2011-2012: The Season In Review
The last 12 months in the Miami Hockey universe have been quite a tumultuous time. Let’s take a look back as we prepare for the 2012-13 season.
- On July 9th, news broke of a new College Hockey structure including the formation of the Big Ten Hockey Conference and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. Brad Bates, along with the other 6 initial institutions, “[were pleased] to announce that six top NCAA Division I ice hockey programs will become founding members of a newly formed hockey conference, which will begin competition for the 2013-14 season. The six institutions are Colorado College, University of Denver, Miami University, University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Nebraska Omaha and University of North Dakota.” (source: MURedHawks.com)
- July 13th rolled around, and these 6 fine programs made it official and in September added St. Cloud State and Western Michigan to fill out it’s roster. 2012-13 will mark the final season for the CCHA as we look forward to the upcoming launch of the NCHC for the 2013-14 season.
- Alden Hirschfeld and Will Weber were named the Captains for the season. Reilly Smith would later be added as a Captain after his stellar first half.
- Miami was ranked as the #1 team in the INCH Power Rankings and the College Hockey News Preseason Rankings. In the official rankings, Miami took the top spot for the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Preseason Poll. The ‘Hawks were ranked a close #2 in the USCHO.com Poll and were also voted #2 in both the CCHA Coaches and CCHA Media voting.
- Miami opened the season with a win over exhibition opponent Windsor, and then split the regular season opening series with a loss and then a win over Bemidji State.
- The following weekend, Miami split at Colgate, with Reilly Smith establishing himself as a Hobey Baker candidate very early on in the season. Smith took home the first CCHA Offensive Player of the week award with 4 goals and an assist on the weekend trip, including a hattrick in the Friday night game, a 4-3 Miami victory.
- Miami then travelled to Big Rapids and were swept by Ferris State, and swept again at home by Lake Superior State, running the losing streak to 5 consecutive games, which had us all drinking the drain-o by the end of October.
- On a brighter note, Andy Miele, the 2011 Hobey Baker Award Winner, was called up to the Phoenix Coyotes during the month. He didn’t make too much of an impact, however, and was brought back down to the AHL shortly thereafter.
- November had a chance to make things even more miserable in Oxford, as Miami started the month with the long trek to Alaska, and then hosted #4/5 Michigan in Oxford. However, a big sweep in Alaska seemed to right the ship for the ‘Hawks, and they went on to take a Friday night victory over Michigan as well.
- You may remember the shootout from Saturday night against Michigan, but if you didn’t remember Bryon Paulazzo’s highlight reel goal, you can re-live the shootout-winning spin-o-rama here. I love seeing the baby goalie cry.
- After the big series against Michigan, Miami continued their unbeaten streak with a win and tie (SOL) against BGSU, and won their first ever Denver Cup by beating Providence and Denver over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
- The RedHawks swept the November CCHA Player of the Month awards, as Austin Czarnik emerged as Miami’s next big star. He won the Gongshow Rookie of the Month Award, while Cody Reichard took home the Gongshow Goaltender of the Month and Reilly Smith was named RBC Player of the Month.
- After a stretch where Miami went 7-0-1 and streaked to the top of the CCHA Standings, December was quite a let down for the Hawks. Miami was swept by Northern Michigan in Marquette and managed a split against
the suckeyesOhio State to close out 2012.
- Jarod Palmer made his first appearance in the NHL with the Minnesota Wild, and made quite an impression with the injury-riddled club. Look for Jarod to play a lot more in upcoming years (when the NHL isn’t locked out). He recorded 1 assist in 6 games for the Wild in his December call-up.
- Austin Czarnik also made a big splash in December, as he was named to the US Junior National team and played at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Edmonton and Calgary for Team USA.
- Miami opened up the new year with a complete performance and sweep in East Lansing against Michigan State, injecting hope into the team that started the season as the #1 ranked team in many polls. Miami then travelled to Lake Superior State and earned a road split.
- Upon returning home, Miami swept Western Michigan – a team that was ranked #8 in the country at the time.
- Reilly Smith Earned the CCHA Player of the Month for the second time on the year.
- After a split at home vs Northern Michigan to close out January, Miami travelled to Ann Arbor and got trampled by the Wolverines. It was an ugly weekend for the RedHawks, going down 4-1 and 3-0. But it was just the wake up call they needed. To be a better team, they were going to have to focus and regroup for a stretch run.
- And regroup they did. Miami rolled off 8 straight victories to earn the 4 seed and a first round bye in the CCHA tournament. Over the last 3 weeks of February, they steamrolled Alabama-Huntsville, Notre Dame and Ohio State by a combined score 22-4.
- Connor Knapp earned the CCHA Goaltender of the Month award for February, going 5-1-0 in the month, blocking 161 of 168 shots. He allowed just 7 goals and had 2 shutouts. In his last 5 games – all wins – Knapper did not give up an even strength goal, allowed just 3 goals total and tied the Miami record for shutouts at 12 (a record which he did break the very next series in March).
