and Gilling backhanded it home at the 1:52 mark.

But Easton Brodzinski slid a pass through the slot to Jaycox, who ripped a one-timer home from the top of the faceoff circle with time winding down.

Miami challenged, claiming the play was off-side, but the call was upheld.

STATS: It was the first career home start and second overall for Valentine, who stopped 26 shots. His save percentage is now a team-best .894.

Miami’s Casey Gilling (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

— Gilling scored for the third time in five games, giving him 13 points on the season. He recorded 12 all of 2018-19.

— Bachman picked up just three assists in his first 11 games but has five in his last five contests. He notched a point for the fifth straight game, a team high.

Gordie Green, who was awarded the second assist, has points in six of seven games and leads Miami with 18 for the season.

He has 97 for his career and would become the 53rd player in team history to reach triple digits.

— This was the 10th consecutive game in which the RedHawks were outshot.

— It was also the fifth straight contest in which Miami used a different starting goalie. All three have made at least three appearances in 2019-20.

THOUGHTS: The RedHawks played well for the first 16 minutes of the third period but were unspectacular the other 44.

There were a lot of long offensive-zone possessions in the first period, with St. Cloud State controlling the puck for most of those extended shifts. Green had a breakaway in that first 20 minutes but shot wide.

Miami generated just two even-strength shots in the second period.

The light seemed to come on for the RedHawks in the third, and then the light did come on when Gilling scored two minutes in. That stanza started with Miami having to kill a portion of a penalty, and the RedHawks seemingly spent more time in the zone during that first minute than the entire middle frame.

Miami was playing well, but with six minutes left, the RedHawks were unable to score on a power play and St. Cloud State seized the momentum, culminating in the winning goal in the final minute.

Despite their record, the Huskies are still a quality team with excellent speed and was the better team overall in this game.

— Since playing so well in Omaha, Miami seems to have reverted defensively, as too many times skaters were chasing the puck instead of maintaining their positioning.

On the first SCSU goal, defensemen Alec Mahalak and Alec Capstick were at the points with no Miami forwards in site when the Huskies sprung Krannila loose for a breakaway right through the middle of the ice.

On the winning goal, three Miami players went into the corner – again, chasing the puck – and when St. Cloud State dug the puck out, Brodzinski was able to feed a perfect one-time pass to a wide-open Jaycox.

Valentine bailed the RedHawks out at the end of the first period, stopping five shots on the power play as the Huskies were not adequately defended and generated multiple point-blank blasts as a result.

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

Ben Lown returned to the lineup after missing the last eight games with a lower-body injury, and he appeared nearly 100 percent.

With him healthy and Matt Barry set to become eligible for the Bowling Green game, Miami will boast much better forward depth.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D+. Once again, Bachman was able to use his speed to create a goal, as he blew around a defender before feeding Gilling at the top of the crease. Unfortunately for the RedHawks, that was one of only 15 shots this corps would generate. Phil Knies played well and finished with five shots, and Gilling tallied four, but the other 10 forwards recorded a total of six. Even Bachman was held to one. Green, who was unable to score on his breakaway, ended the night with zero.

DEFENSEMEN: C-. It seems this group is too eager to jump into plays when it hasn’t proven it can collectively do its job in its own end. It’s sort of like shoveling your neighbor’s driveway before taking care of your own. Derek Daschke has more than established that he can pinch while handling his defensive responsibilities, but at this point the rest of this corps would be better suited playing a more conservative game. Daschke was absolutely robbed by David Hrenak on a 2-on-1 in the third period but that was the only quality scoring chance any blueliner had. Mahalak is getting very little power play time, possibly because he’s being brought along gently after the injury that cost him the first six weeks of the season, but his presence at the point could jump-start the man-advantage.

GOALTENDING: A-. Valentine entered the season as Miami’s third goalie but he had a .929 save percentage in this game and is .909 in his two starts. And he faced some A-plus chances in this game. He singlehandedly kept the RedHawks in the game late in the first period when SCSU already held a one-goal lead and fired seemingly at will during its power play. The Huskies’ first goal was on a nice backhand move and the other was on a rip from the top of the faceoff circle after a quick pass, and Valentine had little chance to stop it. He is making coach Chris Bergeron’s decision about who to stick between the pipes each night a lot more difficult.

