After falling to Colorado College 6-3 on Friday night, Miami hockey managed a 4-4 tie on Saturday night to break its four game pointless streak. The RedHawks were inconsistent in Colorado Springs, surrendering an early lead on Friday to the Tigers and then losing an early lead on Saturday.
Inconsistency has plagued the ’Hawks after they split with No. 4/5 Denver in early January, but lost 11-7 and 4-3 to Omaha the week after. Following a bye week and several community service events, the RedHawks were looking to utilize their speed through transition and battle on the ice to get back in the win column against Colorado.
“At the end of the day, it still comes to a one-on-one battle and winning that battle is the most important,” head coach Enrico Blasi said last Monday in his press conference. “If everybody can do that, then you’re going to have some success.”
The RedHawks (9-12-3, 4-8-2-0 NCHC) opened National Collegiate Hockey Conference play against the Tigers (11-11-4, 5-8-3-2 NCHC) in November and split the series. Miami is now ninth in the nine-team NCHC, whereas Colorado sits eighth.
The Tigers squandered any early momentum the ’Hawks were looking to generate, as junior forward Trevor Gooch scored on the first shot of the game. Gooch put his team up 1-0 only 1:29 into the first period.
Shots were 2-2 at the halfway point of the period, as both teams’ shots went wide or were blocked by well-positioned defensemen. Colorado would earn the game’s first power play and junior forward Westin Michaud would score the game’s first power play goal with just over seven minutes left in the first.
Just 38 seconds later, freshman forward Ben Lown found junior forward Kiefer Sherwood streaking on the right side. Sherwood fed freshman forward Phil Knies in front of CC’s net to beat a sprawling sophomore goaltender Alex Leclerc five-hole.
Knies’ eighth goal of the season and his fifth goal in five games brought the score to 2-1. Miami would take a turn on the power play, but Leclerc kept his team’s lead. The period ended with the RedHawks outshot 8-4, but only down one.
The second period started slower than the first, but Colorado earned the period’s first power play again. This time, junior forward Mason Bergh found the back of the net and secured another two-goal lead at 6:14 of the second.
A 3-on-1 rush and a rebound opportunity beat Miami sophomore goaltender Ryan Larkin with just under four minutes left in the period. Freshman forward Brian Williams made it 4-1 on what would be Colorado’s only even strength goal of the game.
Larkin was tested during the middle frame, as the Tigers would throw 13 pucks at the net and the RedHawks only countered with five. The 4-1 score stood for the remainder of the period, as Miami returned to their locker room with a three-goal deficit.
The Red and White started the third with a carryover penalty from the second, and then traded penalties with the Tigers four minutes into the final frame. Good for four-on-four play, both teams took shots before CC’s penalty expired.
The Tigers took advantage of the short man-advantage and another power play goal from Bergh extended Colorado’s lead to 5-1.
The RedHawks had an opportunity to claw back into the game, as Colorado was whistled for a five-minute major seven minutes into the period. After two minutes of grinding on the power play, junior defenseman Grant Hutton found the back of the net. Hutton’s ninth goal of the season made it 5-2 just before the halfway point of the period.
Hutton was assisted by Sherwood and freshman defenseman Alec Mahalak. Two minutes later, the same trio struck again. Sherwood scored his sixth of the season to knock the score down to 5-3.
The offensive success was short-lived, however, and the RedHawks were unable to generate another shot for the rest of the period. Larkin was pulled with 1:30 left in the game, but Williams sealed the deal with an empty net goal 20 seconds later.
The Colorado 6-3 win was a culmination of the Tigers outshooting the RedHawks 26-18 and going 3-for-3 on the power play. Miami only converted on two of its five power play chances, and Leclerc stopped 15 of the 18 pucks he faced.
On Saturday, even with a varied lineup, the ’Hawks fell behind early. Only 30 seconds into the game and sophomore forward Nick Halloran scored his 15th goal of the season. Halloran notched his 16th two and a half minutes later.
Down 2-0 three minutes into the game was not the start the RedHawks were looking for, though they fought on. For the ’Hawks efforts and tenacity, they would go on to score three goals in the period.
Sophomore forward Carson Meyer scored his fifth of the season off a pass from Sherwood to make it 2-1 with 13 minutes left to play in the period.
Two minutes later, a power play afforded Miami offensive play and three shots before Knies found the back of the net at 10:40 of the first. Knies redirected a shot from Sherwood and Meyer picked up the secondary assist for his first multipoint game of the year.
Knocking Colorado off its discipline, Miami earned another power play with eight left to play.
A minute into the man-advantage and senior defenseman Louie Belpedio wristed a puck past Leclerc. Belpedio’s ninth goal of the year put Miami up 3-2 — its first lead all weekend.
The RedHawks took the lead into the first intermission.
The second started and the ’Hawks were forced to kill off a carryover penalty from the first. Blocked shots and Larkin saves marked the opening seven minutes of the period, and Miami killed another penalty before the halfway point.
Riding the momentum of a more effective Saturday penalty kill, Miami entered Colorado’s zone and fired several shots at the net. Sophomore forward Karch Bachman fired from the right side and Leclerc wasn’t able to control the rebound. Meyer was waiting on the left side to knock the puck in at 10:29 of the second.
Meyer’s goal gave him his first multi-goal game of his career and extended Miami’s lead to 4-2.
Miami continued in Colorado’s end and, with less than five minutes left in the period, Belpedio was awarded a penalty shot. He couldn’t grow Miami’s lead and his try went off the post.
CC went the other way and capitalized on a power play. Bergh scored his third of the weekend to make it 4-3 with two minutes left in the period. Larkin and Leclerc traded saves to end the period and sent their teams back to the locker rooms with the 4-3 score.
It looked as if the RedHawks would escape the weekend with a split, as the first half of the third period ticked by. Miami held onto its slim lead until 8:56 of the period when Gooch’s backhander from the slot beat Larkin and tied the game 4-4.
The Tigers would go on to outshoot the ’Hawks 16-3 in the third, but Larkin weathered the storm and forced overtime.
The five-minute, 5-on-5 overtime came and went and Miami officially secured a point in NCHC standings. The game was recorded as a tie for the NCAA, but the teams played a 3-on-3 additional overtime period for an extra NCHC point.
Freshman forward Christian Versich scored with less than a minute remaining in the 3-on-3 frame, as Colorado took five of the six conference points from the weekend..
Miami’s power play and penalty kill was more effective on night two, going 2-for-2 on the man-advantage and holding Colorado to 1-for-4. Larkin made 30 saves to end the weekend.
Miami has five weekends and 10 games left on its schedule and, if the RedHawks win one more game they will beat last season’s 9-20-7 record. Past the halfway point of the season, the ’Hawks have already played four of their next five opponents.
This weekend, they host Western Michigan University. Puck drop is at 7:35 p.m. on Friday and 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.
“There’s not much we don’t know about each other now and it’s a matter of going out and leaving it all on the ice and executing and making sure you stay disciplined,” Blasi said last Monday. “For all intensive purposes now, this is it. You’re gonna see everybody’s best and you’re going to have to be your best.”