Miami hosts Western Michigan to Start Homestand

After a thrilling split in North Dakota where the RedHawks earned their first ever win in Ralph Englestad Arena, #7 Miami (8-4, 4-2 NCHC) entertains the Western Michigan Broncos (3-6-1, 1-4-1-1 NCHC) tonight and tomorrow. With last year’s disappointment beginning to fade, Miami will look to avoid the winter swoon and continue to avenge some of last season’s heartache.

The Series

Miami and Western Michigan are just about even when it comes to the head to head matchup all-time. We’ll let you decide who is correct on the all-time record between these two teams: Miami says 57-56-10 to their advantage (Miami Record Book, page 47). WMU says 57-55-10 to their own advantage (WMU Record Book, page 46). By my count, since 1999-2000 when Enrico Blasi took over, Miami is 24-12-5 and overall, Miami’s got the edge at 57-56-10.

In any event, we know that last season, Miami was ranked #13 in both major polls as they kicked off the second half of the season in Kalamazoo. 2 1-goal losses to the hands of the Broncos and 2 more defeats just a month later, and Miami’s tailspin was real. Starting with WMU, Miami lost 13 of their last 16 regular season games last season. This year, the teams are currently headed in different directions, and Miami has no doubt forgotten about the 4 losses to WMU last season.

The Coach

Andy Murray isn't nearly as unhappy with his 3-6-1 record as this photo suggests. (Source: AP)

Andy Murray isn’t nearly as unhappy with his 3-6-1 record as this photo suggests. (Source: AP)

Andy Murray is in his 4th season at the helm of Western Michigan and has 20 years of experience as a head or assistant coach in the NHL. Despite being just 3-6-1 on the year, Murray still likes where his team is at. “I like our compete level. I like our leadership. We may be sitting at 3-6-1, but we feel that our best hockey is still in front of us. I’m excited about the remainder of our games.”

And after his first three years at the helm in which he led the Broncos to winning seasons, why not? After a stretch of 8 years in a row with a losing record, Western Michigan earned itself a spot in the new “SEC of College Hockey” with it’s up-and-coming label. Jeff Blashill – a former Miami assistant – had something to do with the rise of WMU as well, but the sustained success is now credited to Murray’s resume.

The Team

Undrafted Junior Nolan LaPorte leads a list of relatively unknowns from WMU in scoring with just 9 points on the year. For reference, Miami has 5 players with 9 or more points already. The 2nd and 3rd highest scorers for WMU are defensemen, so it’s safe to say their scoring is coming from a lot of different places. After several years of well known NHL draft picks and NCAA studs, the Broncos have just 3 Seniors on the roster. All 3 of them (Forwards Will Kessel, Justin Kovacs and Goalie Frank “The Tank” Slubowski) have 100 or more games played in their time in Kalamazoo. But this team is young and promising. Look no further than their Junior Goalie Lukas Hafner, who will likely see the majority of play this weekend. He sports a .916 save percentage and 2.16 goals against average in his 7 appearances, with a 2-3-1 record to show for it.

Lukas Hafner will likely be a little less relaxed this weekend with Miami firing nearly 38 shots per game - second in the nation. (Photo by Tom Turrill/MiHockey)

Lukas Hafner will likely be a little less relaxed this weekend with Miami firing nearly 38 shots per game – second in the nation. (Photo by Tom Turrill/MiHockey)

Western Michigan has 3 NHL draft picks on their roster and each of them are 6’2″ or taller, with Sophomore D-man Mike McKee topping out at a whopping 6’5″ and 250 pounds. Eat a salad, brother. As Miami has done, Western has greatly increased their size with 8 of their 9 current defensemen logging in over 6 feet tall (and the 9th is 5’11″). That size will be on display as Miami and WMU usually play a physical style with lots of penalties. Needless to say, special teams play will be crucial this weekend.

Despite the record, Western is not being outscored by much with a -3 goal differential on the season. They’re in games and have an 0-3 record in 1-goal games. Turn those around and 3-6 becomes 6-3 and they are leading the league instead of Miami.

The Prediction

Jay Williams is making it clear that last season was a departure from the norm and rides an 8-1 record into this weekend’s play. For some reason, Coach Blasi tried to get Ryan McKay back on track in the biggest series of the season with a start on last Saturday night. We don’t exactly agree with that decision, which turned out to be a poor one. I won’t go as far as to say that the 2-headed goalie monster is dead, but I won’t be surprised to see Jay Williams in the remainder of the big games this year. This weekend should be a bit of a “relax” moment and we will likely see the rotation one last time.

