Well, hello there!
You probably didn’t miss us even though we haven’t posted since Miami got pretty boring to watch about six weeks ago. We haven’t found this season easy to watch, either.
Anywho, Blake Coleman is back! And the junior from Texas netted his 11th and 12th goals of the season to lift Miami to an emotional win over fourth-ranked St. Cloud State at Steve Cady Arena last night.
Coleman, who had not seen action since injuring himself (we believe he broke his collarbone) in a game on December 6 against Denver, was easily the best player on the ice. He added an immediate boost of energy and seemed to infect the RedHawks with his sense of purpose and leadership — something that’s been sorely lacking since he left the lineup. He was hitting, backchecking, hustling, creating turnovers … and scoring. Frankly, it was one of his best games since his freshman year. If he can raise his level of play, and lift the team around him, this could be a good sign as the season nears completion.
Austin Czarnik also seemed affected by Coleman’s presence in the lineup. On the first line with regular mate Riley Barber, Coleman was inserted alongside the two of them creating matchup nightmares for SCSU as that line accounted for three of Miami’s four goals and was a handful all night for the Huskies. For Czarnik he scored his 11th goal of the season and assisted twice giving the junior captain a season’s line of 11-30-41. Barber also assisted on Coleman’s first goal of the night, his 20th, in an otherwise quiet night for the sophomore sniper from Pittsburgh.
Sophomore goaltender Jay Williams earned just his fifth win of the season evening his record at 5-5. He wasn’t great, but he did enough to enable Miami to record its second win over SCSU this year. Consider. Miami has only 11 wins this season but they have beaten an impressive list of teams with far better records than the RedHawks. Miami has beaten North Dakota, St. Cloud (twice), Wisconsin, Denver and Ohio State (twice) who is somehow 15-10-3. Oh, wait. I know. It’s because duhOSU has the 46th ranked strength of schedule in college hockey. For the record, Miami has played the 15th most difficult schedule in the nation and sits at 11-15-3.
Can one player make a difference?
Well, it certainly looked that way last night. Miami put forth a level of effort, a much higher “compete level” to paraphrase CBS Sports analyst Dave Starman, that I haven’t seen in months. Will this be the start of a late season run that could carry this team into the NCHC playoffs and save the entire campaign? Or will this just be a blip on the radar? While I’m not completely sold on this as a bellwether moment, I’m at least curious for one more night to see how this team responds.
The Miami RedHawks headed to Kalamazoo last weekend in search of an identity. They were starting off the second half of the season against a familiar foe, with a lot to work on. The defense needed shoring up, the penalty kill needed improvement and most of all, the power play was struggling in the first half, and it was time to figure things out.
Going in, Coach Blasi most certainly wasn’t going to say that the trip to Western Michigan was going to be an easy weekend. In fact, as we said in our weekend preview, he was very complementary to the Broncos. But in the back of his mind, Rico had to be thinking of 6 points. Western Michigan is a team that Miami is very familiar with and has played well against in recent past. The Broncos were expected to have a down year, and were tied at the bottom of the standings with the RedHawks coming into the weekend. Miami was predicted to finish at the top of the conference and started the year as the #2 team in the country.
As we are reminded of time and time again, matchups on paper mean nothing. “That’s why you play the games,” as they say. Miami allowed 3 shorthanded goals against, went just 1 for 13 on the power play (1 PPG on 5 chances on Friday, 0 for 8 on Saturday), and lost 2 heartbreaking 1-goal decisions. 0 points. Last place in the NCHC.
In our time cheering for Miami sports, I know we’ve all drank the
Drain-O kool-aid. This was one of those weekends for us here at the Blog of Brotherhood. Having taken our annual guys trip to Kalamazoo for the weekend, I can certainly say the beer and company were better than the hockey. There were many times where we all looked at each other in disbelief as the events transpired on the ice before us.
