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 loses late lead, ties UNO

Miami led by two goals heading into the final minute.

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

Unfortunately for the RedHawks, No. 18 Nebraska-Omaha scored two 6-on-5 goals in the final 54 seconds to salvage a 3-3 tie at Baxter Arena on Friday.

Ryan Savage scored in the 3-on-3 overtime to secure the extra point for Miami, its first two road points in conference play this season.

RECAP: Omaha took the lead 3:28 into the game when a RedHawks clearing attempt hit a body and came to Nolan Sullivan, who was all alone at the top of the crease and backhanded it in.

Miami (3-6-3) tied it nine minutes into the opening frame when Casey Gilling settled a pass from Gordie Green in the slot and whipped it just inside the far post.

The RedHawks took the lead with 5:29 left in the first stanza on a one-timer by Savage from the top of the faceoff circle off a feed from Phil Knies.

The score remained 2-1 for over two periods until Derek Daschke forced a turnover in his own zone, springing Savage, who skated in on a 3-on-2 and fed trailer Alec Mahalak, who buried one from the center of the faceoff circle with 4:51 remaining.

With the extra attacker, UNO’s Zach Jordan banged home a rebound off a point shot by Sullivan with 54 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to one.

The Mavericks (6-3-2) tied it with 10 seconds left in regulation when Kevin Conley skated the puck from behind the net to the side of the cage and snuck one inside the near post.

The game was officially a tie, and the teams skated 3-on-3 for the additional conference point, which Miami earned when Savage slammed home a rebound off a Karch Bachman shot after Rourke Russell intercepted a clearing attempt on a power play less than two minutes into the session.

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

STATS: It was just the third career appearance for goalie Grant Valentine and the first start and decision of his Miami career. He stopped 24 shots en route to the tie.

— Though the overtime goal does not count for official statistics, Savage still finished with a goal and two assists for a career-high three points.

— Bachman finished with two helpers, his second-ever two assist game.

— Gilling’s goal was his second of the season, and it was the first of 2019-20 for Mahalak.

— Green’s assist extended his points streak to a team-high four games, and he pulled to within eight points of 100 for his career.

THOUGHTS: Lost in the madness that was the end of this game is the performance of Valentine in his starting debut.

Regular started Ryan Larkin did not make the trip after suffering a minor undisclosed injury.

Valentine probably would’ve liked that third goal back, as it appeared he didn’t hug the near post tightly enough and a shot was able to get through, but considering he had played a handful of minutes in NCAA play prior to this game, he was stellar overall.

Valentine’s best stop was on a tipped shot that he denied by extending his left pad, and he also shut down a breakaway during the 3-on-3.

He has certainly made the case for additional ice time, and the coaching staff will have an even more difficult time divvying up starts for the balance of the season with three quality netminders.

– It’s hard not to have that here-we-go-again feeling after Miami watched a two-goal lead evaporate in the final 54 seconds, but the first extra-attacker goal was on a quality shot through traffic and the ensuing rebound and the tying goal came against a goalie that had made several key saves earlier in the game to preserve the lead.

And this isn’t your typical basement-dwelling UNO team. The Mavericks are a good team.

The concern level would be higher if this wasn’t the 12th game of the Chris Bergeron era. Turning a program around takes time, and after a bad run for over half of decade, it can be hard to be patient, but a tie against the 18th-ranked team in Division I on the road is still quite an accomplishment considering the quality of hockey Miami was playing in early October.

The RedHawks have taken huge strides in recent weeks and took another one in this game, and those two late goals against don’t undermine that.

– Really liked how Miami was able to survive the early surge by an UNO team that was really clicking early. Though they were outplayed in the first period, the RedHawks emerged from it with the lead and was the better team the rest of the game.

Monte Graham officially finished 11-7 in the faceoff circle, but it seemed like he won every crucial draw.

Graham and Casey Gilling give Miami two outstanding faceoff weapons, a luxury the RedHawks have not enjoyed in some time.

Scott Corbett didn’t have a point and actually ended the night minus-1, but he played an outstanding game, forcing three turnovers in one shift, playing his physical game and creating open ice for his linemates.

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

– Mahalak played just his third game of the season, and he appeared a lot closer to 100 percent. He was OK in his 2019-20 debut last weekend after returning from a lower-body injury, but he definitely took a step forward in this game and scored his first goal.

— How about Savage’s play? The freshman factored in all three Miami goals and scored the fourth “goal” in the 3-on-3. After recording one point in his first eight games, he has five in his last four contests.

LINEUP CHANGES: Other than Valentine in net, the only other move was Grant Frederic being reinserted into the lineup in place of Alec Capstick.

Frederic and Capstick have rotated four straight games.

Ben Lown missed his fifth consecutive contest with a lower body injury and is not close to returning.

STANDINGS: Miami and UNO entered the weekend tied with three conference points apiece, so with the RedHawks earning the extra point, they are now one point ahead of the Mavericks in sole possession of fifth place heading into the finale on Saturday.

Miami improved two spots in the PairWise to No. 38.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Despite what happened in the final minute of regulation, Miami was able to regroup and ultimate salvage the extra conference point with the 3-on-3 goal by Savage.

Once again the RedHawks refused to quit and played hard until the final goal.

Expectations for this season were very low, but with less than two months elapsed in 2019-20, Miami’s trek to becoming relevant again has gone much quicker than expected.

Preview: Miami at UNO

This isn’t the bottom-dwelling Omaha team to which the NCHC has become accustomed.

Omaha

The Mavericks are ranked No. 18 in the USCHO.com poll and have a 3-3 record vs. ranked teams.

UNO opened its NCHC slate last week with a road split vs. Western Michigan and hosts its first league contests of the season.

A look at this weekend’s series:

WHO: Miami RedHawks (3-6-2) at No. 18 Nebraska-Omaha (6-3-1).

WHEN: Both nights – 8:07 p.m.

WHERE: Baxter Arena (7,500), Omaha, Neb.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 22-19-6.

MIAMI RADIO: Both games – WMOH-AM (1450), Hamilton, Ohio; WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.

OMAHA RADIO: Both games – KZOT-AM (1180), Omaha, Neb.

TV: NCHC.tv.

NOTES: Nebraska-Omaha is a program on the rise, with just one of its top seven scorers seniors, five of its regular defensemen freshmen or sophomores and both of its goalies rookies.

Kevin Conley leads the team in points with 11 on five goals and six assists, coming off a 3-1-4 weekend at Western Michigan.

Sophomore and Colorado draftee Tyler Weiss has a pair of goals and seven assists, and freshman Ryan Brushett leads the team with eight helpers.

Taylor Ward, a sophomore, is tied for the team lead in goals with five, and Chayse Primeau – of the NHL Primeau brothers – is 4-3-7.

Tristan Keck also has seven points, but he has not played since Halloween and it’s unclear when he’ll return.

On defense, a freshman – Brandon Scanlin – lead the corps in points (2-5-7).

A pair of drafted seniors have both logged over 100 college games, with Pittsburgh selection Ryan Jones going 2-4-6 and Arizona pick Dean Stewart notching five assists.

Nebraska-Omaha has used two goals this season, and both are freshmen.

Isaiah Saville, a Vegas selection, is 5-3-1 with a 2.44 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage. Austin Roden has logged one game, an 18-save shutout vs. Alabama-Huntsville.

The Mavericks have exceled on the power play, converting at a 26.5 percent, but they are 78.7 on the penalty kill.

Miami is 1-3 in NCHC play and was swept two weeks ago in its road debut at North Dakota.

These teams split both of their series last season.