By John Lachmann
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – For the second straight night, No. 5 Miami was involved in a scoreless game heading into the third period.
But this time the RedHawks (12-4-4) surrendered the decisive goal in the final frame.
Robert Morris beat Miami, 1-0 on Brand Denham’s first goal of the season at the Consol Energy Center in the championship game of the Three Rivers Classic on Saturday.
Denham batted a loose puck at the same time as a Miami player at the top of the crease, and it flipped over pad of RedHawks freshman goalie Ryan McKay at the 7:54 mark of the third stanza.
“In tight games like that – hopefully we’re going to be in a lot of those down the road here – you’re going to have to match that and you have to keep playing,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “We broke down for one second there and they were able to score a goal and that can’t happen when you’re playing against a hot goaltender.”
Miami, which finished with a season-high 51 shots, were unable to solve Colonials goalie Eric Levine.
“You’ve got to obviously take your hat off to their goaltender tonight,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “He played great and made some huge saves.”
It was the fourth straight game the RedHawks had not allowed a goal in the first two periods, and the fourth time in five games Miami has not found the net in the first 40 minutes.
Robert Morris (9-4-2) has now won three straight games vs. Miami.
RedHawks freshman goalie Ryan McKay dropped to 3-2-1 despite having a goals-against average of 0.65 and a save percentage of .975.
Minutes after the Colonials’ goal, Miami senior forward Curtis McKenzie backhanded a shot that Robert Morris goalie Eric Levine gloved as it was crossing the goal line.
There was no review on the play, and Blasi explained why after the game.
“It’s unfortunate because a first-class event – and you’ll see that here (in Pittsburgh) in the Frozen Four in a couple of months – you review every goal,” Blasi said. “Apparently in the Atlantic Hockey League they don’t review goals. That was the explanation I got.”
ANALYSIS: Blasi is absolutely right on the lack of a replay. It seems that’s a subject that should’ve come up before the third period of the championship game while playing at an NHL rink.
To clarify: The officials for the game came from Atlantic Hockey (which Robert Morris plays in, begging the question, why weren’t officials from a neutral league used?), and that league does not use replay for goals. At least that is what Blasi said the explanation he received was from the crew.
It was surprising to hear Blasi being so candid, as he normally is very guarded about what he says in press conferences. He knew exactly what he was saying when he was asked about the non-review, and what he said was 100 percent correct.
Was McKenzie’s backhander a goal? Hard to tell. It was ruled no goal on the ice, and it would have been difficult to overturn that call.
The puck was in Levine’s glove, so an overhead replay would not have shown where in his glove the puck was, so I don’t think it would have been reversed.
The photo above is about as good of a look as any replay would have generated, catching Levine’s glove at its deepest point in the net a split second before he pulled it diagonally, up and out of the goal line threshold.
Insert context here: No, discussing that play does not make one a sore loser, take anything away from Levine or Robert Morris, etc. Blasi praised RMU at the press conference.
Blasi’s point (which I agree with) was that on a stage like this with 23,000 people in attendance on the weekend at an NHL rink, replay should be available in a game played two days before the calendar turns 2013.
Levine made two incredible saves and yes, he was outstanding overall. At the same time 49 of Miami’s other shots also didn’t go in, and this is the second time in five games the RedHawks have been shut out on 45 or more shots.
And, of course, not having its leading scorer in freshman Riley Barber as well as second-line freshman forward Sean Kuraly – another body on the power play – was a major blow to Miami’s offense this weekend.
However, in October it looked like the RedHawks had four lines that could score, and in the last five games Miami has generated a whopping two goals by members of lines 2-4.
Overall the RedHawks have scored five goals in that stretch – or 1.0 per game – with one being an empty-netter by Barber.
The power play was 0-for-9 on the weekend and is 2-of-24 in its last six games (on a positive note Miami has killed 16 straight chances over its last four games).
Those stats are pretty glum, but Miami has still played .500 hockey in that stretch (2-2-1), a tribute to freshman goalies Jay Williams and Ryan McKay.
If the worst thing that happens to the RedHawks team, one that played eight freshman and six sophomores this weekend, Miami should be fine come playoff time.