Monthly Archives: November 2012

Quick preview – Miami at Alaska

Ahh Alaska. The Last Frontier. The place where it’s 86 degrees cooler than Oxford, Ohio today. Also the school furthest from civilization Oxford and all other teams in the NCAA (other than Anchorage, of course and maybe Hawaii). Miami left home on Wednesday, didn’t get there until Thursday (3:00am, anyway) and takes on an Alaska squad that took NMU to overtime twice last weekend in Marquette and only took 1 point out of it.

The Nanooks come in at 6-5-3 on the season, and 4-4-2 in the CCHA. They are only 2 points behind Miami at the top of the standings and are doing something that Miami has prided itself on in seasons past – staying balanced. Alaska has 4 players tied at the top of their scoring charts – 2 seniors, and to underclassmen. Not surprising to see at the top of the list is Senior Andy Taranto. I feel like he’s a guy we’ve been seeing with the Nanooks for about 17 years.

In net, Freshman John Keeney has played 6 of the 14 games, and 3 goalies have seen significant time for the Polar Bears. Keeney is 2-2-2 with a 1.79 GAA and .935 save percentage – by far the best on the team for both. Senior Steve Thompson has played in 4 games this season and took home the October 22 CCHA Goalie of the week, but is struggling with just a 2-2 record, 3.24 GAA and .876 save percentage. Thompson only played in 3 games before this season, all coming last year, and Sophomore Sean Cahill played once last season, both getting mop-up duties while Senior Scott Greenham took ice time all season. It’s anyone’s guess who we’re going to see this weekend, but I’d suspect we see a lot of Keeney, as he has been the hot hand.

For Miami, Enrico Blasi continues his run to 300, and stands at 293 wins on his career. Miami has a 36-14-5 edge against Alaska and despite the 18+ hours of travel to get there every time, is still a surprising 16-7-3 in Fairbanks.

Leading the scoring for Miami is Riley Barber, but Sophomore Alex Wideman has been absolutely on fire the last few games. As we mentioned in our 2-week “Turkey Day hangover” recap, Wideman has goals in his last 3 games, has 4G and 3A in 6 total games, and has also scored the game winner in each of the 2 of Miami’s shootouts in which he has participated.

Look for more from Wideman, and let’s hope Miami scores first. Miami is 6-1-1 this season when doing so, and 6-0-0 when scoring thrice. I’m confident Miami brings home 6 points this weekend behind Jay Williams continued strong goaltending (and perhaps we see Ryan McKay return as well?).

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Where have you been for 2 weeks?

We hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving with your families and didn’t miss us and the Miami RedHawks too much. You guys should have been asking “where are you guys” because we’ve been MIA for a bit. We’re sorry for leaving you hanging, and we’re back at it this week as Miami is already en route to Alaska for a 2 game set in The Last Frontier. For now, here’s what you’ve (we’ve?) missed in the last 2 weeks.

First of all, and most importantly, Miami took 5 more points against the Spartans way back on the 16th and 17th of November. On Friday night, Miami held a 2-0 lead and let MSU tie the game before taking the shootout. It was Miami’s 2nd shootout win in a row and 3rd of the season (Providence, NMU, MSU). In the three shootouts, Miami still has not allowed even one goal, as Ryan McKay has stopped the 2 shots he has seen and Jay Williams has stopped all 4 shootout attempts in his 2 wins. John Doherty played in his first game for Miami, Alex Wideman scored to continue his point streak and Alex Gacek scored his 2nd of the year.

In Saturday’s game, Miami again went up 2-0, but this time played some outstanding defense and Williams posted the shutout. Miami held MSU to 13 shots on the night, with 9 of them coming from 2 players. Freshman Taylor Richart recorded his first career point as he helped Wideman continue his blazing hot scoring streak in the third period. McKenzie recorded his 3rd goal of the season and Jay Williams got his first career shutout.

For the effort on the weekend, Williams took home the CCHA Rookie of the Week award – his first such honor. Jay is the second Miami freshman to win the award (Riley Barber has won it twice), and it’s the 4th weekly award for Miami.  He stopped 19 shots and 2 shootout attempts on Friday as well as all 13 shots on Saturday. The wins ran his season record to 6-2-2, while allowing 2.18 goals against and a save percentage of .915. Get to know Jay a little better by reading muredhawks.com’s “In the Crease with Jay Williams.”