Friday night was just a night of missed opportunities and lackluster play. The shots after 1 period were 19-5 in favor of Western Michigan Friday night and the ice was heavily slanted in their favor. Scoring chances isn’t an NCAA statistic, but Western must have had 6 or 7 grade A chances that they couldn’t put past Miami’s Ryan McKay in net in addition to the one that did find paydirt. They played well the rest of the way, but a soft goal allowed by McKay and a controversial goal with 8.3 seconds left, and Miami was headed to the hotel with a sour taste in their mouths.
I actually think the RedHawks played better on Saturday night, even with several stats showing otherwise. First, they went 0 for 8 on the power play and were behind by 2 goals for a long chunk of the game (the only time that either team was ahead by more than 1 goal, by the way). Criticisms of the power play and lack of effort rained down from various RedHawks fans in attendance at times due to the out-of-character performance by several on the ice.
One thing that I did see this past weekend was excellent leadership and guts by Sean Kuraly. Before the weekend, Kuraly was given an A on the newly minted sweaters for the RedHawks (more on the jerseys to come). I can’t say enough about the hustle, determination and sheer disregard for his body that Sean showed all weekend, and Sean certainly earned his Assistant Captain position last weekend. From our vantage point, it was clear that Sean was the best player on the ice for either team both nights.
On Friday night, Kuraly had 2 goals on 4 shots, went 11 for 24 on faceoffs, and I’m certain would have recorded 5 or more hits on the night if it was a recorded statistic. Saturday’s line would only see Kuraly receive an assist with 5 shots, but he did have a goal that would have been unassisted had the referees not overturned the call on the ice (due to goaltender interference).
Max Cook was also awarded an Assistant Captain’s “A” on his sweater for the weekend. The senior from Frankfort, IL is just 7 games away from playing in 100 in a RedHawks sweater and has 19 hard-earned points over those 93 games, playing mostly on the 2nd and 3rd lines during his time at Miami.
As you can see from the recent tweet from The Brotherhood (link), the RedHawks donned new sweaters last weekend. These are a return back to the jerseys of the last several years.
There have been many (unconfirmed) rumors about the jerseys over the course of the first half of the season, and it appears that the bedazzled look of the first half of the year wasn’t cutting it for the RedHawks. In the end, after a color issue for the first weekend of the year (see: jersey sale in the Goggin Pro Shop) and a general dislike for the jerseys from many fans, it seemed that the jerseys were not doing the job and Miami made a switch off of the Nike jerseys to these new Adidas jerseys. This also aligns the hockey team with the rest of the university in terms of their outfitters – a wise choice on all fronts.
The Weekend Ahead – Nebraska-Omaha in Oxford for 2-Game Set
For a while this week, I thought of writing this piece with the thought that the 2 one-goal losses didn’t seem indicative of how the games were played this week. In the end, I really didn’t like how Miami played, with the exceptions of Kuraly and Cody Murphy, who is always hustling, the RedHawks didn’t impress me much last weekend.
This weekend, Miami welcomes the Mavericks of the University of Nebraska-Omaha. These will be the first games in Goggin since December 7th and 8th – a span of 7 weeks. Welcome home, indeed.
If you remember, the weekend before Thanksgiving, Miami traveled to Omaha and got spanked by scores of 6-3 and 3-1. At that point, Miami was starting to realize life in the NCHC was going to be tougher than they thought, and after the 2 wins, UNO found themselves in first place in the new conference.
On Friday night back in November, Miami was up 1-0 after the first, but UNO scored 5 second period goals en route to the 6-3 win and Miami was shell-shocked the rest of the weekend. There was no coming back from that devastating period and Miami’s slide had begun.
At present, Miami sits in the cellar of the NCHC, a conference they were picked to win at the start of the season, and are a whopping 13 points behind first place St. Cloud State. At 3-7-0 in the NCHC, there’s a lot of work to be done over the last 14 games of the season. UNO is in a tie for 3rd in the conference – a position not many expected to this point in the 2013-14 campaign. There are 14 games left for the RedHawks, and this weekend is critical to their success in the conference as well as their hopes to make the NCAA tournament come March.
