Rico gets 300th (and 301st), RedHawks Sweep

Lantern

Coming off of a weekend sweep in Oxford, the RedHawks look ahead to another (!?!?!) home series against Alaska to start off what looks to be a rugged February schedule. Miami hadn’t been at home for a game in 48 days before Friday night, and after the upcoming weekend will have played 4 home games in 9 days. Follow that up with the Western Michigan Broncos in Kalamazoo and Notre Dame on Friday 2/15 and Sunday in Chicago on 2/17, and Miami’s strength of schedule and RPI should be rising quickly. Here’s what you missed over the last week.

Blasi hits 300

With the win on Friday night, Head Coach Enrico Blasi hit the 300 mark for wins in his head coaching career. Da Coach is now 301-190-53 in 14 seasons at Miami after the second win on Saturday night, and is by far the winningest coach in Miami history. Blasi is also now # 79 on the all-time NCAA wins list and with only 2 more wins will jump past up to 2 more coaches, including former Miami head man Mark Mazzolini who sits at 302 wins in his time with Wisconsin-Steven’s Point, Miami and Harvard (Wisconsin-River Falls’ Steve Freeman is an active coach so Blasi may not pass him with just 2 more wins). Miami and coach Blasi are also now 14-0-1 in their last 15 games against Bowling Green. This is a fantastic accomplishment for the Miami hockey program and coach Blasi, and we can’t wait for the next 300 wins!!!

Top Line Scoring

Despite leading the team in scoring for the bulk of the season, Miami’s top line of Austin Czarnik (9G, 17A, 26 points total), Riley Barber (9-17–26) and Curtis McKenzie (7-9–16) were nearly held off the scoring sheet by Bowling Green this weekend. Barber and McKenzie each tallied assists on Cody Murphy’s 2 power play goals on Friday night, otherwise the entire top line would have been shut out.

On the other hand…

Miami’s scoring came from a few sources that had been in scoring droughts lately. Murphy scored both Miami goals Friday night, and both came on the power play. It was the first time Miami had scored 2+ power play goals since tallying 3 PPGs against Northern Michigan in a 5-2 victory on November 9, 2012. Miami is still only converting on 16.5% of their Power Play opportunities, a number that has to increase as they prepare for tournament hockey.

This weekend’s goal scorers were quite the surprise: as mentioned above, Murphy had 2 on Friday night – his first goals since scoring twice at Alaska on November 30th. Jimmy Mullin scored in the first period of Saturday night’s game, and followed it up with a second period goal as well. The goals were Mullin’s first since the same series – December 1st in Alaska.

CCHA tabs Matt Caito as Defenseman of the Week

It was truly a defensive effort this weekend, as all of the RedHawks blue-liners played well. Matthew Caito got on the score sheet a few times, so it makes sense that he would earn this honor, but truly, this should be a team defense award this week. Jay Williams stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced on Friday night and the defense in front of him blocked a total of 21 shots on the night (Garrett Kennedy had 5 and Caito had 6). Ryan McKay stopped 23 of the 24 fired at him on Saturday with the defense picking up another 16 blocked shots. On the weekend, Miami was 7 for 7 on the penalty kill in addition to the 37 total blocked shots.

Caito assisted on both of Murphy’s PPGs on Friday and Mullin’s first period goal on Saturday. He was seen sprawling all over the ice to block those 6 shots, as well as a sliding effort to keep a puck in the zone that nearly led to a third Miami goal in the third period. The honor was Caito’s 2nd weekly award of the season, and is the first CCHA blue-liner to win the award a second time. With 6 points in 5 games in January, look for Caito to be in the mix for the CCHA Defenseman of the month award as well.

Inside the CCHA Standings

It’s one thing to see certain teams from Michigan at one end of the CCHA standings. However, this year, the 2 perennial powerhouses aren’t exactly at the end of the tables that we have come to expect. Sitting dead last with just 16 league points are the Michigan State Spartans. Sparty split a weekend series with future Big Ten foe Penn State this weekend in 2 out of conference games.

Perhaps the bigger shock is if you were to look one spot up (in a tie for 9th), you’ll find Michigan. Oh how the mighty have fallen. After 22 consecutive NCAA tournaments made, Michigan has some work to do. With only 8 games to go on the season, Michigan needs help, needs wins and pretty much needs to win the CCHA tournament to get into the NCAA tournament. With just 1 more loss, Michigan will guarantee itself a losing record on the season (overall and conference only).

Notre Dame finally righted their sinking ship and split with Ferris State. The Irish are in 3rd place two points behind Miami. Western Michigan, who swept Michigan after being down 2-0 to the Wolverines on Friday and 1-0 on Saturday, remains in first place by just a point, making the trip to Kalamazoo to face the Broncos in 2 weekends all that more important.

National Polls and PairWise Rankings

For all the admiration we have for the polls complaning we do about the polls, I think they might have got this one right. Although there is dissention on who is #3 and #4, Miami sits 3rd in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll and 4th in the USCHO.com poll. New Hampshire is swapped with Miami in the two, although they are only 4-5-1 in their last 10 after a scorching 11-1-2 start (the recent tie was an exhibition game against the USNTDP).

Miami is tied with that same UNH squad in the PairWise Rankings, the rankings that make up the NCAA pairings come tournament selection time. (Truly, Miami and UNH are tied with 25 comparisons, but UNH’s RPI is .0126 higher than Miami, so that flips the comparison to them.) Miami has the second best mark against Teams Under Consideration (TUCs), at 10-4-4, which is a good measuring stick against teams that are in the hunt for the NCAA tournament. Only Quinnipiac has a better record at 10-2-1, but Miami has played 5 more games against TUCs than the Q, and will likely have 6 more coming up over the next 3 weeks (FYI, only Northern Michigan has more games vs. TUCs than the RedHawkswith 22 currently).

Coming up next

Alaska. Scary, right? Well, not really in years past. But this year is a different story, and the Nanooks are playing inspired hockey at the moment. Alaska got their first EVER sweep in Michigan the weekend of January 11-12. Then, they just went to Notre Dame and swept the #2 team in the country in their building as well. Just for kicks, they took a 1-week trip back home to the Last Frontier and handed Northern Michigan 2 losses. This was just the second time in their history and first time since 2004 that Alaska has swept  NMU in Fairbanks. You hate to play a hot team, but when you’re playing a team that’s this scorching hot when the points mean everything in the standings and could determine a champion, you REALLY don’t want to play the hot team. We’ll preview the weekend series later in the week, but in the mean time, let’s hope all the travel Alaska has done this year wears on them and we can get a couple of W’s this weekend.

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Posted on January 29, 2013, in 2012-13 Weekend Recaps, Alaska Nanooks, Bowling Green, Cody Murphy, Enrico Blasi, Jay Williams, Jimmy Mullin, Matthew Caito, Ryan McKay and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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