Series Notes (PDF)
NCHC.tv: Friday | Saturday
Live Audio: Friday | Saturday
Friday, Dec. 8 • 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 9 • 7:05 p.m.
Lawson Ice Arena (3,667) • Kalamazoo, Mich.
Miami RedHawks (7-7-2, 2-3-1-0 NCHC) at No. 10/11 Western Michigan Broncos (9-7-1, 5-3-0-0 NCHC)
Radio: Miami IMG Network/Tune In Radio (Greg Waddell-pbp)
Miami jumps back into NCHC play with a trip to long-time conference foe Western Michigan this weekend.
THE SERIES: Western Michigan posted a 3-1 record against Miami last season, though the RedHawks still hold a 66-61-11 lead in the all-time series.
• Miami is 6-1-1 when scoring three or more goals this season, but 1-7-1 when netting two goals or fewer.
• Louie Belpedio just wrapped up a career-best six-game point streak and ranks fourth among NCAA defensemen with 15 points (5g, 10a).
• Grant Hutton’s seven goals are the second most among NCAA defensemen while his six power play goals are tied for the second most of all players in the country.
• Ryan Larkin has started 49 of the RedHawks’ 52 games in net since the start of last season and has allowed two goals or fewer in seven of his last 12 outings.
• RedHawk defensemen have combined for 41 points (t-12th nationally) while their 13 goals are the third-most in the country.
• Miami is 1-5-1 at Lawson Ice Arena since the 2013-14 season.
The RedHawks wrapped up non-conference play with a home split against No. 5 Cornell. Despite trailing 1-0 early, getting two players ejected and being held to a season low 13 shots on goal, MU persevered thanks in Friday’s opener. Ryan Larkin made 29 saves while Miami blocked a season-high 19 shots to pull out a 2-1 victory in Friday’s series opener. Casey Gilling and Gordie Green each tallied a goal and an assist with Green’s tally putting Miami in front in the final minute of the second period. Despite Cornell surging to a 12-3 shot advantage in the third, Miami was able to score a big win to go above .500 for the first time this season. Things turned on Saturday as the Big Red scored three times in a 3:12 span midway through the first period to put the RedHawks well behind in the early going. Despite picking things up possession wise and generating several quality chances in the final two periods, the Red & White were unable to find the back of the net as they suffered an eventual 4-0 setback marking the first time they’ve been shut out all season.
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 382-275-69 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 WESTERN MICHIGAN: The Broncos were swept in a road series at North Dakota last weekend, dropping their overall record to 9-7-1 and 5-3 in the NCHC. Those setbacks marked the first time this season that Western Michigan doesn’t enter a conference weekend in first place in the league standings. WMU features a high scoring offense which is eighth nationally at 3.47 goals per game as Colt Conrad (9-12-21), Wade Allison (11-9-20), Dawson DiPietro (8-9-17) and Hugh McGing (4-13-17) all average a point per game or better. Defenseman Cory Schueneman has also dished out 11 assists from the blue line. In goal, Ben Blacker has started all but one of Western Michigan’s contests and holds a 2.69 goals against average with a .906 save percentage. WMU has been tough to beat in Lawson, boasting an 8-2-1 record at home this season.
BLUE LINE WITH A PUNCH: Miami has relied on its blue line to contribute offensively this season and they have come through to this point. The RedHawks’ defensemen have chipped in 41 points this season, a total that is tied for 12th nationally. The RedHawks have also gotten 13 goals from the blue line, which is tied for the third most in the NCAA.
SIGNS OF LIFE: One area that could help the Red & White take another step forward this season is a return to form for forwards Kiefer Sherwood and Carson Meyer. Last year, Sherwood finished second on the team with 38 points (seventh in the NCHC) and his 14 multi-point games tied for the conference lead. Meyer tallied 26 points in 32 games as a freshman to add another scoring threat. So far, the duo have combined for 13 points this season. However, Sherwood posted a three-point night in a Nov. 24 win at Bowling Green while Meyer scored in three-straight games from Nov. 17-24.
CAPTAIN’S CONTRIBUTIONS: Senior defenseman Louie Belpedio has been contributing at the offensive end of the ice on a consistent basis of late. After going scoreless in the opening series against Providence, the Skokie, Ill. native has recorded at least one point in 10 of 14 games and ranks second on the team with 15 points (5g, 10a), a total that is tied for fourth among NCAA defensemen. Belpedio put together a career-best six-game point streak from Nov. 11-Dec. 1.
MELNICK IN THE CLUTCH: Junior forward Josh Melnick has been coming through in big moments this season. The Annandale, N.J., native put the finishing touches on Miami’s 3-2 comeback win over Colorado College to open NCHC play and scored with 1:24 left in the Nov. 11 series finale at North Dakota to help Miami force a 3-3 tie in hostile Ralph Engelstad Arena. The junior also netted the game-winning goal in the third period of Miami’s 3-2 comeback win over Minnesota Duluth on Nov. 18. Four of Melnick’s six goals have come in third period or overtime. 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 Colorado College in overtime on Dec. 10, 2016. After a scoreless opening weekend, Melnick has all 14 of his points (6g, 8a) in the past 14 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 16 games, its possession game has been quite consistent since opening weekend. Miami has outshot opponents in 10 of 16 outings and is allowing only 23.94 shots on goal per game (second nationally). MU’s 53.9 Corsi (percentage of total shots attempted) ranks 11th in the country.
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 seven goals and is second with 12 points this season. Hutton has four multi-point games, eclipsing his 2016-17 total and his seven goals are tied for the second most among defensemen. Additionally, his six power play goals are tied for the second most in the nation.
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 18 points (6g, 12a). The sophomore posted a five-game point streak that ran from Oct. 20 through Nov. 3, during which he recorded four multi-point games. In his last 35 games dating back to last season, Green has 34 points on 13 goals and 21 assists.
THE KIDS CAN PLAY: The RedHawks’ freshmen have wasted little time in acclimating themselves in the lineup as all six true freshmen skaters have contributed at least a point this season. Casey Gilling leads the class of 2021 with seven points on three goals and four assists. Overall, Miami’s true freshmen have combined for 24 points on eight goals and 16 assists.
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.
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 49 of 52 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 12 games, allowing two goals or fewer six times and holding a 2.16 goals against average and .907 save percentage.
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: 24th (2.75; 7-7-2)