It has been 83 days and 14 games since Miami hockey has won a game.
It has been 90 days and 16 games since the RedHawks have skated off home ice to the Band of Brotherhood playing a victorious fight song.
Miami hopes to break its dismal eight-game losing streak and 14-game winless streak as it welcomes the University of Nebraska Omaha (8-16-2, 4-11-1 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) to the Steve ‘Coach’ Cady Arena.
“I don’t think we should be feeling sorry for ourselves,” head coach Enrico Blasi said. “I think what we need to do is respond and get back to work and do the things we’re capable of doing.”
The last time the RedHawks lost eight in a row was during the 1995-96 season. The last time the RedHawks went winless for 14 games was during the 1990-91 season, when Blasi was skating as a freshman forward.
“This team is a lot better than that (1990-91) team,” Blasi said. “I said this to guys the other day, ‘There’s been a lot of championship teams we’ve coached here that have gone through five- or six-game losing streaks.’”
As the start of postseason hockey looms, the RedHawks look to snap their streaks and climb from their last place spot in the eight-team NCHC. UNO sits only two points ahead of Miami, and sixth-place Colorado College has a five-point advantage over the RedHawks.
The difference between last and sixth place – the difference between playing the No. 1 team in the league and the No. 3 team during the conference tournament – is how the RedHawks finish the month of February. The difference is likely this weekend.
“It’s easy to play when you’re up,” Blasi said. “It’s easy to play when nothing is at stake and, right now, there’s a lot at stake and our guys understand that. We’re going to play hard and prepare hard.”
A welcome return to the lineup is senior forward Josh Melnick, who skated in his first series back from injury against No. 1 St. Cloud State University last weekend.
Melnick and junior forward Gordie Green lead the RedHawks with 20 points apiece. Green finished the weekend with a goal and an assist, and Melnick finished with an assist.
The pair skated on the top line together against SCSU, along with redshirt sophomore forward Christian Mohs. After playing in and out of the lineup during the first half of the season, Mohs has become a staple to the RedHawks lineup.
“Right now, we’re just focusing on being positive and uplifting the guy next to you,” Melnick said. “If someone makes a mistake, it’s going to happen. Just let them know that you’re there and that you need more from them.”
In net of late, senior Jordan Uhelski and junior Ryan Larkin have been sharing the crease. Uhelski started last Friday’s match-up against St. Cloud and Larkin started Saturday. Both lost 5-1, though both faced 30-plus shots.
Another recent bad habit has been the RedHawk blue line allowing their goaltenders to see 30-plus shots in 17 of their last 19 games. The RedHawks have also given up the first goal in 12 straight games.
“It’s a little bit of a slump right now, but it happens to all teams,” Melnick said. “For us, right now, it’s continuing to do the right things every day, and it’s really about how we respond to what’s going on around us.”
For the Mavericks, senior goaltender Evan Weninger records a 3.58 goals against average and .900 save percentage. He played both games last weekend for Nebraska Omaha and helped his team to a 6-3 win over Western Michigan on Saturday night.
Besides goaltending, special teams will likely decide the series against UNO.
The Mavericks are ranked eighth nationally on the power play (24.6 percent). The RedHawks’ power play ranks 44th (16.1 percent), though both teams have similar success rates on the penalty kill. UNO checks in with a 77.4 percent on the man-disadvantage and Miami with 76.3 percent.
Senior forward Fredrik Olofsson leads the Mavs with 30 points (10g, 20a) with five of his goals coming on the man-advantage. He skates into Oxford coming off a two-goal, one-assist performance last Saturday.
“There’s no room…” Blasi said. “Well, I shouldn’t say, ‘There’s no room,’ but the margin of error in our conference is very small […] That means every shift is really important, whether you’re generating offense or playing defense. Everything is going to count.”
It has been 83 days without a win for Miami hockey. This weekend most definitely counts.
Start time tonight is an unusual 6:30 p.m. to accommodate CBS Sports, which will have coverage of the game. Tomorrow, puck drop is at 7:05 p.m., and the game can be watched on NCHC.tv.