March 2012 and Post season:
- After finishing the regular season with a flurry, Miami got a bye in the first round of the CCHA Tournament, and was slated to face Michigan State in the second round in Oxford. Miami continued its hot streak and swept the Spartans out of the CCHA tournament.
- At the CCHA tournament at The Joe in Detroit, Western Michigan came ready for business, and took down the RedHawks in the Semifinal 6-2. Miami beat the last place BGSU Falcons in the 3rd place game and headed into the NCAA tournament with high hopes.
- Before the NCAA tournament brackets were announced, Reilly Smith had landed one of the 10 Hobey Baker Finalist spots, and Miami’s dynamic duo in net earned CCHA year-end awards. Cody Reichard won the Ilitch Humanitarian Award for his work on Swoop’s Stoop in the Butler County area. Connor Knapp took home the CCHA’s Goaltender of the Year award for his stellar on-ice play (an award Reichard won in 2010). In addition to his Hobey Baker Finalist nomination, Reilly Smith also won the CCHA’s Perani Cup by collecting the most “Perani Cup Three Stars” points.
- Rounding out the year-end awards, Smith earned First-Team All-CCHA honors, Austin Czarnik was named to the CCHA All-Rookie Team, and senior captain Alden Hirschfeld was acknowledged for being Miami’s CCHA Scholar-Athlete of the Year nominee.
- After a few weeks time, Reilly Smith was also named to the First team All-America squad. Reilly led the way all season with 30 goals, 18 assists for a total of 48 points.
- Miami earned a #2 seed in the Bridgeport, CT regional, and would face off against the UMass Lowell River Hawks, who was making their first ever NCAA tournament appearance. For all of the talk of unfavorable NCAA draws in recent years, Miami finally had their dream bracket, and it appeared as though a walk to the Frozen 4 for the 3rd time would be in store. However, in the words of Coach Lee Corso, “not so fast, my friend.”
- The RedHawks were down 3-0 to the River Hawks entering the third period, and things were looking very bleak. In the first 10 minutes of the third period, Miami scored three times and evened the score, stealing all the momentum from UMass Lowell. Hope was restored, and fans even started to look forward to another favorable matchup (on paper, anyway) against Union, who had avanced earlier in the day. However, that momentum swing was neutralized by UM-L and the Hawks couldn’t get the game winner. UM-L won in overtime 4-3, and the RedHawks season was cut short.
- Former RedHawk Alec Martinez got the better of another Miami star Andy Greene in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, as Martinez and the LA Kings hoisted the Cup.
- Professional signings:
- In a move RedHawks fans saw from the get go of the 2011-12 season, Reilly Smith signed with the club that drafted him shortly after the season was over. Dallas scooped up Smith and put him to work immediately on just 5 days after Miami had been bounced from the NCAA tournament. Smith was the 4th RedHawk to make his NHL debut on the season (Miele, Palmer and Carter Camper – Boston Bruins). Reilly forgoes his senior year of eligibility with this signing.
- Cameron Schilling was plucked for professional duty after the season as well, signing an entry level contract with the Washington Capitals and their AHL affiliate the Hershey Bears.
- Chris Wideman signed a 2-year entry-level deal with the Ottawa Senators as well, and joined the Binghampton Senators to finish out their season
- Patrick Tiesling and Matt Tomassoni each signed pro contracts with the ECHLs Chicago Express.
- Alden Hirschfeld signed an amateur try out deal with the Portland Pirates of the AHL, reuniting with Andy Miele and the Coyotes.
- Trent Vogelhuber also signed an ATO with the Springfield Falcons – AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
- Cody Reichard signed with the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL, an affiliate of the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers.
- Connor Knapp signed a deal with the Buffalo Sabres which will start in 2012-13 if the NHL ends its lockout.
- Will Weber signed on with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
- With these 9 Senior signings, only graduating senior Ben Saksa was left without a pro contract. Ben was able to see game action against Alabama-Huntsville as he played the last 3:27 on that Saturday night. He recorded his first and only career save in the game on a two-on-one break. We salute Ben for his hard work for 4 years in Oxford!
- Early Departures:
- In addition to losing one of the largest and most prolific classes in Miami’s history, Freshman Tyler Biggs departed for the pro ranks as well, as he had floundered a bit in Oxford in his short time with the ‘Hawks. This was both surprising and shocking at the same time, and we recapped the Biggs departure back in August.
- Recruits Ryan Hartman and Pat Sieloff announced that they would be bypassing any NCAA eligibility by signing pro deals with the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). Both signings were expected to appear in Oxford this season, so Coach Blasi was forced to make some late recruiting efforts.
There you have it…the 2011-2012 season in 2000 words or less. We’ve endured conference realignment, a 5 game losing streak, an 8 game winning streak, a 3-goal defecit and furious comeback in the NCAA tournament, only to be heartbroken again, and we’re all itching for more.
We start the new season in just 6 more days, RedHawks fans! Stay tuned for more this week, including previews of the 2012-13 season!