By John Lachmann
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami’s struggles against Northern Michigan continued on Friday.
The Wildcats scored goals on two of their first three shots and held on for a 2-1 win over the RedHawks at Cady Arena, giving them a 3-0 record against Miami on the season.
With the loss, Miami (14-11-2) slipped into a tie for fourth place in the CCHA with Lake Superior State.
The RedHawks outshot NMU, 41-13 and did not allow more than five shots on goal in any period.
Miami fired the first eight shots of the game, but Northern Michigan’s Justin Florek skated into the zone and fired a shot past RedHawks senior goalie Connor Knapp on the stick side with 8:25 left in the first period.
Just 4:13 later, NMU’s Tyler Gron skated around Miami senior defenseman Will Weber, went in alone on Knapp and slipped the puck just inside the post to make it 2-0.
Miami cut the lead in half less than two minutes into the third period when freshman forward Blake Coleman belted home a pass through the crease by senior defenseman Chris Wideman.
Despite putting 17 shots on net in the final frame, the RedHawks were unable to tie the score. Northern Michigan goalie Jared Coreau turned aside 40 shots to earn the win.
In three games against the Wildcats this season, Miami has scored a total of three goals.
The loss snaps a personal six-game winning streak for Knapp. He had not allowed more than one goal in any of his previous five starts.
Miami will wrap up the weekend and season series vs. Northern Michigan (12-8-5) at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.
ANALYSIS: Sometimes you run into a hot goalie, and Friday was one of those cases, although it’s rare for a team to lose with a 3-to-1 shots on goal advantage.
The second Northern Michigan goal seemed to deflate Miami for the remainder of the first period, but the RedHawks played pretty well overall.
Some of the passes the RedHawks normally complete and a lot of 1-on-1 moves they usually execute didn’t work, but that’s a credit to the Wildcats’ defense.
It seemed like every time Miami had a good scoring chance there were NMU skaters’ sticks in the way. And Coreau was outstanding.
Northern Michigan doesn’t play the most exciting style of hockey, and it’s certainly not one I’d want to watch all the time, but it’s effective and Miami obviously has been unable to find a way to beat it.
The first NMU goal was on an excellent shot by Florek, but Weber needed to make a play on Cron’s marker.
Miami’s tendency to take penalties has been problematic all season, but that claim can’t be made about Friday’s game. The RedHawks were not assessed one penalty.
MU had three power play chances itself but went 0-for-3 with eight shots on goal.
FORWARDS: D+. As stated earlier, they didn’t play badly but the job of the forwards is to score goals and Miami finished with just one.
They generated 28 shots and didn’t even record an assist (Wideman was awarded the lone helper on Coleman’s goal).
It was the first time in 10 games that the JAR combination (Jimmy Mullin-Austin Czarnik-Reilly Smith) were all held without a point. The last time that happened? Miami’s series opener at Northern Michigan on Dec. 2.
DEFENSEMEN: B+. Miami’s six blueliners put as many shots on goal as Northern Michigan’s entire team – 13.
Weber was clearly upset with himself after the Wildcats’ second goal, and with good reason. He rarely gets burned 1-on-1 in open ice.
Wideman finished with the team’s lone assist and five shots. Junior Joe Hartman led the team in blocked shots with four.
GOALTENDING: C-. Knapp stopped just 11 of 13 shots, which is a save percentage of .846. Both goals came on good shots, but he should’ve made the save on one of them.
Still, Knapp has played so well lately that allowing two goals on 13 shots is hardly cause for concern.
The question is: Does this cause coach Enrico Blasi to go with senior Cody Reichard on Saturday?
LINEUP CHANGES: Junior forward Steve Mason was in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 4, breaking a string of 17 games as a scratch.
Sophomore Bryon Paulazzo was benched for the second straight game. It was rumored he was ill last Saturday, but the reason Paulazzo was omitted from the lineup on Friday is unclear.
Paulazzo had gone three games without a point, but he had two goals and two assists in the four before that and he’s been one of the team’s more physical players.
Mason did not have a shot and went minus-1 with two blocked shots playing on the fourth line with seniors Matt Tomassoni and Patrick Tiesling.
Freshman Cody Murphy was also scratched after playing last Saturday. Sophomore Max Cook sat out for the seventh straight game.
Freshman Alex Wideman is getting considerably more ice time. He played with Coleman and senior Alden Hirschfeld and was on the ice for Miami’s goal. Wideman was also on the second power play unit.
Blasi stood pat on his defense corps and goaltender. It was Knapp’s third straight start and his sixth in Miami’s last seven games.
-- Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org
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