If you remember this past weekend, Austin Czarnik was hit high during the second period of the Friday night game in Kalamazoo. It was a hit that didn’t really look to cause any grief for Miami’s Captain at the time, but Czarnik didn’t play a whole lot in the second and was not on the bench for the third when Miami let the game slip away. Then on Saturday, Czarnik was in his Miami warm-ups and was a spectator in the stands and would disappear into the locker room with the team at each intermission.
We cannot confirm nor deny what happened to Czarnik (because we simply don’t know), but he was out with an undisclosed upper body injury. While a concussion is still a serious injury, I’m hopeful that this is all it was, as this usually means a short turnaround time. With a shoulder, collarbone or other upper body injury, he could miss an extended period of time. We will see tonight whether Czarnik is on the ice or not.
Blake Coleman also didn’t play last weekend, as he is still recovering from a suspected collarbone injury suffered on Friday December 6th against Denver (he was seen in a sling in Goggin also spectating that Saturday’s game before the holiday break). Again, no confirmation if that’s what the injury is/was, but Blake may also make return this weekend against UNO.
Both games will be televised on Miami All-Access, and Friday’s Game is Televised Locally on Time Warner Cable.
Enjoy the games RedHawks. Let’s get a W (or 2?) this weekend!
KALAMAZOO, MI – After 5 weeks off from NCAA play, Miami gets back at it this weekend, and starts a demanding set of 8 weekends of NCHC play. From here on out, Miami doesn’t play a non-conference game unless they make it to the NCAA tournament. 16 games, 16 NCHC contests, with 1 bye week (1/31-2/1) and the all important conference seeding on the line in the mostly upside-down NCHC.
It’s not going to be an easy for the RedHawks. “It’s nice to have everybody back and healthy again,” Head Coach Enrico Blasi said. “With the exception of Blake Coleman, we’ll have everyone back in our lineup. It’s been a good little mini-camp before we play Western Michigan on Friday. I feel like we’re ready to go now.”
Miami did play the US National Team Development Program (USNTDP) on New Year’s Eve, and dropped that exhibition contest 4-2. Max Cook and Johnny Wingels picked up the goals in the game, Austin Czarnik assisted on each goal, and Jay Williams and Ryan McKay split in net. Williams allowed 2 goals on 15 shots and McKay picked up the loss by allowing the 3rd goal, and the US team scored an empty netter to seal the win. Miami was without Taylor Richart, Riley Barber (playing in the 2014 World Junior Championship in Sweden) and Blake Coleman – three main components of Miami’s roster to this point.
Heading into the weekend against the Broncos, Blasi had this to say about the team’s break, and was very complementary regarding their upcoming opponent. “At practice it has been great. The guys had a little bit of fun with [Barber] and we’ve had some good days off the ice where we have done some things together as a team and as a program and those things are always important. [The Broncos] are well coached and they play a good systematic game and they play hard. You’ll have to play your best to play with them and it’s been like that for the last 4 years. These guys understand how to play at a high level. Our rivalry over the last 4 years has been unbelievable – intense, physical games. Their building will be jammed. Their students will be there to give them a real high energy boost. Our conference is pretty good and Western poses a lot of issues. We’ve been preparing hard for a big time battle in our conference and we’ll be ready to go.”
As far as the Broncos go, they are led by Senior Shane Berschbach (a former Miami decommit), who has 8 goals and 15 assists on the year. Junior Frank Slubowski was the Broncos mainstay in net, but Sophomore Lukas Hafner was awarded the Jack Tompkins Trophy as the Great Lakes Invitational’s most valuable player over the holiday break. He sports an impressive 4-2 record, .947 save percentage and 1.26 GAA for a stat line, and has started taking playing time away from Slubowski. He has played in (and won) 3 of the last 4 games for Western, and is likely to see at least split time in net this weekend.
Blasi reiterated the sentiment about the rest of the season. “There are 16 games left and we won’t look at the standings at all right now. There’s so much hockey left to play and so much that can happen. We’re going to have to play well. Are we where we need to be? Probably not, but are we going to work our tails off to get there? Absolutely.”
