With the No. 16 St. Cloud State Huskies trying to stay in contention for the NCAA tournament, the Miami University RedHawks had the perfect chance to play spoiler coming into this weekend.
However, two mostly lackadaisical efforts saw the RedHawks leave the ice both nights on the wrong end of the scoresheet, suffering a 5-2 loss in the first game and a 3-1 loss in the second.
After watching three straight “great effort without a good result” weekends, seeing the RedHawks come out as flat as they did in the early parts of both games was a bit surprising, especially the first period of Friday’s loss.
Head Coach Chris Bergeron did not mince words when talking about his team’s effort.
“It’s hard to wrap your arms around giving up five goals on 19 shots, but I just didn’t think we were very good, and that’s full marks to them,” Bergeron said. “I thought, at times, we were fighting through what they were doing, which is effort and intensity. We were right there, and we created some opportunities. But it just was way too inconsistent.”
The biggest problem the RedHawks faced was staying strong in their defensive zone.
Bergeron recognized three goals that were complete breakdowns, including the first of two goals on the weekend from Huskies captain and leading scorer Dylan Anhorn.
“That was us chasing it around,” Bergeron said. “Instead of people staying with their people like they’re asked to do, we had guys chasing [the puck] around. Wanting it, desperation, you have to have focus and poise too. You can’t just start chasing the puck around.”
The one method of offense the RedHawks found consistently over the weekend was on the power play. However, they only earned two attempts on the man advantage over the two games.
One of those attempts was successful thanks to a combined effort from sophomore forward John Waldron, senior forward Matt Barbolini and junior forward Raimonds Vitolins, the goal-scorer.
“We’ve worked a lot on our power play the last couple of months,” Vitolins said. “It wasn’t working our way, but the last couple of games, we have gotten chances and capitalized on them.”
The second game wasn’t much better from an effort standpoint, but there were more bright spots throughout the 60-minute match.
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The second period was the RedHawks’ best of the weekend, allowing them to tie the game at 1-1. The team stayed in the game due to some excellent goaltending from first-year Latvia native Bruno Bruveris.
“We were embarrassed with the way we played in the first period,” Bergeron said. “[St. Cloud State] came out, and we watched them skate around for 20 minutes. If it wasn’t for Bruno, it would have been a lot worse than 1-0.”
The tying goal for the RedHawks came from senior defenseman Dylan Moulton, his fifth goal of the season. Moulton is not the most offensively inclined defenseman on this Miami team, but he has occasionally joined in the rush this season.
Playing with someone as responsible on the ice as captain Jack Clement, who Moulton knows well on and off the ice, gives him a lot of freedom with the puck.
“We’ve known each other since I’ve been here,” Moulton said. “He’s been here all four years I’ve been here. We live together, and we’re good friends off the ice. I think we have good chemistry and read well off each other. It’s a good dynamic we have going.”
Moulton tied his career high in shots on goal (four) during a single game in Saturday’s matchup. He attributed it to the team using their strong forechecking ability, which the team did not do well for most of the series.
Even though the second period was strong, the RedHawks would give up another goal to Anhorn on blown defensive zone coverage.
St. Cloud State added a third after a broken play saw an attempt to pull Bruveris from his net was thwarted due to a Miami turnover in the neutral zone and some more subpar defensive zone coverage.
The RedHawks are headed into a bye week before embarking on a road trip to play the Denver Pioneers, and it’s a necessary time to mentally and physically rest. Moulton is hopeful that the bye week will bring some reinforcements to the lineup.
“Rest up,” Moulton said. “It’s a grind of a season. We’ve dealt with some injuries up front and there are still some guys that have been playing that need to recover a little more. We’ve got some guys who are still out that we’d like to get healthy. And we need to find our game. We didn’t have it this weekend like we did the last two weekends.”
The RedHawks’ next games are on Feb. 23 and Feb. 24 on the road to start the final stretch for the 2023-24 season.