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Hockey "not quite there yet" after Ice Breaker split

Ric Kruszynski - Mercyhurst Athletic Communications, Erie Sports Commission
Ric Kruszynski - Mercyhurst Athletic Communications, Erie Sports Commission

The RedHawks won and lost a game this weekend, and they won and lost several battles.

A 4-0 loss to Providence College on a Friday night usually bodes poorly for Miami hockey. But not this weekend. Miami followed the shutout loss by shutting out Mercyhurst University 3-0 to cap its return to the Ice Breaker Tournament in Erie, Pa.

"I thought we learned a lot about our team, especially some of the things we were doing with the puck that we can't do with good teams," head coach Enrico Blasi said. "We corrected some of those things. I thought we did a much better job on Saturday against Mercyhurst."

The RedHawks (3-1) correcting Friday night mistakes to win a Saturday night game was unheard of last season - every series that opened with a Friday loss was followed with another loss or a tie on Saturday. Only two weekends of hockey is a small sample size, but this season, Miami hockey looks to be on track to stay consistent and avoid becoming the victim of weekend sweeps.

During opening weekend, Alabama-Huntsville rarely challenged the RedHawks on defense as the 'Hawks cruised to 5-1 and 4-0 victories to earn the sweep. This weekend, the Friars upped the pace and forced the RedHawks to play more in their own end and take advantage of what little chances they had on offense.

Providence ultimately beat Miami in both ends with the 4-0 win. The Friars opened scoring halfway through the first period with goals 1:28 apart, showing glimpses of breakdowns from the 'Hawks. But the RedHawks did take the game's first seven shots and managed a scoreless second period, showing their ability to be patient.

"Providence was a good step up from two weekends ago, so we had to play a little faster, a little harder," junior forward Karch Bachman said. "The pace was just a little quicker. I thought we held up pretty well, the score says otherwise, but we came together as a team and faced a little bit of adversity for the first time, so that was huge for us."

Huge for the RedHawks this weekend were their veteran players, as they racked up all the points from the win over Mercyhurst. Bachman scored an unassisted goal, senior Ryan Siroky scored off a pass from Redshirt sophomore Christian Mohs and sophomore Phil Knies rounded out the RedHawks' scoring with his first goal of the season.

Junior goaltender Ryan Larkin started both nights and after the 4-0 loss, when he was forced into 29 saves, he stopped all of Mercyhurst's 21 shots on Saturday.

The rookie RedHawks still showed up and showed promise - most managed a shot on the weekend and finished with a positive plus-minus.

"Pretty soon I'm going to say, 'They're not first-year guys anymore, they've played enough games now, they know what to expect and how to play and how to compete at this level,'" Blasi said.

Both veterans and first-years competed on special teams. The penalty-kill units did their job and kept the RedHawks in both games, finishing 8-for-9 on the weekend. Though the PK tempered their opponents' scoring, the power play didn't help the RedHawks. The 'Hawks went 0-for-11 on the man-advantage and are only 2-for-22 this season.

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"If there's one bright spot for our team, our PK did a great job on the weekend," Blasi said. "All in all, it was the first time we're on the road and I thought our guys did a nice job of bouncing back and learning the lessons we need to learn here in the early stages."

The power play finished as a dismal stat, but the RedHawks are off to their best start since the 2013-14 season when they also opened 3-1 through their first four games.

Still, Providence plays a style of game that is similar to Miami's upcoming National Collegiate Hockey Conference opponents. Being shut out by the Friars only shows that the RedHawks still have work to do.

"It was just a reminder that we're not quite there yet," Blasi said. "We have to continue to work on some of the details we're talking about over the last couple of weeks."

The RedHawks go back to work on Friday when they host UMass-Lowell at 7:35 p.m. at the Steve "Coach" Cady Arena.