Miami hockey is slumping – badly.
After losing 6-1 to Colorado College (10-12-3, 4-7-2 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday, the RedHawks’ losing streak extended to six games and their winless streak stretched to 11.
The last time the ’Hawks (9-13-4, 3-9-2 NCHC) lost six in a row was during the 2004-05 season. Enrico Blasi was part of the last Miami hockey team that went winless for more than 10 games. During the 1990-91 season when Blasi suited up as a freshman forward, the RedHawks went 17 games without a win.
Now, head coach Blasi said: “We have to be deliberate in terms of our movement, in terms of our synergy, in terms of our compete level. Everybody just has to be on the same page. That’s another way of saying it. We’re into January now, so we’re trying to be creative in terms of how we can say the same message over and over again.”
The RedHawks last won on Nov. 17, 2018, beating Colorado College 3-2 in overtime. Most recently, Miami tied Providence on Jan. 5 for its last non-loss.
“We’re just trying to get back to the basics and make sure our work ethic is above and beyond what it has been,” senior defenseman River Rymsha said. “When you’re in a slump like this, you have to work twice as hard to try to get out of it.”
For a team ranked as high as No. 16 in the country this season (week of Dec. 10, 2018) according to the USCHO.com’s Top-20 poll, Miami hockey’s special teams, an inability to generate offense and its goaltending have recently kept the RedHawks from the win column.
For the past six games, Miami has been outscored by its opponents 23-8. Five of those 23 goals against have come on the RedHawks’ penalty kill, though the ’Hawks have an 80 percent success rate on the man-disadvantage through the same stretch.
At the other end of the ice, Miami has gone 1-for-18 (5.5 percent) on its power play opportunities. The RedHawks even surrendered a shorthanded goal to the University of Minnesota-Duluth on Jan. 18.
“It’s tough, you wish things were going better,” Rymsha said, “but this is the stuff you prepare for all summer and all year, so that when the tough times do come, you know how to work out of it the best you can.”
The RedHawks have been playing without senior forward and co-captain Josh Melnick, who had been an essential part of both the power play and penalty kill units. Despite missing the six losses with an undisclosed injury, Melnick still leads the RedHawks with 19 points.
Melnick was back skating at practice on Monday in a green, no-contact jersey.
“It’s great to have [Melnick’s] presence out there — his leadership, his ability as a player,” Rymsha said. “It should be good to, hopefully, get him back for the weekend.”
In net, junior goaltender Ryan Larkin has struggled to find his game which propelled him to an impressive 0.83 goals against average and .966 save percentage through the month of October. Since then, his GAA has climbed to 2.59 and his save percentage has fallen to .917.
For the past two weekends, senior goaltender Jordan Uhelski has relieved Larkin during Game One and has started Game Two. Uhelski holds a 2.40 GAA and a .918 save percentage.
So, Miami hockey is slumping – badly. And it doesn’t get easier for the RedHawks.
The NCHC has four nationally ranked teams in this week’s Top-20 poll: No. 1 St. Cloud State, No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth, No. 7 Denver and No. 8 Western Michigan. Miami has to play all four of those teams before post-season play begins.
The RedHawks first travel to face St. Cloud State (18-4-2, 10-2-2 NCHC) this weekend. The ’Hawks tied the Huskies twice at home in December, good for SCSU’s only two ties on the season.
“We know how good St. Cloud is, and we know what kind of threats they have, and we know how hard they play and how structured they play,” Blasi said. “For us, it’s just a matter of getting ready to go for Friday.”
Puck drop is at 8:07 p.m. on Friday and 7:07 p.m. on Saturday.