Even though Miami didn’t play this past weekend, the top of the CCHA standings is still in the hands of the RedHawks at 16 points. Notre Dame had a weekend series against North Dakota (and split). For now, Miami holds a 1 point lead on the Irish, Ferris State and Ohio State. Alaska is just 2 points behind at 14 and Lake Superior State is in 6th at 12 points. The next 3 weekends have Miami playing three of those teams (at Alaska, Lake State, at Ohio State), so to say they will be an important 3 weeks is an understatement.

Alex Wideman missed three weeks of play with mono, and since his return has been lights out. He now has 4 goals and 3 assists on the season – good enough for 3rd best on the team. He has also scored the shootout clinching goals in each of Miami’s 2 CCHA shootout wins and is looking better and better on the ice every night out.

After the MSU weekend, Miami dropped a spot from #4 to #5 in the polls. We’ll reserve judgement, but Really, that’s stooooopid. The voters made up for their poor choices last week to bump Miami up 1 spot in this week’s (November 26th) polls, but Denver, who lost AT HOME to Yale and New Hampshire, dropped just 3 spots to #5 behind the Hawks. The PairWise is the important ranking, and we’re still a few weeks away from knowing where Miami really stands compared to the rest of the NCAA.

In addition, Miami’s All-1990’s CCHA team was announced. In the decade where Miami earned its first ever CCHA Championship in the 1992-93 season and gained momentum throughout, this team looks fantastic. Some guys named Kevyn Adams, Brian Savage, Enrico Blasi, Dan Boyle, Bobby Marshall and Mark Michaud made the first team. The second team has forwards Chris Bergeron, Randy Robitaille and Ken House, defensemen Joe Cook and Steve Wilson and goaltender Richard Shulmistra. The only thing I’d change is putting Shulmistra on the first team and Michaud on the second. You can vote for the all-2000s team on muredhawks.com.

And finally, but certainly not least important, Steven Spinell was named a Senior CLASS Award Candidate.

Stay tuned for our Weekend Preview before Miami takes on Alaska at 11:00pm Eastern time on Friday and Saturday nights!

#4 Miami hosts Michigan State for 2 game set

Another week, another Michigan team for the RedHawks to play. This week will mark the 4th straight week that Miami has played a team from Michigan, this time welcoming the Michigan State Spartans to Steve Cady Arena.

The last 3 Michigan teams Miami has played were all ranked teams at the time, having split with Michigan and Ferris State on the road and taking 5 points over Northern Michigan last weekend. (In case you were wondering, Miami heads to Alaska in 2 weeks, but plays the 5th of 6 CCHA schools from the state of Michigan in the Lake Superior State Lakers the first weekend of December, and we have to wait until February to see the 6th such team – Western Michigan.)

As we scout the unranked Spartans, the first thing we notice is that they just beat Michigan 7-2 last Saturday night. In fact, Sparty has won their last 3 Saturday night games and lost each of those series’ 3 Friday night games. Not only that, but they have outscored their opponents 17-5 in those Saturday games. Each of these series has been against CCHA teams, and Michigan State stands in a tie for third in the logjammed CCHA standings at the start of the week (ND beat Michigan Thursday night to jump to the top of the CCHA and push Miami to 2nd and MSU to 4th currently).

Second year coach Tom Anastos had only good things to say about the RedHawks.  “I’ve watched them on video half a dozen times,” Anastos said at Tuesday’s press conference. “I’d like to see them in person now. They play really hard, and they’re a good team. They’ve done a good job building a culture that, in spite of bringing in a lot of new (players), they are coming into a culture. That’s what we want to establish here.” (source: The State News)

Michigan State will be led by Sophomore Matt Berry, who currently stands 4th in CCHA scoring with 6 goals and 5 assists (behind RedHawks Riley Barber, 14pts and Austin Czarnik, 13 pts). Berry had a hat trick in the 7-2 victory over Michigan and looks to lead the Spartans over another ranked CCHA foe.

Anastos, the former CCHA Commissioner, seems a bit unsettled on his goalie situation at the moment. Junior Will Yanakeff has played in 7 games, compiling just a 2-4-1 record and is allowing 3.71 goals per contest. Freshman Jake Hildebrand was in net for MSU’s big win against Michigan, and is 2-1 on the season, and has only allowed 1.8 goals in his 4 games played.

