Miami men’s hockey was swept at home by the University of Denver Pioneers this weekend. The losses are their third and fourth in a row.
Miami’s record is now 9-14-6 overall, 5-10-4 in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and 6-6-3 at home.
Denver came into the game ranked second in the nation. Their two wins this weekend brings their record to 22-6-4 overall, 14-3-3 in the NCHC and 10-3-2 on the road.
Friday’s contest started slow, as neither team was able to notch a goal in the first period. Denver took a penalty halfway through the period and then managed to outshoot Miami 13-6.
The game remained scoreless until junior forward Conor Lemirande took a minor penalty for interference 3:33 into the second. Freshman goalie Ryan Larkin saved Denver’s two immediate power play shots.
Denver’s sophomore forward Dylan Gambrell drew first blood when he tipped in a loose puck in front of the crease 4:20 into the second period.
Another Miami penalty proved costly when sophomore forward Troy Terry swatted in the puck after it deflected off of Larkin’s blocker 12 seconds into the powerplay. The goal was scored at 5:32 of the second, just 72 seconds after the Pioneers’ first goal.
Denver took two penalties later in the period, however, Miami could not capitalize on either. The second period ended 2-0 Denver. The RedHawks were outshot 23-12 in the middle period.
The third period began with a long offensive possession for Miami. The Red and White came out in the final period with intensity and focus. Miami scored their first goal 4:15 into the third when sophomore forward Zach LaValle tipped the puck into the net amidst confusion around the crease. The goal was LaValle’s first since March of last season against Minnesota Duluth.
“[Sophomore forward] Kiefer [Sherwood] cycled it down low and [freshman forward] Gordie Green got it behind the net. He threw a backhand pass to the side of the net and I just crashed,” LaValle said.
Miami put the puck past junior goaltender Tanner Jaillet again with 10:29 left in regulation. Sophomore defenseman Grant Hutton’s blue line shot ricocheted off of Jaillet’s pad right to freshman defender Jared Brandt for the slapshot goal. The goal was Brandt’s first as a RedHawk.
The Pioneers drew a penalty after a RedHawk turnover in front of their own net with 7:47 left. Denver took a penalty seven seconds later, creating a 4-on-4.
Denver put themselves back on top with 6:04 remaining after senior defenseman Will Butcher received the puck cleanly off the faceoff, skated into the slot and ripped the puck bar down for the goal.
The Pioneers scored another goal with 3:38 remaining when a backhand shot was deflected by Gambrell and floated over Larkin’s shoulder. Larkin was pulled from the net to get an extra Miami skater on the ice with 3:20 to go. However, senior forward Emil Romig scored Denver’s final goal from center ice to finish the game at 5-2.
“We gotta be better defensively. We gotta be better with the puck. Away from the puck, we gotta do a better job tracking back. We gotta compete,” head coach Enrico Blasi said. “Our compete wasn’t very good, our details weren’t very good tonight, and when you play one of the best teams in the country they’re going to make you pay for it.”
Miami was outshot 32-20 during the game.
“They’re a very talented team and we have a plan in place and we know how we need to play and we need to do that for 60 minutes,” Lavalle said. “So, if we can do that for 60 minutes tomorrow, we’ll win.”
Saturday night’s game began differently, but ended in a similar fashion. Miami’s freshman forward Carson Meyer gave the RedHawks their first lead of the weekend 4:10 into the first period. Meyer sniped the puck into the top corner from the left circle for his eighth goal of the season.
Denver stifled Miami’s momentum with 7:04 remaining in the period when Terry skated past two men and put the puck between Larkin’s legs for the game tying goal. Then, 42 seconds later, Romig scored on a low-angle wrist shot bounced off of Larkin and rolled into the net for the go-ahead goal.
Denver finished the first period leading 2-1. Miami was outshot 11-8 in the period.
The RedHawks went on a man advantage early in the second that lead to a goal scored with 4:08 gone. Hutton scored on a slapshot for his seventh goal of the season, and tied the game at 2-2.
Denver answered two minutes later when Terry sniped the puck past Larkin to take the lead with 13:30 remaining in the second. The second period ended with Denver leading 3-2.
“I thought for a period and a half we actually were in the game and kind of going back and forth. Then I thought our details of the game — faceoffs, goals against — we started to not make hard plays with the puck,” Blasi said. “Gotta give them credit for a lot of what they do and the pressure they put on. Then some of it we’re just not making hard plays.”
Miami could not capitalize on their powerplay in the third period. Five minutes into the period, Romig scored on a feed into the slot. Towards the end of the period with five minutes remaining, junior defenseman Tariq Hammond capitalized on an odd man rush. He ended the scoring for the night at 5-2.
“If I analyzed the weekend, they probably outplayed us for five of the six periods and deserved to win. That’s a good hockey team and maybe something we can learn from going forward with our team,” Blasi said.
Denver outshot Miami 38-25 in their 5-2 victory on Saturday to complete their two-game sweep. Miami has been swept in their last two series. The Red and White are currently 28th on the PairWise Ranking, Denver is currently number one (uscho.com).
Miami’s next game is on Thursday, February 23 at Minnesota Duluth. Puck drop is at 8:07 p.m.