Video by Jack Barteck
The RedHawks fell 3-1 to the No. 5 Providence Friars on Saturday night in a hard fought battle that showed promise from the young Miami team. Austin Alger, Phil Knies and Casey Gilling — all freshmen — had all of the points on Miami’s lone goal.
“I thought the effort was pretty good, we have to clean up some things and work a little harder to win battles,” head coach Enrico Blasi said. “I thought for the first game, our young team did a pretty good job and lots to build on.”
Miami is now 0-1 overall and at home, while Providence takes the non-conference season opener to make its record 1-0. Miami looks to beat the Friars, even its record and split the two-game series tonight at 8 p.m.
The RedHawks took a couple minutes to settle into the game, forcing sophomore goalie Ryan Larkin to make a save off the opening faceoff before matching Providence’s speed and physicality. Play was back and forth, though the Friars outshot the RedHawks 6-2 only eight minutes in.
Junior forward Ryan Tait took advantage of traffic in front of Miami’s net at 7:57 of the first. Tait managed to sneak a puck past Larkin’s right shoulder after a feed from sophomore forward Brandon Duhaime to put Providence up 1-1.
Miami and Providence traded penalties and Miami began closing the gap on the shot differential. The Red and White’s speed and offensive zone pressure on Providence junior goalie Hayden Hawkey added four shots to Miami’s tally in several minutes.
Freshman forward Alger’s goal came at 17:17 after a Providence hooking penalty created enough momentum for Alger’s shot from the slot to find the back of the net. After video review, the goal was deemed good and freshman forwards Knies and Gilling earned assists.
The first period ended with Miami holding the shot advantage 11-10 and neither team holding the lead. Tied 1-1, the RedHawks showed little signs of growing pains that might come with a team comprised of 19 underclassmen.
“I think chemistry-wise, we’re there but I think it’s a little bit of the compete factor and staying focused for the full 60 minutes,” junior forward Kiefer Sherwood said.
Providence came into the second attempting to catch Miami on its heels, but the ’Hawks responded with five shots within the first five minutes of the period. A dominating powerplay marked by effective puck-handling from the RedHawks forced the Friars to call desperately for line changes.
Miami showed similar hustle on several penalty kills. Sophomore forward Gordie Green streaked from coast-to-coast to go bar down and score on a breakaway. After further review, however, the referees ruled no goal.
The disallowed goal didn’t inhibit Miami’s momentum, though Providence began showing more of their speed. The Friars managed to catch the RedHawks behind the play at 18:54. Providence freshman forward Greg Printz neatly beat Larkin on his right side. The breakaway put the Friars up 2-1 before the second intermission.
“I thought the effort was there. They’re a good hockey team, they play hard. They make you pay on every turnover,” Blasi said. “When we had our chances their goaltender made some big saves but they also played hard in front of their goaltender. To beat a team like that you have to get second chances, we didn’t have any second chances tonight.”
Any hope for an equalizer was squandered 50 seconds into the third period. Providence sophomore forward Josh Wilkins capitalized on a Knies turnover to put the Friars up 3-1.
Not even a minute later, Sherwood beat Providence’s Hawkey but the goal was disallowed for goalie interference. Though the fans’ hope might have dwindled, the RedHawks fought back and would go on to outshoot Providence 14-6 in the third and 32-30 overall.
A final powerplay for the ’Hawks came with a minute and 48 seconds left. Blasi used his timeout and Larkin was pulled to give Miami the 6-to-4 player advantage. Providence repeatedly tied up Miami at the blue line and a last-minute comeback was unsuccessful.
The all-around physical game had 14 penalties as both teams got good looks at their penalty kill and power play units. Though, neither team converted on the man-advantage.
“I thought we moved the puck around fairly well, we just didn’t capitalize,” Blasi said about the powerplay. “We got to bear down and execute a little better.”
Gilling, Knies and junior defenseman Grant Hutton all ended the night with a +1 rating. Knies led the team with a high of five shots, while Larkin stood tall with 27 saves on the night.
“The difference is that we have to play fast for the full 60. I think that there are times when we want to slow it down for a little bit,” Sherwood said. “They’re a team that will make you pay, but tomorrow, if we continue to push it — push the pace and move the puck up north — we’ll be fine.”
Puck drop is tonight at 8 p.m. and the game can be watched on NCHC TV.