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Jay Williams has been electric this year. He’s 8-1 with a .920 save percentage and is allowing just 1.68 goals per game. (Cathy Lachmann/WCPO.com)

In any event, Miami stands at a crossroads. Just take a look at last year’s results compared to this year after 12 games. In 2013-14, Miami had a 7-4-1 record allowing 3.4 goals per game. Fast forward to 2014-15: an 8-4-0 record allowing 3.0 goals per game. Miami finished 8-16-2 last year, was last in the NCHC and had its streak of 9 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances snapped. Where do we go from here?

Miami’s 5-1 at home this year and the one loss was due to a bad stretch of about 20 minutes of play against St. Lawrence. Western Michigan is 0-5 on Friday nights. After a sweep of Western Michigan tonight and tomorrow, Miami should be again headed for the NCAA tournament.

Both games can be seen on NCHC.tv (via paid subscription) and heard on 1450 WMOH, 1490 WKBV and on muredhawks.com. Saturday night is Autograph Night, so stick around and get some signatures and selfies with the team.

Miami drops series finale vs UND

There’s a lot to talk about regarding Miami’s 4-1 loss to UND in Grand Forks last night. Suffice it to say, we’ll be watching these over the coming days and weeks.

Consider:

- Goaltending: Ryan McKay was again average at best in net for Miami. His season line now looks like this – 0-3, 3.59 GAA and .897 save percentage. Simply not good enough to be considered a top flight goaltender in the NCHC and certainly not good enough for a team that has national title aspirations. While that’s a relatively small sample size, to the eye, McKay hasn’t looked like what we’ve come to expect out of a Miami goaltender in over a year.

- Officiating: We don’t complain about the officials because it’s pointless and comes off as whining, BUT, how the heck did they determine that Cody Murphy’s goal that would have put Miami up 1-0 in the 2nd period should be overturned? To me, the puck was over the line before the contact and it looked as if UND’s McIntyre kicked it in of his own accord. There were certainly some other questionable calls that went against Miami last night, but again, it’s pointless to whine about it. It’s the same for each team over the course of the season.

- Coaching: Starting Ryan McKay in a HUGE road series as hot as Jay Williams has been, has to be questioned. I know what Blasi was thinking (you have to give McKay another chance if he’s healthy) but it was a costly decision because McKay did little to further the cause outside of a good 1st period. UND started their best on both nights.

- The stars: Senior captain Austin Czarnik and sniper Riley Barber returned to campus for a reason. Their play thus far has me confused as to what that reason is. Both players were shutout, read – didn’t record a point, this weekend. That can’t happen. The two of them have to carry this team especially against top competition. Czarnik was absolutely invisible all weekend and Barber looks lost. They must be Miami’s best players — along with junior Sean Kuraly who certainly did his part on Friday night and senior Blake Coleman who while held off the scoresheet was his usual disruptive self at times returning after a week off due to illness.

- Defensive zone turnovers/losing puck battles: Yep, those reared their ugly heads last night as Miami was losing puck battles and turning the puck over in their own zone. Sooner or later, we need to be taking the body rather than allowing players like Drake Caggiula to embarrass the team over and over. Caggiula is a player that had 19 goals in his first two seasons at UND. This isn’t Johnny Hockey and we continually make him look like he’s a top flight prospect.

All is not lost. But, Miami must begin to pick it up as we get closer to the new year. Thankfully, they’re in a good spot at 8-4 overall and 4-2 in the NCHC. But, as you may recall, it was at about this point last season that things went awry and the wheels fell off big time. Will they avoid some of the same mistakes that plagued last year’s team, or was last night a predictor of things to come?

Miami defeats North Dakota 3-2

In a battle of top 10 teams, the seventh ranked Miami RedHawks outlasted second ranked North Dakota in Grand Forks by a 3-2 score.

The RedHawks (8-3, 4-1 NCHC, t1st) were once again led by the tandem of junior forward Sean Kuraly (2-1-3) and junior net minder Jay Williams (21 saves) as Miami has now won three in a row for the second time this season. For Kuraly, it was his sixth game-winning goal. Miami has eight wins on the season. That’s a pretty amazing stat this early in the year. And, for Williams, it was his eighth win of the season as he pushed his record to 8-1 as Miami’s primary keeper of the crease so far this season. Michael Parks and Drake Caggiula scored for North Dakota (7-2-1, 2-1 NCHC, t4th).

This game featured a total of 20 penalties (12 by Miami) including game misconducts to UND’s Colten St. Clair and Miami’s Matthew Caito each for grasping the facemask during a first period scrum that was essentially started when Miami senior forward Blake Coleman was called for goaltender interference at 16:45.

