Hockey Heads to North Dakota for Early NCHC Test

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Nov. 8, 2017

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NCHC.tv: Friday | Saturday
Live Stats: Friday | Saturday
Live Audio: Friday | Saturday

Games 9-10
Friday, Nov. 10 • 8:37 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 11 • 8:07 p.m.
Ralph Engelstad Arena (11,640) • Grand Forks, N.D.

Miami RedHawks (4-4, 1-1 NCHC) at No. 2/4 North Dakota Fighting Hawks (6-2-2, 1-1 NCHC)
TV/Stream: NCHC.tv/Fox College Sports (Saturday)
Radio: Miami IMG Network/Tune In Radio (Greg Waddell; pbp)

MATCHUP
The RedHawks head to Grand Forks, N.D. for a weekend conference series against the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota.
THE SERIES: Miami split its last series at North Dakota, though went 1-3 against UND last season. North Dakota leads the all-time series 12-5-1 and has won five of the last six meetings

PUCK POINTS
• Junior defenseman Grant Hutton leads the nation with five power play goals this season while his eight points rank 12th among all blue liners in the country. Hutton has 14 goals and 26 points from the blue line since the start of last season.

• Sophomore Gordie Green had his five-game point streak snapped on Saturday, but is tied for sixth nationally with a team-high 13 points. He has 29 points (11g, 18a) in his last 27 games played.

• Miami’s six true freshmen have netted a combined 16 points (6g, 10a) this season, led by Phil Knies’ five (2g, 3a).

• MU has allowed at least one power play goal in five of its last seven outings.

• The RedHawks have allowed fewer than 20 shots on goal in three of their last four games.

• Sophomore goaltender Ryan Larkin has started 41 of the RedHawks’ 44 games in net since the start of last season. He is 3-1 with a 1.25 goals against average (.938 save percentage) in his last four starts.

LAST WEEKEND
The RedHawks opened National Collegiate Hockey Conference play at home against Colorado College. Miami struck first in both contests, taking a 1-0 lead into the third period on the strength of a highlight reel goal by Louie Belpedio on Friday night. The Tigers netted a pair of power play goals in the third to grab a 2-1 lead with 4:40 remaining. With time winding down, Casey Gilling found the net during 6-on-5 play with 50.7 seconds left to force overtime, where Josh Melnick made MU a 3-2 winner with his third career overtime tally. Conor Lemirande staked Miami to a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes in Saturday’s finale, but Colorado College tallied a couple second period goals to skate into the dressing room with a 2-1 lead. While Miami did get a late power play to open the ice to 6-on-4 play, a last minute blast by MU hit the post and CC cleared the zone to force the split.

COACH BLASI
Enrico Blasi (Miami ’94) is in his 19th season behind the RedHawk bench. He is a five-time CCHA Coach of the Year and was named National Coach of the Year in 2005-06. He stands 379-272-67 at his alma mater, where he has led Miami to 10 NCAA Tournaments, including two Frozen Four berths, a National Championship game appearance, a trio of CCHA regular-season titles and two conference tournament titles (2011 CCHA & 2015 NCHC). Blasi is the the winningest coach in school history.

ABOUT NORTH DAKOTA: The Fighting Hawks are 1-1 in conference play and 6-2-2 overall following a 1-0-1 weekend with Wisconsin. UND is one of the toughest teams in the country to score on thus far, allowing just 1.7 goals and 23.6 shots per game, the fourth best figures in both categories nationally. Junior defenseman Christian Wolanin paces North Dakota with nine points (3g, 6a) while freshman Grant Mismash has eight points (3g, 5a) in nine games and three other UND skaters have at least six points this season. Cam Johnson has started eight of 10 games in goal and owns a 1.63 goals against average and a .925 save percentage, while Peter Thome stopped 58 of 62 shots after being pressed into action against Wisconsin last weekend.

MELNICK IN THE CLUTCH: Junior forward Josh Melnick put the finishing touches on Miami’s 3-2 comeback win over Colorado College to open NCHC play. Melnick is no stranger to overtime heroics as he has netted the RedHawks’ last three overtime winners, scoring against St. Cloud State back on Jan. 6 and also topping the Tigers in overtime on Dec. 10, 2016. After a scoreless opening weekend, Melnick has all eight of his points (2g, 6a) in the past six games, stringing together a five-game point streak from Oct. 20-Nov. 3.

GETTING THE SHOTS: While Miami’s scoring has been streaky over the first eight games, its possession game has been quite consistent since opening weekend. Miami has outshot opponents in six of eight outings and is allowing only 23 shots on goal per game (second nationally). MU has allowed fewer than 20 shots in three of its last four contests and its 57.3 Corsi (percentage of total shots attempted) ranks fourth in the country and second in the NCHC.

POWERING UP: MU’s power play has run hot and cold thus far this season. After going 1-for-14 on the man advantage against Providence on opening weekend, Miami went 11-for-21 (52.4 percent) on the power play over the next four games, netting four power play tallies in a game on two occasions. The RedHawks then went 0-for-8 against Colorado College last weekend. Junior defenseman Grant Hutton’s five power play goals leads the nation.

