Miami vs. Minnesota State – Another take

F4Logo
The road to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh
begins this weekend for 16 NCAA teams.

This Saturday, Miami’s NCAA tournament run takes a trip through Toledo, Ohio, as the RedHawks take on the Minnesota State Mavericks. There are some interesting storylines that my co-blogger redhawk95 laid out for you: Miami can’t win the big games and a “one and done” is forthcoming. Well fear not, RedHawks. I think Rico Blasi and the youngest Miami team in decades have more going for them this weekend than previously expressed.

Let’s start with Minnesota State. When I sat down to write this piece (admittedly for the last 3 days), I couldn’t help but let thoughts run through my head like “they only went 16-11 in WCHA play” “they allowed 95 goals this year” and “they just lost 7-2 to Wisconsin!” But then I look at their season and they did win some considerable games. Minnesota twice, North Dakota, at Wisconsin twice. However, my clinching statistic is this. MSU was only 13-13-1 against TUCs this year and went 5-9 against tournament teams in 2013. Against the better teams, they haven’t produced the results.

Consider that Minnesota State hasn’t been to “the skate” (my hockey version of “the dance”) since 2003. 10 years. The student athletes playing on this team almost assuredly didn’t know they were even going to attend Minnesota State when that happened.  Can they score goals? Sure. They certainly can, and are 10th in the country in scoring at 3.17 goals per game. That’s a lot of scoring, but as I look back to the games I saw (on TV) featuring WCHA teams, they all allowed a lot of goals over the course of the season. 6 of the top 11 schools in the country in scoring margin hail from the WCHA. What does that tell me? Goaltending in the WCHA is suspect. With Miami’s snipers like Riley Barber, Austin Czarnik, Alex Wideman, Curtis McKenzie and Cody Murphy, I think we can get some pucks past Mavericks Freshman Goalie Stephon Williams.

Speaking of Williams, much like Miami freshman netminder Ryan McKay, he was also pulled in Minnesota State’s 7-2 loss to Wisconsin to finish their conference tournament run. Both goalies got wake up calls. It will be interesting to see how they come back this weekend. That is, if McKay gets the start instead of Williams. If he does, and MSU’s Williams gets the nod as well, we might just see a 1-0 3OT thriller in Toledo if they both decide to stand on their heads for the night.

Alright, now to present the case for the RedHawks. I will admit, it’s not an open and shut case. Miami just lost 6-2 to Michigan, are just 7-5 in their last dozen games including losses to 2 bottom feeders this year (Michigan State, Michigan) and sometimes forget to show up to games (7 shutouts). However, this Warrior hasn’t given up hope entirely. Here are some points to consider.

First, Miami has been here before. This is the 8th year in a row Miami has been in the tournament. In the last 8 years, MSU (1st appearance in last 8), St. Cloud (4th) and Notre Dame (5th) have been in the tournament 10 times total. None of these teams were in the tournament last year when Miami was bounced by UMass-Lowell.

Next, let’s look back at that scoring stat. Sure, MSU is 10th in the country in scoring. But if you look at scoring margin, they’ve only outscored their opponents by 0.8 goals a game. Hmm. Interesting. That number sounds familiar … Oh look. Miami’s scoring margin is … 0.8 goals per game. Sure Miami has scored just 101 goals to Minnesota State’s 127, but on the defensive side of the puck, Miami has only allowed 69 goals against all season. The defense is there. The goaltending is there (I could write an entire other article on McKay vs. Williams for this weekend’s start, but either will be fine with me).

Finally, you might say that Miami hasn’t exactly had the best of runs in previous tournaments, but in the last 8 seasons, Rico Blasi and company are 7-7 in the tournament. Find me a team that hasn’t won the whole thing, but has won 7 NCAA tournament games in the last 7 years. I’m not sure there is another one out there. Miami can and has won big games on this stage in the past. In this stretch, Miami has won the CCHA tournament, and has made 2 Frozen Fours. That is impressive and in this supposed year of “rebuiding,” don’t be surprised if Miami puts it together and wins a few games.

Well there you have it. The case for Miami to win a couple games. I’m not going to come out and say they will make it to Pittsburgh with 2 wins this weekend. They have to get through MSU first, and then either the CCHA Tournament Champion or the WCHA Regular Season Champion to get there. But in a wide open tournament, the Midwest regional in Toledo is possibly the most wide open foursome of teams and any of them can make it to Pittsburgh. Why not Miami?

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Posted on March 29, 2013, in 2012-13 Weekend Previews, College Hockey, Miami RedHawks, NCAA Hockey, Notre Dame and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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