In two high scoring games, Miami hockey found themselves on both sides of the score as it split this weekend’s non-conference series against the University of Maine. Still struggling to battle back from deficits, the RedHawks (1-3) went up early in Friday’s game to eventually win 7-5 but fell behind early in Saturday’s game to ultimately lose to the Black Bears (2-2) 6-3.
“I think first and foremost, going on the road and being able to win Friday night was big for us,” Head Coach Enrico Blasi said. “We’ve got to take the lessons we’ve learned playing in a hostile environment, making sure that we focus and be a little more determined with the puck and away from the puck.”
In Orono, Maine for the ’Hawks’ first win of the year, sophomore forward Gordie Green led Miami’s offense with the help of his five-point Friday night. Green scored two goals and recorded three assists — Miami’s first five-point game since Austin Czarnik had five assists at Bemidji State on Nov. 30, 2013.
In the first period of the weekend, the RedHawks would outshoot the Maine Black Bears 19-7. An early power play at 3:17 started the ’Hawks attack, as they took several shots that Maine fended off. The power play’s persistence paid off, and sophomore forward Karch Bachman scored with a second left on the man-advantage. Green had his first assist of the night after feeding Bachman. Junior forward Josh Melnick had the secondary assist.
Nineteen seconds later found Miami up 2-0 at 5:35 after Green found the back of the net. Melnick fed a streaking Green who then beat Maine’s junior goaltender Rob McGovern.
Following the early Miami lead, sophomore goaltender Ryan Larkin fended off a handful of shots on the other end of the ice from a Maine team trying not to fall behind. The RedHawks matched and then outshot the Black Bears, though their defensive onslaught was halted as they were forced onto the penalty kill at 15:43 and then to the 5-on-3 at 16:58.
The ’Hawks killed both penalties and a Maine penalty allowed the RedHawks to close the period with offensive momentum. Miami went to the locker room up 2-0 with 30 seconds of the man-advantage waiting for them in the second.
Maine struggled to gain momentum at the beginning of the second period. Killing off the leftover seconds of the penalty, the Black Bears went back on the kill 15 seconds later. Miami took advantage of Maine’s undisciplined play and Green fed Hutton for a one-timer that put the RedHawks up 3-0 two minutes into the second.
Six shots were fired at McGovern as part of Miami’s dominating offensive play, though Maine was given a chance in the form of a power play at 6:09. Similar to Miami’s first goal, time expired on Maine’s power play but the Black Bears’ freshman defenseman Veli-Matti Tiuraniemi found the back of the net at 8:11 to put the Bears on the board. Sophomore forward Mitchell Fossier’s goal 1:31 later further cut into the RedHawks’ lead, as the score became 3-2 only halfway through the period.
Hutton found success again on the power play, this time via slap shot with 7:27 left in the second. Senior defenseman Louie Belpedio and freshman forward Phil Knies assisted to make it 4-2. The back-and-forth play continued, as Maine’s Fossier scored his second goal of the night to again bring his team within one with 3:41 left in the middle frame.
The RedHawks weren’t slowed by approach of the intermission. Junior forward Kiefer Sherwood and Belpedio scored a minute apart, and Belpedio’s goal came on the already impressive power play. Green earned an assist on Sherwood’s goal, as did freshman defenseman Rourke Russell — his first college hockey point. Senior defenseman Scott Dornbrock and Sherwood assisted on Belpedio’s goal. The ’Hawks entered intermission with a 6-3 lead.
Riding the offensive momentum, a streaking Green put Miami ahead 7-3 only eight seconds into the third period. With freshman Jeremy Swayman as the new goaltender, Maine valiantly fought back, bringing the score to 7-4 at 2:49 and 7-5 at 10:03. The RedHawks held on defensively and killed two more penalties and Larkin kept his team in the game while facing 12 shots.
Miami ended with 38 shots to Maine’s 25. The RedHawks’ special teams were effective, going 4-for-5 on the power play and 5-for-6 on the penalty kill. Besides Green ending the night with five points, Melnick had three assists and Hutton and Sherwood had a goal and an assist each.
“Every team wants to score first and every team plays better with the lead,” Blasi said. “For us, the most important lesson to learn is to play the same game no matter what the score is. Play consistent, be focused on the game plan and on the team game and not really vary from shift to shift because things will happen in games.”
Friday’s success was not replicated and Miami’s effective game plan fell apart early on Saturday after falling behind 2-0 in the span of 2:22. The second goal came from sophomore defenseman Patrick Holway on the 5-on-3 man-advantage for Maine, spelling the end of Miami’s successful penalty kill.
The RedHawks killed off the second penalty, and managed a couple shots but freshman defenseman Brady Keeper and junior forward Daniel Perez beat Larkin at 11:53 and 10:38, respectively. Looking to spark his team and relieve Larkin, Blasi put in freshman goalie Grant Valentine to make his NCAA debut.
Maine’s Swayman withstood several Miami shots, but another 5-on-3 helped Maine add to their lead with 2:13 left in the period. The Black Bears couldn’t keep the shutout into the second period, as a RedHawk power play resulted in Knies scoring his first career goal with 5.2 seconds left in the period. The goal came from Hutton and Green and the ’Hawks went into break down 5-1.
The second started with a ten minute long silence from the goal horn before Maine’s sophomore forward Tim Doherty took back the five goal advantage at 9:35. Miami was given an opportunity to kick start a comeback with a five minute major penalty and game misconduct on Perez. A penalty with 2:11 left in the major gave Miami a 5-on-3. Hutton scored with four minutes left in the second, but the goal from Belpedio and Melnick to make it 6-2 would be the last of the period.
The third period began and the scoring stopped. Close to five minutes left in the third, Blasi pulled Larkin — who returned at the start of the period — to give Miami an extra attacker and a chance at a comeback. A Maine penalty two minutes later gave Miami a 6-on-4 advantage. Hutton scored his second of the night and fourth of the weekend to make it 6-3 with 3:13 left.
Three goals in three minutes proved too ambitious for the ’Hawks and they split the series with the Black Bears. Again, Miami outshot Maine 30-26 but went 3-for-6 on the power play and 5-for-7 on the kill.
“Sometimes you’re able to score first and sometimes you’re not, but staying focused on that game plan is really the most important thing,” Blasi said. “We’ve got some work to do in that and good teams at the end of the year know how to play in every situation and they don’t get frustrated, they don’t get rattled. They just continue to play — that’s something we have to continue to work on.”
Larkin faced 23 shots and made 18 saves, while Valentine faced three shots and made two saves during his tenure in net.
“I thought we did a lot of good things, our special teams in terms of power play were pretty good,” Blasi said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do — it’s still a work in progress — but we’re going to continue to take steps forward.”
Hutton (5g, 2a) and Green (2g, 5a) lead Miami with seven points, enough for each to earn National Collegiate Hockey Conference Players of the Week. This is the first time Green has been named NCHC Player of the Week and the first time Hutton has been named NCHC Defenseman of the Week.
Miami returns home to face the University of Connecticut for the first time in history. The non-conference matchup starts on Friday at 7:35 p.m.