Monthly Archives: October 2013

Providence Too Much to Handle

We’ll be the first to say it: Miami didn’t look so hot against an up-and-coming Providence Friars team this past weekend. There were several defensive lapses, a couple of soft goals and a continued string of untimely penalties both nights. Those mistakes were just too much to overcome against the now third-ranked Friars. Sure, the offense was able to make things look good with 2 comebacks to force overtime in both games, but plainly said, the defense needs to be better.

Here are Friday’s highlights from Providence:

Keep an eye on the overtime game winner for Providence. Granted this goal came on a 5 on 3 power play for the Friars, but on a shot from within 2 inches of the goal line, the puck has to stay out of the net. This came just 1 second before 1 of the Miami players was due to come out of the box, and Miami’s efforts to come down from an early 2-0 lead were squandered.

And here are Saturday’s highlights. We blame the Friars for the lack of sound (It’s all your fault! It’s all…ok…we’ll stop.):

Saturday night took on an eerily similar feel to it only half way through the first. Providence was up 2-0 again with just 9:25 gone in the period, but Riley Barber would score his second of the weekend to pull within 1 on a short handed goal. Barber’s goal was scored just 15 seconds after Providence went up 2-0, but they’d return the favor immediately thereafter, and it was another 2-goal hole to climb out of.

On each of the first 2 goals, keep an eye out for missed Miami checks. Each aggressive play is what Enrico Blasi will always preach, and it’s the right play – you can’t be waiting for the play to get to you. But in these 2 cases, you have to be certain to take the opposing skater out of the play. When the dust settled on the first period, it was those 2 missed checks and a juicy rebound that led to a 3-2 Providence lead. 4 of the 5 goals were scored in an 86 second blitz midway through the period. We could barely catch our breath:

After the weekend, Head Coach Enrico Blasi has this to say:

Obviously not the weekend we wanted. I thought our guys played hard, but we seemed to be making some plays that resulted in goals against. Of course things need to be cleaned up. I thought the good sign is that we were a resilient group. Both Friday and Saturday night we had to come back, but on Saturday we carried the play for the most part, we came back and really took it to them after that.

I’m disappointed in the outcomes, but we are going to continue to focus on the process.

Here come our three stars and weekend news to use for this week.

Three Stars of the Weekend

I get the feeling you’re going to continue seeing our #1 and 2 stars even more this season.

3. Miami’s Penalty Kill on Friday night. I can’t go as far to say both nights here, mainly because they were just 1 of 3 on Saturday night, but Friday night was nearly perfect. Other than the 5 on 3 goal previously mentioned, Miami killed 8 straight penalties. I’ve not seen a box score so lit up with strange penalties. Blake Coleman was hit with a diving penalty but didn’t get the accompanying call on Providence. Kevin Morris got a 10-minute misconduct late in the third, and Chris Joyaux got a 5-minute major and game misconduct with 3 minutes to go. With all of those penalties and shortening of the bench, Miami still got this game into overtime, much to the thanks of this penalty killing unit.

2. As if he didn’t before, Austin Czarnik is really starting to remind me of Andy Miele. I have these memories in my head of #17 skating around the offensive zone with the puck, from behind the net, around the boards, to the blue line, and back to the net. Only instead of the nameplate being Miele, it’s more and more becoming that of Czarnik (minus the 1). I wish Miami kept the “time on ice” (or TOI) stat because I’m certain Z’s would be north of 22-24 minutes for every game. Miele … er … I mean … Czarnik had assists on 5 of the 6 Miami goals this weekend and 5 blocked shots on Friday, to earn himself our #2 star of the weekend as well as the NCHC Offensive Player of the Week award.

1. I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, but really: Riley Barber IS. GOOD. AT. HOCKEY. Friday night: a game-high 7 shots, and the game-tying power play goal at 7:08 of the third period. Saturday? There was more. 2 goals, including – you guessed it – the game tying, power play tally. This time it was a little sooner, at the 4:53 mark of the third period. John Buccigross reminded us on Sunday where Barber stands in the NCAA scoring race:

Diving In

Let’s take a look at faceoffs quickly, because the box score tells us an interesting story from Friday night. Czarnik took 31 draws on Friday and won just 10 of them. He would recover to win 14 of 26 on Saturday, but overall on Friday night, Miami was just 30 for 78 on the faceoff dot – just 38%. That’s not going to cut it.

