Youth is both a blessing and a curse, and Miami hockey is finding that out early this season.
The RedHawks gave heavy minutes to their six freshmen in Saturday’s 4-4 tie against New Hampshire. After blowing many chances in its offensive zone, Miami fell behind 3-0 before firing off four straight goals to take the lead.
The Wildcats knotted the score late in the third period, and neither team broke through in the remainder of regulation or overtime.
Ben Kraws started in the net and watched his fellow first-years score or assist on all four of Miami’s goals.
Forward John Sladic starred in the second and third periods, scoring both the equalizer and the go-ahead goal within 91 seconds of game time. The two scores were the first of his career.
Forward Chase Pletzke also notched his first career goal, putting Miami on the board for the first time Saturday. Bergeron credited Pletzke’s shot as the moment that spurred Miami’s 4-0 run.
Aside from those two, defenseman Jack Clement tallied two assists, while defenseman Alec Capstick added another. The only freshman besides the goaltender Kraws not to score a point was forward Ryan Savage, who’s the highly-touted son of a former National Hockey League player.
“I thought they did really well,” head coach Chris Bergeron said. “We’re not here to excuse those six guys in terms of responsibility and what they have and what they bring every day. It was nice to see them contribute, because we can’t rely on Gordie Green or Karch [Bachman] or [Casey] Gilling every night.”
At the postgame press conference, Sladic allowed a brief smile to creep across his face, but it quickly disappeared when talking about the night’s problem. His team didn’t win and hasn’t yet this season.
“That felt good,” Sladic said about the goals, “but we didn’t get the result we wanted. Obviously, scoring my first couple goals is good, but we still didn’t get the win.”
Kraws replaced senior goaltender Ryan Larkin in the third period on Friday night and surrendered one goal. He allowed four on Saturday but made 21 saves.
“A little shaky at times,” Bergeron said about Kraws performance. “Now, it’s behind him. You only get your first career start once, and now it’s behind him. Hopefully, he can learn from it and move on.”
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Bergeron knows the program’s rebuild is a process. He’s been saying as much since his introductory press conference in April. He’s playing his freshman, which leads to flashes of brilliance like Sladic’s goals and stretches of shakiness like Kraws’ first start.
It doesn’t often lead to victories, but it does create a new energy around the team.
“Tonight, to me, felt totally different,” Bergeron said. “Unfortunately, the scoreboard [deficit] was something we’re not going to get used to, but that we’ve faced already in this early season. But I thought our guys were playing exactly the way we wanted to play.”