Off to the Joe!
Connor Knapp made 21 saves and Miami peppered Michigan State with 42 shots on goal as the RedHawks completed the weekend sweep with a 4-1 victory over the Spartans to earn the right to play in next weekend’s CCHA championship weekend at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Mich.
The RedHawks received goals from junior forward Reilly Smith, who also added two assists, and seniors Chris Wideman, Matt Tomassoni and Alden Hirschfeld as they left no doubt who was the better team this year as they won all four games against MSU by a combined score of 16-2.
Similar to last night, a big second period broke open a 1-1 tie as Miami netted seven goals in the second period over the weekend including three in tonight’s game. Senior defenseman Chris Wideman scored his third goal of the season, and second in two nights, as he notched the eventual game-winner at 9:49 of the second period. It was the first of three Miami goals in 3:22 to remove any chance Michigan State had of forcing a third and decisive game tomorrow night.
Senior Connor Knapp continued his stellar play, and along with Reilly Smith, has carried Miami down the stretch. Knapp has allowed just three goals in his last six games, all coming on the power play as he improved his overall record to 15-6 and lowered his goals against average to 1.43 while his save percentage sits at .943 for the year. Tonight, Knapp made 21 saves on 22 shots. The only goal he surrendered was on an MSU power play, which snapped a streak of 174 minutes of shutout hockey against the Spartans, dating back to Jan. 6, 2012 (Miami’s first game vs. MSU). Knapp has not allowed an even-strength goal since Feb. 4, 2012 against Michigan, a span of seven games. Over those seven games, he has allowed just four goals overall and three in his last six games.
The big senior from York, N.Y. has allowed one or fewer goals in 14 of his 22 games this season and 12 of his last 14. He has a 0.89 goals against average and .964 save percentage in his last 15 games (14 starts) since the start of 2012. Knapp leads the NCAA with a 1.43 GAA and is second in save percentage with .943, both of which would be Miami single-season records. He now has a career-high 15 wins on the year, which ties for ninth in a single season at Miami. (source: MURedHawks.com)
With the win, Miami heads back to Detroit for the CCHA semifinals on Friday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena. The defending Mason Cup champions’ opponent will be determined after the outcome of tomorrow’s series finale between #1 Ferris State and #8 Bowling Green. If Ferris State wins, Miami will face the top seeded Bulldogs in one semifinal. If the Falcons pull off the upset, Miami will face third seeded Western Michigan. Regardless, since Miami cannot face #2 Michigan in the semifinals, it’s a good bet the RedHawks will play the early game Friday so the league can place Michigan in the prime spot for both attendance at the Joe and for TV viewers across the nation. One would speculate that Miami’s game will start around 3pm EST on Friday.
Miami won its eighth-straight game, dating back to Feb. 10 vs. Alabama-Huntsville. It is the team’s longest winning streak since an eight-game win streak from Jan. 23-Feb. 19, 2010. During Miami’s win streak the RedHawks have outscored opponents, 32-5. (source: MURedHawks.com) The victory also moved Miami back into a tie for 5th in the PairWise rankings which largely determine the NCAA tournament field. With another good weekend in Detroit, Miami could come away with a #1 seed in the tournament, but their first order of business is reclaiming the Mason Cup for a second consecutive year.
Around the CCHA
Ferris State broke a 3-3 tie en route to a 7-4 victory over Bowling Green to force a decisive third game tomorrow night in Big Rapids, Mich.
Michigan completed the weekend sweep of Notre Dame by a score of 3-1, likely ending the Irish’s season. The Wolverines will face either Bowling Green or Western Michigan in one CCHA semifinal at the Joe.
Western Michigan completed the weekend sweep of Lake Superior defeating the Lakers 5-2. The Broncos will face either Michigan or Miami on Friday.