Riley Barber has been doing it all for the RedHawks through 6 games. (Flickr: Dani Mackenzie)

Riley Barber has been doing it all for the RedHawks through 6 games. (Flickr: Dani Mackenzie)

Miami is now 8 of 29 on the power play (27.6%) and is ranked 9th in the country. As we mentioned in our 3 Stars, the Penalty Kill was great on Friday night, but stunk it up on Saturday night allowing to power play goals. On the season, Miami is sputtering on the penalty kill at just 80.6%, a portion of the game that will need to be improved upon if they want to stay in the top 5 in the rankings. The 2 shorthanded goals indicate that Miami is being their normal selves – very agressive on the penalty kill, which can lead to some openings, and so far this season, it has been to their detriment.

Coming into the weekend, Providence was 19 for 19 on their penalty kill – a big reason they were sitting at #8 in the country. They would run that to 23 kills on their first 23 penalties until the third period when Blake Coleman and Barber slammed home 2 PPGs to halt that streak. Miami now has power play goals in 4 of their first 6 games.

Coming Up Next

Miami will host Canisius for a 2 game set this weekend in Oxford. Game times are 7:35 Friday night and 7:05 Saturday night. Last year, Canisius made the NCAA tournament, and are 1-2-0 this season. We’ll have more for you later this week.

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Recapping the Weekend: Miami and UND Split

The first 2 NCHC games are in the books for the Miami RedHawks. There were ceremonial puck drops, plenty of firsts and two evenings of exciting hockey.

(Miami University Athletics)

Miami Athletic Director David Sayler and President David Hodge drop the NCHC’s ceremonial first puck. (Miami University Athletics)

6th ranked North Dakota took Friday night’s game 4-2 on the strength of 2 goals from Brendan O’Donnell and 35 saves from goalie Zane Gothberg. Jay Williams blocked 21 of 25 shots, but was victim of a couple of bad bounces and bad breaks by the end of the night.

The first 2 goals on Friday night were partly the cause of bad bounces, and especially the second goal. The second tally for UND was fired from the point and sailed high over Jay Williams’ head. The puck hit solidly on the back glass and rebounded to hit him directly in the back before rolling into the net.

Miami would go down 3-0 with just 14 seconds gone in the second period, but would fight back later in the frame. Sean Kuraly put in a rebound and Anthony Louis snuck one through Gothberg’s legs to pull within 3-2. Miami carried much of the play in the second half of the game, but a low shot from the point hit Austin Czarnik’s stick in the slot and rocketed over William’s shoulder for the nail in the coffin.

Saturday night started entirely differently for the RedHawks. Gothberg had been pulled after allowing 4 goals in 24 minutes of play. Backup Clarke Saunders allowed a shot on his first save attempt and it was Miami 5 and North Dakota 0 in seemingly the blink of an eye. On the night, Miami fired 40 total shots, had 9 of them blocked and fired one off of the post. On the other end of the ice, Ryan McKay stopped 34 of 36 shots on the night.

Did any of you get a chance to meet John Buccigross, who was in the house Friday night? Share with us your pictures of the weekend on Twitter at @MiamiHockeyBlog. You can also share with us your 3 stars of the weekend. Ours are below.

3 Stars of the Weekend

3. Jimmy Mullin was absolutely on fire on Saturday night. It’s not to say he played poorly on Friday, but Saturday he was a different skater altogether. His speed was on display all night and he was flying past UND defenders on almost every shift. He finished the night with 2 assists and 4 shots, helping Blake Coleman on his 2nd and 3rd goals of the night. Jimmy looks great so far this year after suffering a knee injury in the 2013 NCAA tournament that knocked him out of the Regional Final against St. Cloud State.

