Miami v. Minnesota State – NCAA Tournament, Round 1

The RedHawks will face the Mavericks of Minnesota State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament

Late last night, the Miami RedHawks (24-11-5) learned their NCAA tournament fate as they received an at-large bid to compete for a national championship in the 2013 NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament. The RedHawks were seeded second in the Midwest Regional and will face third seeded Minnesota State of the WCHA on Saturday at 5pm EST. The game will be played in Toledo, Ohio at the Huntington Center, home of the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL. This is the eighth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance for Miami, and the 11th in school history. On the other hand, this is just the second appearance all-time for MSU in the national tournament, and first since 2003 when they lost a first round game to Cornell.

With Miami’s loss to Michigan last Saturday combined with Notre Dame’s win over the Wolverines yesterday afternoon, the Fighting Irish earned the fourth and final one seed but were “rewarded” with a game against co-WCHA regular season champ, St. Cloud State. The Irish, CCHA tournament champions, finished second in the CCHA’s final regular season to Miami, who won their fourth regular season title in school history. With the two match-ups, this reads like a WCHA/CCHA mini-tournament with the two leagues facing off against one another for a final time.

The Mavericks (24-13-3) finished the WCHA regular season in a three-way tie for fourth place but were resoundingly routed by eventual WCHA tournament champion, Wisconsin, 7-2 in the first WCHA Final Five play-in game last Thursday. However, the Mavericks enter this weekend’s contest with gaudy statistics both from individual and team perspectives.

The Mavs have scored a whopping 127 goals and have surrendered a modest 95. That is in stark contrast to the low-scoring RedHawks who have netted just 101 goals on the year, but have allowed only 69. MSU is led by senior Eriah Hayes (20-16-36) and sophomores Matt Leitner (17-30-47) and JP Lafontaine (9-26-35) while freshman Stevon Williams has been stellar in net posting a record of 21-11-2 with a stout 1.96 GAA and .925 save percentage.

On paper, this appears to be another disastrous matchup for Miami.

Like last year against then unknown UMass-Lowell, the Mavericks are a high scoring team who hasn’t been in the tournament in 10 years and have nothing to lose, whereas Miami is there year after year after year. And, yet again, we know nothing of this team, but it doesn’t really matter. What we’ve learned over the years is to respect any and all opponents for they have a tendency to make Miami look silly even when we have no idea who they are.

Further, in listening to Hayes talk about the matchup, he shows little regard, nor concern, for the RedHawks.

And, as we’ve written, the RedHawks coaching staff just does not seem to prepare this team well for big games. I have no other way of describing the failures. Perhaps the losses of Jeff Blashill and Chris Bergeron have hurt the program most in this department.

Looking at the teams on paper, I do not see how Miami wins this game. The Mavericks are battle tested, having performed well in the always tough WCHA going 16-11-1 in league play. They have some signature victories over Minnesota (twice), Wisconsin (twice) and North Dakota (once), and possess good goaltending with great scoring. The way Miami plays these tournament games (tight – literally and figuratively), I do not know if the RedHawks can put up the three or four goals that it will take to win. This feels exactly like last year’s UML game, except that last year, I thought we’d have no problem with the River Hawks.

Perhaps something will happen to change my mind during the week. As of now, I feel another “one and done” is forthcoming.

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Posted on March 25, 2013, in 2012-13 News, 2012-13 Weekend Previews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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