In the Miami net, we will likely see the return of Ryan McKay as he returns from injury. Coach Blasi remains quite secretive on who will play: “He’s going,” Blasi said. “I don’t know if he’s going to play this weekend or not, but he’s 100 percent and ready to go if called on.” (source: The Miami Student)

Jay Williams has performed fantastically while McKay has been nursing some sort of groin or leg injury, and we’ll likely see the rotation kick back up again now that he’s healthy. McKay sports a 1-0-1 record with the tie being a shootout win against Providence. After that shootout win, McKay started the Friday night game at Michigan and that is when he quickly came out of the game. Just 5 minutes in, McKay injured himself, came out of the game, and even went into the locker room for a stretch. He was the only other goaltender dressed that night, so he did come back on the bench and was also the only goalie dressed for the other 5 games Miami has played (2 at Ferris and 2 at home against NMU) as well. In any event, it will be nice to see this freshman back on the ice and fighting off the frozen rubber again.

We like repeating it, so we’ll fill you in on the leading scorer in the CCHA – Miami’s Riley Barber. Barber leads all scorers as a rookie with 14 points and Austin Czarnik is just one point behind him. Czarnik leads the RedHawks with 6 goals and leads the country with 3 shorthanded goals. The new “super duo” as coined by CBS College Sports’ Dave Starman will look to continue their hot play this weekend.

As we mentioned in last week’s wrap up, the Hawks will need to stay out of the box this week. Michigan State clearly has the ability to put the puck in the net, it’s a matter of when (Friday or Saturday?). MSU is scoring on 25% (11 of 44) of their power plays and Miami will need to make sure they aren’t caught in the box for a sudden outpouring of goals like MSU had against Michigan last Saturday.

As we wind down towards puck drop, I can’t help but think Miami is going to sweep the weekend and the boys will again sit atop the CCHA standings after 4 weeks of CCHA play. Miami has owned Michigan State of late, having won the last 5 contests including 2 CCHA tournament games last season. Overall, Miami is 31-68-5 against MSU and Coach Blasi looks to improve his record above .500 as he is currently 19-20-0 against the Spartans. Miami is 4-0-2 at home this season, and 2-2 when allowing 3 or more goals. Team defense will again be the name of the game to keep MSU off the scoreboard.

While 5 points is nice, 6 points is nicer. Let’s get a sweep, RedHawks! See you at the game on Saturday night!

Weekend Recap: RedHawks get 5 CCHA points on the weekend

Sing a song? Light the lantern? Sweepness? Well…almost anyway.

The Miami RedHawks came back to Goggin Ice Arena and despite a rough first period on Saturday night, got their season in full gear for a young team that is now atop the CCHA standings.

That feels good to say… “Atop the CCHA standings.” After opening the CCHA’s Celebrate the Legacy season with road trips to Michigan (now 6-46-3 all time) and Ferris State (always a tough place and opponent), to come out of the first 3 weekends of CCHA play on top feels real nice.

In the process, Miami has seen freshman goaltender Jay Williams take the spotlight in what we thought would be another 4 years of rotating goalies. While we still will likely see the rotation for a while, Ryan McKay stayed on the bench – a sweet sweet luxury that head coach Enrico Blasi will certainly enjoy. If Williams does continue to get the nod and later falters, a healthy, rested and eager McKay will be eager to get back out there. Knowing Blasi, however, McKay has healed up and will be back on the ice against Michigan State next weekend. In any event, Williams improves to 5-2-1 on the year, has a .911 save percentage and is allowing just 2.5 goals per game.

Last night, Jay stood tall in net (at 6’2″ I suppose he is always standing tall) despite a lot of untimely turnovers and 2 awful embellishment calls from the Referee combination of Steven McInchak and Rodney Tocco (did somebody say Taco?). They certainly cost Miami 2 power play chances that Miami could have turned into paydirt.. In addition, the 2 embellishment calls were widely contested by the raucus Miami crowd last night, and at the end of the night, may have earned coach Blasi a penalty on consecutive nights.

On Friday night, Miami was assessed a Bench Minor at 15:20 of the third period, and Blasi was less than pleased with McInchak and Taco Tocco. It may have been because NMU’s Kyle Follmer was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the whistle. That was Follmer’s 4th 2-minute minor of the night, and he continued some of his antics on Saturday night with another 2-minute minor in the 2nd period. Then, during Saturday’s handshake line, Blasi was seen having a civil conversation berating one of the linesmen and a 10 minute misconduct was added to Miami’s totals when everything was said and done. To say that Da Coach was upset would be an gross understatement.