The teams settled down after that and played hard throughout the remainder of the night.

Miami opened the scoring in the first period by striking quickly for two goals to take a 2-0 lead. Junior forward Alex Gacek scored at 3:09 after an offensive zone

UND’s Drake Caggiula (9) attempts to skate past Miami’s Taylor Richard (2). (photo: UND Sports)

face-off when he pounced on a puck in the corner and beat UND junior Zane McIntyre inside the post. Kuraly and Anthony Louis assisted on Gacek’s first goal of the season.

Sean Kuraly was involved again scoring his 8th goal of the season when he and Gacek executed a 2-on-1 to perfection while shorthanded. Gacek brough the puck up the left wing and moved the puck to Kuraly who easily beat McIntyre to give the RedHawks a 2-0 lead with 15:45 left in the first period.

North Dakota would get on the board late in the period, but Miami carried a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.

Striking quickly, UND’s Drake Caggiula tied the game shorthanded just 1:22 into the second period. But Kuraly would strike again for Miami on the power play at 6:50 when he was the recipient of a perfect bounce of the back wall following a point blast by freshman defenseman Scott Dornbrock and he quickly beat McIntyre who was recovering from the point shot.

In the third, Miami simply packed it in. I might say they packed it in a little early as the ice was tilted in UND’s favor. However, Miami blocked several good UND shots and though Jay Williams was credited with only five saves, it seemed that he was busier than that as North Dakota pushed for an equalizer they would not find.

In his postgame press conference, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi was pleased with his team’s overall effort on the night.

“We came to play tonight,” he said. “I thought we got a pretty good team effort from everyone. This was one of those games we knew would come down to the wire and our guys sacrificed their bodies all night, especially at the end, to get the job done.”

Miami was close to putting the game away late in the third.

With UND’s Zane McIntyre to the bench for the extra attacker, Miami did a good job of moving the puck quickly and getting clears. Junior Riley Barber and senior Austin Czarnik both had looks at the open net, but somehow UND got bodies in front of the net and kept the puck out.

UND’s Connor Gaarder (13) looks to make a play in front of Miami’s Ben Paulides (28), Jay Williams (1), Austin Czarnik (7) and Louie Belpedio (58) in Miami’s 3-2 win over North Dakota. (photo: Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)

“Our penalty kill did a good job of blocking shots tonight,” Blasi said. “Jay also made saves when we needed him to. Sean’s line got the bounces and took advantage, but this was a good team win from top to bottom. We had good performances from everyone tonight, but we know they are going to come out hard again tomorrow and we’ll have to be ready.”

The RedHawks will go for their first-ever sweep of North Dakota tonight at 8:07 PM. The game might be on Fox College Sports and will definitely be available via NCHC.tv. Greg Waddell will have the Miami call at Miami All-Access, 1490-AM WKBV and via the Tune In app on your smartphone.

Notes:

- UND saw the return of both sophomore defenseman Paul LaDue and senior Mark MacMillan to the lineup after playing games about their availability all week.

- Miami once again hit the 30 SOG mark firing away, especially during the first and second periods when they rang up 15 and 11, respectively. But, the four shots in the third period was an indicator of just how much control of the game UND seized as Miami held on for the victory.

- The RedHawks held UND to just 23 SOG after blocking a whopping 19 North Dakota shots. Can anyone say “hot tub?”

- With the win, Miami snapped UND’s 8-game unbeaten streak since dropping their opener 5-1 to Bemidji State.

- Miami snipers Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber were held off the scoresheet last night seeing a rare goose egg thrown at them by the UND defense. However, Barber led Miami with 5 SOG.

- Miami announced before Friday’s game that sophomore Trevor Hamilton has elected to leave the team and return to junior hockey. Not sure if that means USHL or if he’s going to try the CHL, but based on his play at Miami, I can’t believe the CHL would be interested. If the early lines were any indicator, he wasn’t likely to play much this season, but shortsightedness (e.g., get your damn education — unless there are other college aspirations) appears to have claimed another one.

#7 Miami at #2 North Dakota

After a week off due to #lifeandstuff, we’re back with a preview of this weekend’s huge NCHC series against North Dakota in Grand Forks.

In what is shaping up as one of the biggest series of the season thus far, #7 Miami (7-3, 3-1 NCHC) visits second ranked North Dakota (7-1-1 , 2-0 NCHC) hoping to avenge last season’s dismal sweep at the hands of Gang Green. As you may recall, that series in February featured a 9-2 UND romp a night after Miami dropped a close 3-2 decision at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The Series

Miami trails the all-time series against North Dakota by a 2-5-1 margin and has never won at “the Ralph.” However, Miami did pick up the program’s first two wins over UND by beating them once in Oxford and also in Minneapolis in the league tournament semifinal 3-0 last season going 2-3 against the green and white.

