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No. 19 Miami hockey refocuses after split with Omaha

Mark Kuhlmann - University of Nebraska Omaha Athletics
Mark Kuhlmann - University of Nebraska Omaha Athletics

Miami hockey opened National Collegiate Hockey Conference play this weekend against the University of Omaha-Nebraska with a decisive 4-1 victory on Friday and a frustrating 6-3 loss on Saturday.

But the RedHawks' energy is still high and they're already focused on the rest of conference play.

"At this point, we have a 15-minute rule," senior defenseman and co-captain Grant Hutton said. "You reflect on it for 15 minutes and then you let it go and let the emotions go. You have to focus on getting better and getting back to the things that we do best."

The RedHawks' (7-3-0, 1-1 NCHC) Friday-night victory extended their win streak before the Mavericks (1-6-1, 1-1 NCHC) snapped the streak at four games, good for UNO's first win of the season.

Still, the 'Hawks splitting their first NCHC series kept them in the's top-20 poll and moved them up a spot to 19th. This is the first time since the 2015-16 season Miami's been in the's poll back-to-back weeks.

This is the highest the RedHawks have been ranked since they were 17th in 2015 prior to facing North Dakota - the 'Hawks' opponent this weekend.

"As we know in our conference, when you're not detailed and process-oriented and executing at a high level, teams are going to make you pay for it," head coach Enrico Blasi said. "Omaha certainly did. My credit goes to them [...] but we've got to turn the page and get ready for a very good North Dakota team."

Miami's weekend was defined by its power play and penalty kill, as just over 40 percent of the weekend wasn't played at even-strength.

Friday's game saw both teams score their first goals on the power play. The Mavericks and RedHawks went 1-for-5 on the man-advantage during Game One. The difference maker was Miami being able to find the back of the net during 5-on-5 play to eventually win 4-1.

On Saturday, the script flipped, and it was Omaha that took advantage on the man-advantage. Though Miami opened with two power play goals and led 2-1 at the end of the first, the Mavericks stormed back in the second and scored three power-play goals in three-and-a-half minutes.

The RedHawks pulled within one at 4-3 early in the third period, but a desperate Omaha team sealed the deal with two goals less than a minute apart later in the third to win 6-3.

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"We weren't disciplined, we weren't focused on what we needed to do," Blasi said. "We let our emotions get the best of us at times. I thought we took some careless penalties, penalties because we were playing out of position and not playing the way we needed to play."

In other areas, Friday and Saturday were almost exact opposites. The RedHawks outshot the Mavericks 31-20 on Friday, but then UNO put 37 shots on net compared to MU's 23 on Saturday.

And, it was four RedHawks who had multi-point games on Friday led by junior forward Gordie Green (2g), freshman defenseman Derek Daschke (2a), senior forward Josh Melnick (2a) and freshman forward Jonathan Gruden (1g, 1a). Then, it was the Mavericks who had six players with multi-point games on Saturday.

"To be honest, Omaha took it to us," Hutton said. "I don't think we came out with the intensity and the battle level and the focus that we needed to at a high level."

Despite the high-scoring Saturday game and lack of discipline, Miami ranks sixth nationally in goals against average with 1.7. And the brush with adversity against an NCHC opponent is an opportunity for the RedHawks to prove their resilience this weekend.

"I think on Saturday night, the game plan would have worked if we had executed," Hutton said. "Ultimately, it's on the players, it's on the captains, it's on everyone in the room to be ready to play."

And, the team is still as energized and emotionally invested in the game. The players still linger on the ice after practice as they did at the beginning of the season, shooting for fun and practicing their goal-scoring celebrations.

"Our guys want it," Blasi said. "They're a very close team. They take challenges really well. They push each other. Sometimes the emotions of the game and the investment needs to be under control, and sometimes they get out of whack."

The RedHawks look to get back in control against the No. 11 North Dakota Fighting Hawks on Friday at 7:35 p.m. and Saturday at 7:05 p.m.