LINEUP CHANGES: With Lown back in the lineup, Carter Johnson was scratched about dressing for eight straight games.

Jack Clement, Brayden Crowder and Noah Jordan all returned to the lineup after sitting last Saturday, replacing Grant Frederic, Chaz Switzer and Christian Mohs.

Miami has started three different netminders in its last three contests.

STANDINGS: Despite suffering its first three-game losing streak of 2019-20 and falling to a season-worst five games under .500, Miami is still in fourth place in the NCHC with eight points.

The RedHawks are currently tied with Colgate and Air Force for No. 40 in the PairWise rankings.

FINAL THOUGHTS: After collecting five points in Omaha, Miami was facing a four-game stretch vs. Connecticut and St. Cloud State, which were both in the bottom quarter of the PairWise.

Expectations were high after that UNO series, but the RedHawks were swept at UConn and lost the opener to SCSU.

The defensive lapses are a major concern considering how much better Miami had played against UNO and Minnesota-Duluth before that.

The RedHawks’ success this season hinges on their ability to tighten up in that area and stop allowing opponents to skate unabated into high-percentage scoring areas at will.

So which Miami team is this?

The one that allowed 38 goals in its first nine games, or the one that gave up just eight in four games against the two-time defending national champions and the No. 18-ranked team in Division I on the road?

We’ll see in the next four months.

Preview: St. Cloud State at Miami

It’s been quite the plummet for St. Cloud State, which entered the 2019 NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed but was shocked once again in the first round.

This season the Huskies have won just two games and only one of their last eight as they are mired in a four-game losing streak.

The SCSU squad that finished 19-2-3 in league play last season is 0-4 in the NCHC, having been swept by Colorado College in St. Cloud and North Dakota in Grand Forks.

A look at this weekend’s series:

WHO: St. Cloud State Huskies (2-6-4) at Miami RedHawks (3-6-3).

WHEN: Friday and Saturday – 7:05 p.m.

WHERE: Cady Arena (3,642), Oxford, Ohio.

ALL-TIME SERIES: St. Cloud State leads, 20-17-4.

MIAMI RADIO: Both games – WMOH-AM (1450), Hamilton, Ohio; WKBV-FM (100.9), Richmond, Ind.

ST. CLOUD STATE RADIO: Both games – KZRV-FM (96.7), St. Cloud, Minn.

TV: None.

STREAM: NCHC.tv.

NOTES: St. Cloud State is allowing too many goals, surrendering at least four in eight of its 12 contests and 3.58 per game overall.

Junior goaltender and Los Angeles Kings selection David Hrenak has struggled to an .881 save percentage this season and has a 3.22 goals-against average. He has played all but 30 minutes this season, with freshman Joey Lamoreaux stopping 14 of 15 in his debut.

Undrafted senior captain Jack Ahcan leads the Huskies defense with a team-high 123 career games played, and he has posted 17 goals and 71 assists in three-plus seasons.

Sophomore Nick Perbix, a Tampa Bay draftee, is 2-3-5 this season. Both he and Ahcan are minus-8.

Rounding out the regulars on defense are Spencer Meier (2-2-4), Clark Custer (1-1-2), Luke Jaycox (1-1-2) and Brendan Bushy (0-0-0).

Up front, sophomore Sam Hentges is tied for 12th in the NCAA in scoring with 18 points on six goals and 12 assists, just two points shy of his freshman output.

Easton Brodzinski has five goals and seven assists and has already scored 35 career goals for the Huskies.

But no other forward has more than six points.

Brothers and assistant captains Jack and Nick Poehling have combined for 11, and three others – Chase Brand, Jake Wahlin and Jami Krannila – have four each.

Miami was swept at Connecticut last weekend after going 1-0-1 at then-No. 18 Nebraska-Omaha.

These are the first home conference games of the season for the RedHawks, who do not play again until after Christmas.

Kraws keys Miami win at UNO

With goalie Ryan Larkin out for the weekend, Miami had to rely on its other two netminders this weekend.

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

The RedHawks earned a tie on Friday behind Grant Valentine, and in the series finale, freshman Ben Kraws turned aside 32 shots to earn his first career win in a 4-1 victory vs. No. 18 Nebraska-Omaha at Baxter Arena on Saturday.

It was the first time Miami (4-6-3) had earned at least five points in an NCHC road series in almost four years.

