Miami hockey battled to overcome a 2-0 deficit against the Providence College Friars on Saturday, but the Friars scored in the final second of play to win 3-2. With Miami’s heartbreaking loss, Providence took both games of the non-conference Friday-Saturday series.
“It comes down to little details,” junior defenseman Grant Hutton said. “Just like [Friday] night, it comes down to the little mistakes — not being ready, not being focused, not being hard on the puck cost us, obviously, late in the game. So, we need to clean those things up.”
The tone of the game was set early, as sophomore forward Carson Meyer was whistled for boarding and then given a game misconduct at :26 of the first period — Miami would play without one of their starting forwards.
Redshirt freshman forward Christian Mohs served the five minute major and Miami’s penalty kill looked solid for the first minute and a half. The Friars struggled to gain the zone as junior forward Josh Melnick fought to clear pucks and sophomore forward Gordie Green managed a scoring chance while shorthanded.
Less than two minutes remained on the penalty kill when the Friars struck twice. Sophomore forward Vimal Sukumaran and junior forward Erik Foley scored in the span of 26 seconds. The RedHawks found themselves down 2-0 less than five minutes into the first.
“At this level, you just keep playing. That’s all you can do,” head coach Enrico Blasi said. “Especially, when you get down early like that — a lot of hockey left to be played.”
A parallel penalty gave Miami a chance to even the score. Providence’s sophomore Brandon Duhaime was given a five minute major and a game misconduct at 6:06 for checking from behind. Miami’s power play units debuted and generated three shots, but was ultimately unsuccessful in cutting into Providence’s lead.
For the rest of the period, Miami struggled to establish a system — having to tag-team to muscle Providence players off the puck, failing to complete passes and getting caught on the backside of several odd-man rushes. The ’Hawks went into the intermission outshot 7-4 and down 2-0.
“You never want to be down in the game, it’s more fun to play with the lead but you can’t sit back, you can’t sit back at all. Down two goals really early today, we knew we had a task at hand and I feel like we responded well,” Hutton said. “The beginning of the game wasn’t our best, but we might have come out a little flat, obviously the five minute major hurt us. We bounced back strong.”
Providence started the second period as they had left the first — dominant and sophomore goaltender Ryan Larkin made an impressive save off the opening faceoff.
A power play gave the RedHawks a chance for offensive production at 7:31. Senior defenseman Louis Belpedio hurled the puck toward the net through traffic, but a definitive “ping” from the goalpost answered the shot.
The ’Hawks lack of cohesion was exposed by the Friars, as ice position was poor and pucks were being passed to empty corners. Hutton led a rush into Providence’s zone and attempted to skate through the traffic of three Friars before being tripped. Miami went to the power play for the third time in the game.
Senior defenseman Scott Dornbrock fed Hutton at left point and Hutton one-timed the puck into the back of the net to cut Providence’s lead to 2-1 at 13:03 of the second. Freshman defenseman Ben Lown was credited with the other assist.
Miami looked to be reinvigorated after the goal and forced junior goaltender Hayden Hawkey to make several good saves.
The ’Hawks killed another penalty in the final five minutes of the period, and the intermission horn sounded the end to an unexciting back-and-forth final minutes of play.
“I thought the first 20 minutes, they certainly outplayed us. They got that five minute power play right off the bat. We had one too, but the momentum was already shifted to their side,” Blasi said. “So they did a good job in the first period. I thought we battled back — got one in the second, started to chip away a little bit.”
The third period started as Miami looked for the tying goal. The determined RedHawks generated chances and shots before Hutton found freshman forward Casey Gilling at the front of the net. Gilling’s shot was redirected by a Friar and trickled past Hawkey to tie the game 2-2 at 6:29. Miami’s Larkin was credited with the second assist after feeding Hutton from his own end.
The equalizer served as the catalyst for Miami, as it started to win board battles and establish a system. The Friars countered the ’Hawks momentum, and killed off a Miami power play to keep the game tied.
It looked as if extra time would be needed to decide the contest, but a faceoff outside of Miami’s zone with less than a minute left led to trouble. The Friars’ Kaspar Bjorkqvist redirected a shot past Larkin with 0.9 seconds left in regulation, ending Miami’s gutsy comeback.
“We just kept trying to plug away, trying to keep things simple and we did a pretty good job in the third period, I was really proud of the guys,” Blasi said. “You know, they’re a good team. Good teams find a way to win.”
Providence outshot Miami 22-20. Larkin was forced to make 19 saves, while Hawkey made 18. Two of Miami’s six scoring points went to freshmen — Lown and Gilling. Gilling and Hutton ended the weekend with a goal and an assist each.
Though offensive production improved from Friday’s 3-1 loss, Miami hasn’t played with the lead after opening weekend and was forced to play catch-up.
“I think we need to play a full 60 minutes,” Hutton said. “We’re going to play back-and-forth with teams all year and you got to be able to play on both sides of the puck. You got to be able to play up. You got to be able to play down.”
Moving forward, Miami looks to win board battles and generate second-hand chances. It will have opportunity to do so against the USA National Team Development Program Friday. Puck drop is at 7:05 p.m.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, it’s going to be a big week at practice and we know we have a good test next weekend against the 18s,” Hutton said. “So, we’ll get back to work and we’ll move along.”