Miami Sweeps, Moves Closer to Regular Season Crown

Light the Lantern! Miami sweeps Lake State

On the strength of 44 saves from freshman phenom Ryan McKay and goals from classmates Riley Barber and Matthew Caito, the #3 Miami RedHawks defeated Lake Superior State 2-1 Saturday night in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

In doing so, the RedHawks are now just one point away from clinching a share of the final CCHA regular season title and two points from an outright championship to close the league. Frankly, going into this season with so many new faces and young players, I would not have predicted a regular season title. But this team, coached so well by head man Enrico Blasi and his associates Brent Brekke and Nick Petraglia have molded the 2012-13 RedHawks (21-8-5, 16-6-4-4 1st CCHA) into an intense, system-based and fast squad that is a nightmare to play against. The RedHawks lead the nation in team defense and are sixth in penalty killing despite an offense that has just one point-per-game player (Barber) and no skaters ranked higher than 14th (Barber) in the national scoring race.

Last night, the ‘Hawks were carried by their talented freshmen as they served up a hard-fought victory. Though frankly, you never really felt as if Lake would be able to get past the one-goal barrier with McKay back between the pipes and the Miami defense stinging a bit after allowing four Laker goals the night before.

As they did on Friday, Miami struck first on the powerplay with Barber collecting his team-leading 14th goal of the year. Caito and senior forward Curtis McKenzie drew the assists on Barber’s goal which gave Miami a 1-0 lead after one period.

In the second, the Lakers found the equalizer at 8:23 but Caito would bury his fifth goal, and second in as many nights, on a one-timer with assists going to Austin Czarnik and Barber. On the weekend, Caito finished 2-1-3 and should merit consideration for both CCHA Defensive and Rookie of the Week honors. Speaking of the Rookie of the Week award, Caito will likely have company as Barber notched an identical weekend line scoring both nights and adding the aforementioned helper on Caito’s game-winning goal last night.

It would be an understatement to say that Caito has been very, very good this year helping soothe the losses of four-year starters Cameron Schilling, Will Weber and Chris Wideman from the Miami blueline. And, it goes without saying that the recruiting job by this coaching staff to fill so many defensive positions was superb. To think Miami leads the nation in team defense after losing both four-year goaltenders and those defensemen is more than impressive, it’s quite amazing. As we begin to look back on a memorable regular season, aside from the mid-December to mid-January mini swoon, this team has been focused each and every night. It will be interesting to see if they can carry the momentum into the CCHA playoffs, and hopefully, into the NCAA tournament as well.

Looking ahead, Miami will return home for the final weekend of the regular season, the final weekend of regular season play in the CCHA (I’m starting to actually get a little sad…) and the final two meetings between Miami and Ohio State as conference mates. That’s almost inexplicable, but it is what it is.

The Buckeyes will limp into Oxford after being swept at home by Michigan. It was the Wolverines first sweep of the season so hopefully it’s more an indication that Ohio State is bad rather than a sign Michigan is waking up. The Buckeyes are locked into either fourth or fifth place in the CCHA standings and will face Ferris State in the second round of the CCHA playoffs. The Buckeyes can earn a home series against the Bulldogs with help from Michigan who will face Ferris hoping to secure home ice in the FIRST round of the CCHA tournament. Ferris and Ohio State are tied with 42 points entering the final weekend of the season. The Buckeyes surrendered 11 goals on the weekend as the Wolverines lit the lamp with regularity against senior transfer Brady “Hjelle Sandwich” who to that point had been having a good final season of college hockey. If the Buckeyes were to earn home ice, it would appear they’d actually get to play games at the Schott Cave, since the OHSAA wrestling finals are this weekend. Often that tournament forces the Buckeyes to play at the old OSU Ice Rink which actually contributes a far better atmosphere than the Cave. Speaking of which, playing at the Cave might not necessarily be a good thing. The Schottenstein Center has a capacity of 17,500, yet they average only 3,246 fans per night. In contrast, Steve Cady Arena has a listed capacity of 3,600 (though I think it’s really 3,200) yet Miami averages 3,040 fans per night, just a shade less than duhOSU. It really is true. The Schott Cave is an absolute hell hole for hockey. By far the worst place I’ve ever seen a hockey game. Give me the old barn next to St. John Arena any day.

Anyhoo…

The RedHawks enter the final weekend of the season 2-0-1 against the Buckeyes and lead second place Western Michigan by five points in the CCHA standings. Miami will need just two points over the course of the final two games to clinch the title, but should the Broncos or third place Notre Dame stumble either night, the RedHawks will lock up their third conference title in the past eight seasons and fourth in school history.

Miami seniors Steven Spinell, Curtis McKenzie, Joe Hartman, Marc Hagel, Steve Mason and Garrett Kennedy will suit up in their final regular season games in Oxford. This class is the last link back to the 2009-10 Frozen Four team and one would think they’d like nothing better than a regular season title to bookend their career and maybe just find a way to get to Pittsburgh for a chance to win a national championship.

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Posted on February 24, 2013, in 2012-13 Weekend Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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