Monthly Archives: January 2010

>Game #28 – Miami v. Western Michigan

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#1 RedHawks sweep Western Michigan, extend conference lead to 10 points

Oxford, Ohio (Jan. 30) – The #1 Miami RedHawks finished off a weekend sweep of Western Michigan by defeating the Broncos 2-1 at Steve Cady Arena Saturday night. Bronco senior netminder Riley Gill nearly stole at least a point by stopping 47 Miami shots but a late powerplay goal from junior Andy Miele with just over four minutes remaining in the third period enabled Miami to emerge unscathed.

Sophomore Connor Knapp was relatively untested as the RedHawk defense corps once again bottled up the opposition. Knapp made just 15 saves in registering his fifth win of the season lowering his goals-against average to 1.86.

Miami improves to 18-4-6 overall and 15-4-4-2 CCHA opening a 10-point lead over second place Michigan State in the league standings. In addition, with Robert Morris’ win over Bemidji State, Miami has regained the top spot in the Pairwise rankings to themselves but Denver is closing fast in the nice to look at, but essentially meaningless, KRACH computer rankings with their weekend sweep of North Dakota.

In attempting to predict when Miami could possibly seal the CCHA regular season title, the math is a bit “fuzzy,” but here’s what we know.

Miami cannot technically clinch until at least the Bowling Green series on February 12-13 unless Ferris State is swept this weekend and Michigan State loses one. Here are the games remaining and the maximum possible league points for the current top four.

Miami – 8 games remaining – 75 max points (currently at 51 points)
Ferris State – 8 games remaining – 63 max points
Michigan State – 6 games remaining – 59 max points
Alaska – 6 games remaining – 59 max points

To get to 63 points, and close out everyone else, Miami needs four wins (remember, CCHA regulation wins are worth three points). But, the number assumes that Ferris and MSU win every night. If Miami sweeps Lake Superior State this weekend, Ferris is swept by Northern Michigan and MSU splits, Miami would clinch the regular season title this weekend at Steve Cady Arena in Oxford, Ohio.

Miami is back in action this Friday and Saturday, February 5-6 vs. Lake Superior State in Oxford.

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>Game #27 – Miami v. Western Michigan

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#1 Miami held serve at home Friday night with the RedHawks knocking off CCHA basement dweller, Western Michigan 4-1. Four different Hawks scored goals for Miami while Cody Reichard delivered another outstanding performance in net making 18 saves as Miami dominated the shots on goal category outshooting Western 43-19. Miami retains its 7 point lead in the CCHA standings as Michigan State defeated Michigan 3-2.

Defensemen Cameron Schilling and Chris Wideman staked the Hawks to a 2-0 lead before Western’s Luke Witkowski would capitalize on a powerplay to pull the Broncos to within one early in the second period. However, Miami would receive goals from Reilly Smith and Carter Camper to ice the game.

Miami and Western Michigan return to the ice at 5pm this evening. The game will be televised on FSN Detroit as part of it’s doubleheader coverage of “Hockey Day in Michigan.” Miami head coach Enrico Blasi and the RedHawk program were followed yesterday by an FSN camera crew and they will be featured on “CCHA All-Access” on FSN Detroit immediately following the game. The late game will feature Michigan State and Michigan from Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Mich.

>Miami Musings

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Carter Camper was buzzing last weekend in frigid Alaska

Here are some mid-week thoughts on the #1 ranked Miami RedHawks.

Pairwise Rankings
It’s hard to believe, but Miami has just five series remaining in the regular season meaning it’s time to start paying real attention to the rankings. Right now, Miami is tied with Denver atop the Pairwise with the slight advantage in RPI to the RedHawks. Pairwise Rankings

