Miami hockey was shut out 4-0 against No. 5 ranked Cornell on Saturday night, falling prey to undisciplined penalties and Cornell’s ability to take away time and space.
“Obviously, [Friday] night we got the win, but tonight they played us the moment the puck dropped,” head coach Enrico Blasi said in the postgame press conference. “They were quicker on pucks. They executed their power play.”
The RedHawks (7-7-2) skated to a 2-1 win on Friday night, handing the Big Red (10-2) their second loss. Night two of the two-game series was less of Friday’s passing and effective positioning, and more of board battles and blocked shots. Cornell scored three first period goals and then squandered Miami’s chance for a comeback in the following periods.
“They’re a big strong team and they were playing hard tonight,” Blasi said. “They were skating harder, they were quicker to pucks. We weren’t quick to pucks. We weren’t making plays. We weren’t adjusting to their pressure. We weren’t communicating well.”
The first period started uneventfully, and four minutes ticked by before Miami was awarded a power play. The special teams unit rolled four forwards but proved less successful than the 2-for-2 man-advantage from Friday night. Cornell cleared pucks and forechecked to tie up Miami in its own zone.
After a couple minutes of chippy play, the Red and White were whistled for a penalty and the Big Red went on the man-advantage 8:40 into the period. The RedHawks’ 4-for-4 penalty kill unit from Friday night looked effective early, as sophomore goaltender Ryan Larkin smothered necessary pucks and the ’Hawks kept Cornell to the outside of the offensive zone.
Before Miami could return its penalized skater to the ice, Cornell junior forward Anthony Angello came up with the puck on the right side of the crease, skated around the net and took a shot from the left side that snuck past Larkin to beat him five-hole. The goal put Cornell up 1-0 at the 9:24 mark of the period.
Several shifts later, the ’Hawks were whistled for too many men on the ice and went back on the man-disadvantage. Senior defenseman Louie Belpedio and freshman forward Ben Lown cleared the puck early and Larkin shut down a blue line breakaway to weather most of the Big Red’s power play.
However, senior forward Trevor Yates struck from the blue line with 17 seconds left on his team’s man-advantage. Larkin was screened and couldn’t make the save, as Cornell went up 2-0 with just under eight minutes left in the period.
Thirty seconds later, freshman forward Kyle Betts scored from the slot and put Miami down 3-0 at 7:24.
The rest of the period dragged on for the RedHawks and their fans — Steve ‘Coach’ Cady arena was uncharacteristically quiet. The ’Hawks became more puck focused and couldn’t get out of their zone, but matched the Big Red’s physicality.
The RedHawks’ best chance of the period came when junior forward Kiefer Sherwood won a faceoff to put the puck on freshman defenseman Alec Mahalak’s stick. Mahalak fed sophomore defenseman Grant Frederic right-to-left and Frederic ripped a shot at Cornell’s goaltender, senior Hayden Stewart.
The period drew to a close with Miami outshot 10-8 and down 3-0 where it counted.
“I actually thought in the second period, there was a stretch where we were kind of coming on a little bit,” Blasi said. “Then, we take a few more undisciplined penalties and kill the momentum.”
The opening minutes of the second was mostly a battle for puck possession, as both teams tied each other up along the boards and Miami fought harder with fresh legs.
The RedHawks set up a cycle in Cornell’s end for a minute stretch and the ’Hawks looked to capitalize on one of Stewart’s rebounds. The Lown, sophomore Gordie Green and junior Josh Melnick forward line worked for good looks and set up junior defenseman Grant Hutton at the blue line for a shot through traffic.
Halfway through the period, Miami was outshooting Cornell 4-2 to bring the shot count to 12-12. Minutes later, both teams were whistled for penalties and 4-on-4 play ensued for twenty seconds before freshman forward Casey Gilling was given hooking and 10-minute misconduct penalties.
The 4-on-3 advantage went to Cornell and stifled any momentum Miami had generated. The ’Hawks killed off the penalties with good sticks and a couple of faceoff wins before starting offensive play.
Trying to break Stewart’s wall, the RedHawks got hot again as the period wore on. In an offensive rush, Mahalak fed sophomore forward Carson Meyer from the right side. Meyer was open, all alone in the middle, but his shot went wide. With four minutes left, Sherwood and Hutton then battled to hold the zone, but were crammed into the boards — unable to set up a cycle.
Sophomore forward Karch Bachman shot from his backhand and the rebound danced along the crease behind Stewart. Cornell escaped trouble and batted away the loose puck to keep its 3-0 lead.
A power play with 1:36 left in the period attempted to jump start the RedHawks, but the Big Red again tied up the ’Hawks along the boards. A shot from Lown marked the end of the period, and Miami went back to its locker room down 3-0, though outshooting Cornell 10-7.
“[Undisciplined penalties] was the trend the rest of the night,” Blasi said. “Just not disciplined enough, not working hard enough, not executing enough.”
Cornell opened the third period by killing the 24 remaining seconds of Miami’s power play by blocking shots. At the other end, Miami’s defense was tested early, as Larkin made a huge stop and two Miami defensemen crashed the net to knock the loose puck out of the crease.
Melnick and Green were sprung on a 2-on-1 rush and took one pass too many so that Green couldn’t control the puck for a shot. After another save by Larkin, Green set up Bachman for a one-timer that Stewart smothered in the third period goaltending battle.
The teams traded power plays, though neither capitalized and the period marched past the 10-minute mark. Miami was able to put more shots on net, but was unable to get sticks on Stewart’s rebounds.
A 4-on-4 with 5:24 left forced Blasi to pull Larkin to gain the man-advantage and put his team in a position to even the score. The RedHawks held the zone and repeatedly took shots from the point, looking for a deflection or a tip from the guys in front of Stewart.
After the mutual penalties expired, Miami had three minutes to tie it up. The task proved too daunting for the Red and White — the Big Red would end the game with a shutout and an empty net goal from senior forward Alex Rauter to win 4-0.
“We took a lot of foolish penalties tonight — undisciplined penalties — and when you do that, it’s not a formula for good results,” Blasi said.
Miami ultimately outshot Cornell 26-23. After Miami had a perfect Friday night on the power play and penalty kill, Cornell had a perfect Saturday night on the kill and a respectable night on the power play. The Big Red were 2-for-4 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the kill.
Three of Cornell’s players recorded multi-point nights — Rauter, Angello and Yates each notched a goal and an assist. The Big Red’s defense blocked 19 shots to inhibit Miami’s offense.
The RedHawks look to bounce back on the road against Western Michigan University this weekend. The Mid-American Conference matchup will be broadcast on NCHC.TV. Puck drop is 7:05 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday night.