By John Lachmann
New year, same modus operandi.
Western Michigan scored with eight seconds remaining in regulation to beat Miami, 5-4 on Friday.
The RedHawks dropped to 2-5-1 in their last eight and fell into last place in the NCHC behind Colorado College, which has won two games all season.
Miami twice led in the game, 2-1 and 3-2, but the Broncos registered three of the last four tallies.
Less than seven minutes into the game, WMU took the lead on a goal by Colton Hargrove.
The RedHawks answered 41 seconds later when freshman defenseman Matt Joyaux ripped a shot from just inside the blue line that hit a body and went in.
The Broncos had a goal waved off, and sophomore forward Riley Barber gave Miami its first lead, pinpointing a wrist shot less than three minutes into the middle stanza on the power play, making it 2-1.
The Broncos’ Mike Cichy tied it with his first goal of the season midway through the frame.
But Miami regained the lead on a goal by sophomore forward Sean Kuraly, who scored off a feed by junior defenseman Ben Paulides off an odd-man break with 7:25 left in the second period.
The RedHawks held the lead until the beginning of the third period, when WMU netted a pair of goals within three minutes – one on the power play and one shorthanded – to take a 4-3 lead.
With eight seconds remaining in regulation, Nolan LaPorte knocked home a rebound shot shorthanded.
Kuraly notched his first career two-goal game, and freshman forward Justin Greenberg picked up his first two collegiate assists. Barber finished with a goal and a helper.
Western Michigan outshot Miami, 45-26, including 19-5 in the first period.
The series finale will be at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday in Kalamazoo.
ANALYSIS: Miami is down to 15 regular season games. The RedHawks are No. 22 in the PairWise rankings, which determine who goes to the NCAA Tournament (it doesn’t take a math major to realize that 22nd is bad when 16 teams qualify for the tourney).
At present, this team has no killer instinct and lacks the ability to close out games. Twice on Friday the RedHawks led by a goal. Twice the Broncos erased that deficit.
Western Michigan, by the way, entered the night scoring 2.50 goals per game. Guess how many times the Broncos had scored five goals in a game entering Friday? Twice: Once vs. Colorado College and one against Minnesota-Duluth.
By the way, Miami is 0-4 in one-goal games this season. Miami has outscored its opponents, 64-51 this season but is one game over .500. What’s wrong with this picture?
Guess how many times the Broncos had 40 or more shots this season? They did it once in 20 games (45 vs. Northern Michigan). WMU entered Friday having generated 30 or more shots in just seven of its first 20 games.
To repeat: Only seven times in its first 20 games did Western Michigan record 30 shots. Miami allowed 45.
The first team picked to win the NCHC may end up being the first team to finish last in its conference.
INJURY UPDATE: It was good to see junior forward Jimmy Mullin back in the lineup. He was not on the bench during the third period of the New Year’s Eve exhibition.
Junior forward Blake Coleman and sophomore defenseman Taylor Richart remained out of the lineup. Coleman has an upper body injury and should be back in the next couple of weeks.
Richart was walking around in a boot on New Year’s – and limping badly. His estimated time of return is uncertain.
Junior forward Austin Czarnik’s minutes were limited on Friday, though it’s unclear why. We’ll skip the obvious punch line about his excessive ice time the first half of the season and just hope he’s OK.
As bad as this team has struggled recently, it would be way worse if Czarnik was out of the lineup.