There are four regions in the 2010 NCAA Tournament which culminates with the Frozen Four at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan on April 8 and 10. This year’s four regional sites are St. Paul, Minn., Ft. Wayne, Ind., Wooster, Mass. and Albany, N.Y. Obviously, the Ft. Wayne regional would be the closest in terms of travel for Miami and that would probably be where the RedHawks are sent as long as the host school, Notre Dame, does not get into the tournament as a #4 seed. Because the host school must be sent to their regional regardless of seed, it could interfere with first-round matchups. That is, teams from the same conference cannot play each other in the first round. The problem could occur if Miami earns a #1 seed whereby the tournament selection committee sends the top seeds to the closest regional to help boost attendance. Accordingly, Miami could not go to Ft. Wayne as a #1 if Notre Dame squeaks in as a #4. Currently, Notre Dame is just 22nd in the Pairwise, but we don’t know exactly where the cutoff line will be in selecting the 16 teams meaning we do not know how high Notre Dame would have to finish in the Pairwise to get in, assuming the Irish do not win the CCHA’s auto-bid by winning the conference tournament. Something else to consider are potential upsets that effectively “steal” at-large bids. For instance, Bemidji State will get into the tournament as an at-large team should they not win the final CHA tourney, so the Irish will be rooting for the Beavers so as not to lose one of the 10 at-large bids. The same can be said for other likely tournament locks like Denver, Wisconsin and probables such as St. Cloud State and New Hampshire. The Irish want as few upsets by teams like Boston University or Minnesota – teams that are currently behind the Irish in the Pairwise to increase their chances of getting in.

While it doesn’t seem likely as of now that the Irish get into the Tournament, things will change over the next several weeks. As of now, Miami is on pace to get a the #1 seed in Ft. Wayne as long as they are not matched with the Irish. So, while it would be good for the CCHA to get Notre Dame into the dance, I’d probably like the Irish to stay home to ensure that Miami would play in Ft. Wayne, and have a great shot at a big crowd.

The Polls
Miami regained their perch atop all three college hockey polls this week as voters for INCH, USCHO and USA Today all ranked Miami as the #1 team in the nation following their tie and win at Alaska coupled with Denver’s tie and loss at Wisconsin. Speaking of Wisconsin, they are the new #2 team and are playing as well as anyone in the nation. The Badgers check in at #3 in the Pairwise rankings.

Teams Under Consideration (TUC)
As I wrote on Sunday, Miami has played 26 games this year with 18 coming against current TUC’s. The RedHawks are 11-2-5 against current TUC’s, but keep in mind this will ebb and flow as teams move in and out of the Top 25. Here’s a look at the teams that Miami has faced, record against and current Pairwise rank.

Bemidji State – Rank: tied for 3rd – Result: (0-1)
St. Cloud State – Rank: tied for 5th – Result (2-0)
New Hampshire – Rank: 7 – Result (1-0-1)
Ferris State – Rank: tied for 8th – Result (2-0-2)
North Dakota – Rank: tied for 10th – Result (0-0-1)
Michigan State – Rank: 13 – Result (1-1)
Michigan – Rank: tied for 17th – Result (2-0)
Alaska – Rank: 20 – Result: (1-0-1)
Notre Dame – Rank: tied for 22nd – Result: (2-0)

At present, Miami has just one series remaining against current TUC’s and that comes up in two weeks against Lake Superior State in Oxford. To demonstrate how these rankings can change, Norrthern Michigan fell out of the Top 25, a team that Miami is 2-0 against meaning it bodes well for the RedHawks if they can get back in by the end of the season. According to the KRACH rankings, a sophisticated computer model, Miami has played the 8th most difficult schedule in the nation.

Jeff Jackson
Am I the only one that’s tired of Jackson’s whining? The Notre Dame coach has complained incessantly about the injuries, specifically concussions, his team has sustained throughout the normal course of the season. Naturally, these injuries are to no fault of his squad, but rather, completely caused by the opposition. Clearly, a concussion is a serious injury and no one wants to see young men encounter brain injuries that might threaten the rest of their normal lives, but at some point, there is a common denominator.

Jackson first started on the “it’s not fair” warpath following the early December series with Miami when he essentially suggested the RedHawks were head hunting. Jackson said he thought several hits from Miami players were “high, dirty hits” that delivered concussions to both Eric Ringel and Ian Cole. In fact, Jackson said the injuries were “…direct results from high hits that weren’t called.” By the way, Jeff, if you’re going to allow Kyle Palmieri and other Irish players to run Cody Reichard at least three times (Reichard even got so tired of it, he drew a retaliation penalty), then you have to expect some retribution for those actions. No one wants to see someone injured, but Notre Dame has to stand up and take some responsibility for the situation.