An unnamed source has given us an inside scoop as to what happened this weekend from an officiating standpoint. Apparently Coach Blasi despises is less than friendly with McInchak, and because of it has even gone to CCHA head of officials Steve Piotrowski about the situation. Whether it be a history of awful calls or just a general distaste for the guy, McInchak hasn’t been to Oxford in over 4 years. Friday night’s call that cost Miami 2 minutes in the box was just the start, and it escalated on Saturday. Rico could be heard across the arena on one occasion (after the second of 2 embellishment calls), and to put the feud to rest, McInchak finished the weekend with a 10-minute misconduct for the bench (which was shaking hands at the time), primarily aimed at Rico.

In good news from the weekend, Alex Wideman made sure that we knew he was back on the ice last night as well. The shortest player on the team at 5’7″ can get lost out there sometimes due to his size. Last night, it came at the right time for him to reappear after missing a few weeks with an mono. With just 2:13 left in the night, Wideman knocked home the game-tying goal just over NMU goalie Jared Coreau’s pad as he tried to hug the post (It was eerily similar to the game tying goal that snuck past Cody Reichard against BU in Washington, DC in 2009).

“I didn’t really aim it; I just kinda threw it at the net just to see what happened,” said Wideman. “Good things happen when you throw pucks at the net. Luckily, it got in short side. In that kind of situation, you’re not going to get a pretty goal, not gonna get a back-door goal or anything like that. It’s gonna be hard. The ice is terrible. It’s gonna be a gritty goal or even a lucky goal like that.” (source: USCHO.com)

Then, Wideman streaked down the ice and put the game winner past Coreau in the shootout to delight the hometown crowd. You can view the 2 shootout goals at the bottom of this page!

To top it off, after the weekend, just 3 RedHawks have yet to score on the season: Michael Mooney, Paulides and Taylor Richart. To say that Richart has been unproductive, however, would be a gross understatement. He may just be the best defender on the ice, and I’ve yet to see him look nervous or rattled.

After holding the Wildcats to 4, 9 and 7 shots in the 3 periods on Friday, the defense was also stout Saturday night after allowing 2 goals in the first period. After being outshot 15-5 in that first period, they held NMU to 12 more shots: 8 in the second, just 2 in the 3rd and 2 more in OT. Williams knew that Miami was going to pull out the victory on Saturday: “Before the third period in the locker room, there was no doubt in our minds we were going to win that game,” Williams said. “We just had to keep going, keep fighting.” (source: muredhawks.com)

Usually Miami is a team that scores early and holds on for the victory. This year, however, Miami has evened things out and have 9 first period goals, 9 more second period goals and 11 third period tallies. On the other side of the puck, Miami has allowed 10 first period and 8 third period goals, and just 2 in the middle frame.

After taking 11 points against the first 3 teams from Michigan these last three weeks, Miami welcomes yet another team from that state up north in the Michigan State Spartans. MSU smashed Michigan on Saturday night by a score of 7-2 after betting slammed 5-1 on Friday night. To this point in the season, all 11 teams are still just one weekend sweep of 1st place, as Miami stands at 11 points and Northern Michigan is in 11th with just 5 points. There’s a long way to go in the season, but the Hawks are positioning themselves well to start things off.

Miscellaneous weekend notes:

After this weekend, Miami is now 2-2-1 on Fridays this year, having lost their last 2 Friday night games on the road, and compared to 4-0-1 (1 SO Win) on Saturdays.

On the injury front, Miami seems to be back at full strength. Ben Paulides, who had been out for a couple weeks returned to action for both games this weekend. As did Wideman (mono) and Joe Hartman (ankle).

After tallying a goal and 2 assists Friday, and adding an assist on Saturday, we think we’ll see another CCHA Rookie of the Week award for Riley Barber. Barber is now the CCHA’s leading scorer with 5 goals and 9 assists. Czarnik (6G, 7A) is just behind him, tied with Michigan’s A.J. Treais with 13 points.

In case you missed it

First of all, congratulations go out to @RedHawkCooch on Twitter. “Cooch” won our first ever trivia contest and is the winner of this puck, signed by Coach Blasi. Keep an eye out for future trivia contests, and thanks to those of you who participated and follow us on Twitter!

If you didn’t get a chance to see the shootout winning goals from Saturday night, here you go. (Sidenote: cellphone technology is amazing. These were taken with a phone.)

Quick Hit: Hagel Fitting In

Here’s a nice interview by longtime Journal News sportswriter Rick Cassano, with Miami senior Marc Hagel. As you probably know, Hagel had one year of NCAA eligibility left after finishing his undergraduate degree at Princeton, and per NCAA by-laws, was eligible to transfer to Miami and play immediately.

