Weekend Preview: Miami tries for first playoff win against Michigan State

Your Miami RedHawks take the ice tonight in search of their first-ever win against Michigan State outside of the regular season. The defending Mason Cup Champions have never beaten Michigan State in the CCHA playoffs (they’ve never met in the NCAA tournament). Miami is 0-9 against MSU, but Michigan State has never visited Oxford in these rounds either, so tonight’s contest looks to be a jumping off point for the RedHawks in the best-of-three series. State has played Miami in the quarterfinal round in 1985 and 2000, having swept both series in East Lansing.

Earlier this season, the ‘Hawks headed to East Lansing to face the Spartans and came out with 2 victories. The first came on a Jimmy Mullin overtime goal to lift the RedHawks to a 2-1 victory on January 6th. On the next night, Connor Knapp got his unbelievable 2012 kicked off, notching his first of 4 shutouts of the calendar year. On that weekend, Bryon Paulazzo, Cameron Schilling, Chris Wideman, Blake Coleman and Alden Hirschfeld all tallied at least 2 points, Miami had 6 different goal scorers in the 2-game sweep, and in total, 12 RedHawks made the scoring sheets.

Oxford is again the host of a second-round CCHA playoff series, as Miami is the only CCHA school that can claim that honor. After a rough trip to face Michigan, the Hawks have swept Alabama-Huntsville, Notre Dame and Ohio State to jump from 9th in the CCHA standings up to their 4th place finish. Since the CCHA changed to the current playoff format, Miami is 4-2 in this round of the playoffs, having faced 6 different teams in that span. Michigan State makes the 7 team in 7 years to play in Oxford in the playoffs, where Miami is 9-5 in those 6 series.

Leading the RedHawks as he has done all season is Junior Reilly Smith, who looks to continue his current scoring streaks of 4 games with a goal and 6 games with at least one point. Smith is coming off of a career-high 4 point game at Ohio State on 2/25/12, leads the CCHA and is second in the country in goals scored with 26, has just been named the CCHA All-Conference First Team, and was named Inside College Hockey (INCH) CCHA Player of the Year. From INCH’s CCHA beat writer James Dowd:

Last year’s [INCH] breakthrough player of the year becomes INCH’s CCHA Player of the Year. Miami’s Reilly Smith carried a young team on his back, notching 26 goals on the season—second nationally behind only fellow Dallas draft pick Austin Smith of Colgate. After a strong 2010-11 season, one had to wonder whether Smith’s success hinged primarily on the playmaking wizardry of 2011 Hobey Baker Award winner Andy Miele, but Smith proved this year he’s a pure goal scorer even without the likes of Miele and Carter Camper surrounding him. The Redhawks looked lost at times this year, but Smith kept putting the puck in the net, buying time for his young teammates to mature.

In addition to the above accolades, for some pre-game reading enjoyment, take a gander at John Lachmann’s article at wcpo.com which chronicles Smith’s outstanding Miami career to date.

We would expect to see Connor Knapp in net tonight, as he is coming off of one of the best statistical seasons by any Miami goaltender in history. Knapp has had 4 shutouts in 2012, and has posted some unbelievable stats this season. His .939 save percentage is second best in the nation (Chris Noonan of Niagara is just ahead at .941), and his 1.53 goals against average is tops in the NCAA (Troy Grosenick from Union is 2nd at 1.64 GAA). The Buffalo Sabres draft pick has also finished first in CCHA conference play with a gnarly .945 save percentage and a 1.41 GAA and he even tallied an assist on the season. He, Cody Reichard and David Burleigh (’03) are all tied at 12 career goose-eggs, and will be looking to break the Miami shutout record this weekend. Despite having those impeccable numbers, Knapp was only voted to Honorable Mention in the CCHA awards, finishing behind First-Teamer Taylor Nelson of Ferris State and the baby goalie Shawn Hunwick of Michigan, who made the Second Team.

As for the Spartans, they will almost certainly deploy Junior Torey Krug when Reilly Smith is on the ice. Krug was also named to the All-CCHA First Team, and is Michigan State’s best defenseman.  Not only is he staunch on the defensive side of the ice, but he also tied for the CCHA lead in scoring with an impressive 11 goals and 18 assists, finishing 1 point ahead of Smith for the CCHA in-conference scoring lead.

In net could be either of Will Yanakeff or Drew Palmisano. Yanakeff has posted a record of 13-7-1 this year, allowing 2.32 goals per game and has a save percentage of .927. He has played in 3 of the last 4 Spartans games, having gone 2-1. Palmisano, a senior is 6-6-3 on the season, with 2.59 GAA and a .919 save percentage.  Head Coach Tom Anastos will try to lead the Spartans to the CCHA Championship weekend in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena for the first time since 2007, Michigan State’s latest National Championship season. Looking back, no current Spartan has been on the winning side of a CCHA playoff series or game.

A few final notes for the weekend:

  • Michigan State is just 6-7-0 on the road this season, but has a commanding 29-12-3 record in Oxford all-time against Miami.
  • The Spartans hold a 6-2-1 record on the season against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time of the game.
  • Miami has outscored their opponents 19-3 in the last 6 games, all wins.
  • 2 victories would push Miami’s current seniors to the 4th most all time. They currently stand at 96 wins in their 4 years, and could make it a magical 100 with a second-consecutive Mason Cup Championship next weekend.
  • Miami sits at 9th in the current Pairwise, and MSU is in a tie for 12th. This is a comparison we don’t want to lose, so wins this weekend are crucial.

The puck drops on this critical series at 7:35pm tonight, 7:05pm Saturday, and 7:05pm on Sunday night, if necessary. The weekend’s games are not televised, but can be viewed on http://www.muredhawks.com using the All-Access subscription service. Just $9.95/month gets you the video feed for all three games, and can be cancelled at any time!

This week went entirely too slow, and it’s going to be a fun weekend in Oxford.

BEAT STATE!!!

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Posted on March 9, 2012, in CCHA, Miami RedHawks and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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