The second half test starts Friday and Saturday in Kalamazoo. Both games start at 7:05 PM. According to MURedHawks.com, “an All-Access broadcast will also be available for both contests.” Western Michigan also uses Neulion, so we’re hopeful that the feed will be picked up by the Miami All-Access team for the weekend.
If you’re in town for the weekend, hit us up! I’ll be in the house with a group of RedHawks faithful and you can find us on Twitter by heading to @MiamiHockeyBlog. Enjoy the games!
Last night was a typical Miami showing: fast and furious action from the start, but as we have seen numerous times over the last several weeks, Miami couldn’t get the puck past a red hot goaltender and Miami would lose 3-1. Here are a few thoughts from last night’s action.
- The first period was the domination we are used to seeing, at least for the first 17 minutes. The likes of Austin Czarnik, Sean Kuraly and Alex Gacek had some great opportunities immediately and it seemed that at any minute, Miami could burst through and it would be 3-0 in the blink of an eye. But at the 17:02 mark, Denver countered with a seemingly harmless break up the ice. Ty Loney was credited with the goal, but replays showed that the puck was loose and as Loney and the Miami defender skated towards the net, the puck hit one of their skates and with Ryan McKay moving to his right, the puck redirected to his left and comically drifted into the net as if in slow motion.
After another 53 seconds, it was Denver 2 and Miami nothing after a puck squirted right to Trevor Moore after a Denver faceoff win. The quick shot from the slot was in the back of the net before McKay could do anything about it.
- Miami’s crowd was non-existant physically because of the storm. Not surprising, and highly frustrating, but we’ll try to contain ourselves on that topic. But after these two quick goals, the crowd was mentally not in it as well. When Miami scored, they came roaring back for an exciting 4+ minutes, but when the energy gets released out of that building, it REALLY gets quiet in there.
- Devin Loe looked really nice again last night. He was again matched up with the super-duo of Czarnik and Riley Barber for much of the evening again.
- Denver really plays a tight defensive game. With Sam Brittain standing on his head in net like he did last night, I’m not certain how they allow ANY goals. As it stands, they are 3rd in the country after last night’s games, allowing just 1.80 goals against over their 15 games played.
Last night’s Box Score.
Blake Coleman Status Update
During the second period, Blake Coleman was checked in front of the Miami bench and went down hard. Despite being right next to the door to the bench, Coleman couldn’t get off the ice for some time and never returned to the game. We can speculate all we want, but after seeing the replay a few times, Blake looked to be in a good amount of pain and I’m guessing we’ll get the “day-to-day (upper body injury)” indication on him. The injury had multiple impacts for Miami.
On the power play, Miami likes to deploy a 5-forward line as their top power play grouping. Usually, that’s Czarnik, Barber, Kuraly, Coleman and a rotating wheel at the 5th spot, but usually filled by Anthony Louis. Matt Caito (Miami’s best offensive defenseman) took his spot on the top PP line. While it isn’t a crushing blow to be without Coleman on the power play, it is a huge benefit to be able to play 5 forwards and have Czarnik be the quarterback (and the main defensive piece) on the power play.
In addition, Riley Barber was double shifting for about half of the game due to Coleman’s absence. Miami doesn’t keep time on ice (TOI) stats like the NHL does, but I’d be willing to guess he and Czarnik were above 25 minutes in ice time last night.
No matter what the status, it’s not likely that Coleman will miss much time. Again, we’re speculating here, but I’m going to venture a guess he won’t play tonight. On many occasions, Blake has taken a big hit, gone off the ice holding something and returned moments later. In my opinion, he appears to be the toughest guy on the roster. The fact that he didn’t return last night speaks volumes on the status of his injury.
After Saturday night’s game, however, Miami plays just once before January 10th and 11th at Western Michigan, and that game is an exhibition against the USNTDP Under-18 team. If Blake misses more than tonight’s game, I’d be shocked. We wish him and his team high 10 goals and 6 assists stat line a speedy return to the lineup.