Cassano goes on to suggest that freshman goaltender, Jay Williams, will see the majority of the action this weekend as Ryan McKay continues to heal up. According to Rico, McKay might be available if needed this weekend.

16th-ranked Wildcats visit Oxford for 2 game set

Northern Michigan logo

Miami welcomes the Northern Michigan Wildcats this weekend

Coming off of a 4 game roadtrip against two other ranked Michigan teams, the RedHawks return to Oxford for a two-game set with the Northern Michigan Wildcats this weekend. Miami got out of Michigan with hard earned splits the last 2 weekends, and come in to the weekend second in the logjammed CCHA standings. 5 teams are 2-2-0 in the CCHA standings, and Northern Michigan is in a tie for 9th (1-2-1, 5 points and 1 shootout loss) in the early going of the CCHA schedule.

Northern Michigan will be led by Senior forward Matt Thurber, who leads the league in scoring with a goal and 10 assists.  Miami’s sophomore forward Austin Czarnik and freshman forward Riley Barber are both at 10 points on the season, just 1 point behind the CCHA leader. This week’s CCHA Now production features the National Rookie of the Month (in case you’ve been living under a rock, that’s Barber), who is also the nation’s leader in points by a rookie.

Walt Kyle leads the Wildcats from behind the bench, and is in his 11th year in Marquette, where he stands 198-170-46. NMU comes to Oxford having blown a 4-1 3rd period lead on Friday night against Michigan (where they lost the shootout), but did pick up a 4-3 win on Saturday night – both games being played in Marquette. The Wildcats have had a truly impressive start to the season, having won twice against Wisconsin (in a non-conference neutral-site series in Green Bay), and splitting a series at Nebraska-Omaha. They were, however, swept at home by Notre Dame before last week’s tilts with the Wolverines.

Miami is just 20-34-3 all-time against Northern Michigan, including going 1-3-0 last year. Kyle has a chance to reach 200 wins at the helm of NMU this weekend, but the RedHawks will certainly have something to say about that. Coach Blasi may return to the goalie rotation this weekend after starting Jay Williams for both games in Big Rapids. Ryan McKay has yet to see action since being injured with a leg or groin injury in the Friday night game at Michigan, and Williams has played all 235 minutes since McKay went down. McKay was still dressed on the bench last weekend as the backup, however, but did not see any game action.

Look for another weekend of play similar to what Ferris State showed us last weekend. NMU likes to pack in a bunch of players in the defensive zone to block as many shots as possible. Their defensive style constantly frustrates the ‘Hawks, as evidenced by Miami’s 1-3 record against them last year. Miami’s talented group of freshmen will have to be smart and stay out of the penalty box – something they have done quite a bit this season. 17 of Miami’s 51 penalties (33%) have come from the freshmen group that has seen ice time. Miami has also been called for 2 misconducts and one more 5 minute major on the season. While Blasi’s Miami teams have always been physical and have always taken a lot of penalties, some that we have seen this season have been a tad on the cheap side, and have often come at just the wrong time.

This weekend, keep an eye on our twitter feed, as we’ll have a Miami-themed trivia contest during Saturday night’s game. The first response to our question, only asked on our twitter feed, will receive a Miami game puck, signed by Coach Blasi.

I’ll take another split this weekend and we’ll stay in touch with the other teams in the league, and will hope that we’re pleasantly surprised if we sweep the Wildcats out of Oxford. Both games will be available for viewing on the Miami All-Access feed (good luck logging in), and on AM 1490 in the Oxford/Hamilton/Cincinnati area.

Other weekend notes:

Alex Wideman returned to practice this week. After a couple weeks off due to being sick with mono, we could see Alex return to the ice this weekend.

On this date 34 years ago:
November 10, 1978: Miami hockey notches its first-ever victory against an NCAA opponent. Miami beat the University of Illinois-Chicago 7-4 at the old Goggin Ice Arena.

In Miami’s “In the Crease” feature, the 11 freshmen will be featured. Meet Matthew Caito this week on the Miami Athletics home page.

Tuesday Newsbrief – Election Day Style

The #5 Miami RedHawks completed their four-game Michigan roadie by splitting both series against conference rivals Michigan and Ferris State in what will be Miami’s final regular season trips to those schools as conference mates. In doing so, Miami avoided losing ground to either squad in the standings and returns home this weekend to face #16 Northern Michigan (4-3-1, 1-2-1 CCHA) at Steve Cady Arena.