2. Your number 2 star is the head coach once again. Enrico Blasi made some changes from the first game to the second game of the series. These timely lineup moves, detailed below, proved to be very significant and helped to propel Miami to the win. Perhaps more importantly, it also prevented the sweep.

  • The first change was to put Cody Murphy on the top line with Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber. The speed and agility these guys had was on display all evening and all three scored goals, and Murphy picked up an additional point on an assist.
  • Devin Loe and Johnny Wingels were inserted into their first NCAA games, and Bryon Paulazzo also played on Saturday after sitting out on Friday night. This threesome took the places of Michael Mooney on the blue line and Max Cook and Justin Greenberg on the forward lines.
    • It is unknown if Max Cook suffered any type of injury to be dropped from the top line all the way out of the lineup, but this was one of the more shocking moves of the night.
    • Loe took advantage of the start by contributing 2 assists, 3 shots and was a plus-3 on the night. I really liked his play and his speed as surprising.
    • Wingels also looked great, playing on a defensive pairing with Sophomore Taylor Richart.

It seemed as though on Friday night Blasi decided to go with muscle and size against UND, but switched it up to go with speed on Saturday night. The move paid off as Miami got their first ever win over North Dakota.

Coleman netted a hat trick on Saturday night to carry #1 Miami to victory. (Miami University Athletics)

Coleman netted a hat trick on Saturday night to carry #1 Miami to victory. (Miami University Athletics)

1. Blake Coleman scored a hattrick on Saturday night. The hattrick was the first of his career and the first ever in the NCHC. Goals 2 and 3 came just 14 seconds apart, and he nearly scored a 4th goal only a couple of shifts later. He also won 8 of the 12 faceoffs he took. Two side notes here:

  • On Friday night, Coleman was hit – incorrectly in my opinion – with a 5 minute major penalty for checking from behind and missed the final 15 minutes with the accompanying game misconduct penalty the penalty carries with it. Whether warranted or not, Coleman certainly made up for the penalty on Saturday night.
  • Late during Saturday night’s game, Blake was seen stretching frequently in the third period. After hobbling off the ice with only a few minutes to go, Coleman missed a shift, but then gave it a go, only to come off the ice again after chasing down a loose puck. We’ll keep you apprised of any injury news this week.

Thanks again for reading, and we’ll see you next weekend!

The NCHC’s Championship Trophy Arrives

Check out this bad boy! All we have to say is WOW.

Check out the entire photo gallery from the NCHC’s Colorado Springs Headquarters on Facebook.

Ironically, it is #1 Miami and #6 North Dakota this weekend in the first game of the NCHC season. If I was a gambling man, I’d say that these two will battle it out for this – the regular season championship trophy – all season.

The NCHC's Championship Trophy has arrived. (Photo: The NCHC)

The NCHC’s Championship Trophy has arrived. (Photo: The NCHC)

Clash of the Titans: Miami Plays North Dakota for Weekend Set

This week, I teamed up with another member of The Hockey Writers, Eric Burton (found on twitter as @goon48) to preview the upcoming series with North Dakota. This originally appeared on The Hockey Writers, so click here to see the full preview over at THW: http://thehockeywriters.com/clash-titans-miami-plays-north-dakota-weekend-set/ Here are a couple highlights of of the full version.

Read the rest of this entry

RedHawks Rewind: Recapping Week 1

Sing a song! Miami Sweeps Ohio State on opening weekend!

Sing a song! Miami Sweeps Ohio State on opening weekend!

We partied too much on Saturday night and you have permission to give us a tongue lashing when you see us in Oxford this weekend for skipping out on the Twitter SixPack and our new Three Stars feature. We’ll be more diligent with the SixPack in the future. Promise. Time for some news you can use after last weekend’s games.

After the win, here are a few things Coach Blasi had to say:

That’s obviously the first weekend of our season against our huge in state rival and its a huge start for us.  We’ve been opportunistic with our chances and if we’re going to play with this intensity, scoring will come. But we still have to clean things up. We’ve got to manage the puck a little bit better and be more determined away from the puck.