Tonight’s puck drops at 7:07 pm and can be found on Miami All-Access.
The Miami RedHawks come into this weekend as the Number 12 team in the country, coming off of a 4-game road trip. The Denver Pioneers visit Steve Cady Arena on a 6-game unbeaten streak, and come in as the hotter team. Here comes our week-in-review and preview of the weekend!
Head Coach Rico Blasi was fairly pleased with his team’s play last weekend at Bemidji State: “We played really well in the first period Friday night. We came out and did the things we needed to do. It was a good sign to come off the sweep the week before. I thought we executed really well (outshot 17-5). In the 3rd, the bounces kind of got away from us in a tie game. At least we responded when [Bemidji State] tied it up. They kept coming after us.”
I like that statement. The boys responded when Bemidji tied it up. Sure, the RedHawks held a 4-1 lead into the third period and left with just a tie. But we’ve seen this happen before, and Miami at least responded to salvage a tie. Remember, Miami had been on a 3-game losing streak. This made it 4 in a row without a win, but Saturday night would end that streak and now Miami has turned it around and is on a 2-game unbeaten streak.
“Saturday night we started off great again” Blasi said. “In the third, we really said enough is enough. We played hard and we played within our system and we were rewarded for that. It was a huge win on Saturday night. I could tell with the facial expressions on our team and the way we were playing in the last couple minutes with the lead. A good way to go into our final weekend before break and exams.”
3 Stars of the Week
3. Devin Loe scored his first and second goals of his collegiate career in Saturday night’s game, the first coming just 11 seconds into the contest. Playing with Austin Czarnik (0-5–5 Saturday) and Riley Barber (1-3–4 Saturday) certainly has its advantages. It was another strange pairing from Coach Blasi, but one that certainly paid dividends in Saturday’s 6-3 win.
2. Our number 2 star earns this spot as more of a culmination of the month of November. Ryan McKay has been outstanding in net, and most importantly, he has been alone in net. Early on this season, I wrote that the two-headed goalie monster situation should be revisited, and I preferred that it end. Not that we had much say in the matter, but things have changed in Miami’s net. Ryan McKay has mostly given Coach Enrico Blasi an easier decision lately, and rather than splitting the weekend duties, McKay has gotten the nod in 8 of the last 10 games. Jay Williams started Saturday against Canisius (November 2). In the Friday night game in Omaha, he succumbed to an injury early in the second period, so McKay has played all but 22 minutes in net for the last 4 series.
Including his start Friday night against Canisius on November 1st, McKay was 4-4-1 in those 9 games. He had 2 consecutive shutouts – the aforementioned game against Canisius and then a 2-0 win in St. Cloud – and added a third shutout against Wisconsin. While he did have a rough patch against Omaha, his stats are still rock solid this year: 3 shutouts to lead the NCAA, .927 Save % (17th in the country) and 2.38 Goals Against Average.
1. Guess who? 101 career points (7-17–24 this season), 5 assists on Friday night and the NCHC’s Offensive Player of the Week award (his second of the season). He became the 48th Miami player to eclipse the century mark and was a ridiculous +4 on the night. All of this after being silenced on Friday night with just 1 shot. What a year Czarnik and Barber are having together, and both guys could be headed for Hobey Finalist nods (top 10). But this week belonged to The Captain.
Czarnik, still just a Junior, had this to say about the weekend: “We’ve been dealing with a lot of adversity and Saturday we needed to come out with a mission. I went into the locker room before the third period and said boys, we need to stop this right now and we need to get on the right track. In the third period we just took over and that was huge for us and we got the win. That even helped carry over [to this week] in practice.”
The Weekend Ahead
“Early they lost a couple games,” Coach Blasi said about the Pioneers. “What I see on video is a very good team. They have good special teams. Their D can jump in the play and if you’re not paying attention to things, if you’re not managing the puck well, they’re going to make you pay.”