The Coach

In his 11th season behind the bench of his alma mater, UND head coach Dave Hakstol (260-133-40) has compiled

UND head coach Dave Hakstol has taken his program to six Frozen Four’s in his ten seasons at the helm of the 7-time national champions. (photo: UND Sports)

a resume that almost anyone would dream of. Hakstol has led UND to six Frozen Fours, has captured four WCHA Final Five playoff titles, two WCHA regular season championships and has taken UND to the NCAA tournament in each of his 10 previous seasons as head coach.

But…

When you’re the head coach of the 7-time national champions with the largest and most vocal fan base in the nation, and that program hasn’t won a national title since 2000, the natives can be a little harsh on you. Hakstol has endured cat calls demanding his firing in seemingly every season that I can remember simply because he hasn’t won the big one…yet. As a Miami fan, I think we can all relate having been so close to a national title in 2009 and then returning to the Frozen Four a year later only to experience even more disappointment. As successful as Enrico Blasi has been at Miami, he like Hakstol, has yet been unable to get his program over the hump. With that sort of success, however, I think Hak deserves a break even if he can be one of the most childish fellas you’ll see behind the bench of a collegiate sports program.

Interestingly, Blasi will be speaking alongside Hakstol at UND’s Fan Luncheon tomorrow at noon CST. I’ve always sensed good competitive tidings between the two men and I think anything each can do to further the growth of college hockey and the NCHC can only be a good thing. Plus, they’re two Canadian boys so there’s that.

The Team

After dropping its first game of the season at home to Bemidji State, North Dakota has run off an eight game unbeaten streak including a sweep of Wisconsin (0-6) last weekend in Madison. In addition to the Badgers, who are awful (as is the Big 6), UND has beaten the likes of Bemidji State, Air Force (who just lost to UAH) and Colorado College (twice – sweeping them just like Miami did last weekend). The only quality win UND has to date is a 6-1 thrashing of Providence in Grand Forks. Interestingly, the Friars came back the next night to tie UND so their schedule has been light at best so far in the season.

And for Miami, if there ever was a weekend to face UND, it might be this one as the injury bug has really struck Gang Green.

Already without standout sophomore blueliner Paul LaDue (3-5-8) who injured a leg last Friday and did not suit up for Saturday’s game against Wisconsin, UND will also be without the services of uber freshman Nick Schmaltz (1-7-8) who was named the NCHC rookie of the month for October.

UND will be without the services of highly touted freshman forward Nick Schmaltz indefinitely. (photo: UND Sports)

Adding to UND’s injury woes, Miami killer senior Mark MacMillan has been out of the lineup for the past four games but yesterday, UND beat reporter Brad Schlossman hinted that maybe MacMillian (5-2-7, 5 games) might be ready for Friday night’s game — and just in time if you’re a UND fan.

Aside from MacMillan and Schmaltz who were off to great starts, UND is led by elusive forwards, junior Drake Caggiula and senior Michael Parks, both 3-8-11 in 9 games. Gone are both Rocco Grimaldi and captain Dillon Simpson from last year’s Frozen Four squad while junior Jordan Schmaltz (1-4-5) leads the blueline taking over a leadership role for the green and white.

Overall, it’s a very deep and talented roster that Dave Hakstol has assembled. A glance at the roster shows this is not an overly big UND lineup, but most of the skaters hover around 6′ tall which will still be challenging for some of Miami’s smaller forwards like Anthony Louis, Alex Wideman and Cody Murphy. But, I think Miami matches up much better than last year with the additions of Andrew Schmit, Conor Lemirande and Scott Dornbrock. With those three plus Kevin Morris patrolling the ice, Miami should not go into the Ralph feeling intimidated one bit.

In net, UND returns junior Zane McIntyre (formerly Zane Gothberg) who has started right where he left off last year sporting a sterling 7-1-1 record with 1.94 GAA and .927 save percentage. But, Miami has gotten to McIntyre beating him in Oxford and also at the Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis. In fact, McIntyre’s GAA against the RedHawks is around 3.33 and he was rocked by the RedHawks early last year and again in the NCHC semifinals in March. That said, McIntyre is an outstanding goaltender and to beat him, Miami will have to continue to generate shots and quality chances from throughout the lineup as they have versus nearly every opponent so far this season.