I thought our defense handled themselves well – I thought we saw a lot better gap control tonight but we’re still a work in progress, and we have to get better. We’ve got to forget about what happened and get ready for our next game.

Saturday’s 3 Stars

Riley Barber currently leads the NCAA with 7 points after 1 week. (Michael Griggs/Miami University Athletics)

Riley Barber currently leads the NCAA with 7 points after 1 week. (Michael Griggs/Miami University Athletics)

3. Enrico Blasi and the Power Play unit. On Friday night, Blasi deployed 5 forwards on their 2 early 5-on-3 power plays, and why not? They scored twice, so it was clearly the right move. On Saturday, Miami again scored a power play goal, this time on just a normal 5-on-4 scenario. On the ice were Riley Barber who scored the goal, Austin Czarnik, Blake Coleman and Max Cook, plus Matthew Caito – Miami’s best offensive defenseman. Miami is now 4 of 10 on the power play in 2 games, having scored in both games. Sat’s PPG came in just 14 seconds of PP time as well.

2. Austin Czarnik had 4 points (1-3–4) on the night. Add in a goal from Friday and he still wasn’t even close to our #1 star for the weekend. But Czarnik was, as usual, all over the ice and looked like the best player on either squad and an early season Hobey Baker favorite.

1. Was there any question that Riley Barber would get this slot? Barber had 3 assists Friday and 4 goals Saturday (let’s see if he can keep up 3.5 points per game this season!). Barber becomes the first RedHawk to score 4 goals since Tommy Wingels did so in December of 2009.

Check out the Saturday night highlights from Miami All-Access and Rachel Lewis’s Photo Gallery of Saturday’s game.

Press Clippings

By now you know that Miami sits firmly atop the National Polls. What you may not remember is that the last time Miami played North Dakota on November 28, 2009, they were amidst a 12-week run (their longest ever) at #1. North Dakota was #4 at the time.

Barber and Hamilton garner two of the four first-ever NCHC weekly awards. You know what Barber did – basically undressed Ohio State for two nights, notching 3 assists and 4 goals, to earn the first NCHC Player of the Week. Trevor Hamilton is one of the new faces in Oxford, and had 3 assists and was a +4 on the weekend to earn Rookie of the Week. Read all about it from the NCHC.

Upcoming

North Dakota heads to Oxford for their first ever visit. Miami is 0-2-1 vs North Dakota all time. The three matchups were in 1999 in Milwaukee, WI, in the Lefty McFadden Invitational to start the 2005-06 season and the aforementioned 5-5 tie in 2009. Get used to seeing North Dakota, as we see them twice more this year (Happy Valentine’s Day), and a whole bunch more as we move forward in the NCHC. Most likely, the NCHC Tournament will have to go through them as well. We are reminded by Brad Schlossman – writer for North Dakota at the Grand Forks Herald – how good Miami has been at home recently:

After playing UND this weekend, Miami then heads out to Providence, RI for a return date with the Friars after they came to Oxford last year.

#2 Miami stops Ohio State

Light the Lantern!

On the strength of six goals from six different players, the #2 Miami RedHawks defeated Ohio State 6-2 in a non-conference game in Columbus, Ohio on Friday night.

In a nutshell, this game came down to penalties and special teams.

Ohio State committed four first period penalties and Miami converted those opportunities into a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.

Junior captain Austin Czarnik opened the scoring for the 2013-14 season by converting a Riley Barber rebound off the back boards with a 5×3 advantage for a quick Miami lead at 7:47 of the first. And again, with Miami skating with a two-man advantage, sophomore Alex Wideman took a pass from Barber and notched his first of the year to give the RedHawks a 2-0 lead they would carry into the third period.

Sophomores Sean Kuraly and Riley Barber recorded assists on Miami’s first two goals. Kuraly would end the night with a career high three helpers and leads the squad in the early scoring race.