The RedHawks ran off the first three goals and never looked back as they improved to .500 on the road on the season at 2-2-2.

RECAP: Miami opened the scoring on the power play, as Ryan Savage slid a pass through the slot to Gordie Green, who buried a one-timer from the side of the net at the 6:32 mark of the first period.

The RedHawks extended their lead to two 6:39 into the second frame when John Sladic fired a shot from the slot that goalie Austin Roden couldn’t handle cleanly, and Green jammed it home from the same spot as his first goal.

Miami went up three on a crazy sequence with 6:02 left in the middle stanza. Karch Bachman stole the puck in his defensive zone, starting a 3-on-0, took two point-blank shots which were both denied before carrying the puck behind the net, centering one to Jack Clement in the slot, and Clement wristed it home.

Taylor Ward scored UNO’s lone goal with 2:50 left in that period when he carried the puck from behind the net to the faceoff dot and wired one into the far top corner to make it 3-1.

But 26 seconds later, the RedHawks answered as Noah Jordan’s pass along the boards through the neutral zone found Chase Pletzke, who eluded a defender, skated to center and stuffed it through Roden from the top of the crease.

The Mavericks fired 17 shots in the third period, but all were denied by Kraws.

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

STATS: It was the sixth two-goal game of Green’s career and his second this season.

He is currently the team leader in goals (6), assists (9) and points (15) and owns a five-game point streak which equals the longest of his career.

Green is just six points shy of becoming the 53rd RedHawk to tally 100 points.

— Kraws made his third start and his 32 saves were a season high and the third most by a Miami netminder in 2019-20.

— Clement tied a career high with two points (1-1-2) and Pletzke notched his third goal of the season.

— Savage picked up an assist, giving him six points in five games.

— After scoring just three power play goals the first eight games, the RedHawks have netted at least one in five consecutive contests, going 6-for-18 in that span (33.3 percent).

They were also perfect on the penalty kill in this game (4 of 4) and the weekend (6-for-6).

THOUGHTS: Earning five of a possible six points in this road series against the No. 18 team in Division I at this point is well beyond expectations, especially without Larkin.

Miami just seems to get better every night to the point where UNO’s announcers were gushing over how well the RedHawks were playing.

It’s hard to believe it was less than two months ago this team was skating around with no structure, allowing point-blank chances seemingly every shift.

On Saturday, the RedHawks had sticks in front of UNO (6-4-2) shots constantly and put on a clinic in shot blocking (25 overall). Although the Mavericks did finish with 33 shots on goal, most were relatively innocuous.

— Defense has been the biggest area of improvement for Miami by far since Game 1. Derek Daschke blocked six shots and Clement rejected four.

The goaltending, which is obviously a key component of the D, has been markedly better as well as of late. In Miami’s last four games, it has used all three netminders, and they have combined for a .939 save percentage.

— Kraws was fantastic, and thanks to his teammates, many of those 32 saves were on low-percentage chances. Early he appeared to overcommit while sliding to cover the net, but his positioning was textbook after that, which is partly why he didn’t have to make a ton of difficult saves.

His rebound control was excellent all night.

Miami’s Jack Clement (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

— If you want to feel good about the future of Miami hockey, look no further than the effort of the freshman class. As documented above, Kraws was 32 of 33 in net and four rookie skaters combined to go 2-3-5.

Clement picked up a goal and an assist, Pletzke also scored and Savage and Sladic earned assists.

LINEUP CHANGES: Other than Kraws, only one other change was made to Friday’s lineup.

Defensemen Alec Capstick and Grant Frederic continued their rotation, as Capstick dressed and Frederic sat. This was the fifth straight game that duo has alternated.

STANDINGS: Miami vaulted into fourth place in the NCHC with the win with eight points.

The RedHawks also jumped two spots in the PairWise to No. 36. They were 40th entering the weekend.

FINAL THOUGHTS: It appears Miami’s days as NCHC doormat are over.

This team has made amazing strides in practically every aspect of its game since season’s beginning, and this five-point road weekend has to do wonders for its confidence.

With struggling Connecticut and St. Cloud State left on their first-half schedule, the RedHawks have a chance to improve to .500 or better before the New Year.

It seems surreal to be writing the above sentence considering how this team played in its first few games.

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.