Monthly Archives: November 2013

Miami travels to the Frozen Tundra

Ok, not quite, but after a disastrous weekend in Omaha, Miami is back on the road for their final non-conference weekend of the season as they travel

Bemidji, Minn. is way "up north."

Bemidji, Minn. is way “up north.” (Google)

to Bemidji, Minn. to take on the Beavers of the WCHA.

As we know, Miami turned in one of their worst team performances in recent memory as they were swept out of Omaha last weekend by the Mavericks 6-3 and 3-1.

Nothing seemed to be working for the RedHawks as they suffered from horrific defensive lapses in transition, looked disinterested at times, and the offensive leaders — Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber — were remarkably quiet. In fact, you have to go back to November 8 at St. Cloud to find the last time Barber scored a goal, and Czarnik has only two in that same span.

Needless to say, Miami needs to begin to find their game as they have just one more series (December 6-7 vs. Denver) before the holiday break. The nice thing about this year’s schedule, however, is that Miami has an exhibition game against the US U-18 squad on New Year’s Eve in Oxford that will help them shake off some rust before embarking on play in the season’s second half. Still, after this weekend, Miami will play just three games from December 6 to January 10. And, as an aside, if Miami loses Riley Barber to the US U-20 WJC team again, which is an almost certainty, it doesn’t look likely that he’ll miss any games for the RedHawks while he plays for another gold medal.

The Beavers

Looking at Bemidji State, Miami (7-6-1, 2-4 t5th NCHC) has faced the Beavers (5-7-2, 5-4 2nd WCHA)) six times and has won four of the six matches.

Miami defeated Bemidji State 4-1 in the 2009 national semifinal. (nickgagalis.com)

Of course, none of the meetings was more famous than when the RedHawks defeated Bemidji State 4-1 on April 9, 2009 in Washington D.C. That was Miami’s first ever national semifinal appearance and the victory propelled them to their only national title game appearance where they fell to Boston University in overtime.

Offensively, the Beavers are led by a trio of skaters with 10 points starting with sophomore forward Markus Gerbrandt who is tied for the team lead with 8 goals on the season while junior forward Danny Mattson (2-8-10) is second on the team in helpers. Junior captain Matt Prapavessis (good luck with that one this weekend, Greg) anchors the Beavers’ blue line and leads the team with nine assists.

In net for Bemidji State is junior Andrew Walsh who has started all 14 games this season. He brings a line of 2.82/.907 and one shutout into the weekend and has been a workhorse for the Beavers.

Other skaters to watch include sophomore forward Cory Ward who is tied with Gerbrandt in team goal scoring with eight and sophomore defenseman Graeme McCormack who has a season’s line of 1-7-8 from the blue line.

The RedHawks

For Miami, finding their game this weekend could provide a huge boost as they move back into conference play next weekend at home against Denver. The RedHawks can ill-afford another listless weekend as they get ready for another conference test. If Miami wants to secure home ice advantage in the first round of the NCHC playoffs, they’ll obviously need to get things turned around over the coming weeks.

But, during his weekly press conference, head coach Enrico Blasi was confident suggesting folks not panic not get bent out of shape at the team’s recent struggles. And, for that, we agree completely. This season is far from lost. And, as the Miami program continues to grow, we’re learning every season that it’s not about how well you play in December. It’s about how well you play in March that counts. Let’s hope this team continues to improve throughout the season and saves its best hockey for when it really matters. Said Blasi,

“(We’re) turning the page (on last weekend). (We will) make sure we’re focused on what we do best and get after it. (There’s) no reason to worry about what happened in the past. There’s nothing we can do about it. Nothing has changed in the game plan (and we have to) make sure we’re all in this thing together and focused on what we need to do.”

Looking back at last weekend, and aside from the all-out play of sophomore forward Sean Kuraly, there were few highlights. The defense looked soft and slow-footed and Miami’s offense was settling for shots from the outside rather than getting to the hard areas of the ice where goals are scored. The RedHawks were without junior forward Jimmy Mullin and his return this weekend (if he returns) could help provide a boost of energy that seems needed. In net, things weren’t much better as Jay Williams, starting his first game since November 2, left Friday’s game with an injury (he may have

Sean Kuraly was the best RedHawk on the ice last weekend in Omaha. (Toledo Blade)

taken a skate to the head) and normal Friday starter, Ryan McKay, did not look comfortable in net as he fought the puck all night. And, on Saturday, he wasn’t much better. Though he made 40 saves, McKay appeared to still be fighting the puck.

All in all, let’s chalk last weekend up to a blip that happens to every team during the course of a long season. Hopefully Miami can rediscover its confidence and scoring touch and get back to playing solid team hockey that carried Miami to shutout victories over St. Cloud and Wisconsin earlier this month.

The Prediction

Until Miami shows they’re committed to team defense and two-way hockey, and until the offense starts humming, there’s no way I’m picking a series sweep. That said, I think Miami ends the three-game losing streak, but I’m saying split in Bemidji this weekend.

Greg Waddell will have the call of both games this weekend at Miami All-Access and over the air on AM 1450 and 1490 in the Oxford area.

