Monthly Archives: February 2010

>CCHA First Round Playoff Matchups Set

>As the final weekend of the regular season winds down, here is a look at the first round CCHA playoff matchups. For those who aren’t familiar, the top four teams in the standings receive a first-round bye. After the preliminary series’ are complete, teams are re-seeded with the lowest seed hitting the road and taking on the number one seed.

First, the final CCHA standings:

1. MIAMI (70 points)
2. Michigan State (50 pts)
3. Ferris State (49 pts)
4. Northern Michigan (48 pts)
5. Alaska (45 pts)
6. Nebraska-Omaha (44 pts)
7. Michigan (43 pts)
8. Ohio State (40 pts)
9. Notre Dame (36 pts)
10. Lake Superior (35 pts)
11. Bowling Green (23 pts)
12. Western Michigan (21 pts)
Now, the matchups:
#12 Western Michigan at #5 Alaska
– This will be a tough series for a very bad Western Michigan team. Coach Jim Culhane has already been “axed” for next season and the Broncos have to make the 3, 640 mile trek to the Last Frontier. In the two meetings earlier this season, WMU notched a win and a tie (but lost in a shootout). Western has only one a first-round series twice in Culhane’s 12 years. Look for Alaska to pick up an easy 2-0 series win and move on.
#11 Bowling Green at #6 Nebraska-Omaha
– The UNO Mavericks will be looking to put a stamp on their final season in the CCHA by winning the Mason Cup, as first year head coach Dean Blais and his program will be jumping ship to the WCHA in the fall. All signs point to a second round matchup for UNO, given the fact that Bowling Green has been awful all season. Mavericks advance, 2-0.
#10 Lake Superior at #7 Michigan
– Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor is always a tough barn to play in and the Wolverines soundly defeated the Soo Lakers twice this season. Michigan has had a season, best considered atypical by all standards, but as the saying goes, “Coach ’em up,” and Red Berenson knows how to do just that. Watch the Maize & Blue in the post-season, they could get hot. This blogger takes the Wolverines over the Lakers in three games.
#9 Notre Dame at #8 Ohio State
– This will be an interesting matchup to watch. Notre Dame, projected to win the CCHA regular season, finds itself playing the first round, as opposed to watching. Injuries have riddled the Irish this season and the program had several bad losses down the home stretch to Western Michigan Bowling Green. The Buckeyes, with the second best powerplay in the CCHA, are still waiting for their breakout season and have taken the “two steps forward, one step back” approach this year. This one could go either way, but I think the “home ice advantage” plays big here. Ohio State wins the series in three games.
Fire away. How do you see this weekend shaking out?
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>Friday Roundup/Weekend Preview – Feb 26 & 27

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Last year’s Miami seniors went out with a bang

NOTE: OK, so epic fail on my part for not getting this finished yesterday, but here it is today with updated playoff implications.

Oxford, Ohio (Feb. 26) – With 106 wins, a CCHA regular season title, a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament and an appearance in the NCAA title game in the bag, LAST season’s Miami seniors were the most decorated of any class in school history. However, THIS season’s senior class, including Jarod Palmer, Gary Steffes, Brandon Smith and Dane Hetland have an opportunity to surpass those accomplishments. Consider they already have a second CCHA regular season title to their credit, they possess the CCHA’s top tournament seeding, another #1 NCAA tournament seed is a possibility as is the opportunity to capture the school’s first-ever Mason Cup, awarded to the winner of the CCHA tournament, and perhaps, a second Frozen Four appearance. Additionally, this senior class’ win total of 104 makes them the second winningest in school history. And, with (likely) at least five games remaining, they have an opportunity to leave Oxford as the school’s most successful class ever. Incidentally, NEXT year’s senior class which has driven much of the success of the past two years is already at 80 wins meaning they too will have an opportunity to rewrite the Miami hockey record books and could complete their time at Miami with an unprecedented four players in the career 100-point club.

With the first-round of the CCHA tournament starting next weekend, this is the last weekend of regular season play and, aside from the top spot, the league is tightly packed from second through tenth place. In fact, first-round byes and first-round home ice slots are still up for grabs.

Here’s a quick rundown of the weekend’s action.

Miami v. Ohio State
Miami’s 4-2 loss last Saturday vs. UNO saw the RedHawks 23-game league unbeaten streak end as well as its school record 11 game overall unbeaten streak. With the loss and Denver’s sweep of WCHA bottom-feeder Michigan Tech, the pollsters saw fit to move the Pioneers ahead of Miami in all three media polls. While Miami will continue to play for the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, the Buckeyes are clinging to the final first round home ice playoff spot which they possess by three points over ninth place Lake Superior. Should the Lakers sweep the Wildcats, they could easily pass Ohio State should they struggle this weekend against the RedHawks.