Last weekend, Miami dropped the Friday opener 3-0 as Ferris State sophomore C.J. Motte blanked the RedHawks by stopping all 25 shots he faced as the Bulldogs outshot the RedHawks 31-25. Saturday was a much different affair as Miami came out flying notching a 4-2 victory on the strength of freshman Sean Kuraly’s first collegiate goal and two goals from sophomore sniper Austin Czarnik. Freshman Jay Williams played both nights in net as Ryan McKay recovers from injury, and picked up his fourth win of the season making 24 saves as Miami outplayed and outshot the Bulldogs 40-26.

On the season, Miami is now just 1-2-1 on Friday nights, but is a perfect 4-0 on Saturday as they ran their overall record to 5-2-1 and 2-2 in the CCHA. Miami is locked in a five-way tie for second in the league.

Looking ahead to the weekend’s opponent, Northern Michigan lost a shootout and defeated Michigan in Marquette blowing a lead on Friday and nearly doing the same on Saturday as Michigan’s senior captain A.J. Treais toyed with the hearts of Wildcat players and fans on both nights.

On Friday, Treais, who has seven goals and ten points on the season, scored with just 0.6 seconds left in regulation as Michigan overcame a 4-1 third-period deficit to send the game into overtime and ultimately to a shootout. In the shootout, Treais notched the only goal giving the Wolverines two league points on the evening and sending the Wildcats home disappointed.

On Saturday, the Wolverines faced the same 4-1 third period deficit and again rallied as Treais and Mac Bennett scored to pull Michigan within one. However, the Wildcats held on to take a 4-3 victory earning three league points and four of six on the weekend.

Notes

Earlier this week, sophomore forward Alex Wideman tweeted that he is “mono free” and hopefully that means we’ll see him this weekend in Oxford.

Sophomore Austin Czarnik (5-5-10) and freshman Riley Barber (4-6-10) share the team lead in points and are tied for second in the CCHA with the aforementioned Treais and trail Northern Michigan’s Matt Thurber (1-10-11) for the league’s top spot. It is interesting to note that both Treais and Thurber are seniors.

Miami is the highest ranked CCHA team (fifth) and seven of the eight NCHC schools are in this week’s top 20 with only Nebraska-Omaha failing to crack the rankings. Only Denver is ranked higher than Miami (third) of teams that Miami will face regularly beginning next season.

Senior defenseman Joe Hartman was again absent from the Miami lineup last weekend. Hopefully big Joe returns soon.

Miami’s victory on Saturday in Big Rapids snapped a five-game losing streak at Ferris’ Ewigleben Ice Arena. The RedHawks last won at Ferris State on Saturday January 16, 2010 when Tommy Wingels netted two goals to lead the RedHawks to a 5-4 victory and a weekend series sweep of the Bulldogs.

The RedHawks are making a concerted effort to take advantage of their speed and defensive lapses by executing stretch passes with Curtis McKenzie and Austin Czarnik hooking up several times already this year. Czarnik is a master with the puck and has extremely good vision while McKenzie is doing a fantastic job getting open by moving his feet up the ice. On Saturday, Czarnik found McKenzie for a breakaway which ultimately resulted in a penalty shot for the RedHawk senior forward that he was unable to convert, but the effort will pay off in time.

Weekend Preview: #4 Miami at #19 Ferris State

Miami travels to Big Rapids to battle the Bulldogs

Another week, another road test against a ranked opponent.

It doesn’t get any easier for the youthful Miami RedHawks (4-1-1, 1-1 CCHA) this weekend as they travel to Big Rapids, Mich. to take on the national runners-up from a season ago, the #19 Ferris State Bulldogs (2-2-2, 1-1 CCHA).

Last weekend, the Bulldogs split a home series with Alaska winning 6-3 on Friday, but dropped Saturday’s finale 3-2. Sophomore goaltender C.J. Motte stopped 76 shots on the weekend, the most for a Ferris goaltender in a two game weekend set since 1992. The shots on goal is significant because Ferris is notorious for clogging the neutral zone and passing lanes. Historically, the Bulldogs have simply collapsed down low to protect their goal – a tactic that has frustrated even the best Miami squads. In doing so, Miami has struggled against FSU despite holding a slim 44-42-16 advantage all-time against the Bulldogs. In fact, dating back to the 2007-08 season, Miami is just 3-6-4 against Ferris including one win at Joe Louis Arena in the CCHA consolation game at the conclusion of the 2009-10 season. Under head coach Enrico Blasi, Miami is 16-11-6 against the Bulldogs but was swept last year in Big Rapids and are winless in four straight at FSU, last winning January 16, 2010 (source: MURedHawks.com).

