By John Lachmann
Miami’s offensive woes continued on Friday.
Northern Michigan surrendered 44 shots but held on to beat the RedHawks, 2-1 in the series opener at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, Mich.
Miami has now scored six goals in six games, with one of its tallies coming on an empty netter.
After a scoreless first period, the RedHawks took the lead early in the second period on a goal by sophomore forward Austin Czarnik, who roofed a shot off a feed from senior forward Curtis McKenzie less than five minutes in.
But Stephan Vigier tied the score when he poked a loose puck home three minutes later.
Northern Michigan’s Darren Nowick gave the Wildcats the lead three minutes into the third period on a top-shelf bad-angle wrister that beat Miami freshman goalie Jay Williams.
Miami had three consecutive power play chances in the third period but was unable to generate the equalizing goal. The RedHawks have netted just two goals in their last three games despite firing 121 shots, a 1.7 shooting percentage.
During its six-game scoring drought, Miami has scored on just 2.6 percent of its shots.
Miami has now lost three straight games in Marquette. These teams will wrap up their weekend series at 7:35 p.m. on Saturday.
ANALYSIS: Obviously Miami’s main issue at present is its lack of offense. There, we’ve diagnosed the problem.
Now, how to fix it.
Slumps happen during a season, and while it’s conceivable and desirable to see the RedHawks break out of their current funk by posting a nine-spot on Saturday (Miami has done that twice vs. NMU in recent years), the lack of power play virility is becoming more of concern.
After 0-fering again on Friday Miami’s power play percentage is down to an abysmal 14.1 percent. With the talent on the RedHawks’ roster, that’s completely unacceptable.
The team has not scored on the man-advantage in three games and is 4-for-50 (8.0 percent) since Northern Michigan’s trip to Oxford in early November.
And it isn’t like Miami is establishing itself in the offensive zone and getting robbed by opposing goalies. The chemistry seems to be lacking.
The RedHawks’ offensive impotence can’t help its goaltenders, who lead the nation with 1.57 goals allowed per game. Knowing one mistake could cost Miami a game adds more stress at an already emotionally-taxing position.
FORWARDS: D. The whole it’s-not-us-it’s-their-goalie argument has worn very thin. When you take 44 shots more than one should go in, or else the quality isn’t that good.
Czarnik had scored six goals in the first nine games, and it was nice to see him net his second in his last 12.
DEFENSEMEN: C+. Northern Michigan only generated 24 shots – one above its season average, amazingly – and freshman defenseman Taylor Richart earned his third assist of the season.
They generated an uncharacteristic 12 shots, led by freshman Matthew Caito’s six, which could be a deliberate attempt by Miami coach Enrico Blasi to create more offense.
GOALTENDING: B. Williams stopped 22 of 24 shots. He wasn’t responsible for the first goal and probably would have liked the second one back.
Early in the season it seemed like he would take himself out of position occasionally trying to do too much, but he seems to be more controlled with each passing week.
LINEUP CHANGES: With forwards Barber and Kuraly back, senior Steve Mason and freshman John Doherty were scratched.
Junior Max Cook also returned to lineup after a one-game absence, replacing junior Bryon Paulazzo, who played both games in Pittsburgh.
On defense, senior Garrett Kennedy replaced sophomore Ben Paulides, and freshman Taylor Richart returned after sitting for a game in favor of freshman Michael Mooney.