Update: Miami scored SIX second period goals to overwhelm the Buckeyes 6-2 on senior night. Six different RedHawks scored goals including a goal and an assist for senior Jarod Palmer in his final regular season game at Steve Cady Arena. Sophomore Cody Reichard made 33 saves to improve to 17-2-3 on the season. The teams will conclude the regular season tonight at 8pm from Value City Arena where Ohio State will need at least a point to assure themselves of having home ice next weekend when the CCHA playoffs begin. The Buckeyes got a break when Northern Michigan defeated Lake Superior in OT meaning the Lakers are still three points behind Ohio State for the final home ice slot. But, should the Buckeyes lose and the Lakers win tonight, Lake Superior will take the tiebreaker and host Ohio State next weekend.

Ferris State v. Western Michigan
The Bulldogs find themselves in a tie for second place with Michigan State in the league standings and face a difficult challenge in last place Western Michigan. Last week, the Broncos announced that head coach Jim Culhane would not return to the WMU bench next season meaning you can undoubtedly expect them to play hard for Culhane during final weekend as head coach. With a second place finish, Ferris State would have its highest league finish since winning the CCHA regular season title in 2002-03.

Update: Ferris State secured a first round playoff bye with a shootout victory over the Broncos. It was the fourth shootout win for Ferris State this season. The Bulldogs are currently 14th in the Pairwise rankings that largely determine the NCAA tournament field,

Michigan State v. Bowling Green
Like Ferris State, the Spartans have an opportunity to lock up the #2 seed in the CCHA tournament which would enable them to avoid a matchup with Miami until the CCHA Championship game in Detroit. While MSU won’t see a big boost in the Pairwise this weekend, their NCAA hopes are hanging by a thread so two wins this weekend are an absolute must.

Update: Michigan State secured a first round bye and moved into sole possession of second place with a 5-2 win over Bowling Green. MSU is currently tied for 11th in the Pairwise rankings.

Northern Michigan v. Lake Superior State
The aforementioned Lakers are hoping they can sneak into eighth place in the league and steal the final first round home ice playoff spot from Ohio State. However, NMU has an opportunity still to claim a first round bye so this series between the two “U-P” rivals takes on additional importance this weekend.

Update: NMU can clinch the fourth and final first round playoff bye with two points tonight against Lake Superior. The Wildcats defeated the Lakers 2-1 in OT last night.

Michigan v. Notre Dame
These two teams played Thursday with Michigan earning a 4-0 win at Yost Ice Arena. Junior goaltender Bryan Hogan left the game with an apparent groin injury early in the first period, but seldom-used junior Shawn Hunwick picked up the slack and carried the Wolverines to the shutout.

Update: After Friday’s games, Michigan sits in seventh place in the CCHA just two points behind Northern Michigan for the final first round bye. If Michigan defeats Notre Dame in South Bend tonight and NMU takes one point or less against Lake Superior, Michigan will earn the fourth position.

UNO and Alaska

Both teams will play non-conference series against Bemidji State and Alaska-Anchorage, respectively. UNO can enhance their NCAA tournament resume with a sweep of the Beavers while Alaska can continue to affirm their place in the top 16 of the Pairwise.

Update: Bemidji State defeated UNO 3-1 and Alaska defeated archrival Alaska-Anchorage 7-4 last night. Currently, UNO sits 20th in the Pairwise and out of the NCAA tournament field of 16. Alaska is currently tied for 11th.

>Game #33 – Miami v. Nebraska-Omaha

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Justin Vaive and the RedHawks have been punishing teams of late

Oxford, Ohio (Feb. 19) – Junior forward Justin Vaive scored his fourth goal of the season and senior Jarod Palmer, the CCHA’s reigning offensive player of the week, continued his hot streak by registering three points as #1 Miami defeated Nebraska-Omaha 6-2 at Steve Cady Arena.

After a shaky first period that saw Miami trade chances with the Mavericks, the RedHawk defense took over the game. Led by sophomores Will Weber and Cameron Schilling, Miami limited UNO to just 10 shots during the final two periods of the game after surrendering an uncharacteristic 11 in the first period. In fact, Miami allowed two first period goals which broke a streak of 13 unanswered first period goals by the RedHawks who had not allowed a goal in the first period of a game since a 1-1 tie at Alaska on January 22.