Offensively, the Bulldogs saw a large chunk of scoring leave campus with the loss of Jordie Johnston and his 20 goals to graduation. Looking to pick up the scoring slack, FSU is led by senior captain Kyle Bonis (4-3-7) who netted 19 goals last year, super pest and senior Travis Ouelette (1-3-4) and junior center Cory Kane (2-4-6). Bonis, who has seen his share of battles in this rivalry, netted two goals in Friday’s 6-3 win over Alaska and has generally performed well against the RedHawks throughout his stellar career in Big Rapids.

The Bulldogs blueline also lost quite a bit from last year’s Frozen Four squad. Gone are last year’s team captain, Chad Billins, Brett Wysopal and Aaron Schmit who accounted for 53 points between them. And, Billins was an instrumental cog in front of departed senior goaltender Taylor Nelson as they led Ferris to the national title game a year ago. Accordingly, the Bulldogs are breaking in or expanding the role of three young defensemen, Simon Denis, Jason Binkley and Travis White. Denis has provided an immediate spark as he has already surpassed last year’s goal total (1 in 30 GP) with two goals in his first six games this year.

In net, you can feel pretty good about seeing sophomore C.J. Motte both nights. Last year, Motte was one of the best freshmen goaltenders in America posting a 5-5-2 record with 1.98 GAA and .925 save percentage backing up senior Taylor Nelson. Motte, who was highly regarding entering college, has started this year strong. His numbers show a 2-2-2 record, 2.57 GAA and .908 save percentage. He will provide a stiff challenge for Miami, but at least initially, it appears the Bulldog defense is still adjusting to new names in new places meaning the RedHawks should be able to get plenty of rubber on the St. Clair, Mich. native.

For Miami, the RedHawks enter the weekend with a 4-1-1 record after splitting a pair at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Offensively, the squad continues to be led by super sophomore Austin Czarnik (3-5-8), who was named the CCHA’s Player of the Month for October and freshman linemate Riley Barber (4-4-8), who was the recipient of the CCHA’s Rookie of the Month award for October. Sophomores Blake Coleman (4 goals) and Cody Murhpy (1-3-4) have also contributed as Miami appears deep and talented, but young, in the early stages of the season.

Senior captain Steven Spinell has done a tremendous job leading the very young Miami blueline and I have been particularly impressed with the play of freshmen defenders Chris Joyaux and Matthew Caito. Both have jumped in and provided shutdown minutes immediately. If Miami verbal commit Matt Joyaux is supposed to be the “better” of the two brothers, the blueline is set for the next few years with the USNDTP’s Trevor Hamilton also scheduled to come to campus soon.

The unsung hero thus far in the season has been freshman goaltender Jay Williams who was called upon on short notice last week with the injury to fellow freshman Ryan McKay who started Friday’s game, but left after just 4:59 making one stop on one shot against. Williams stopped 30 shots while allowing four goals on Friday night as he kept his team in the game. And, on Saturday, he stopped 37 of 40 Wolverine shots earning his first collegiate road victory as the RedHawks won 4-3. It will be interesting to see if McKay plays this weekend or if the coaching staff will be cautious with him so early in the season. Williams has been very good so far registering a 3-1 record with a 2.77 GAA and .909 save percentage. If McKay can’t go, Miami should be in good hands with Williams on both nights.

Like last week, these will be Miami’s final games with Ferris at Ewigleben Ice Arena as conference mates as the CCHA completes its final season of existence. Next year, Ferris State will join the WCHA along with four other CCHA schools while Miami moves to the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference. Both games are scheduled to start at 7:05pm EST and can be heard (hopefully) on 1490-AM and Miami All-Access via MURedHawks.com.

Final thoughts

To win this weekend, Miami will have to use their speed to counter Ferris’ trapping system. Dumping the puck at the blueline and making it do the work will be key to beating the Bulldogs defense. Miami should have a speed advantage, but mustn’t stay so true to its puck possession game to allow FSU to overwhelm the puck carrier resulting in neutral zone turnovers and odd-man rushes the other way. And, making Motte move around with crisp passes while causing havoc in front of him will enable Miami to get good looks at the sophomore.