After two weeks on the road and a 1-2-1 record to show for it, tonight and tomorrow’s matchups in The Nest will be critical. This is the typical time for Miami to give up a few ghastly losses (don’t call it The Swoon). Blasi echoed the same sentiment: “We had two weekends on the road so it seems like we haven’t been at home for forever. It’s huge. Home ice in any league and especially in our league should make a difference and give you a little extra energy what you might need to go to get a W.” Hopefully the [S-word – redacted] behind this team and we’ll see a nice streak towards the finish.
From here on out, minus a New Year’s Eve exhibition matchup with the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP U-18), Miami plays 100% NCHC games. That streak starts tonight with Denver, a team that is coming in on a bit of a streak of their own. Czarnik knows this weekend’s series is big: “We’ve been dealing with a lot of adversity and Saturday we needed to come out with a mission. Every week is going to be hard. We’re just 2-4 now (in NCHC play), so every game is going to be a battle until the end. We need to stay with our systems and just execute. We have to focus on executing and playing hard as a team.”
Battle. Execute. It’s a simple formula.
Miami will take the ice tonight at 7:30 and the game can be seen on Miami All-Access. Tomorrow night’s contest starts at 7:00. Go RedHawks!
More to come on the weekend that was, but here are some high quality highlights courtesy of BSU. Dear Miami, why can we not have a decent feed…or announcing crew for video? Bemidji is an isolated city of 13,000 people. Oxford is in the Cincinnati DMA which has a total pop of 900,000. There has to be a way to do this better. Just a thought…
And, a nice article on Riley Barber from one of the Washington Caps’ blog sites — Russian Machine Never Breaks (which is an awesome name by the way).
Ok, not quite, but after a disastrous weekend in Omaha, Miami is back on the road for their final non-conference weekend of the season as they travel
to Bemidji, Minn. to take on the Beavers of the WCHA.
As we know, Miami turned in one of their worst team performances in recent memory as they were swept out of Omaha last weekend by the Mavericks 6-3 and 3-1.
Nothing seemed to be working for the RedHawks as they suffered from horrific defensive lapses in transition, looked disinterested at times, and the offensive leaders — Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber — were remarkably quiet. In fact, you have to go back to November 8 at St. Cloud to find the last time Barber scored a goal, and Czarnik has only two in that same span.
Needless to say, Miami needs to begin to find their game as they have just one more series (December 6-7 vs. Denver) before the holiday break. The nice thing about this year’s schedule, however, is that Miami has an exhibition game against the US U-18 squad on New Year’s Eve in Oxford that will help them shake off some rust before embarking on play in the season’s second half. Still, after this weekend, Miami will play just three games from December 6 to January 10. And, as an aside, if Miami loses Riley Barber to the US U-20 WJC team again, which is an almost certainty, it doesn’t look likely that he’ll miss any games for the RedHawks while he plays for another gold medal.
Looking at Bemidji State, Miami (7-6-1, 2-4 t5th NCHC) has faced the Beavers (5-7-2, 5-4 2nd WCHA)) six times and has won four of the six matches.
Of course, none of the meetings was more famous than when the RedHawks defeated Bemidji State 4-1 on April 9, 2009 in Washington D.C. That was Miami’s first ever national semifinal appearance and the victory propelled them to their only national title game appearance where they fell to Boston University in overtime.
Offensively, the Beavers are led by a trio of skaters with 10 points starting with sophomore forward Markus Gerbrandt who is tied for the team lead with 8 goals on the season while junior forward Danny Mattson (2-8-10) is second on the team in helpers. Junior captain Matt Prapavessis (good luck with that one this weekend, Greg) anchors the Beavers’ blue line and leads the team with nine assists.
In net for Bemidji State is junior Andrew Walsh who has started all 14 games this season. He brings a line of 2.82/.907 and one shutout into the weekend and has been a workhorse for the Beavers.
Other skaters to watch include sophomore forward Cory Ward who is tied with Gerbrandt in team goal scoring with eight and sophomore defenseman Graeme McCormack who has a season’s line of 1-7-8 from the blue line.