In the third, Ohio State would score two goals within the first three minutes of action coming off the mat to even the game with goals by Darik Angeli and someone named Chad Niddery. This was interesting because like last Saturday’s exhibition game against Windsor, Miami suffered two quick defensive lapses allowing for two quick scores.

During his weekly press conference, head coach Enrico Blasi said he felt his defensemen looked a little jittery at times and would need to catch up to the speed of the game. I wonder if it’s so much a speed thing and perhaps more of a consistency element. Playing to the whistle and understanding your opponent can hurt you until the game is over. Certainly there is enough returning experience from last year including sophomores Matthew Caito, Chris Joyaux and Taylor Richart to compensate, but really, Miami is incredibly green on the blueline. Last night, the RedHawks started two freshmen defensemen (Matt Joyaux and Trevor Hamilton), a junior (Ben Paulides) who’s played in only 35 career games,  the aforementioned three sophomore regulars, and started a sophomore goaltender (Jay Williams) who was making only his 20th career start.

Speaking of Williams, he recorded his 13th career victory in making 26 stops on the night. Overall, he was solid and gave the RedHawks what they needed. And, hey, I’ll take two goals allowed per night all year.

Junior Jimmy Mullin recorded assists on two of Miami’s six goals. (photo: Rachel Lewis)

Last thought regarding the defense…all I’m saying is that if there is a part of the game that will take a little time, it’s the defense. And, they only surrendered two goals but duhOSU isn’t exactly a scoring juggernaut averaging only a smidge more than two goals per game last season. I know we’ll see daily improvement here throughout the year as the newbies work their way into the regular grind of college hockey.

Back to the game.

After Ohio State tied the game at two, it was as if a bell sounded for the offense.

Miami would go on to score four unanswered goals in the third including Cody Murphy’s game-winner just 29 seconds after the Buckeyes tied the score. Junior Jimmy Mullin carried the puck into the zone drawing the defense close before dropping a pass to the trailing Murphy who beat Ohio State sophomore goaltender Collin Olson. Following Murphy’s goal, junior Blake Coleman, freshman Anthony Louis and Paulides also found the net as Miami pulled away in style. For Louis and Paulides, it was their first career goals. While Louis’ came in his first collegiate game, it was game 35 for Paulides, the junior defenseman from San Jose, California.

Tonight, Miami and Ohio State will hook up for the final time this season as the RedHawks will open the home schedule at Steve Cady Arena. Faceoff time is 7:05 PM EST and the game can be viewed (hopefully) via Miami All-Access.

Notes

  • Junior Blake Coleman scored only nine goals last season. Getting him going early is a great sign.
  • Miami debuted their new red/away Bauer sweaters (above) adorned with chrome highlights. It’s still early, but I’m not sure I’m loving them. Give me these bad boys any day.
  • Miami was 3-for-3 on the penalty kill and 3-for-8 on the powerplay.
  • Freshman defenseman, Trevor Hamilton, recorded his first collegiate point, an assist, on Murphy’s game-winner.

#2 Miami v. Ohio State

The #2 RedHawks start the season against in-state rival Ohio State

Dozens of fans pack duhOSU’s Cheap Furniture Arena. (photo: OSU/Schottenstein Center)

Ah, that unmistakable scent that can only be caused by the expulsion of gaseous by product waste from the inefficient internal combustion engine of a Zamboni machine is in the air! And, that means the Miami RedHawks are back on the ice for real beginning tonight in Columbus as #2 Miami faces Ohio State at Cheap Furniture Arena where fans dress as empty seats except when the Miami faithful show up in droves.

So, let’s get to it.

 

The Buckeyes

Though the coach is new (former associate head coach Steve Rohlik takes over for the departed Mark Osiecki), the Buckeyes return their top eight scorers from a year ago including junior forwards Ryan Dzingel (16-22-38),  Tanner Fritz (11-26-37) and Max McCormick (15-16-31). On defense, duhOSU by sophomore Craig Dalrymple (3-14-17) and senior captain Curtis Gedig (3-12-15).