Dean Blais professes “race horse hockey.” And, he had his Mavericks running in the first period. But, Miami made the necessary adjustments and got back to locking down the neutral zone, and frankly, kept UNO out of the Miami zone for much of the second and third periods. The ice definitely seemed tilted after that first period that saw Cody Reichard allow an uncharacteristic goal when UNO sophomore forward Alex Hudson fired a wrister past Reichard on a 1-on-1 rush and Hudson also had the second Maverick goal on a 5×3 power play. After the game, Blais seemed to sum up the night’s effort succinctly.

“The better team won,” said UNO coach Dean Blais. “We just got outplayed, and we got what we deserved.” Omaha.com

More to the point, Blais felt his squad ran out of juice as Miami squeezed the Mavs during the last two periods.

“I didn’t think we battled as hard as we have been — it was almost like we ran out of emotion,” Blais said. Omaha.com

For the game, Miami outshot the Mavericks 45-21 as the RedHawks once again got balanced scoring as six Hawks scored goals. Jarod Palmer led the effort with a line of 1-2-3 for the night and now has an eight game scoring streak and leads the team with 15-23-38. The 38 points are a career best for the senior from Fridley, Minn.

With the win, Miami improves to 23-4-6 overall and 20-1-4-2 CCHA. They extended their CCHA unbeaten streak to 23 games and continue to play inspired hockey despite having clinched the regular season title last weekend.

Head coach Enrico Blasi agreed.

“This team is focused on just one day at a time,” Blasi said. “You go out there and play hard and you leave it all on the ice. It’s going to be really hard if you take some weeks off and try to turn it on again. You gotta keep the pressure on and keep working hard and they’re doing that.” MURedHawks.com

Tonight, Miami will attempt to sweep the Mavericks and continue trending toward a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Faceoff is 7:05 from Steve Cady Arena and the game can be seen across the great state of Ohio on ONN.

>Game #32 – Miami v. Bowling Green

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Miami crushes Bowling Green 10-2

Bowling Green, Ohio (Feb. 13) – Two Saturday nights in a row, the Miami RedHawks have participated in a game that featured over 100 combined penalty minutes. And, two Saturday nights in a row, Miami put up 10 goals on an overmatched opponent.

In an ugly game in all senses of the word, the Miami RedHawks completely overwhelmed the smaller, slower and much more poorly attired Bowling Green Falcons 10-2. In doing so, Miami notched yet another series sweep as nine RedHawks had multiple point games including two-goal nights for freshman Reilly Smith and senior Brandon Smith, plus four helpers for junior Andy Miele. Miele’s assist on sophomore defenseman Chris Wideman’s shorthanded goal in the second period was the second of two spin-o-rama’s on the play with senior Jarod Palmer also showing off the nifty feet and hands. Palmer carried the puck into the BG zone to the right of goaltender Nick Eno, spun and left the puck for Miele who spun drawing two defenders to him. Miele dropped the puck to Wideman who walked down the slot and fired a wrister past Eno. At that point, it was 6-1 Miami late in the second period.

While the action had been chippy but controlled to that point, things would get out of hand following Wideman’s goal.

When a BG player ran Miami sophomore goaltender Connor Knapp at full speed with 37 seconds remaining in the second period, both teams, including Knapp, would meet behind the Miami net. The ensuing melee saw helmets, sticks, gloves and sweaters litter the ice as two Falcons and Miami’s Alden Hirschfeld (from nearby Sylvania, Ohio) were shown the gate. As the officials sorted it out, they ultimately awarded Miami a bizarre 7 minute powerplay that would carry into the final period. The total tally for the incident was a whopping 67 penalty minutes and freshman defender Joe Hartman would notch a powerplay goal early in the third to keep Miami rolling.

As if things weren’t bizarre enough, at 8:57 of the third period, following another minor dust-up, head coach Enrico Blasi was shown the gate. Blasi took his time walking along the boards toward the BG student section and band waving to the crowd as he exited. And, with one final parting shot, turned and executed a flawless bow to referees Brian Hall and Dean Sanborn. The Romanian judge awarded him a 9.0. To say the scene was surreal might not describe it enough. As an aside, I do think it was a bit classless of Rico, however, he’s sending a message to the league and to his team that he has their back no matter what. As a player, I couldn’t ask for more from my head coach.

A kneeing major assessed to BG’s Robert Shea at 11:09 was the “perfect” ending to an ugly display by the Falcons in all facets of their game. They are now 4-22-4 on the season.