For Miami, finding their game this weekend could provide a huge boost as they move back into conference play next weekend at home against Denver. The RedHawks can ill-afford another listless weekend as they get ready for another conference test. If Miami wants to secure home ice advantage in the first round of the NCHC playoffs, they’ll obviously need to get things turned around over the coming weeks.
But, during his weekly press conference, head coach Enrico Blasi was confident suggesting folks not panic not get bent out of shape at the team’s recent struggles. And, for that, we agree completely. This season is far from lost. And, as the Miami program continues to grow, we’re learning every season that it’s not about how well you play in December. It’s about how well you play in March that counts. Let’s hope this team continues to improve throughout the season and saves its best hockey for when it really matters. Said Blasi,
“(We’re) turning the page (on last weekend). (We will) make sure we’re focused on what we do best and get after it. (There’s) no reason to worry about what happened in the past. There’s nothing we can do about it. Nothing has changed in the game plan (and we have to) make sure we’re all in this thing together and focused on what we need to do.”
Looking back at last weekend, and aside from the all-out play of sophomore forward Sean Kuraly, there were few highlights. The defense looked soft and slow-footed and Miami’s offense was settling for shots from the outside rather than getting to the hard areas of the ice where goals are scored. The RedHawks were without junior forward Jimmy Mullin and his return this weekend (if he returns) could help provide a boost of energy that seems needed. In net, things weren’t much better as Jay Williams, starting his first game since November 2, left Friday’s game with an injury (he may have
taken a skate to the head) and normal Friday starter, Ryan McKay, did not look comfortable in net as he fought the puck all night. And, on Saturday, he wasn’t much better. Though he made 40 saves, McKay appeared to still be fighting the puck.
All in all, let’s chalk last weekend up to a blip that happens to every team during the course of a long season. Hopefully Miami can rediscover its confidence and scoring touch and get back to playing solid team hockey that carried Miami to shutout victories over St. Cloud and Wisconsin earlier this month.
Until Miami shows they’re committed to team defense and two-way hockey, and until the offense starts humming, there’s no way I’m picking a series sweep. That said, I think Miami ends the three-game losing streak, but I’m saying split in Bemidji this weekend.
Greg Waddell will have the call of both games this weekend at Miami All-Access and over the air on AM 1450 and 1490 in the Oxford area.
From last night. USCHO reporter Matthew Semisch’s quick interview with Enrico Blasi following Miami’s 6-3 loss to Omaha. He makes note that both Williams and Coleman will be fine and that Miami’s transition defense wasn’t very good last night which is precisely what we saw, too.
In a game that was a strange nightmare of this programs’ past, the Miami RedHawks were outskated and outcoached by a hot Nebraska Omaha team 6-3 on Friday night.
Last night was reminiscent of games I’ve seen Miami play in years against Michigan when we didn’t have nearly as much talent as the Wolverines. The Mavericks, stymied in the first period by Miami’s defensive system, broke out in the second period by scoring five times, largely off transition plays or rushes to overwhelm the RedHawks and seize control of a close game. It was clear that Dean Blais’ intent was to lure the RedHawks into an up-and-down game by sending three forwards hard through the neutral zone to create odd-man rushes. That effort resulted in several defensive lapses with UNO forwards routinely getting behind Miami defensemen who were outnumbered and flat-footed. The Miami forwards really have to do a better job Saturday night back checking to limit the transition chances for Omaha. When Blais upped the tempo, Miami simply had no answer. Cross-ice passes found streaking forwards in the neutral zone. Routine centering passes found tape, and then, the back of the net far too often.