Speaking of Rohlik, at his weekly press conference, he mentioned that his team will be tested right off the bat by Miami but referenced their confidence level and depth as two big assets entering the season. He believes that by rolling lines they’ll be able to wear down teams and rely on their returning scoring talent to separate them from opponents. Only time will tell.

The biggest question mark coming into the season, however, is how the Buckeyes will replace their graduated All-America goaltender, Brady Hjelle, who had a career year for the Red and Silver by going 14-14-6 with an outstanding 2.00 GAA and .935 save percentage.

My guess? I think we’ll see highly regarded sophomore Collin Olson take over for duhOSU. Last season, Olson saw action in nine games posting a record of 2-3-1 with a 3.09 GAA and .901 save percentage. He’ll have huge skates to fill and while this Buckeye team seems deep on paper, this is a team that scored only 95 goals last year (they allowed 96) good for an average of just 2.37 per game. The Buckeyes finished below .500 last year with an all-world goaltender. They’ll have to prove they can score more to pick up the slack in net after the departure of Hjelle unless Olson can come close to matching those numbers from a year ago.

Austin Czarnik and the RedHawks defeated Windsor 8-2 in their only exhibition match of the season. (photo: Rachel Lewis)

The RedHawks

For Miami, the RedHawks opened their season last Saturday night in an exhibition match at Steve Cady Arena where they dominated the Lancers from the University of Windsor by an 8-2 count. Sophomore Riley Barber and freshman Justin Greenberg both netted two goals while sophomore goaltenders Jay Williams and Ryan McKay both saw action in net. Overall, the RedHawks played a decent game though they benefitted from outclassing and outskating the Lancers on pure speed and talent alone leading to several breakaway situations for Miami. Rest assured, the Hawks will not see such lax play anytime soon and will have to prove they can set up goals the old fashioned way if they are to beat the NCHC’s best.

At his weekly press conference, head coach Enrico Blasi made mention that the team would have to play better than they did against Windsor to compete at a high level. Specifically, he mentioned his defense corps looked a little jittery at times and will have to catch up to the speed of the game. Frankly, that will be true for the freshmen especially as Miami jumps right into some tough games out of the gate.

 Blasi was excited about opening the season against duhOSU saying that he couldn’t think of a better way to get the season started than to play your in-state rival. He feels that both sides understand the importance of playing each other every year and that it makes both teams better. He said he’s looking forward to the weekend and expects a fun atmosphere in both buildings. There’s nothing better than a rivalry to get the season going.

With Miami returning twenty players from last season’s NCAA regional finalist squad including both goaltenders, CCHA Rookie of the Year Riley Barber, junior All-American and this year’s captain, Austin Czarnik, the RedHawks look primed for a huge season. And, with the additions of highly regarded freshmen (F) Anthony Louis and (D) Trevor Hamilton along with (F) Justin Greenberg, (D) Johnny Wingels – yes, that Wingels – and Matt Joyaux (D), this freshman class has an opportunity to make an immediate impact and help Miami live up to its lofty #2 preseason ranking.

So, expect to see Miami lean on Czarnik and Barber but I also expect bounce-back seasons from both Jimmy Mullin and Blake Coleman who were inconsistent at times last year. Assuming we get quality play on defense in front of McKay and Williams, and I think we will, we have a chance to have a special year.

At a glance, you look at this roster and you don’t see a lot of size. What I do see, however, is a ton of speed. Mullin, Barber, Murphy, Gacek, Greenberg, Louis, Czarnik, Kuraly, Wideman…they all have outstanding legs. The defense, led by sophomore Matt Caito, is smooth, mobile and can join the play. But, are they physical enough to withstand the pounding they’ll receive from the likes of North Dakota, Denver and UNO? This team will be defined by its speed and skill. I just hope there is enough grit to go around. They’ll have a nice test this weekend as Ohio State has always favored the body and I do not see that changing over the course of one weekend.

The Prediction

Anyway, in summary, I think we’ll see Miami come out looking to prove a point but will likely settle for a split with each team winning in its own building.

The Deets

Who?