Next week, the RedHawks play host to Dean Blais and Nebraska-Omaha at Steve Cady Arena. The Mavericks are fresh off a sweep of Michigan and have ascended all the way to fourth in the CCHA with an overall record of 16-12-6.

Notes

  • Miami prevailed 3-2 on Friday
  • With the victory, Miami improves to 22-4-6 overall and 19-1-4-2 CCHA.
  • The RedHawks have an astounding 20 point lead over both Ferris State and Michigan State who are tied for second in the conference. That’s like leading the standings by roughly seven games.
  • Miami now has a season’s best seven game winning streak and is unbeaten in 22 consecutive CCHA contests.
  • Miami has put up 25 goals over the past two weekends while allowing just eight.

>CCHA Regular Season Champions!

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Miami seals third CCHA regular season title in school history with
3-2 win over Bowling Green


Bowling Green, Ohio (Feb. 12) – One of the most difficult weeks the Miami Brotherhood has ever endured ended with a silver lining as the RedHawks clinched the third CCHA regular season championship in school history by defeating the Bowling Green Falcons 3-2.

As you know by now, Miami student manager Brendan Burke died suddenly last Friday when his vehicle collided with an oncoming truck on a snowy road in rural Indiana. Burke’s story has been well-documented, and on Tuesday, the RedHawks attended his funeral in Massachusetts and have almost certainly been grieving since learning the unfortunate news after last Friday’s 2-0 win over Lake Superior.

To suggest the Miami hockey team has been through a tumultuous year on and off the ice would be an understatement. Between the high of earning their first Frozen Four appearance last March to losing a close friend last week, the team has been through the ringer. Consider:

  • March 2009 – Miami defeats UMD 2-1 to win the NCAA West Regional and a berth in the Frozen Four
  • April 2009 – BU defeats Miami 4-3 in overtime rallying from a two goal deficit with less than a minute to play to steal the national title from the RedHawks
  • October 2009 – Miami is predicted to finish as high as third in the CCHA pre-season polls
  • January 2010 – Miami drops its first two games after the holiday break to lowly Robert Morris to fall from the top spot in the polls for the first time since October
  • February 2010 – Miami has been ranked number one in the polls for 15 of the season’s 17 weeks; Brendan Burke dies suddenly; Miami clinches the regular season title

With all that’s happened, this group of remarkable young men have managed to maintain their focus, poise and composure, and continue to play outstanding hockey. With tonight’s victory, Miami runs its school record league unbeaten streak to an amazing 21 games. They have lost just one conference game this season, in overtime, back on October 24 to Michigan State. The RedHawks are now 21-4-6 overall and 18-1-4-2 in CCHA play. Even more astounding is that Miami has yet one more game in-hand over second place MSU who is off this weekend. The RedHawks have an almost unbelievable 17 point spread over the Spartans and still have five games remaining before a first round bye in the CCHA tournament.

Ultimately, this Miami team will be remembered for a remarkable regular season. But, history will judge them by what they do in March, and hopefully, April. Will their amazing run continue? Or will they falter during the playoffs? With what they have accomplished during the season, there is absolutely no reason why the RedHawks shouldn’t win their first ever CCHA Tournament Championship and hoist the Mason Cup at Joe Louis Arena in just over a month. But, to do so, will require this team to dig deep once again and find the strength, courage and resiliency they’ve shown over the past year.

>RIP Brendan Burke

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Tragedy strikes “The Brotherhood”

Oxford, Ohio (Feb. 9) – As reported earlier, Miami student hockey manager, Brendan Burke, son of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, died Friday afternoon when the 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee he was driving slid into an oncoming truck. The 21-year old Burke and another man, 18-year old Mark Reedy, were killed at the scene. Brendan’s much publicized story of coming out was broken by John Buccigross of espn.com back in late November making the news of his death all the more ironic.

Today, the entire Miami RedHawks team traveled to Brendan’s funeral in Canton, Mass. where they were joined by members of hockey’s elite including most, if not all, current members of the Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, former NHL’ers Mark Messier and Brendan Shanahan and current NHL GM’s and coaches Pat Quinn, Darryl Sutter, John Tortorella, Peter Chiarelli and Glen Sather, among others.

Wearing their red away Miami sweaters freshly adorned with a black shamrock and the letters “BB,” the team comprised 25 of over 600 people who came to support the entire Burke family in their time of need and pay their respects to a remarkable young man. Head coach Enrico Blasi served as one of the pall bearers.

Brendan was a 4.0 student at Miami who would have graduated this spring. Before the accident occurred, he was returning from a visit to Michigan State University Law School where he was considering applying upon completing his work in Oxford. It’s clear by the outpouring of support that Brendan would have gone on to greatness. He will be missed.