The Prediction

These are two good teams. With UND’s injury situation, it’s hard to see them sweeping Miami, but if any team can dig deep and get it done on home ice, it would be the green and white. On the other hand, because of the injuries I really want to pick a Miami sweep. All that said, I’ll take a split with Miami picking up another NCHC road win.

Both games can be seen on NCHC.tv and Saturday’s game will be carried nationally on Fox College Sports. Greg Waddell will have the Miami audio call at Miami All-Access and he can also be heard via the Tune-in app on your smartphone. Twitter, smartphones and the interwebs have been godsends to college hockey.

Butthurt in Duluth

Miami’s Riley Barber (11) and Louie Belpedio (58) push for a RedHawk goal during last night’s 3-2 victory over UMD. (photo: UMD Athletics)

By the sound of things emanating from Duluth’s Amsoil Arena last night, the officiating was the only difference in Miami’s 3-2 victory over UMD.

Never mind the 38-28 shots advantage for the RedHawks. Disregard that power plays were relatively even – 8 chances for Miami, 6 for UMD. Forget the ridiculously lucky no-look, behind-the-back glove save on a sure goal from Miami’s relentless Cody Murphy. Deny the 5 of 6 penalty kills from the RedHawks defense. And, surely wipe Jay Williams’ 12 saves on 13 first period shots from your memory when Miami was struggling to find their legs.

Yeah, it was all officiating.

But, if you read the comments from the Bulldogs in this poorly written Duluth News Tribune article, well, that’s the only reason Miami was lucky enough to win.

Not a great showing from the home team, its empty rink, its television team

Apparently, the Bobcats of Ohio University were UMD's opponent in front of dozens of fans last night at Amsoil Arena.

Apparently, the Bobcats of Ohio University were UMD’s opponent in front of dozens of fans last night at Amsoil Arena.

and its beat reporter. But, that’s what Saturday’s are for and Duluth is 3-0 on Saturday nights this year. Of course, Miami is too, but that’s beside the point.

UMD will have an opportunity to show that it was all officiating. Miami will have a chance to a get a NCHC road series sweep. I don’t think I have to tell you that they didn’t do that all of last season.

The puck drops at Amsoil Arena at 8:07 PM EST.

Pass the popcorn. Enjoy the butthurt!

#10 Miami at #19 Minnesota-Duluth

#10 Miami takes on #19 UMD in a weekend NCHC conference series in Duluth.

Coming off last weekend’s disappointing home split with unranked St. Lawrence, Miami heads to Duluth, Minn. to face NCHC opponent, Minnesota-Duluth in a two-game conference series. Despite outshooting the Saints 95-27 on the weekend, they dropped Friday’s contest 5-4 and had to go overtime to earn a hard-fought 2-1 victory on Saturday night to salvage the split.

For Miami (4-2, 0-0 NCHC), the series constitutes their first foray into 2014-2015 league play and they will certainly be looking to better last season’s dismal 6-17-1-1 league record. Additionally, Miami will be eager to avenge last season’s 0-2 record against UMD who swept the RedHawks in two one-goal games in Oxford 5-4 and 1-0. Those two losses were indicative of Miami’s year as they went just 4-10 in one goal games. Just a little improvement in those games and last season might have looked quite different for the Red and White.

The Bulldogs (3-3, 1-1 NCHC) split their opening conference series of the season last weekend (by 1-3 and 6-1 scores) at home handing previously unbeaten Denver its first loss of the year on Saturday night.

The Series

Tonight will be just the fourth meeting all-time between the two schools with UMD holding a 2-1 edge in the tightly contested series – each of the previous three games has been decided by one goal. Of course, Miami has earned the biggest victory to date in 2009’s NCAA West Regional Final in Minneapolis, Minn. Miami fans remember that one fondly as the RedHawks punched their first-ever ticket to the Frozen Four.

The Coach

UMD headman Scott Sandelin is in his 15th season behind the Bulldogs bench. During that time, he has compiled an unremarkable 250-248-67 record, but has the one-thing Miami fans covet most, a national title. Since 2008, Sandelin’s Bulldogs have gone 128-88-30 winning the 2011 national title over Michigan in a memorable overtime affair. I have always thought of Sandelin as a tough-nosed coach who I wouldn’t mind leading my team should the need arise.

