Knapp, RedHawks stop Irish
Connor Knapp made 31 saves and Miami received goals from freshmen Blake Coleman and Tyler Biggs and junior Reilly Smith as the RedHawks defeated Notre Dame 3-0.
Blake Coleman opened the scoring at 2:08 of the first period and that was all senior netminder Connor Knapp would need as he cruised to his third shutout of the season and the 11th of his outstanding Miami career. He is just one behind classmate Cody Reichard and underloved David Burleigh for the school’s career record of 12 shutouts. If it were up to me, Knapp would be in net again tomorrow as Miami goes for the series sweep.
In giving Miami a 1-0 lead, Coleman ensured the RedHawks would improve upon their superb record when scoring first. Miami is now 15-5-1 when scoring first this year.
Coleman took the puck off the half boards on the left wing and skated toward the UND net wristing a quick shot on Notre Dame junior netminder Mike Johnson who was far too deep in his net hugging the near post. Coleman picked his spot and hit it with deadly accuracy as Johnson never had a chance given how he was playing the shot. It was another example of poor goaltending that, along with an inability to find the opposing net, has hindered this talented, but underachieving, Irish squad.
In actuality, the Irish outshot Miami 31-16 on the evening, but it certainly didn’t feel that way as, quite frankly, I was never concerned that Notre Dame could dent the net. If they had 31 shots, then they were the quietest 31 shots I’ve seen in a long time.
As we noted in the preview, Miami had to control Notre Dame’s top line including sophomores T.J. Tynan and Anders Lee. And, the Miami defense, led by Chris Wideman and Will Weber did just that as head coach, and newly minted man, Enrico Blasi utilized the last change to match his top defensive pairing against the Irish top line all night.
And, as we said in the preview, goaltending was a major factor in tonight’s game as Miami got it from Knapp while the Irish suffered through yet another substandard performance from Mike Johnson who made just 13 saves on 15 shots (Biggs’ goal was an empty-netter as Miami put the Irish away) for another ugly loss where his save percentage was just .867. That’s simply not good enough in college hockey of today.
For Miami and Connor Knapp, it was another dominating defensive performance as the RedHawks appear to be finding their defensive legs just in time as the season winds down. Knapp lowered his goals against average to 1.69 and improved his save percentage to .931 in earning his 10th win of the season. Knapp’s GAA and save percentage are career highs while his win total is just short of the 13 games he won in his freshman season when Miami reached the NCAA title game.
Junior forward Reilly Smith would add his league leading 22nd goal of the season in the second period when he gobbled up a rebound of a Ben Paulides shot off a rush. Smith made a nifty play taking the puck from his skate to his backhand to beat Johnson who was still recovering from Paulides’ wrister. Biggs picked up the other assist on the play giving him two points on the evening as he would add an empty netter late in the third period as the Irish pulled Johnson during the waning moments of a powerplay that went for naught.
– Both teams finished just 0-for-2 on the power play
– Miami head coach Enrico Blasi earned his 200th career CCHA victory, becoming the ninth coach in history to win 200 CCHA games
– Miami found itself shorthanded just twice tonight as they did what they had to to stay out of the box and play a disciplined game against a very questionable opponent in terms of tactics. I actually thought CCHA officials Keith Sergott and Barry Pochmara called a great game as they let the players decide the outcome in this important weekend matchup.
– The RedHawks are now 9-1-2 against Notre Dame in the last 12 contests head-to-head and go for the series sweep tomorrow night at 7:05PM EST at Steve Cady Arena
– With a few games yet to final tonight, the victory has propelled Miami into a tie for 11th in the PairWise rankings strangely enough with Michigan State due to Alaska falling out of TUC status with a loss to the Spartans. Miami could use some help from the Space Bears as they take on the Spartans again tomorrow night. Speaking of the Space Bears…enjoy.