On the brink: Miami takes on OSU for the CCHA Championship
Miami faces OSU with the final CCHA
Championship just 2 points away.
Miami’s long road to the last-ever CCHA Championship didn’t come without struggles, growing pains and scoring droughts. However, this group of 26 student-athletes is on the brink of the 4th ever CCHA Regular Season Championship in Miami Ice Hockey History. We haven’t been huge on weekend previews this season, so why start now? Take a look at Rick Cassano’s preview, as well as the Official Miami Hockey preview for those. Here’s a recap of an action packed last week of February as we look forward to a possible celebration in Oxford.
Let’s start with the weekend series at Lake Superior State. One thing is for certain: Miami can win just about any game. There have been shutouts (Goaltender Ryan McKay has recorded 3 and his counterpart Jay Williams has 2 on the year), there have been blowouts (5-1 over Colgate in the opening weekend, 5-2 and 4-0 at Alaska, and 6-2 over Alaska in Oxford) and now we’ve seen the close, grind-it-out, gritty performance from a team that is starting to get hot at the right time.
Miami is now 9-2 dating back to their win in Madison over the Wisconsin Badgers, which was another of these tight games that Miami pulled out. That game, along with the 2-1 victory on Saturday night in Sault Saint Marie were the low scoring affairs that seem to go Miami’s way in the last 8 or so years. They are the reason Miami has won 20 or more games each of those last 8 seasons, and why Miami rides a 7 year streak of NCAA tournament berths, that will no doubt become an 8th straight year in just 3 weeks from this coming Sunday.
The last week was quite a heavy awards week for the RedHawks. Riley Barber had 10 shots on goal leading to 2 goals and an assist on Friday night, then followed it up with the first goal on Saturday plus an assist on the game winning second goal. Not a bad weekend for the Freshman, and it earned him the CCHA Rookie of the week award for it. It would seem that Barber is a lock for Rookie of the Year this season, having won the weekly award 4 times, along with the October and November CCHA Rookie of the Month awards. And let’s not forget that he leads the entire CCHA in scoring with a line of 14 Goals and 20 Assists.
As we predicted on our twitter feed, another Miami Freshman could have taken the weekly honor for CCHA Rookies, but instead Matthew Caito took home the Defenseman of the week award for his efforts. Caito had 2 goals and an assist on the weekend, capping it off with the game winner on Saturday night. Miami was on the penalty kill quite a bit on Friday night, and with Caito’s solid blue-line play, Miami was 5 for 7 on the night, plus an additional 3 for 3 on Saturday night. Caito is now 4th on the team in scoring overall, with 5 goals and 13 assists.
HARDWARE PART 2
Remember when Miami went to Michigan and Ryan McKay went out of the game about 5 minutes into the Friday night contest? Jay Williams did an unbelievable job in his relief and is one of the big reasons Miami is in the position to clinch tonight. Since coming back, however, McKay has made Williams look merely pedestrian. No … I’m just kidding. Really, it is so close, Blasi still has a real tough choice on who to play each night as evidenced in Rick Cassano’s preview in the Dayton Daily News we mentioned above. Blasi still refuses to say who will be the starter tonight, and we’ll have to find out around 7 as the RedHawks take the ice for warmups.
Here’s the stats since McKay came back (Saturday December 1st)
Williams: 5-3-1, .936 Save % and 1.55 GAA in 9 games. “Pedestrian.”
McKay: 8-3-1, .958 Save % and 1.16 GAA in 12 games.
In those games, Williams’s Save % would be good for 7th overall for NCAA Division 1 goalies and his goals against average would be 3rd overall. Pedestrian, right?
Truly, Williams has been great, including in the 5-4 win over Lake Superior, but it was McKay who took home the CCHA Goaltender of the Month award for February. Overall in February, he was 4-1-0, had a 1.20 GAA and an unbelievable .961 Save percentage. In the 5 games, that means he allowed just 6 goals in earning his second CCHA Goaltender of the month award (December).
HARDWARE PART 3
As we have chronicled heavily for you, the RedHawks are on the brink of another CCHA Regular Season Championship. It’s interesting to say another after Miami only won 1 such championship during the first 27 years of the program’s existence (1992-93). Now, Miami stands just 1 point away from a share of the title for the third time in the last 8 years (2005-06, 2009-10), not to mention the Mason Cup victory for winning the CCHA Playoffs in 2010-11.
It’s possible that tonight, Miami skates off as champions once again under Head Coach Enrico Blasi. With even a shootout loss (Miami hasn’t allowed a penalty shot or shootout goal this season) and a subsequent loss, Miami could still win the CCHA outright, it would just take a few losses from WMU and Notre Dame. With a shootout win (2 points) or regulation win tonight, the title is ours and the hardware comes back to Oxford for good.
A QUICK PREVIEW
The weekend’s games will be the 4th and 5th against Ohio State – and there’s a possibility they won’t be the last against the Suckeyes this season. If Miami clinches the top seed and Ohio State can get to the Semifinals as the lowest remaining seed, the two would meet again in Detroit. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
While Barber sits at the top of the CCHA in scoring, he is followed in second by linemate Austin Czarnik. However, you can’t get to the next position without seeing 2 Ohio State skaters also in the scoring race. Ryan Dzingel has 14 goals and 18 assists and Tanner Fritz has 10 goals and 22 assists. Those 2 and Czarnik are tied for that 2nd spot, all with 32 points, and Miami will need to stop each of them to win this weekend.
Will we see Jay “The Pedestrian” Williams or Ryan “Good at Hockey” McKay in net? Who knows. One thing is for certain, none of us want to have that decision on our hands.
Another thing we know? Waiting until Saturday would not be nice. Let’s clinch tonight!
Win and it’s done. Let’s Go RedHawks!