#2 Miami (2012-13: 25-12-5, 1st CCHA) vs. Ohio State (2012-13: 16-17-7, 4th CCHA)

Where and when?

Tonight at Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio 7:05 PM EST

Saturday at Steve Cady Arena, Oxford, Ohio, 7:05 PM EST

Prediction

Split

Miami’s Two-Headed Goalie Monster

The 2013-14 season is just about upon us, and we’re headed for another year of the two-headed monster in net. I want to preface what you’re about to read with a disclaimer that in no way do I think that either goalie that Miami currently has under scholarship is not good enough to be in a nubmer 1 goaltender position. But there is certainly a large part of me that would like to see either or both of these guys get their full-on shot at the #1 goalie spot for the Miami RedHawks.

In the last several years, Head Coach Enrico Blasi has employed the 2-goalie rotation. One of the two stellar goalies plays on Friday night, and the second will play on Saturday. Currently, that rotation is composed of Ryan McKay and Jay Williams. But what if things were different in Oxford? What if Enrico Blasi goes with an established top guy and has a trusted backup? We explore the topic as we prepare for the season that starts tonight.

The start of a trend

Brandon Crawford-West left school early, putting Miami in a situation to start the two-headed monster.

Brandon Crawford-West left school early, putting Miami in a situation to start the two-headed monster.

During the 2004-05 campaign, then-sophomore Brandon Crawford-West was the last clear-cut Number 1 goalie for the RedHawks. He played in 32 games, had a save % of .917 and allowed a fairly stingy 2.48 GAA for a team that went 15-18-5. It would be the last time Miami didn’t make the NCAA tournament before starting their current streak of 8 tournament appearances in a row. Crawford-West knew that Charlie Effinger was waiting in the wings, having posted a 4-2-0 record in 6 starts with 3 additional relief appearances. Crawford-West would then leave Miami after that sophomore campaign, and according to hockeydb.com, has not played any type of major hockey since.

During the offseason, Blasi would recruit and bring 6’2″ Jeff Zatkoff in to play between the pipes as his backup goalie. Only it didn’t turn out that way. Zatkoff actually played 4 of the first 5 games in 2005-06 (including the season-opening exhibition against Windsor) and won 3 of those 4. It seemed like Zatkoff was poised to be the #1 goalie, but would end up splitting games with Effinger. Zatkoff went 14-5-1 in 20 games and Effinger went 12-4-3 in 19 games.

The two would rotate for the rest of their time in Oxford until Effinger graduated in 2008, at which time also Zatkoff left Miami. He left with 1 year of eligibility remaining, and headed to the professional ranks. On a side note, Zatkoff is likely to get his first NHL game action this weekend, as the Pittsburgh Penguins play back-to-back games for the first time this season.

Two’s Company

Connor Knapp was part of the two-headed monster for Miami's 2 Frozen Four appearances.

Connor Knapp was part of the two-headed monster for Miami’s 2 Frozen Four appearances.

Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard were the two-headed monster from the 2008-09 season through the 2011-12 season. Having used Zatkoff and Effinger on a rotating basis, Blasi made no qualms about his rotation strategy, and rotated these two for their entire 4 years. Williams and McKay have continued that trend once again, having played their freshman season as a quite-potent 1-2 punch in Oxford.

Along the way, Coach Blasi has maintained that whomever plays best in practice during the week will play on Friday night, and the Saturday goalie will be determined based on the Friday night performance. In addition, Blasi is frequently quoted as saying that the two goalies are always good friends and truly push each other to be better in practice. But how far can that get you?

The Importance of Having a Number 1

Cody Reichard was part of the two-headed monster with Connor Knapp. (flickr: 560XLS)

Cody Reichard was part of the two-headed monster with Connor Knapp. (flickr: 560XLS)

In the 2008-09 season, Cody Reichard got hot at the end of the season and became the top goalie. He played in all 4 tournament games including the National Championship game against Boston University. He allowed just four goals and made 65 saves during the NCAA Regional in Minneapolis and during 21 period stretch ending with the 2 regional games, only allowed 12 goals. With a vote of confidence earlier in the season and being named “the guy”, I wonder what happens differently late National Championship game. Jump into the 2009 season, and the roles were reversed. Reichard was benched late in the season in favor of Connor Knapp. I’m not saying Knapp definitely gets us past Boston College in the Frozen Four/National Semifinal instead of getting pulled for Reichard in the 2nd period. But who knows?

