Following Miami hockey’s first win in 15 games and a National Collegiate Hockey Conference mandatory bye week, the RedHawks had an inconsistent weekend against the No. 7 Denver Pioneers.
The ’Hawks took time to rest their bodies and minds after six straight weekends of play and, in their first game back from break, roared out to a 3-0 lead en route to a 3-1 win over the Pioneers on Friday.
But Miami (11-17-4, 5-13-2 NCHC) played an unsustainable brand of hockey, forcing junior goaltender Ryan Larkin to see 47 shots on Friday and then 43 on Saturday. And an imperfect penalty kill put the game away on Saturday, as the Pioneers (17-8-4, 9-8-2 NCHC) secured the series split with a 5-2 win.
“Every little detail, every little play of the game is magnified at this time of year, and you have to really focus on those things and play every shift like it’s your last,” head coach Enrico Blasi said last Monday.
Due to travel, Blasi’s weekly Monday press conference was pushed to this afternoon.
On his team’s first shot of the weekend, Miami senior forward Ryan Siroky beat sophomore goaltender Devin Cooley. Siroky scored his second goal of the night and seventh of the season under two minutes into the second period, and junior forward Karch Bachman scored 47 seconds later to propel the ’Hawks to a 3-0 lead.
The Pioneers countered early in the third on their power play, but Larkin stopped 19 of Denver’s 20 third-period shots for the RedHawks’ second straight win.
On Saturday, Denver struck three minutes into the game, and its momentum didn’t slow. Miami is now 10-2 when scoring first and 1-15-4 when opponents score first.
Though Larkin shined on Friday, as he sustained Denver’s 47-shot onslaught, the RedHawks gave their goaltender little relief on Saturday. Larkin faced 43 shots and made 38 saves.
The ’Hawks have now been outshot in 20 of their last 23 games, while they have given up 30 shots or more in 20 of those contests. The Pioneers outshot Miami 90-38 during the weekend.
And special teams both helped and hurt the RedHawks, as they have in the past.
Miami went 0-for-4 on the power play and 3-for-5 on the man-disadvantage, though senior forward Josh Melnick scored shorthanded on Saturday. Melnick’s second-period goal tied the game at 1-1.
When the score read 3-2 Pioneers in the third period, Denver capitalized on the power play to gain a two-goal lead. A Pioneers empty-net goal with two minutes left to play on Saturday ended the weekend.
The RedHawks now sit seventh in the eight-team NCHC, three points behind Colorado College. The University of Nebraska Omaha is eighth by only one point.
“We just want to get better every game and be playing our best hockey when it really matters at the end of the year,” senior forward Zach LaValle said last Monday.
Next, Miami travels to the No. 3 University of Minnesota-Duluth. The Bulldogs’ goaltender Hunter Shepard has shut out the ’Hawks for four straight games, dating back to last season. Puck drop on both Friday and Saturday is at 8:07 p.m. ET.