The Team

It’s no secret the Bulldogs are led by their stellar class of sophomores led by forwards Dominic Toninato (6-2-8) and Alex Iafallo (1-6-7) and 6’4” defenseman Carson Soucy (2-3-5). Along with Soucy, the Bulldogs run out 6’6” Brendan Kotyk (0-1-1) and 6’2” Andy Welinski (1-2-3) to form a large presence on the blueline. Last season, Miami struggled against the bigger teams of the NCHC. Given the Bulldogs size throughout the lineup, it’s likely the Crash Cousins — Conor Lemirande (6’6”) and Andrew Schmit (6’5”) along with center Kevin Morris (6’4”) — could be reunited on Miami’s fourth line to counterpunch.

The Bulldogs size up front will take a bit of a hit as they will be without senior captain Adam Krause (6’3”). While not much of a scoring threat, his leadership will be missed as he is expected to miss the next month with a broken wrist. Krause had just 20 points in parts of three seasons coming into this year but was off to a decent 1-2-3 start in the Bulldogs first six games. Again, given the Bulldogs size, it would not surprise me to see some combination of Colin Sullivan and Taylor Richart in the Miami lineup along with Trevor Hamilton and Ben Paulides this weekend in Duluth.

In net, the Bulldogs are led by freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo of Finland and junior Matt McNeely. Kaskisuo has played in four of UMD’s first six games and has compiled stellar 2.53/.911 numbers while McNeely has registered a 2.45/.896 line, respectively. Both goaltenders are big and athletic and will present a significant challenge to Miami this weekend.

The Prediction

Overall, I’m not yet loving what I’m seeing out of the RedHawks. They are working to find consistency in their own zone and are still turning the puck over with regularity. And, while they are second in the nation in shots on goal (40.5/game), those shots aren’t finding the back of the net with enough regularity. Miami is tied for 23rd in the country in scoring averaging an even 3 goals per game. Conversely, UMD leads the NCHC and is 8th in the nation in scoring averaging 3.83 goals per match.

However, UMD has been awful at home compiling just a 6-12-3 home record since the start of last season and is a pedestrian 34-29-7 all-time at Amsoil Arena.

If the Bulldogs weren’t so bad at home, I’d pick a UMD sweep. Considering that, I’ll opt for a weekend split.

#10 Miami vs. St. Lawrence

St. Lawrence freshman netminder Kyle Hayton is coming off a weekend that saw him stop 76 of 79 shots. (photo: Tara Freeman)

Fresh off last weekend’s sweep of then #17 Ohio State, Miami (3-1) returns to action this evening in the first of a weekend non-conference series with the Saints of St. Lawrence University.

The Saints (2-2) hail from the state of New York along with other members of the ECAC including RPI, whom Miami will face in January, and Cornell whom Miami could face in the Florida College Hockey Classic at the end of December. So, this is the first of a possible five games against ECAC competition that should help Miami prepare for a return to the NCAA tournament at the completion of the regular season.

The Series

All-time, Miami has faced St. Lawrence just 12 times and holds a slim 6-5-1 advantage in the series. However, the last meeting came in November of 2006 so really the all-time series numbers mean next to nothing except to note that Miami head coach Enrico Blasi has had success behind the bench piloting the RedHawks to a 4-3 road victory eight years ago.

The Coach

St. Lawrence head man Greg Carvel is an upstate New York native and played four seasons for the Saints in the early ‘90s. Carvel is in his third season behind the bench and has seen his share of tough times since replacing long time St. Lawrence coach, Joe Marsh, in the spring of 2012. The Saints finished a disappointing 8th in the competitive ECAC despite featuring a high-scoring offense led by “Hobey Baker Hat Tricker” Greg Carey who led the Saints with 18-39-57. Overall, Carvel is 35-37-8 at his alma mater and is desperately trying to jumpstart a program that has fallen behind the likes of Union, Colgate, Cornell and Quinnipiac as the lions of the ECAC.

The Team

The Saints enter the 2014-15 season with nine freshmen, including goaltender Kyle Hayton who recorded his first collegiate shutout last weekend as St. Lawrence split a series with then #4 Ferris State in Canton, N.Y. Hayton sports an impressive 2.49 GAA and .925 save percentage playing in the first four games for the Saints authoring two consecutive series splits.

Miami head coach Enrico Blasi says the Saints are an aggressive speedy team with a mobile defense corps that likes to apply constant pressure. He made a point in this week’s press conference to stress that Miami must have their heads right and be ready to compete in all three zones avoiding turnovers that could lead to transition chances for St. Lawrence.

Up front, the Saints lost four of their top five scorers including brothers Greg and Matt Carey (18-19-37) who tied atop the goal scoring list for St. Lawrence. In fact, the top returning scorer is sophomore defenseman Gavin Bayreuther (9-27-36) who has started fast leading the team in shots on goal (14) and already having contributed 2-2-4 in the first four matches of the year. Currently, sophomore forward Drew Smolcynski leads the Saints with 1-7-8 and another defenseman, Ben Masella is tied for second on the team in scoring having exactly matched Bayreuther’s.