This Miami team seems oblivious to some of the falls of prior teams. Some of that comes with youth, but the RedHawks speed and overall offensive talent, including the ability to roll three truly offensive lines, gives them an edge. Still, Ferris has been very good at home and Ewigleben has been a very difficult place for Miami to play. I would be happy with a weekend split.

Barber, Czarnik earn Player of the Month Honors

It is becoming “old hat” to see RedHawks taking player of the week or month honors (think Reilly Smith – 3 POTM awards in 2011-12, Andy Miele twice and Carter Camper once in 2010-11, Czarnik as rookie of the month last season, and Cody Reichard AND Connor Knapp were each Goalie of the month winners last year). This afternoon, we continue that trend as the CCHA has announced that 2 young RedHawks have earned awards in October.

Riley Barber, sporting a 5 game point streak with 4 goals and 4 assists earned the Gongshow Rookie of the Month award. Barber is tied for the league lead in scoring through 3 weekends, and has been the leader of the RedHawks 11 freshman – 10 of which have seen ice time already in this young season. Seeing as though this is his first month in the CCHA, it’s also his first monthly CCHA honor – not a bad start for the youngster. Barber was also named CCHA Rookie of the week for the week of October 22nd.

In addition to Barber’s honor, Austin Czarnik earned the CCHA Player of the Month award for his outstanding play in October. “Z” has also tallied 8 points on the season, with 3 goals to go along with his league leading 5 assists. His three goals are of three different varieties, having scored one even strength goal, a power play goal and a short-handed goal thus far. The Sophomore didn’t earn any player of the week honors for the month, but was clearly the RedHawks leader on the ice, looking very Andy Miele-like all month.

Our Congrats go out to Riley and Austin!

Miami to host 2014 NCAA Midwest Regional in Cincinnati

It has been a relatively big day for the RedHawks on the eve of their away series at Ferris State. First, the big news: Cincinnati has been selected to be home to the Midwest Regional of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and your Miami RedHawks will be the hosts. In addition to this spectacular news, two RedHawks were named as players of the month for October by the CCHA.

Miami will be the host of 3 games in the NCAA tournament in 2014 – the last time since 1996 that the Cincinnati Gardens have hosted a portion of the NCAA Hockey Tournament. According to MURedHawks.com, the arena “has also seen multiple NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament regionals and the 1997 NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four take place under its roof.” Miami will, however, have to overcome the perception of what many believe was the worst Frozen Four ever to be held.

Some may recall that the 1996 Frozen Four that Miami hosted and eventually saw Michigan carry away the National Championship trophy. An average of over 11,000 fans attend the three games. Over that weekend, the arena crew may have lost a few employees as well – when putting in the goals after a break in the action (in the first of 3 games), a cooling line was hit and the ice was not staying frozen for the remainder of the games. The second semifinal was delayed a couple hours and the teams played in what could have been described as a swamp.

At the time, the Riverfront Coliseum as it was called, was not a hockey facility. Only occasionally did they host hockey games in the 15,300 seat arena. Nowadays, the arena is the home of the Cincinnati Cyclones (current team of 2009 Miami graduate Kevin Roeder), and has hosted the ECHL Playoff Championship known as the Kelley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2010.

The other host cities are as follows:

  • West: St. Paul, MN – Xcel Energy Center (host of the 2011 Frozen Four)
  • East: Bridgeport, CT – Webster Bank Arena
  • Northeast: Worcester, MA – DCU Center
  • The 2014 Frozen Four is going to be held at the Wells Fargo Center – home of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.

As far as Miami is concerned, this is a big GIGANTIC win for a team that has accumulated too many frequent flyer miles in recent years. After trips to places like Bridgeport (lost to UMass-Lowell in 2012), Manchester, NH (loss to UNH as the #4 overall seed in 2011) and St. Paul (wins against Denver and Minnesota-Duluth in 2009), Miami will certainly enjoy the short trek to Cincinnati if they were to make the tournament. The shortest of the ‘Hawks 4 most recent NCAA tournament trips was to Ft. Wayne, IN, where Notre Dame hosted, and Miami earned it’s second ever and second consecutive trip to the Frozen Four which was held in Detroit. Miami currently has the 3rd longest streak in terms of NCAA Tournaments made at 7 (Michigan: 22, North Dakota: 10), and will be guaranteed a spot in the Cincinnati Regional if they were to make the 2014 tournament.

We will of course look forward to the 2013-14 season and tournament, but there’s a lot of work to do in 2012-13 first. We’ll preview this weekend’s big series at Ferris State in the coming hours.