With 9:36 remaining in the second period, the score was 4-1. Then suddenly, it wasn’t.
Such was the story of the Miami RedHawks’ 6-4 defeat this Friday at the hands of the Omaha Mavericks. Following a four goal swing in the RedHawks’ favor - one that seemingly placed the game out of Omaha’s reach, an anemic Miami defense allowed five unanswered in the final thirty minutes of play.
“It’s just another lesson that you have to play sixty minutes,” said coach Enrico Blasi, postgame. “You can’t play forty minutes at our level and expect to win games.”
In retrospect, the writing was on the wall with the Mavericks’ opening score. Capitalizing off a careless Miami penalty - having too many men on the ice, forward Mason Morelli’s redirect by way of Ian Brady gave Omaha the early advantage 7:27 into the first period.
That advantage didn’t last for long. Miami’s Josh Melnick answered with a power play score of his own just 3:21 before intermission, firing top shelf for his first goal of the season. Conor Lemirande followed suit 6:23 into the second period with a tip-in off Scott Dornbrock, buying the RedHawks a one goal lead.
With starters Louis Belpedio and Carson Meyer unavailable, the RedHawks relied heavily on players like Melnick and Dornbrock to spark momentum.
“It just means that guys have to step up and play some minutes,” Blasi said of the duo’s absence. “I thought we did that for half the game, but you have to play the full sixty minutes and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Senior Anthony Louis stepped up shortly thereafter with two bang-bang goals to expand The Brotherhood’s lead to three. The first came at the 9:51 mark after assists from Dornbrock and Gordie Green. The second came just 34 seconds later after an assist from Melnick.
“[Dornbrock] came around and made a nice pass to me,” Louis said. “I’ll take that shot any day in the slot. And the last one, I just kind of threw that one on net. It was nice.”
For Miami, the ensuing thirty minutes were not so nice. A turnover with 3:45 remaining in the period awarded the Mavericks a 4-on-2 chance and, ultimately, a shorthanded goal. Joel Messner found net on an easy wrister and found life for a struggling Omaha squad, who then headed into the second intermission just two scores down.
“I think the shorthanded goal really got us back on our heals a little bit,” Blasi said. “Then, in the third period, we just didn’t manage the puck - four turnovers, four goals.”
The first of those turnovers set up a long-range snipe from Jake Randolph only 1:23 into the final period. The second caused a careless Steven Spinner breakaway mere seconds after he exited the penalty box, tying the game 4-4.
In an attempt to stem Omaha’s momentum, Blasi then pulled freshman goalie Ryan Larkin in favor of his freshman backup: Chase Munroe. Munroe’s thirteen minutes marked the first time this season anyone other than Larkin tended goal.
Omaha’s momentum was never stemmed. Munroe gave up a David Pope redirect with 11:55 remaining, granting Omaha a 5-4 lead. From there, the RedHawks failed to string together enough offense to force overtime. Morelli’s empty net goal in the final minute sealed Miami’s fate, adding another loss to Miami’s winless NCHC campaign.
“I just think we let off the gas pedal and stopped playing Miami hockey,” Louis said. “It came back to haunt us in the end.”
After a 4-1-2 start to the season, including impressive showings against a #10 Providence and a #15 Ohio State, it appears the RedHawks’ honeymoon with a young roster has screeched abruptly to a halt. The Miami defense, which once killed 29 consecutive penalties, admitted two power play goals last night. Freshman goalie Ryan Larkin, who allowed only 10 goals in those first seven games, has surrendered 19 in the previous four. 4-1 leads are hard to come by, especially considering the schedule Miami faces.
After dipping two games below .500, the season is beginning to slip through their grasp. The puck drops Saturday night at 7:05 for their second battle with Omaha, where the RedHawks hope to answer some lingering questions from their four game losing streak and notch the season’s first conference victory.