Though the Saints are currently averaging four goals per game, they really are struggling to score because 10 of the season’s 16 goals came in a blowout win over lowly Niagara two weeks ago. In the three other games this year, the Saints are averaging just two goals per game potting only four in last weekend’s home split with Ferris State. Conversely, the Saints are allowing 3.3 goals per game and lost three starters along the blueline from last year’s squad that was one of the worst defensive clubs in the ECAC.

Newcomers to watch include Minnesota transfer Christian Horn who played in the USHL last season after seeing no game action with the Gophers in the 2012-13 season. Also keep an eye on Ryan Lough, who head coach Greg Carvel calls a “quick two-way player.”

The Saints were predicted to finish 11th in the 12 team ECAC.

The Prediction

If the Miami team that played last weekend shows up again, I think it will be a very good weekend for the RedHawks. I just don’t see St. Lawrence being able to score enough to keep up with Miami, and defensively, I expect the Saints to struggle against Miami’s size, tenacity and speed. I’ll pick a Miami sweep.

Both games will be streamed live on NCHC.tv and you can also catch Greg Waddell’s call at Miami All-Access. Tonight’s game gets underway at 7:35 PM and Saturday’s series finale will get things started at 8:05 PM.

Miami sweeps Ohio State

We’ll have more to say about the weekend that was, but here’s one of the coolest things from the weekend…the new silver alternate sweaters from adidas. Rachel Lewis gets the photo credit.

Miami is 1-0 in their new alternate adidas sweaters.

Miami is 1-0 in their new alternate adidas sweaters.

#11 Miami at/vs #17 Ohio State

This weekend, Miami faces duhOSU in another in-state rivalry renewed.

Yep, it’s red and gray time as Miami faces yet another in-state and former conference rival, Ohio State.

The Series

Miami has dominated the Buckeyes over the past several years owning an 8-2-1 record against them in the previous 11 contests. Overall, Miami leads the all-time series with the “little hockey sisters of the poor” from Cowtown by a 71-61-13 margin, but it obviously has always been relatively close as both programs were down for many years. It’s a great rivalry and is good for both programs for different reasons. I’m glad the two schools plan to continue playing each other on an annual basis.

The Coach

duhOSU head coach Steve Rohlik is in his second year behind the bench after the shocking dismissal of Mark Osiecki. I still contend that was a mistake, but Rohlik has provided a steadying hand as he attempts to solidify OSU as a perennial Big Six power along with Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. With the two losses to Miami last season, Rohlik is still looking for his first win against the RedHawks.

The Team

Last weekend, the Buckeyes split two overtime games at Cheap Furniture Arena against then #3 Providence winning Friday by a surprising 5-4 score and dropping the series finale by a more expected final score of 2-1. I say the Friday score was surprising because I thought it would take at least three games for duhOSU to score five goals, especially against a top five team like Providence.

But since last weekend, the Friars faced the U.S. U-18 squad in an exhibition tying the youngsters 3-3. So, two things there…first, that’s a pretty darn good U.S. U-18 team this year and maybe the Friars aren’t quite as good (right now) as anticipated. The Friars highly touted goaltender, Jon Gillies, currently sports a 2.89 GAA and .895 save percentage, which is hardly “Mike Richter Award Watch List” worthy. But, it’s early.

duhOSU returns several familiar names to Miami fans including seniors Tanner Fritz and Nick Oddo. Seriously, these guys have to be on the 8-year program. Of course we’re talking about duhOSU so that shouldn’t surprise.

Fritz led Ohio State with 11-26-37 in his sophomore season but trailed off a bit to 8-24-32 last year. Still, Fritz is a solid, if unspectacular, player for the Buckeyes and is off to a 2-2-4 start in their first two games.

Oddo had a bit of a breakout year last year with 9-21-30 after posting just 17 total points in his first two seasons with the red and gray.

duhOSU did lose two big offensive contributors in Ryan Dzingel (22-24-46) and Max McCormick (11-24-35) who both left Cowtown with college eligibility remaining to sign pro deals. Dzingel may have more upside, but I have to question the advice these two received. Neither really strike me as immediate impact kind of NHL prospect meaning you’re way better off getting a degree and moving on a year later.

