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.

Miami salvages tie vs. No. 1 UND

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami was held to a season-low 16 shots on goal, including seven in the final 40 minutes of regulation.

Miami’s John Sladic (photo by Cathy Lachmann/VFTG).

But John Sladic backhanded a puck in with 2:34 left in regulation as the RedHawks salvaged a 4-4 tie vs. No. 1 North Dakota at Cady Arena on Friday.

Miami (6-11-4) lost the sudden-death shootout in the second round, as the Fighting Hawks (17-2-3) earned the extra league point.

It was a career night for both Karch Bachman and Casey Gilling, who finished with four points apiece.

RECAP: The RedHawks stunned top-ranked North Dakota, scoring twice in the first 89 seconds.

Bachman centered a pass from behind the net to Gilling, who slammed it home at the 1:03 mark to open the scoring.

Twenty-six seconds later, Bachman skated into the zone on the left wing and threw one on net. UND goalie Adam Scheel made the save, but Gordie Green crashed the net and banged the rebound in to make it 2-0.

With 4:13 left in the first period, UND’s Westin Michaud tipped a blue line shot by Jordan Kawaguchi just under the crossbar on the power play to cut the deficit in half.

Miami answered 83 seconds later, as Gilling wired one from the left wing into the near top corner of the net on a 2-on-1 to make it 3-1.

The Fighting Hawks’ Grant Mismash streaked into the slot and took a pass Kawaguchi, which he was able to kick to himself before batting it past Miami goalie Ryan Larkin just 17 seconds later.

Scheel was pulled after the first period.

North Dakota tied it at three when Kawaguchi ripped a one-timer from the side of the net on feed from Matt Kiersted on a two-man advantage with 12:37 left in the middle stanza.

It remained a 3-3 game until the Fighting Hawks took their only lead with 4:08 left in regulation when Gavin Hain centered a pass to Cole Smith, who got behind the Miami defense and slid one past Larkin.

But North Dakota led for just 94 seconds, when Gilling had a slot blocked and it caromed to a wide-open Sladic, who backhanded it through traffic and into the side of the net on the power play.

The Fighting Hawks appeared to have taken the lead in the final seconds on a blue line shot that was deflected in the slot, but it was ruled that the puck was touched with a high stick and after review the call stood.

Miami went on the power play late in the 5-on-5 overtime but could not convert, as the game was officially ruled a tie.

North Dakota had a man-advantage in the 3-on-3 session but also could not end it.

Mismash netted the decisive goal in the second round of the shootout, as the other three shooters for both teams failed to score.

STATS: Gilling and Bachman both set career highs with four points each.

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

Gilling ended the night with two goals and two assists, and Bachman racked up four helpers.

Gilling reached the 20-point mark, breaking his previous career high of 19 set last season, and Bachman is now the team leader in assists with 16.

— Sladic scored in his second straight game and is now tied for fourth on the team with six markers.

— Green’s goal gives him a team-best 10 for the season, and he recorded his 104th career point. That ties him with Justin Mercier and Andrew Miller for 49th on Miami’s all-time leaderboard.

THOUGHTS: It was the best start possible for Miami, scoring twice early and forcing UND to call time out in the second minute.

Predictably, the top-ranked team in Division I battled back and eventually took the lead, but the RedHawks didn’t give up, coming right back and knotting it at four just over a minute later.

In its last four games, Miami has earned wins at the No. 10 team (Bowling Green) and a blowout victory at altitude (Colorado College) and now a tie vs. a Fighting Hawks team topping the Division I poll.

Consistency has been an issue for the RedHawks, but overall they are 2-1-1 in their last four games in four difficult settings.

Even though this game goes down as a tie, and Miami earned just one of a possible three points, considering where the RedHawks were at this point last January – and the first couple of games this season – the progress the same pool of players has made is nothing short of remarkable.

— National television didn’t seem to bother Miami, which scored twice before much of the crowd had found its seats.

Ben Holden, Dave Starman and Shareen Saski did a great job as usual, and Starman was very complimentary of Miami.

Starman was especially impressed with the speed of Bachman and the netminding of Larkin.

— The first period was played at a furious pace, and the balance of the contest was much more controlled and choppy.

Miami generated a whopping two shots over about a 27-minute span from early in the second period to midway through the third.

The RedHawks tried to get a little too fancy with passes, and too often they resulted in turnovers. They also passed up too many shot opportunities as they tried to make the perfect play rather than put the puck on net.

— Faceoffs, an area of vast improvement for Miami this season, worked against the RedHawks in this one, as they won just 26 of 63 draws (41.3 percent).

— So the waved-off goal in the final minute was and still is quite a controversy among the North Dakota faithful. The ruling was that it was played with a high stick, then hit the body before trickling in.

Looking at replays, it’s really hard to tell if the puck hit the stick, although it did appear to change direction twice.

It touched the stick of Miami’s Bray Crowder before going in, but he did not possess the puck so that did not negate the high stick.

The original call was no goal, which was key, because if it was ruled a good goal initially, that call would’ve likely stood.