Of course suggesting there were illegal hits that “weren’t called” immediately weakens his argument. Looking back at the Friday box score, I recall that Tommy Wingels was given a five-minute major penalty for checking from behind on a hit where the Notre Dame player looked over his shoulder, clearly saw Wingels coming, and turned his back to the Miami captain just before impact. That is, the Irish player could have prevented the hit, but instead chose to place himself in a vulnerable position. This is important to consider because I firmly believe we are teaching many of our young players to use their body to shield the puck from the opponent, but in doing so are, at times, placing the player in jeopardy. Further, there was a Notre Dame player who later checked a RedHawk from behind that was only assessed a two-minute minor, and frankly, that hit looked much more dangerous.

So, now we move in to the realm of judgment. And, that’s really a big part of this. The player about to deliver the big hit, has just microseconds to decide how and where to strike the opponent. The player being hit has to decide whether to turn into, or away from, the attacking player. And, the ref, coaches and fans must debate whether the hit was clean or not. It’s extremely subjective, but I fear Coach Jackson is looking at this issue through “Irish-colored glasses.”

At least Jackson’s rant against Miami was relatively short-lived because while he then complained about losing defensemen and having to play some sort of “torpedo” formation against Michigan, the Irish would lose additional players to injury in the coming weeks.

For instance, in the Ferris State series a couple weekends ago, the Irish lost Billy Maday (concussion, shoulder) and Teddy Ruth to injuries due to what Jackson termed “blatant head blows” and that the hit to Ruth “could have been life-threatening.”

Step away from the ledge, Jeff.

And, in last weekend’s series against Lake Superior State, all hell broke loose with the Lakers losing players to hits and the Irish losing more players to injury. This time Ian Cole was knocked out of the game with, apparently, another concussion leading Jackson to go off yet again.

“That’s the seventh concussion for our team this year, and I’m starting to get really tired of the high hits and checks from behind. It might come across as whining since we’re not having a great season, but it’s having a direct impact on my players’ futures and their lives.”

“We have someone like Eric Ringel, who is still dealing with post-concussion syndrome and I don’t know if he’ll ever play hockey again. If we don’t do something soon about these things in all levels of hockey, something bad is going to happen. But for one team to have seven concussions in a season, it’s outrageous.” USCHO

Again, Jeff, step off the ledge. Unless you’re a doctor, you shouldn’t make giant leaps about a player’s future when you clearly don’t have enough information for such a claim. Frankly, I”m sure that’s the last thing Ringel wants to hear. Jackson has created such a stir that USCHO.com’s CCHA beat writer, Paula Weston, took up the topic in her article prior to last weekend’s games. Her argument doesn’t make much sense, but that’s a typical result of reading her column.

At the end of the day there is a common denominator here – Notre Dame – but this whole thing is so subjective. Is it something that Jackson is teaching or not teaching his guys about playing along the boards? Are they turning away from attacking players (as is my firm belief about the Wingels hit in December) and exposing themselves to injury? Is there something endemic in the make-up of the Irish roster the preconditions them to injury? If it were me, I’d be careful if I were coach Jackson. To make such far-reaching accusations, about roughly half the league now, just sounds like sour grapes. Make your point about the need to address head shots and concussions and move on. Is it about the health of your players or the fact that Notre Dame has, at times, struggled this season?

Defense Wins Championships
Miami leads the nation in team defense allowing just 1.69 goals per game (44 goals in 26 games) which includes two games in which they allowed five goals a piece to New Hampshire and North Dakota. Remove those and the number is just 1.41 goals allowed per game over the other 24 games.

In conference play, Miami has only surrendered 1.17 goals per game (21 goals in 18 games played) and has already set a team record for shutouts in a single season with seven in the first 26 games. CCHA.com

Cody Reichard has four of those shutouts which ties the single-season record held by David Burleigh and Connor Knapp has the other three including Saturday’s 5-0 whitewashing of the Alaska Nanooks in Fairbanks.

While the goaltending has been superb, I would be remiss without mentioning the defense corps solid play. With the size that Miami has on the blueline, they make it tough on opposing forwards that, generally, are in the range of 5’8″ to 6’0″ in college, with exceptions of course. Consider:

– Miami allows just over 23 shots-against per game

– The RedHawks have blocked 327 shots this year or more than 12 per game

– Spinell (6’1″), Schilling (6’2″), Hartman (6’4″) and Weber (6’4″) make quite an intimidating lot back there and LoVerde isn’t afraid to throw the body or block shots (in fact, he leads the team in blocked shots this season)

This unit has been fabulous all season, and if they can stay healthy, will really help keep the pressure off Reichard and Knapp throughout the rest of the year.