Returning in net for duhOSU is Christian Frey (9-4-3, 2.27 GAA, .929 save percentage), who joined the Buckeyes in an emergency at mid-season after all hell broke loose in the crease. Ohio State burned through several goaltenders losing some to departure and others to injury. Paula Weston has a bit on this here. However, Frey solidified the Buckeyes problems in net and it was after his arrival that the team played a bit better. Actually, if not for a 3rd period collapse against Wisconsin in the inaugural Big Six Championship Game, they would have made the NCAA tournament. Instead, OSU surrendered the final three goals in a 5-4 OT loss to the Badgers. But before that loss, Ohio State defeated Michigan State and Minnesota at the Xcel Center so they did show some promise in that late season tournament run.

But, that was last year.

Overall, Ohio State finished the 2013-14 season 18-14-5, good enough for fourth in the Big Six. The Buckeyes had the 14th ranked offense in the nation averaging 3.19 goals per game, but were tied for 28th nationally in defense, giving up an average of 2.70 per contest.

Defensively, the Buckeyes are a veteran group likely to pose a significant challenge for Miami’s corps of talented forwards. But again, they’re filled with solid, but unspectacular, contributors throughout their lineup. Miami is more talented, but that doesn’t always mean wins as we learned weekly a year ago.

The Prediction

Last year, Miami swept OSU in impressive fashion winning by 6-2 and 6-3 scores as they opened the season strong. However, this looks like another split weekend with each team winning on it’s home ice, but you never know. Cheap Furniture Arena should be filled with Miami fans tonight, but I’ll still say split until I have a better read on whether or not Miami can fix the continued defensive issues that are plaguing the team.

Both games face-off at 7:05 PM with tonight’s game at Cheap Furniture Arena in Columbus and tomorrow’s at the beautiful hockey-only facility known better as Steve Cady Arena at the Goggin Ice Center.

Catch all the action at MURedHawks.com. An All-Access broadcast will also be available for both contests. Saturday’s matchup will also be streamed on NCHC.tv.

Miami vs BG – Week in review

This weekend, Miami split a home and home series with BGSU, with each team winning on their own home ice. Before we head to Columbus to face the Suckeyes, here’s a quick recap of the weekend that was.

Check out the Friday night highlights from BGSU…

…And the NCHC.tv highlights of Miami’s Sunday night win.

http://www.nchc.tv/embed?id=3077569

Here is Coach Blasi’s post-game presser from Sunday as well.

Size

Miami looks huge. Maybe it’s the new uniforms, or perhaps the small size of BG. From what I saw, the new RedHawks add a whole lot of size and they’ll be able to compete physically with everyone this season. We covered the size in our season preview, but the addition of Colin Sullivan (6’1″), Scott Dornbrock (6’3″), Andrew Schmit (6’5″) and Conor Lemirande (6’6″) was evident already. Sullivan and Schmit played in 1 game, while Dornbrock and Lemirande played in both contests this weekend.

Injuries/Games Missed

Matt Caito was out on Friday night. This could be a classic “Blasi benching” for an undisclosed discipline issue or an injury. It was the first game Caito missed in his 3 seasons in the Red and White (81 starts in 82 games). He promptly had 2 assists on Sunday afternoon, so I’m guessing he is healthy and will play the rest of the way.

Ryan McKay started both games on the weekend, but early in the Sunday night game, McKay was slammed into for the third time on the weekend and did not return to action. Jay Williams finished up and got the win on Sunday night. McKay was back on the bench by the start of the third period, so the injury may have been minor. We’ll know quickly how McKay is feeling coming up this weekend.

Miami was also without Jimmy Mullin – a constant for the RedHawks in his first 3 years in Oxford. As we mentioned in the season preview, he will be out for the season with injury and will redshirt so he can play again next season.

NCHC Players of the Week

It didn’t take long for Freshman Louie Bepledio to make some noise. He garnered the first NCHC Rookie of the Week honor. Louie scroed his first collegiate goal on Sunday night. In an eerie spin, Sophomore Trevor Hamilton won the first ever NCHC Rookie of the Week award last season. Let’s hope the season doesn’t end the way it ended last year.

Taking a look at the Bauer NCHC Player of the Week Nominees, Sean Kuraly (2 goals and an assist), Matt Caito (2 assists) and Jay Williams (1 win and 23 saves) all garnered some attention for the weekly honors.

You can also see the top 5 goals of the week from the high-quality NCHC.tv. If you haven’t already subscribed, I highly recommend doing so. You won’t get Friday night’s away game, but every NCHC contest will be broadcast live via NCHC.tv.

Enjoy your hump day and we’ll see you again soon as we will soon preview another Home and Home series with THE Ohio State University this Friday and Saturday.

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