By John Lachmann
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami squandered yet another two-goal lead on Friday, falling 5-4 to Minnesota-Duluth at Cady Arena.
The RedHawks (11-17-3) scored twice in the first period and two more times in the middle stanza, but the Bulldogs found the net four times in an 11:04 window and recorded the game winner 1:09 into the final frame.
Miami junior center Austin Czarnik sprung junior forward Blake Coleman loose for a breakaway, and he buried the backhander with 7:04 left in the first period.
RedHawks freshman forward Anthony Louis buried a rebound shot with 1:45 remaining in that frame to make it 2-0.
But Caleb Herbert buried a rebound shot of his own 1:06 into the middle stanza, and less than two minutes later a snipe by Dominic Tominato tied it.
Louis scored again with a wrister from the slot just 41 seconds after the tying goal, but UMD again evened it at three with 14:04 left in the second period.
Herbert scored again on the power play, beating sprawling sophomore goalie Jay Williams on the power play, giving the Bulldogs their first lead of the game.
Coleman scored with five seconds left when he cut to the left side of the net and buried a one-time pass by sophomore forward Sean Kuraly with five seconds remaining in the frame.
UMD (14-13-4) tallied the eventual difference maker when Adam Krause beat Williams on a breakaway with 18:51 left in regulation.
It was the third time in seven home games this calendar year Miami has blown two-goal leads, with one resulting a in a tie the most recent two ending in RedHawks defeats.
Miami also led 2-0 against Nebraska-Omaha on Jan. 17 only to skate to a 2-2 tie, and Western Michigan trailed, 2-0 at Cady Arena on Feb. 8 before rallying for a 3-2 win.
The RedHawks also surrendered a three-goal lead on the road in a 4-4 tie at Bemidji State in a game they led 3-0 and 4-1.
Coleman has four goals in three games since returning from the upper-body injury that cost him half of the season.
It was Louis’ first career two-goal game, and his first tilt with three points. Louis has four goals and five assists in his last eight games.
Miami needs at least a tie on Saturday or it will clinch last place in the NCHC. The RedHawks and UMD face off at 7:05 p.m. tonight at Cady Arena in Miami’s last home game of the season.
ANALYSIS: Miami appeared in control of this game through 20 minutes, but defensive breakdowns and shaky goaltending in the second period turned the momentum completely in Minnesota-Duluth’s favor.
Just a couple of seasons ago it was almost points in the bank in the RedHawks led by multiple goals at any point of game. Now no lead is safe.
Kuraly had a beautiful assist, no doubt, and his improvement this year has been a delight to watch, but it’s hard to comprehend what he was thinking with his major penalty late in the game that severely hampered Miami’s chances of a comeback.
He had called for a silly boarding penalty earlier in the game, and then he drove into the back of a UMD player along the boards with 4:07 left and his team down one. Honestly, a minor was probably the appropriate call there, but the Bulldogs had been assessed a major for a similar but somewhat more blatant play earlier in the game for a hit on Czarnik.
And the game-winning goal for Minnesota-Duluth? Miami had five forwards on the ice for a power play and allowed the shorthanded goal as a result. In a tie game.
The RedHawks did score with five forwards twice in the game, but again, it was 4-4. And of course the games don’t really matter any more until the playoffs, but wouldn’t winning some games before the postseason build confidence for this dejected group?
Having the last game of the season at Cady Arena on March 1 is strange for a team that has gone deep into the playoffs most years since the rink opened. Part of that is due to scheduling, less teams = less postseason home series, etc., but this will be the earliest final home game for the RedHawks since 2002.
FORWARDS: B+. On a positive note, Coleman has been on fire at left wing, playing with Czarnik and sophomore forward Riley Barber, although the latter hasn’t been the same since returning from the World Juniors.
Louis has been playing better the last few weekends, and seems to be more confident with the puck. Friday was definitely his best game at Cady so far.
This corps scored four goals and that should be enough to win both nights.
DEFENSEMEN: D. After a strong first period, a couple of breakdowns were costly in the second period and early in the third.
UMD managed 27 shots in the final 40 minutes, and the fourth UMB goal was especially bad for this group, as it seemed like the entire team rushed the net unabated.
It was a rough game for junior Ben Paulides.
GOALTENDING: D-. A couple of the goals in the second period were weak. The first one was on a big rebound, the second was on a shot that probably should’ve been handled by Williams, and the third one found daylight between his legs.
The fourth was
a defensive breakdown and the final one was on a breakaway.
Williams did make a couple of very good saves, including one on another breakdown in front of the net in the third period.
Even though the fourth goal wasn’t really on him, Williams probably should’ve been pulled at that point so his confidence wasn’t further diminished.
LINEUP CHANGES: Sophomore forward Kevin Morris scratched after a mercurial showing last weekend. Sophomore John Doherty dressed in his place.
The other 18 lineup spots remained the same as last Saturday.
It appears sophomore goalie Ryan McKay is in Coach Enrico Blasi’s doghouse, but he may return to the ice on Saturday since Williams has allowed 15 goals in his last four games.