HUTTON FOR GOALS: Grant Hutton has turned his breakout sophomore campaign into even bigger gains as a junior. After finishing with just five assists in his 2015-16 freshman season, he poured in a defense-leading nine goals and 18 points last season and leads the MU blue line with eight points (5g, 3a) this season. Hutton has three multi-point games, matching his 2016-17 total and his eight points rank 12th among all defensemen in the country.

GOING GREEN: Sophomore forward Gordie Green has kept his midseason improvement from last year going into this season. The Ann Arbor, Mich., native leads Miami and is tied for sixth nationally with 13 points (4g, 9a). The sophomore put all of those points up during a five-game point streak that ran from Oct. 20 through Nov. 3, during which he recorded four multi-point games. In his last 27 games dating back to last season, Green has 29 points on 11 goals and 18 assists.

THE KIDS CAN PLAY: The RedHawks’ freshmen have wasted little time in acclimating themselves in the lineup as five of the six true freshman skaters have suited up in all six games while also recording a point. Phil Knies leads the class of 2021 with five points on two goals and three assists. Overall, Miami’s true freshmen have combined for 16 points on six goals and 10 assists.

STARTS AT YOUR OWN END: Miami has been at its best when its played a stellar defensive game. When the RedHawks made eight-straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 2006-13, their worst rank in scoring defense was 17th as they finished in the top 10 in defense seven times with six top-five performances, including two seasons as the nation’s top defensive team. While joining the highly competitive NCHC has put the RedHawks up against more high-octane offenses, the fact remains that they have been at their best when keeping the puck out of their net consistently.
Season: Scoring Defense Rank (Figure; Record)
2005-06: 2nd (2.03; 26-9-4)
2006-07: 17th (2.55; 24-14-4)
2007-08: 1st (1.86; 33-8-1)
2008-09: 8th (2.17; 23-13-5)
2009-10: 1st (1.95; 29-8-7)
2010-11: 4th (2.18; 23-10-6)
2011-12: 3rd (2.10; 24-15-2)
2012-13: 2nd (1.74; 25-12-5)
2013-14: 41st (3.03; 15-20-3)
2014-15: 31st (2.50; 25-14-1)
2015-16: 29th (2.69; 15-18-3)
2016-17: t-41st (3.14; 9-20-7)
2017-18: t-23rd (2.75; 4-4)

‘SHER’HANDED PROGRESSION: A focal point of Miami’s attack is junior forward Kiefer Sherwood, who made tremendous growth last season by posting 38 points, a 20-point improvement from his freshman campaign. After starting his career with just two points in his first 11 collegiate games, Sherwood has been nearly a point a game player since November of his 2015-16 season, posting 58 points (26g, 32a) in the last 67 games he’s played. He also has 16 multi-point games after notching just one during his freshman campaign.

BOUNCEBACK FROM BOTTOM: While there’s no talking around last season’s nine-win campaign, there is cause for optimism both in the form of the returning talent (17 letter winners back) and Miami’s history under Enrico Blasi. The last two times the RedHawks finished seventh or lower in the conference standings, they rebounded to nab some hardware as the 2005-06 squad won the Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular season crown after going 15-18-5 the year before. In 2014-15, the Red & White went from dead last in the NCHC standings to finish runner-up in the regular season and capture the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

A WELCOME RETURN: Having senior captain Louie Belpedio back in the fold provides another offensive spark from the blue line as his early production of seven points (4g, 3a) in the first eight games can attest. A year ago, Belpedio missed 12 games due to injury and the RedHawks were a much different team with him out of the lineup.

16-17 With Belpedio 16-17 Without Belpedio
Record 9-11-4 0-9-3
G/Gm 2.5 2.6
GA/Gm 2.6 4.2
PP% 18.3% 15.7%
PK% 87.8% 75.4%
Shot Diff./Gm -2.4 -12.4

SHARK IN THE CREASE: The RedHawks have been reliant on Ryan Larkin in the crease since the start of last season, starting him in goal in 41 of 44 contests. As a freshman, Larkin consistently gave Miami a shot to win, making 30 saves or more 12 times and finishing with a 2.77 goals against average along with a .910 save percentage. Larkin’s 905 saves in 2016-17 were the third most made by a Miami goaltender in a single season. After a slow start to the season, he has picked things up the past two series, allowing two goals or fewer in four-straight games and holding a 1.99 goals against average and .938 save percentage while helping MU go 3-1 in that span.
THE LAST MEETING
No. 15/15 North Dakota5
Miami2
March 4, 2017
Oxford, Ohio
Fighting Hawks Spoil Senior Night
OXFORD, Ohio -- North Dakota put senior night celebrations behind Miami fans by topping the RedHawks 5-2 in the regular season finale at Steve `Coach' Cady Arena on Saturday night.