A quick tale of the tape to illustrate where I’m going:

Reichard’s career: 92 starts and 53 wins; Named CCHA Player of the Year and a first-team All-CCHA selection in 2009-10 going 15-5-2.
Knapp: 84 starts and 46 career wins; 2010-11 CCHA Best Goaltender Award finishing with a 15-8-0 record, including 12 wins in his final 16 starts, allowing a goal or less in 13 of his final 17 appearance.

Let’s say that Reichard gets half of Knapp’s starts and keeps the same 57.6 win percentage, that extrapolates to 77 career wins in 134 games. If Knapp gets half of Reichard’s? 130 starts and 71 wins. Staggering numbers while one is the main guy and another is the backup.

The Situation at Hand

Jay Williams was stellar last season before Ryan McKay caught fire. (Columbus Dispatch: Eamon Queeny)

Jay Williams was stellar last season before Ryan McKay caught fire. (Columbus Dispatch: Eamon Queeny)

Fast forward to 2012-13 when Ryan McKay and Jay Williams split time in net. Williams was 12-5-1 in 21 games and was 13-7-2 in 23 games. Jay Williams filled in for McKay at the start of the season while McKay was injured. Later, it was McKay who went on an unbelievable streak and ended up starting 13 of the last 15 games in net. Does that mean McKay will be the #1 guy come Friday night?

Don’t count on it.

I’m only one guy, and Enrico Blasi is one of the best coaches in the NCAA. He has a Spencer Penrose award for the best coach in all of Division 1 hockey, 8 straight and 9 total NCAA tournament appearances, 2 Frozen Fours, 2 CCHA Regular Season Championships, 1 CCHA Tournament Championship and 5 CCHA Coach of the Year awards. You can’t argue with his resume. I just think there’s an opportunity awaiting him this season when it comes to that two-headed monster in net. Here’s my plan for success this year, and into the future.

Ryan McKay stops a shot by Minnesota State's Matt Leitner in NCAA Regional action. (Toledo Blade: Andy Morrison)

Ryan McKay stops a shot by Minnesota State’s Matt Leitner in NCAA Regional action. (Toledo Blade: Andy Morrison)

Ryan McKay starts as the top guy and plays the majority of the big games, including against teams such as Ohio State (2 games this year), North Dakota (4), St. Cloud State (4), and Wisconsin (2). Williams – by no means what you could call a “backup goalie” – can play the lesser foes such as Canisius, UNO, WMU, and the like. This allows that number one guy to be established. Blasi isn’t the type to encourage anyone to leave Miami early, but let’s say McKay leads the NCAA in GAA and Save % again, the leaves school early for the pros. This creates an ideal situation, and here’s why.

Williams, now a sophomore, will have his time for the next 2 years as a Junior and Senior. At the same time, Blasi is forced to recruit and bring in a goaltender, who is Williams’ protege and backup for 2 years. Barring any other early departures or injuries, at the very least, this gives Miami a succession plan as far as goalies go.

The Truth of the Matter

Turn no further than the season-opening exhibition against Windsor last Saturday night, and you’ll have your answer to the question of “what’s Rico’s goalie plan?” The RedHawks won, with Jay WIlliams getting the start, and Ryan McKay relieving him halfway through the game. Both looked good, although 2 turnovers cost Miami 2 goals in 10 seconds in the third period against McKay. While it has yet to come up during Blasi’s weekly press conferences, I’m sure  you’ll hear the same refrain when asked this season.

The two-headed monster returns to action tonight as Miami takes on Ohio State in the regular season opener, and returns to Oxford on Saturday against the same Buckeyes.

Enjoy the games, and be sure to follow us on Twitter at @MiamiHockeyBlog for updates.