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By John Lachmann
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami escaped the cellar of the NCHC by earning two of a possible three points, but it did itself no favors on Friday.
The RedHawks blew a two-goal lead en route to a 2-2 tie vs. Nebraska-Omaha at Cady Arena on Friday. Miami earned the extra point in the conference standings by winning the shootout in seven rounds.
The RedHawks leapfrogged Colorado College, which played out-of-conference Providence.
Miami generated just 13 shots, a nearly historic low, and fired just four shots in the third period and overtime combined despite four power plays.
The RedHawks, who were held off the shot counter for the first nine minutes of the game as well, took the early lead on a goal by senior forward Bryon Paulazzo.
Paulazzo beat goalie Ryan Massa off a feed from freshman forward Anthony Louis across the top of the crease with 9:47 left in the opening period.
Miami junior center Austin Czarnik beat Massa, who was without his stick, with a wrister to the would-be stick side with 10:49 to play in the middle stanza.
But the Mavericks answered 42 seconds on a goal by Brock Montpetit, making it 2-1.
With 12:58 remaining in regulation, RedHawks sophomore goalie Ryan McKay was unable to corral a puck that was played behind his net.
Instead, UNO’s Jaycob Megna won the battle and centered it to Austin Ortega, who slipped the puck past the out-of-position McKay to tie the score.
Miami had four power plays in the final 25 minutes but was unable to retake the lead, putting just four shots on net during those man advantages.
RedHawks’ sophomore center Sean Kuraly netted the decisive shootout goal to open the seventh round. McKay made the subsequent save to earn Miami an additional point.
The teams wrap up their series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.
ANALYSIS: There’s really only so many ways to say Miami Version 2013-14 is an underachieving team that can’t close out a game.
A little perspective on the opponent: UNO hasn’t won a game since Nov. 23. And, oh by the way, that win was against the RedHawks.
In the 19 previous meetings between these teams entering this season, the Mavericks had won two before their pre-Thanksgiving sweep in Omaha (2-14-3).
To be fair: Yes, Blake Coleman is still hurt and his loss impacts not only Miami’s offensive output but its lines. And yes, the ice was not good at all for whatever reason (it was about 20 degrees outside at game time but unusually warm on the glass).
But 13 shots, really? The team record is 10, set twice (most recently in 2000). The RedHawks had a 71-game string of games without being held under 20 snapped.
And the power play was a step below abysmal. Four shots on six chances in 8:01 of time on the man advantage?
Not that this power outage is exclusive to this game. Miami is 3-for-37 (8.1 percent) in its last seven games and has allowed three shorthanded goals in that span.
That means the RedHawks have a net gain of zero goals on the man advantage since Nov. 29.
Beyond just the raw data, the power play was technically awful on Friday. Miami couldn’t gain the offensive zone and the few times it did, the team was trying to execute perfect passes to set up highlight-reel goals when a paint-by-numbers approach was warranted.
Even sophomores forward Riley Barber and Kuraly made silly no-look passes that resulted in unnecessary turnovers.
The coaching staff clearly is in desperation mode, and rightly so. Paulazzo, playing in his 28th game in two seasons, was wearing an ‘A’ on Friday. And by the way, that’s three goals in 10 games for him, a far better clip than many who have gotten free passes onto the lineup card.
And junior forward Jimmy Mullin, one of the most talented players on the team (and if you think that’s biased commentary, he was taken in the fourth round of the 2010 NHL draft by Tampa Bay, 29 picks ahead of Montréal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher) sat in the stands to watch all 13 of Miami’s shots.
In fairness, obviously no one outside the team and Coach Enrico Blasi know what’s going on behind the scenes with this team, but unlike professional sports, he and his staff recruit the players to come to his team.
It’s mind boggling why Mullin would sit on a team struggling to score goals while less skilled forwards players get a pass for making poor decisions, failing to produce regularly and treating defense and battling in the corners as optional.
For anyone claiming that the above is sensationalizing and this team has plenty of time to right the ship, consider this: The RedHawks have won 23 or more games in all eight seasons of their current NCAA Tournament berth run.
Miami currently has nine wins with 13 regular season games remaining. That means if the RedHawks win out in the regular season they will fall one short of that recent low-water mark. Injuries have no doubt been a factor, but the time to start taking this season seriously is running out.
OFFENSE: F. Yep – two goals or not, bad ice or not the forwards were a collective failure. Czarnik and Barber combined for nine of the shots.
Czarnik was one of the few players that put up a solid effort – his shift late in the third period was fantastic but his best chance was denied by a flash of the pad.
Sophomore John Doherty collected his first career assist and seems to do good things every time he’s in the lineup. That doesn’t mean he should be on the top line.
DEFENSEMEN: D+. Really, zero shots on goal? UNO generated 27 shots, which is about average, but this corps didn’t play well.
They couldn’t complete passes and made numerous errors clearing the defensive zone.
It wasn’t one of sophomore Matthew Caito’s better games.
GOALTENDING: D. Yes, he allowed two goals and gets a D. He was named the first star by people who were obviously watching a different game.
McKay, who has literally been praised by this site hundreds of times, was nonchalant if not out flat-out lazy getting back after his turnover, resulting in the tying goal.
He was 25-for-27 (.926) but faced few difficult chances except for the first goal, which he had little chance on. But the second goal was played poorly, compounded by his slow reaction and typifies the laissez-faire attitude this incredibly talented team has displayed far too often this season.
LINEUP CHANGES: Czarnik was back after sitting last Saturday with an upper body injury and essentially replaced Mullin, as Doherty remained in the lineup for the second straight game.
Freshman Trevor Hamilton replaced fellow rookie Johnny Wingels. Wingels had played six straight games, but the two will likely battle for the sixth defense spot with sophomore Taylor Richart back in the lineup.
McKay and sophomore Jay Williams have rotated the last five games, and Williams should start Saturday, especially after McKay’s costly blunder.
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