>Game #26 – Miami v. Alaska

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Knapp earns third shutout of the season as Miami blanks Alaska 5-0


Fairbanks, Alaska (Jan. 23) – #2 Miami earned five points on their longest road trip of the year defeating the Alaska Nanooks 5-0 in Fairbanks, Alaska last night. Sophomore Connor Knapp stopped all 19 shots in registering his third shutout of the season. It was Knapp’s first game action since a 2-1 loss to Robert Morris on January 10 where he made just 13 saves. His goals-against average is now a sparkling 1.95 with a 91.8 save percentage as he improved his record to 4-2-3 on the year.

This weekend saw the reunion of last year’s top line of juniors Carter Camper and Tommy Wingels and sophomore Alden Hirschfeld that was so good throughout the NCAA tournament. And, they didn’t disappoint managing five points between them for the weekend. It was also nice to see Hirschfeld pick up his game as he seemed much more involved and active than I can remember seeing over the past several weeks. In addition, Trent Vogelhuber seems to have picked up some of that energy as he was also much more visible, working much harder than I have seem him. It’s good to have those two sophomores helping contribute to take some of the scoring pressure off senior Jarod Palmer and the juniors (e.g., Camper, Pat Cannone, Andy Miele, Wingels, etc.).

The RedHawks jumped to an early 1-0 lead at 6:42 of the opening period when freshman Reilly Smith redirected a Tommy Wingels shot past Nanook goaltender Scott Greenham. The goal was scored 6×5 during a delayed penalty as Miami was able to control the puck in the offensive zone and find a quality chance. Miami would tally just six minutes later when sophomore Matt Tomassoni found the net off a chance on the right side. Tomassoni took a pass from senior Brandon Smith and wristed a high, hard shot that appeared to hit Greenham’s right shoulder and bounce up and over the sophomore. The RedHawks would complete their highest scoring first period of the season when Palmer scored off a feed from Andy Miele that chased Greenham from the net at 14:50 of the first period.

Steve Thompson would enter the game and keep the Nanooks in it, but Miami would finish off the evening on third-period goals from Wingels and Brandon Smith to secure a five-point weekend and an enjoyable flight back to Ohio for the Red and White.

Head coach Enrico Blasi succinctly summarized his thoughts on the 5-0 victory.

“It was a good effort by all of our guys tonight,” Head Coach Enrico Blasi said. “Connor played well (in) net and we came in with a determined effort. It was nice to get the win.” muredhawks.com

Notes

  • Knapp’s shutout was the third of the season and his fifth in just 33 career games. He has already surpassed last year’s two shutouts which was his first season at Miami.
  • Wingels’ goal was his team-leading 13th of the season. He is just two goals off his career high of 15 that came during his freshman campaign in Oxford.
  • Miami’s fourth line of Brandon Smith, Justin Vaive and Matt Tomassoni includes a fifth-year senior (Smith), the 6’6″ son of an NHL legend (Vaive) and a defenseman (Tomassoni). The line combined for 2-2-4 on the evening.
  • Miami (16-4-6, 13-1-4-2 1st CCHA) has opened a seven point lead over second place Michigan State with two games in-hand. The RedHawks ran their league unbeaten streak to 16 games.
  • Miami is once again atop the Pairwise and KRACH rankings and are positioning themselves for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament should their good play continue.
  • One of the key components of the Pairwise Rankings that effectively determine the 16-team NCAA Tournament, is record against Teams Under Consideration (TUC’s). The top 25 teams in the Pairwise are ranked and defined as “under consideration.” Miami has played 26 games this season with 18 of them coming against TUC’s. They are 12-2-4 in those games having played the 7th most difficult schedule in the nation and have achieved the 2nd best winning percentage in the country. However, only Miami’s series with Lake Superior State is against another TUC for the remainder of the regular season meaning it will help Miami’s Pairwise if the top teams they have already played, and beaten, such as Ferris State, Michigan, Notre Dame, New Hampshire and St. Cloud State continue to win.
  • Miami returns home for the next two weekends starting with a two-game series against the CCHA’s last place team, Western Michigan January 29-30 followed by what is shaping up to be a big series against fourth place Lake Superior State. The Lakers are having a surprisingly nice season and are in line for a first round bye in the CCHA playoffs.
  • After two weeks on the road, Miami will not leave the state of Ohio until at least the CCHA championship weekend in Detroit in late March.
  • Ohio State’s victory over Michigan State coupled with Miami’s win in Fairbanks enabled the RedHawks to open a seven-point spread over the second place Spartans in the CCHA. It’s roughly a 2 1/2 game lead since CCHA league wins are worth 3 points each.

