The Miami Red Hawks took on the UNH Wildcats in Durham on Black Friday. The NCHC team is ranked #19 (9-5) in the country and was sitting in 4th in conference play at 3-3. UNH was in 10th in Hockey East at 1-3-2 (1-6-3 overall). Miami has been on a bit of a roller coaster, win one, lose one. UNH meanwhile is struggling to find their footing under 1st year Head Coach Mike Sousa. Their only win, in overtime vs Vermont was almost a month ago. The Wildcats have beaten themselves most nights.
This was a great game, back and forth, physical play, solid scoring chances, and plenty of drama. Each team could use a win, Miami to bolster their credentials and UNH to kick start a run before conference play heats up.
The Wildcats opened up the scoring @ 8:00 when Senior Defenseman Matt Dawson redirected an Eric Esposito feed past Red Hawk goalie Ryan Larkin. This was the type of start that UNH needed. It would be a short lived lead as Miami Senior Josh Melnick banged home a rebound past UNH keeper Ty Taylor. This was the first of Miami’s 2 flukey goals. Defenseman River Rymsha took a shot from the Miami blue line that went went off the back wall, took a funny bounce over the net and Melnick was able to pop it past an unsuspecting Taylor @ 9:11. With Miami’s forward Brian Hawkinson in the penalty box for hooking, the UNH Power Play was able to generate a scoring opportunity for Forward Angus Crookshank, who put a lose puck rebound past Larkin to make it 2-1 Wildcats. The Red Hawks would ring the post with :43 left in the first. Miami outshot the Wildcats 11-10.
The second period was just as fast paced and physical. UNH carried the play, outshooting Miami 10-6 for the period, but it was the Red Hawks who had the better chances. Miami would hit the crossbar around the 6 minute mark. Then late in the period Red Hawks thought they tied the game at 2 on a Karch Bachman rush that resulted in a rebound goal for Miami’s Casey Gilling. But upon review it called no goal as Bachman interfered with Taylor in his crease. Bachman’s play stood out all night, he was fast, physical, and seemingly always involved in the action.
In the 3rd Bachman would tie the game for sure at 2 when he scored Miami’s only Power Play Goal of the night. A snipe from the left slot that found its way past Taylor into the top corner @ 2:34. As has been the case for the Wildcats this year, the momentum change was noticeable and UNH was back on their heels. At 4:08 Miami took advantage of both UNH’s struggle to clear the puck from their zone and another crazy bounce. A Hawkinson shot from the slot was flubbed into the air and over a scrum falling at the feet of Sophomore Ben Lown who spun around and slapped it over Taylor for the 3-2 Miami lead. It’s been this type of season for the Wildcats but they picked up the play and carried it for the rest of the period. The energy line of Liam Blackburn, Frankie Cefalu, and Eric MacAdams kept the pressure on Miami. The Crookshank, Marcus Vela, and Patrick Grasso line got a few good looks, but Larkin was up to it. With Taylor on the bench for an extra skater, who turned out to be Blackburn, UNH tied the game 3-3 with :34 left in the game. Esposito skated out from behind the Miami net and found a wide open Blackburn who snapped the puck past Larkin. UNH had a chance as the final seconds were winding down and Senior Aza Nazarian swooped in on Larkin but was denied by the Junior goalie. The Wildcats outshot the Red Hawks 14-8 for the period.
In Overtime each team had 3 shots. It was up and down the ice. The intensity of the game was summed up in an unfortunate play with 1.9 remaining. A race between UNH defenseman Benton Maas and Bachman to prevent a Miami icing resulted in an awkward collision that seen the two players slam into the end boards hard. Each player was hurt on the play with Bachman, receiving a boarding penalty and the brunt of the collision.
Miami coach Enrico Blasi felt that his team’s goals were “opportunistic.” When asked if he felt his team deserved better than a tie there was a long, thoughtful pause from Blasi. The coach responded “I think to win in college hockey you have to have a 60 minute performance where you process and play the game the right way. I’m not sure I can tell you that we did that tonight.” His counterpart Sousa was equally frustrated, saying “We need to figure out a way to close out the 3rd period.” He added “We gotta figure out a way to learn to win.” Sousa said his message to his team was “we put it behind us, learn from it. I’m proud of the way we did come back and be after it again tomorrow.” The two square off agin this evening at the Whittemore Center at 7pm