By John Lachmann
In its three previous seasons, Miami was shut out a total of four times.
On Friday, the No. 8 RedHawks matched that total in 2012-13, falling to Wisconsin, 1-0 at the Kohl Center in Madison.
A wrist shot by the Badgers' Joseph LaBate beat Miami freshman goalie Jay Williams with 8:28 left in regulation for the game's only goal.
RedHawks freshman forward Alex Gacek finished with a game-high six shots, and sophomore forward Cody Murphy added five. Miami outshot Wisconsin, 26-20 including 12-7 in the first period.
Williams has a 1-2-1 record in his last four starts despite allowing just four goals in that span.
The RedHawks' scoring drought can now be classified as severe, as it has stretched into its seventh weekend. Miami has scored nine goals in 10 games – with one being an empty netter – and the RedHawks have been blanked three times in that span.
Miami (12-6-5) has been even more anemic early in games, scoring just one first-period goal in that 10-game segment.
The RedHawks' winless streak has reached four games (0-3-1), their longest skid since a five-game losing streak Oct. 15-28, 2011.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin (9-7-5) won its seventh consecutive game and is undefeated in its last 11 (8-0-3).
The series finale will be at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
ANALYSIS: In addition to its inability to find the net, now Miami is allowing key goals in the third period instead of putting games away like it did early in the season.
RedHawks' opponents have scored the last goal in each game during their four-game winless streak, which has been critical since each of those games has been decided by one goal or a tie.
During Miami's four-game winless streak:
1-Dec. 29 vs. Robert Morris – GWG scored with 12:06 left.
2-Jan. 11 at N. Michigan – GWG scored with 16:54 left.
3-Jan. 12 at N. Michigan – GTG scored with 2:25 left.
4-Jan. 18 at Wisconsin – GWG scored with 8:28 left.
Another season-long issue that continued on Friday was Miami's abysmal record in the faceoff circle. The RedHawks finished 20-36 on draws or 36 percent.
Miami also took way too many off-sides calls and iced the puck far too often for a team playing in its 23rd game of the season.
Senior Curtis McKenzie and freshman Riley Barber labored to get back on defense when Wisconsin scored its goal. Including sophomore Austin Czarnik, that top line was a non-factor the entire game, finishing with four shots (three by McKenzie) and a minus-3 rating.
It's hard to imagine what's really going on in Williams' head. The kid has done way more than has been expected of him to this point, and he's gone between the pipes knowing he has zero margin for error the past month and a half.
Speaking of Williams, it was head-scratching why he did not get to the bench until 27 seconds remained in the game. Twice (with 1:06 and 45 seconds left) Miami had the puck in the offensive zone and a fourth forward may have been able to hold the puck in.
Williams' head is almost always in the game and he normally skates to the bench like his life depends on it, so it's hard to believe that was on him.
Saturday's goalie, freshman Ryan McKay, is also 1-2-1 in his last four outings, surrendering six goals in that stretch.
The positives from Friday's game were the newly-formed Murphy-Morris-Hagel line and the play of Gacek.
Murphy hadn't shown the energy that earned him a spot on the second line in recent games, but it was back on Friday. And Gacek has seemingly gotten better every game this season, and this was one of his better efforts.
FORWARDS: F. This group has way too much talent to get shut out.
One shot between Barber and Czarnik is mind boggling. Wisconsin deserves credit for shutting them down, but we're 13 games away from the postseason and a team's best players need to be their best players at this stage of the season.
Gacek and the Murphy-Morris-Hagel line were pretty good, and freshman Sean Kuraly was solid as well.
DEFENSEMEN: A. Freshman Matthew Caito was outstanding despite taking Miami's lone penalty. While he was on the ice he was able to knock the puck away to break up a 2-on-1 (or possibly 2-on-0), and he was excellent in the corners.
Seniors Joe Hartman and Steven Spinell were also strong, and freshman Taylor Richart did a great job standing up a much-larger Badger at the blue line to prevent a scoring chance.
GOALTENDING: A-. The goal was fairly soft, although it looked like Spinell may have screened Williams. But the freshman made several big saves and continued his excellent rookie season.
He stopped 19-of-20 shots overall, and he is 92-for-96 (.958) in his past four games, resulting in one win.
LINEUP CHANGES: Coach Enrico Blasi seems like he's pretty set with all but one spot on his lineup card – the 12th forward.
Junior Bryon Paulazzo was the third forward in as many games that has filled that role.
Senior defenseman Garrett Kennedy occupied the sixth defense spot for the
third straight game as sophomore Ben Paulides was scratched again.