Other Games of Interest
#8 Ferris State 3, Michigan 2 – Ferris earns the split in the second half of the home-and-home from Ewigleben Ice Arena in Big Rapids, Mich.

#3 Wisconsin 4, #1 Denver 3 – The Badgers take 3 of 4 points from the Pioneers in Madison opening the door for #2 Miami to return to the top of the polls this week.

#14 Bemidji State 5, #4 Minnesota-Duluth 4 – The Beavers of the CHA sweep the first place team in the WCHA. The sweep effectively silences the noise-makers from that western conference whom as we know, can do no wrong…for a few minutes at least.

>Game #25 – Miami v. Alaska

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RedHawks and Nanooks battle to 1-1 tie in frigid Fairbanks
Fairbanks, Alaska (Jan. 22) – In what was a bit of a sloppy game, #2 Miami overcame a one-goal first period deficit to secure a 1-1 tie with the Alaska Nanooks on Friday night in Fairbanks, Alaska. The RedHawks would earn an extra point in the CCHA standings by winning the shootout 1-0 as sophomore Cody Reichard stopped all three Alaska shooters and senior Jared Palmer’s slick backhand beat Nanook netminder Scott Greenham on Miami’s first attempt.

After roughly 20 hours of travel for the RedHawks, Alaska would find the net first with just 28 seconds remaining in the first period as defenseman Aaron Gens scored a powerplay goal. Gens received a blind, backhanded pass from Dion Knelsen through the slot to convert a diving redirection that just slipped under Reichard’s glove as he moved from his right to his left in an attempt to make the save. Miami managed just four shots on goal in the first period as they struggled to regain their legs.

Miami would tie the score just 2:52 into the second period also via the powerplay as junior Pat Cannone scored his seventh goal of the season assisted by classmates Carter Camper and Tommy Wingels.


From a puck possession and territorial standpoint, Miami dominated the second and third periods but was unable to register many quality scoring chances, and when they did, Greenham was there for Alaska. On the night, Miami sent just 24 shots on net while holding the Nanooks to only 21. It was a typical defensive effort for two teams ranked in the top 20 nationally in team defense.

Tonight, Miami returns to the Carlson Center to face the Nanooks for the final time in the regular season and will benefit from Andy Miele’s return to the lineup after a one-game absence. Faceoff is 11pm EST from Fairbanks.

Notes

  • With the shootout win, Miami extended its CCHA unbeaten streak to 15 games
  • Freshmen Steve Mason and Devin Mantha benefited by Miele’s absence as both cracked the lineup and played well
  • Freshman Curtis McKenzie was stopped on a breakaway opportunity in the third period by Greenham who made several big saves to keep his team in it
  • Miami is now 15-4-6 overall, 12-1-4-2 CCHA. They are four points ahead of second place Michigan State with two games at hand on the Spartans who defeated Ohio State 5-2 picking up a point on the RedHawks in the CCHA standings.

Other Games of Interest

  • #1 Denver at #3 Wisconsin – In the marquee matchup of the weekend, #1 Denver and #3 Wisconsin skated to a 3-3 tie in Madison. The Pioneers led 2-0 early in the third only to surrender three consecutive Badger goals to trail 3-2 late. Anthony Maini would tally with just 1:56 remaining to send the game to overtime where it ended 3-3.
  • #8 Ferris State at Michigan – After dropping a pair of games last weekend vs. #2 Miami, Ferris State headed to Ann Arbor for the first of a home-and-home. However, the suddenly surging Wolverines sent the Bulldogs back to Big Rapids with their second shutout loss in the past three games as Michigan won 2-0. The teams will complete the series tonight in Big Rapids, Mich. Ferris State is suddenly eight points behind Miami after entering last weekend’s series tied with the RedHawks for first place in the CCHA.
  • #9 Cornell 1, #5 North Dakota 0 – The Big Red mustered just 15 shots but came away with the victory at Lynah Ice Arena in Ithaca, N.Y. This was a big win for Cornell who is continually dismissed by writers and fans of the WCHA for being unworthy of their top 10 ranking.
  • #12 St. Cloud State 4, Minnesota 3 – The Huskies get the win to continue their ascent up the Pairwise and WCHA standings.
  • #14 Bemidji State 4, #4 Minnesota-Duluth 1 – The Beavers got back on track defeating the Bulldogs in their final meeting in Bemidji’s John Glas Fieldhouse before joining the WCHA as a full-time member in the new $44 million Bemidji Regional Events Center next year. The Beavers are fourth in the current Pairwise rankings which would earn them a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament if the season ended today.