What I found most disturbing about Friday’s game was that after a reasonably solid first period that saw Miami convert on a powerplay and limit the Mavericks to just six shots on goal, it seemed Miami became disinterested and played flat and lackadaisical for the first 17 or 18 minutes of the second period. Defensemen were out of position and outskated, and forwards took the easy route deciding two-way hockey was optional. The RedHawks also took far too many shots from the outside and didn’t really get into the hard areas of the ice until late in the second period. By that time, the score was
5-1 and the game looked out of reach. But, as the second period wound down, Sean Kuraly would inject some life into his teammates by scoring a late powerplay goal at 19:36 and let out a loud “whoop” following it that was clearly audible all the way up in the press box. For the night, Kuraly was probably the best of the RedHawks, and at one point, was elevated to the first line alongside Austin Czarnik and classmate Riley Barber. And, just :19 after Kuraly’s tally, Kevin Morris would jam home a loose puck in front of the net and suddenly it was a two-goal game at 5-3 heading to the third.
In the third, the RedHawks showed immediate life, but after having an early powerplay and exhausting energy putting pressure on the Mavs, by the 10 minute mark of the period, it was clear Miami had exhausted whatever power they had to forge a comeback.
On the night, the RedHawks were 2 for 7 on the powerplay, but missed several other good chances. Junior captain Austin Czarnik will most certainly say that he let a few golden opportunities pass by as he was stopped twice by UNO junior goaltender Ryan Massa on a penalty shot and a clean shorthanded breakaway attempt. If Czarnik converts just one of the two, we perhaps have a different game down the stretch and the Hawk bench would have gotten a huge boost.
As poorly as the RedHawks played transition defense, they did leave enough Grade A scoring chances on the ice that could have made this a game. But, in the end, UNO’s speed and transition game took the RedHawks by surprise and they looked unprepared and unable to respond. I think Dean Blais certainly got the best of Enrico Blasi on this night. But, the great thing about college hockey is there’s always tomorrow night. Saturday’s game is incredibly important for Miami. Finding a way to overcome tonight’s poor performance and earn a win will make the flight back to Ohio a lot happier on Sunday and reestablish Miami’s confidence heading into next weekend’s road series at Bemidji State of the WCHA.
- After being injured in the second period, sophomore netminder Jay Williams did not return to the game though he was spotted on the bench for a while after the injury and in the hall leading to the RedHawks locker room during the third period. We’ll try to get an update on his status, but it’s certainly clear that Ryan McKay will start Saturday night’s game.
- Junior Blake Coleman appeared to injure his leg in the second period, but did return to the ice in the third period and played reasonably well. Hopefully, he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow night and the injury is nothing serious.
- Junior Jimmy Mullin was scratched in favor of senior Bryon Paulazzo who responded with a goal and some gritty play in front of the Omaha net. And, I believe Paulazzo will be in the lineup Saturday night as well.
- Ryan McKay did not look like himself tonight in relief of the injured Jay Williams. He was certainly fighting the puck most of the night. Perhaps this game was just a strange anomaly overall, and we’ll look back upon it late in the season and agree it was just an off night for everyone.
- The CenturyLink Center in downtown Omaha is a nice “pro” building. However, it lacks character, a pep band and a full house which is why UNO is constructing a new building that seats around 6,000-7,000 on their campus about five miles to the west of downtown.
- Omaha controlled the faceoff circle winning 46 to Miami’s 32. Clearly the RedHawks must narrow that gap Saturday night. That’s far too many losses against a squad looking to get out into transition.
- As I was leaving CenturyLink Center this evening, the event staff had already began the changeover process to get the building into shape for Creighton basketball. The 23rd ranked Jays face Tulsa on Saturday at 3:30 PM EST leaving the staff fewer than four hours to re-fit the “Clink” as the locals call it, for college hockey. That means that Miami will not have a regular morning skate/practice. However, given Miami’s performance, I wouldn’t be surprised if Miami’s staff was calling local rinks during the game to find available ice tomorrow. That’s kind of a joke…sort of…
We’ll have more to say later, but as it is, Miami falls 6-3 to Omaha in a game that was simply bizarre. Miami was flat for most of the 2nd period allowing 5 goals and never really seemed able to slow the Mavericks transition game down after the 1st period.
Paulazzo, Kuraly and Morris had the Miami goals and Williams and McKay split time in net with neither looking elite.
More to come later…