Here are links to a very detailed story from the Toronto Star and one by the Toronto Sun which has several moving photographs.

>Brendan Burke Killed In Auto Accident

>Sad news late tonight from the Toronto Maple Leafs organization that Brendan Burke, son of Leafs’ General Manager Brian Burke, was killed in an auto accident earlier today. As most of you know, Brendan was a part of ‘The Brotherhood,” working with the Miami hockey program as a student manager. Burke gained notoriety earlier this year when ESPN’s John Buccigross wrote this article publicizing Brendan’s revelation that he- was gay. The article goes into detail about just how accepting the Program was of his situation and how “The Brotherhood” accepted him as one of their own.

Regardless of your point of view on such a lifestyle, please keep the Burke family in your thoughts. The elder Burke, Brian, will also serve as the GM of Team USA Hockey in the upcoming winter Olympics.
This is undoubtedly a tough night for everyone involved with Miami hockey after a 2-0 win over Lake Superior State on Friday night.
More to come.

>Miami v. Lake Superior – February 5-6, 2010

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Miami hosts Lake Superior with a chance to clinch regular season title

Oxford, Ohio (Feb. 5) – This weekend, #1 Miami (18-4-6, 15-1-4-2 CCHA) hosts the three-time NCAA champions, the Lake Superior State Lakers (14-9-5, 9-8-3-2 CCHA) at Steve Cady Arena. The RedHawks have an outside chance of clinching the CCHA regular season title this weekend should the cards fall in the right place.

The Lakers of the iconic logo and sweet uniforms have been somewhat of a surprise this year as they enter tonight’s game in fifth place in the CCHA, just two points behind fourth place Michigan with one game in hand. The Wolverines leap-frogged the Lakers last night on the strength of a 2-1 road victory over Bowling Green.

Founded in 1946 in Sault Sainte Marie, Mich., Lake Superior State is a small school of just 3,000 students. However, they have found success on the largest stage having won three national titles in 1988, 1992 and 1994 narrowly missing the three-peat when they lost to Paul Kariya and Maine. Only nine other schools have won as many as three national titles, eight of which consist of the largest names in college hockey, and in some cases, all of collegiate sports.

Last season, Miami swept the Lakers in the Soo 2-1 and 4-0 en route to the national title game. And, Miami has won four straight and seven of the last nine but those two Laker wins were huge because they knocked the RedHawks out of the 2007 CCHA tournament sweeping two games in Oxford. Overall, the Lakers own a 54-32-10 advantage in the all-time series which was absolutely dominated by Lake State in the 80s and early 90s when Miami’s program was still gathering steam.

Offensively, the Lakers are led by junior forwards Rick Schofield (13-10-23) and Will Acton (7-13-20) who along with senior Zac MacVoy are the only Lakers with at least 20 points. But, like Miami the scoring is spread out with ten Lakers having compiled at least ten points this year.

In net, junior Brian Mahoney-Wilson has logged the vast majority of minutes and features a record of 12-8-5, a 2.63 GAA and 91.5 save percentage. Unlike last season when he and senior Pat Inglis split time, Mahoney-Wilson has been head coach Jim Roque’s guy and something he felt was necessary to give the team the best chance to win.

“I think, if anything, it has been more of my fault in not settling on one guy,” Roque said. “It’s always tough when you keep changing stuff. This summer, I said no matter what, I was going to make a decision and stick with it.” INCH

This will be an interesting series. The Lakers are coming off a bye week, one in which they endured more of Jeff Jackson’s ranting, and are desperately fighting for a top four league finish and an important first round bye in the CCHA playoffs. On the other hand, Miami is in the midst of an 18-game CCHA unbeaten streak and leads the standings by ten points over second place Michigan State. Will the RedHawks continue to match the intensity of their opponents? Can the Lakers keep up their solid, but surprising play against the nation’s number one team? And, Miami has an outside chance of wrapping up the regular season title this weekend should Ferris State be swept by Northern Michigan and if MSU splits its series at Alaska.

Notes:

  • Lake State will be without leading scorer Rick Schofield for tonight’s game due to incurring a major penalty and game disqualification 11 seconds into the Jan. 23 game against Notre Dame.
  • Miami sophomore defenseman Cameron Schilling missed last Saturday’s game against Western Michigan. It is unclear if Schilling was injured or scratched and what impact that may have on this weekend’s series.
  • Faceoff tonight is at 7:35pm; tomorrow at 7:05pm. Both games can be seen around the great state of Ohio on ONN.