>Miami v. Alaska – January 22-23, 2010

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Tommy Wingels and the #2 RedHawks travel to Alaska to take on the Nanooks

It’s going to be a quick preview this week as I’ve been cavorting in Fabulous Las Vegas for the past several days. Thankfully, I’m still on Pacific time as the #2 Miami RedHawks take on the Alaska Nanooks at 11PM EST from frigid Fairbanks where it’s minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s going to be a late weekend of hockey.

Last week the RedHawks (15-4-5, 12-1-3-1 1st CCHA) rebounded from a pair of losses to Robert Morris by sweeping then #6 Ferris State in Big Rapids, Mich. where the Bulldogs were 11-0 this season. After Friday’s 4-0 whitewash, Miami opened up a 5-2 lead early in the third period and held off a late Ferris State rally winning 5-4. However, in doing so, the RedHawks will be without fourth-leading scorer, junior Andy Miele (8-13-21, +11), who was assessed a game disqualification penalty for kicking during a scrum in front of the Ferris net on Saturday. The penalty carries an automatic one game suspension meaning Miele will make the trip to the Land of the Midnight Sun for just one game. Miele has played in 83 consecutive matches for the Red and White.

Alaska (10-7-5, 7-7-4-4 5th CCHA) enters the series coming off a two-point weekend against the Michigan Wolverines where they were blanked 6-0 on Friday, but managed a shootout win on Saturday at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich. Upfront, the Nanooks are led by freshman Andy Taranto (9-15-24) and senior Dion Knelsen (11-9-20) and backstopped by sophomore Scott Greenham (10-7-5, 2.43, .911). Last season, the Nanooks surprised many by finishing in fourth place during the regular season earning a first-round playoff bye. They then dispatched the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second round earning a trip to Joe Louis Arena where they were defeated by Notre Dame and Northern Michigan. Second year coach Dallas Ferguson has instilled a defense-first approach and the two teams split a series in Oxford last year.

Notes

  • Miami leads the all-time series 31-13-4 including 14-7-2 in Fairbanks
  • Miami leads 5-4-1 over the past 10 meetings
  • The series wraps up a four game road swing for the RedHawks
  • Saturday’s game will be the last game outside the state of Ohio for the RedHawks until, likely, the CCHA Championship semifinal in Detroit, should they advance that far
  • Alaska is 4-0 in shootouts this season

Tomorrow, we’ll have recaps of Miami/Alaska and an overview of other action including #1 Denver and #3 Wisconsin from Madison.

>Games 23 & 24 – Miami v. Ferris State

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#2 Miami sweeps #6 Ferris State, regains command in CCHA

Big Rapids, Mich. – What a difference a week makes.

Stripped of their #1 national ranking and coming off two non-conference losses to lowly Robert Morris University where their offense generated just two goals, the #2 Miami RedHawks took to the road to take on #6 Ferris State in a battle of the top two teams in the CCHA. Both squads entered the weekend with 34 league points and the Bulldogs brought a 12-game league unbeaten streak and a perfect 11-0 record at Ewigleben Ice Arena to the table.

On Friday, Miami rode the excellent goaltending of sophomore Cody Reichard in posting a 4-0 victory. With the win, Reichard improved his record to 11-2-2 in registering his fourth shutout of the season stopping all 23 Bulldog shots. The shutout tied Reichard with David Burleigh for the most in a single season in Miami history in just 16 games.

Seniors Jarod Palmer and Brandon Smith and junior Andy Miele and sophomore Trent Vogelhuber (CBJ draft pick) scored for Miami as they received scoring from throughout the lineup and dominated the play from start to finish.