— Weird penalty sequence: Miami was whistled for four straight minors, then North Dakota was called for the final five.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B+. It’s hard to ding this corps for a lack of shots and faceoffs wins when it scored four goals against one of the best defensive teams in the NCAA. Gilling was named first star, and it was a well-deserved honor, as he was best player on the ice. North Dakota – a super-quick team itself – had no answer for Bachman’s speed. Green scored and also took the penalty that resulted in UND’s 5-on-3 and the tying goal.

DEFENSEMEN: C. Grading on a curve considering the caliber of opponent, but the blueliners did get caught out of position on a couple of Fighting Hawks goals. Jack Clement, who is having an outstanding freshman season, let Michaud get around him for the tip-in first goal and later was caught flat-footed in the offensive zone as the puck went the other way and ended up in the Miami net. Crowder had one of his better games of the season.

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

GOALTENDING: B. Larkin made a couple of exceptional saves and his rebound control was outstanding, as it usually is when he’s playing well. He had no chance on the first and third goals, the second was an A-plus and the fourth was also a high-percentage chance. Larkin kept Miami in the game.

LINEUP CHANGES: Injuries continue to haunt Miami, as defenseman Alec Capstick is the latest RedHawk to go down. He joins Ryan Savage and Scott Corbett in MU’s triage unit.

Fortunately for the RedHawks, Mahalak came back and appeared close to 100 percent in limited action. He replaced Capstick, who had dressed for 16 of the first 20 games.

The only other change for Miami was Noah Jordan replacing Carter Johnson up front. Jordan has played in 15 games in 2019-20 after being in the lineup just six times last season.

STANDINGS: Earning their 12th conference point of the season, Miami is tied with St. Cloud State for fifth place in the NCHC. All eight teams have played 11 league games.

Miami is currently No. 41 in the PairWise.

FINAL THOUGHTS: It’s a tie vs. the No. 1 team, and while Miami did not play a perfect game, this is quite an accomplishment.

Progress is paramount this season, and the RedHawks – overall – seem to be making plenty despite battling key injuries.

This is an incredibly difficult four-game homestand, with No. 4 coming in next weekend, but Miami has started it well.

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.

Preview: Miami at UConn

Connecticut and Miami meet for just the second time in the teams’ history, with the RedHawks sweeping the Huskies in Oxford two years ago.

These games will be played at the XL Center, formerly the Hartford Civic Center, formerly the home of the Hartford Whalers.

It will be the first time Miami has played on an NHL team’s (or in this case former NHL team’s) ice surface since its final CCHA Tournament in March of 2013.

A look at this weekend’s series:

WHO: Miami RedHawks (4-6-3) at Connecticut Huskies (3-6-3).

WHEN: Friday and Saturday – 4:05 p.m.

WHERE: XL Center (8,089), Hartford, Conn.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 2-0.

MIAMI RADIO: Both games – WMOH-AM (1450), Hamilton, Ohio.

CONNECTICUT RADIO: Both games – WUCS-FM (97.9), Hartford, Conn.; WILI-AM (1400) and WILI-FM (95.3), Willimantic, Conn.

TV: None.

STREAM: CBS Sports All-Access.

NOTES: Despite boasting a plethora of NHL draft picks on its teams the past couple of seasons, Connecticut has struggled mightily on the ice.

The Huskies dropped from 15 wins in 2017-18 to 12 last season, and they are off to a 3-6-3 start this campaign with just one win in their last seven contests.

Scoring has been an issue for UConn thus far in 2019-20, as the team is averaging just 2.33 goals per game and has only netted four or more once.

Through 12 games, no one on the Huskies has more than seven points.

Among forwards Jachym Kondelik, a Nashville selection, leads the team in goals with four and is tied for the team lead in points. Alexander Payusov also has seven points, including five assists.

Five forwards – Carter Turnbull, Kale Howarth, Ruslan Iskhakov, Benjamin Freeman and Vladimir Firstov all have six points, with the former two going 3-3-6 and the latter three having matching lines of two goals and four assists.

Freshman Yan Kuznetsov leads all defenders with seven points on a goal and a team-best six helpers.

Another rookie blueliner, Harrison Rees, has notched one goal and three assists.

Of the seven defensemen Connecticut has used this season, four are freshmen.

In net, Tomas Vomacka has played all but nine minutes for the Huskies. He has a 3.33 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage.

Connecticut is very young with a European flare. The Huskies have seven freshmen and nine sophomores, and three of their players are Russian, three more are from the Czech Republic and another was born in England.

UConn has struggled on special teams, as its power play is clicking at just a 10.5 percent clip. Its penalty kill rate is 73.2 percent, ranking near the bottom of Hockey East.

Miami is 2-2-2 on the road after earning five points last weekend in Omaha.

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

Regular starting goalie Ryan Larkin was banged-up and missed that series, but back-ups Grant Valentine and Ben Kraws were both outstanding in his absence and are making the case for more time between the pipes.

Offensively, Gordie Green and Ryan Savage have been the hottest RedHawks with six points apiece in their last five games. Green has points in each of his last five games, including a two-goal performance last Saturday.

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.