Returning home to Oxford, the Miami University RedHawks hockey team sought to put the previous weekend's losses to the St. Cloud State University Huskies behind them.
With a matchup against another National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) foe in the Colorado College Tigers on the docket, the goal for the weekend was to remedy the 0-2-0 start in divisional play and make a statement.
Unfortunately for the home squad, that didn’t happen.
The weekend's first game on Friday finished 5-1 in favor of the Tigers. Even though the score ended up lopsided, it was only the first period that forced the RedHawks into a deep hole.
The first two goals of the period and the game were scored by the Tigers’ first-line center and New York Rangers 2022 fourth-round draft pick, Noah Laba. The first goal was shorthanded and set the tone for the rest of the game.
Then, the Tigers tacked on two more goals after Dylan Moulton received a five-minute major and game misconduct for a check to the head, giving Colorado College a golden chance to add some insurance, which they did.
Defenseman Nicklas Andrews scored on a shot from the point, and Gleb Veremyev, the Tigers’ leading point scorer, added a second power-play goal with a tip in front of the net.
The first period was eerily similar to the back half of Miami’s second contest against St. Cloud State, where one or two bad breaks led to an avalanche of chances, poor puck control and decision-making, and inevitably, goals against.
From there, though, the RedHawks played a relatively clean game, allowing only one more goal and scoring one of their own thanks to a power-play tally from senior forward Matthew Barbolini.
The result on the scoreboard was more indicative of a poor 20 minutes for the RedHawks than anything else. Nonetheless, those are the kinds of periods great teams don’t have, and head coach Chris Bergeron made it known he was looking for a better game on Saturday.
“I’m looking for a response,” Bergeron said in Friday’s postgame press conference. “I’m looking for a ‘roll up the sleeves and go back to work’ type of thing.”
While the RedHawks did show better fight through the first period on Saturday, they still allowed a goal on a broken play to Laba (again), and then went down 2-0 early in the second after captain Jack Clement got caught puck-watching and Ryan Beck converted on a wide open shot.
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Sophomore winger Max Dukovac was able to throw a puck by the Tigers goaltender Kaidan Mbereko from a bad angle to cut the Colorado College lead to 2-1.
“Coach has been on me to throw more pucks at the net, so I kind of just turned and ripped one, and that one felt good,” Dukovac said postgame.
Dukovac’s goal provided a bit of a boost for the RedHawks, but on the second power-play of the period for Miami, a pass from senior defenseman Hampus Rydqvist went through the feet of sophomore defenseman Axel Kumlin and down the ice for Laba to grab it and score his second goal of the game and second shorthanded goal of the weekend.
The Tigers lead returned to two goals with a 3-1 score, and the RedHawks couldn’t create much after that. Colorado College added an empty netter to reach the final score of 4-1.
Part of the reason Miami wasn’t able to generate anything was because of how well the Tigers defended in the neutral zone and in the defensive zone.
Over the first two home series against the Canisius University Golden Griffins and Arizona State University Sun Devils, the RedHawks were able to create offense because they didn’t have to dump and chase almost every possession. However, the Tigers’ neutral zone play forced Miami’s hand in that department.
“We had a plan and continue to have a plan, and every week when we play somebody, this is what you’re going to see as you go through the neutral zone,” Bergeron said. “Theirs is pretty unique, and they’re good at it.”
When the RedHawks could keep possession of the puck in the offensive zone, especially in the second game, they managed some high-quality chances. However, there weren’t enough to make the goaltender Mbereko work, and he also came up with some big saves.
For many reasons, it was a tough weekend for the RedHawks, but the main frustration came from a poor 20 minutes in the first game of the two-game series and, inevitably, the team’s lack of offensive production over the two-game set.
The RedHawks will play the No. 4 North Dakota Fighting Hawks at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D., on Friday, Nov. 17th, at 8:07 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 18th, at 7:07 p.m.