Saturday’s game started slowly as the first period ended with a scoreless tie. However, in the second period, Miami would trail 2-1 before erupting for three-straight goals to take a 4-2 lead into the third. Miami would score first in the third period and lead 5-2 before allowing a late powerplay goal and extra-attacker goal to make the score much closer than the RedHawks would have preferred. It was the first time this season that Cody Reichard allowed more than three goals in a game as he made his first back-to-back starts in more than two months. Still, you have to be concerned about Miami’s inability to kill late game, extra-attacker situations. This really hasn’t improved since last season’s debacle in the national title game.

With the victory, Miami (15-4-5, 12-1-3-1 CCHA) leads now second place Michigan State (15-7-4, 10-4-4-1) by five points and Ferris State (16-6-2, 10-4-2-2) by six points (remember, CCHA regular season victories are worth 3 points) in taking the season series 2-0-2 against the Bulldogs. Miami has two games in-hand over the Spartans in the race for the CCHA regular season championship. Miami received two goals from junior captain Tommy Wingels (San Jose draft pick) and single goals from Jarod Palmer, sophomore defenseman Chris Wideman (Ottawa draft pick) and sophomore Alden Hirschfeld in scoring five goals for the first time in the past five games.

Though Cody Reichard allowed a season’s-high four goals in Saturday’s game, his stats remain spectacular. In 17 games, Reichard is 12-2-2 with four shutouts, a 1.54 goals-against average and a save percentage of 93.2. In conference games, Reichard is 10-0-1 with a 1.18 goals-against average with a save percentage of 95.0. He is a legitimate Hobey Baker Award candidate, and if he continues his pace, will easily shatter most of the Miami single-season records for goaltending excellence.

Next week, Miami makes its longest road trip of the year with a trek to the land of the Midnight Sun, from where you can purportedly see Russia from your house, Alaska. In fact, the RedHawks will be playing the University of Alaska in Fairbanks which is actually north of North Pole, Alaska and just 125 miles south of the Arctic Circle. The Nanooks will enter the weekend in fifth place in the CCHA with an overall record of 10-7-5 and a league mark of 7-7-4-4. Alaska picked up two points in Ann Arbor this weekend losing 6-0 on Friday before bouncing back with a shootout win on Saturday, which was technically a 3-3 tie with the Wolverines. Interestingly, the Nanooks have won all four league shootouts in which they have participated this season.

Here’s a quick look at the rest of the Top 10 and how they fared this weekend.

#1 Denver – off
#3 Wisconsin – split at #8 Colorado College
#4 North Dakota – tied and lost at unranked Minnesota – The Gophers appear to be pulling it together with the help of Bowling Green transfer, and Ohio native, Jacob Cepis who has provided instant offense with four goals and five points in his first six games. The Gophers are now 7-1-1 in their past nine games.
#5 Yale – beat Brown 8-5
#7 Michigan State – lost and won shootout over unranked Notre Dame who is also beginning to show signs of life
#9 Cornell – tied St. Lawrence 1-1
#10 Minnesota-Duluth – Swept Minnesota State moving into first place in the WCHA with Denver’s bye week.

>Miami vs. Robert Morris – January 8 and 10

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The RedHawks return to action facing off against Robert Morris University this Friday and Sunday in a home-and-home series


Well, it might not be the sexiest matchup, but the #1 Miami RedHawks finally return to the ice on Friday night for the first time since finishing off a sweep of Ohio State on December 12 in Oxford. The RedHawks will particpate in the 2010 Pittsburgh College Hockey Showcase facing Robert Morris University of College Hockey America. The day of hockey will feature the RMU women’s team against UConn at 2pm followed by RMU club hockey at 5pm against Penn State while the nation’s number one ranked team will face the varsity Colonials at 8pm from Mellon Arena in downtown Pittsburgh. The teams will complete the back end of the home-and-home on Sunday at 4pm from Steve Cady Arena in Oxford. Sunday’s game will be televised across the great state of Ohio on ONN.

RedHawk Rundown
The last time we saw the Miami RedHawks, they were finishing the back end of a home-and-home with Ohio State sweeping the Buckeyes 6-0 and 4-2. Currently, Miami is riding a five-game unbeaten streak that includes CCHA league series sweeps against Ohio State and Notre Dame, and a tie against current #5 North Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D.

The RedHawks enter the weekend perched atop all three major polls (USCHO, USA Today, INCH), are ranked first in the KRACH ratings (a sophisticated computer model) and first in the Pairwise rankings that simulate the NCAA’s RPI ratings that largely determine the participants in the NCAA Tournament. To suggest the first half of the season was successful would be an understatement.

But, that brings us to the subject of the second half of the season which has become known by some as the “Rico Swoon” in honor of head coach Enrico Blasi’s less than overwhelming second half coaching record. In particular, the first ten games after the winter holiday break have been the most difficult for even the best Miami teams over the years.

Here’s a look at Miami’s record in the first ten games after the winter break/the start of the second half of each season since 1999-2000*.

99-00: 4-5-1
00-01: 6-4
01-02: 3-6-1
02-03: 3-6-1
03-04: 7-2-1 (NCAA Tournament)
04-05: 5-4-1
05-06: 6-3-1 (CCHA Regular Season Champions, NCAA Tournament)
06-07: 3-4-3 (NCAA Regional Finalist)
07-08: 7-2-1 (NCAA Regional Finalist)
08-09: 4-5-1 (NCAA Finalist)

* source: http://muredhawkshockey.blogspot.com

So, since 1999-2000, Miami is an average 48-41-11 in the first ten games of the second half of the season. As it is, Miami is currently 13-2-5 and atop the CCHA standings. Last year, Miami started fast at 12-3-3, but underperformed during January and early February effectively eliminating themselves from the CCHA regular season title chase falling well off the pace that was being set by Notre Dame. And, the first two games of last year were in the now defunct Ohio Hockey Classic with Miami losing to Clarkson of the ECAC and Army of Atlantic Hockey. These were games that Miami was heavily favored to win.

This year’s opponent to kick off the second half, Robert Morris University, enters Friday’s game a dismal 3-12-3 in the final season of College Hockey America (the Colonials will join Atlantic Hockey beginning next season). Amazingly, RMU is in second place in the CHA with a league record of 1-4-2 though they are a distant second as Bemidji State is 8-0 in conference play. Furthermore, the Colonials score just 2.67 goals per game while allowing an average of 4.06 goals per game meaning their defense and goaltending simply aren’t getting the job done for them. Conversely, Miami leads the nation in team defense having allowed just 34 goals in 20 games (1.70 goals-against average). But, if you take away two games where they allowed five goals to New Hampshire and North Dakota, Miami has allowed just 24 goals, or an average of 1.33 goals per game in the other 18 contests. That, my friends, is team defense.

Sophomore goaltender Cody Reichard leads the nation in goals-against average at 1.34, he is second in save percentage at 93.8 and is tied for second in shutouts (3) and should get the start for Miami on Friday night. Sophomore Connor Knapp (2.18, .913) is no slouch either and will likely play Sunday in Oxford.

Offensively, the Colonials are led upfront by juniors Nathan Longpre (8-13-21) and Chris Kushneriuk (9-11-20) while junior Denny Urban anchors a porous defense corps posting 5-7-12 in 18 games.

Miami continues to be paced offensively by the stellar junior class led by Andy Miele (7-12-19) and captain Tommy Wingels (10-8-18) while sophomore Cameron Schilling leads the defensemen in scoring with 1-9-10. While no Miami skaters appear in the nation’s top 40 scorers, Miami is evenly balanced across four lines with seven players having recorded ten or more points in the season’s first twenty games. It will be a challenge for Robert Morris to defend Miami for 60 minutes.

While the stats and records all point to a Miami sweep, the Rico Swoon cannot be overlooked. Will Miami return from a month-long break as focused as the team that ended the decade with three shutouts in their last four games. Or, will they struggle to regain the momentum that’s often lost in visits home for Christmas dinner and gifts?

Parting Shot
The Colonials are the second team Miami has faced from the CHA this season with the other coming against current #10 Bemidji State in a rematch of last year’s national semifinal that was won 4-1 by Miami in Washington. The Beavers handed Miami their only loss in regulation by a 3-2 score and gained a measure of revenge against the RedHawks over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Fearless Predictions
Miami has appeared on a mission from the outset of the season. But, with road trips to #11 Ferris State and Alaska looming over the next two weekends, the RedHawks must take advantage of these two games against a seemingly weaker opponent to get the second half off to a good start. Accordingly, Miami cannot afford to come out flat, and yet, they cannot look ahead to the showdown with Ferris State next weekend.

Enrico Blasi has had his men focused all year and I think that continues against Robert Morris.

Friday (Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh)
Miami 4
Robert Morris 0

Sunday (Steve Cady Arena, Oxford)
Miami 5
Robert Morris 1