Advertisements

Enrico Blasi’s Postgame Comments

From last night. USCHO reporter Matthew Semisch’s quick interview with Enrico Blasi following Miami’s 6-3 loss to Omaha. He makes note that both Williams and Coleman will be fine and that Miami’s transition defense wasn’t very good last night which is precisely what we saw, too.

UNO 6, Miami 3

Freshman Austin Ortega’s two goals paced Nebraska Omaha past Miami on Friday night. (omavs.com)

In a game that was a strange nightmare of this programs’ past, the Miami RedHawks were outskated and outcoached by a hot Nebraska Omaha team 6-3 on Friday night.

Last night was reminiscent of games I’ve seen Miami play in years against Michigan when we didn’t have nearly as much talent as the Wolverines. The Mavericks, stymied in the first period by Miami’s defensive system, broke out in the second period by scoring five times, largely off transition plays or rushes to overwhelm the RedHawks and seize control of a close game. It was clear that Dean Blais’ intent was to lure the RedHawks into an up-and-down game by sending three forwards hard through the neutral zone to create odd-man rushes. That effort resulted in several defensive lapses with UNO forwards routinely getting behind Miami defensemen who were outnumbered and flat-footed. The Miami forwards really have to do a better job Saturday night back checking to limit the transition chances for Omaha. When Blais upped the tempo, Miami simply had no answer. Cross-ice passes found streaking forwards in the neutral zone. Routine centering passes found tape, and then, the back of the net far too often.

What I found most disturbing about Friday’s game was that after a reasonably solid first period that saw Miami convert on a powerplay and limit the Mavericks to just six shots on goal, it seemed Miami became disinterested and played flat and lackadaisical for the first 17 or 18 minutes of the second period. Defensemen were out of position and outskated, and forwards took the easy route deciding two-way hockey was optional. The RedHawks also took far too many shots from the outside and didn’t really get into the hard areas of the ice until late in the second period. By that time, the score was

Sophomore Riley Barber recorded assists on two of Miami’s three goals on Friday night. (MURedHawks.com)

5-1 and the game looked out of reach. But, as the second period wound down,  Sean Kuraly would inject some life into his teammates by scoring a late powerplay goal at 19:36 and let out a loud “whoop” following it that was clearly audible all the way up in the press box. For the night, Kuraly was probably the best of the RedHawks, and at one point, was elevated to the first line alongside Austin Czarnik and classmate Riley Barber. And, just :19 after Kuraly’s tally, Kevin Morris would jam home a loose puck in front of the net and suddenly it was a two-goal game at 5-3 heading to the third.

In the third, the RedHawks showed immediate life, but after having an early powerplay and exhausting energy putting pressure on the Mavs, by the 10 minute mark of the period, it was clear Miami had exhausted whatever power they had to forge a comeback.

On the night, the RedHawks were 2 for 7 on the powerplay, but missed several other good chances. Junior captain Austin Czarnik will most certainly say that he let a few golden opportunities pass by as he was stopped twice by UNO junior goaltender Ryan Massa on a penalty shot and a clean shorthanded breakaway attempt. If Czarnik converts just one of the two, we perhaps have a different game down the stretch and the Hawk bench would have gotten a huge boost.

As poorly as the RedHawks played transition defense, they did leave enough Grade A scoring chances on the ice that could have made this a game. But, in the end, UNO’s speed and transition game took the RedHawks by surprise and they looked unprepared and unable to respond. I think Dean Blais certainly got the best of Enrico Blasi on this night. But, the great thing about college hockey is there’s always tomorrow night. Saturday’s game is incredibly important for Miami. Finding a way to overcome tonight’s poor performance and earn a win will make the flight back to Ohio a lot happier on Sunday and reestablish Miami’s confidence heading into next weekend’s road series at Bemidji State of the WCHA.

Notes

  • After being injured in the second period, sophomore netminder Jay Williams did not return to the game though he was spotted on the bench for a while after the injury and in the hall leading to the RedHawks locker room during the third period. We’ll try to get an update on his status, but it’s certainly clear that Ryan McKay will start Saturday night’s game.
  • Junior Blake Coleman appeared to injure his leg in the second period, but did return to the ice in the third period and played reasonably well. Hopefully, he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow night and the injury is nothing serious.
  • Junior Jimmy Mullin was scratched in favor of senior Bryon Paulazzo who responded with a goal and some gritty play in front of the Omaha net. And, I believe Paulazzo will be in the lineup Saturday night as well.
  • Ryan McKay did not look like himself tonight in relief of the injured Jay Williams. He was certainly fighting the puck most of the night. Perhaps this game was just a strange anomaly overall, and we’ll look back upon it late in the season and agree it was just an off night for everyone.
  • The CenturyLink Center in downtown Omaha is a nice “pro” building. However, it lacks character, a pep band and a full house which is why UNO is constructing a new building that seats around 6,000-7,000 on their campus about five miles to the west of downtown.
  • Omaha controlled the faceoff circle winning 46 to Miami’s 32. Clearly the RedHawks must narrow that gap Saturday night. That’s far too many losses against a squad looking to get out into transition.
  • As I was leaving CenturyLink Center this evening, the event staff had already began the changeover process to get the building into shape for Creighton basketball. The 23rd ranked Jays face Tulsa on Saturday at 3:30 PM EST leaving the staff fewer than four hours to re-fit the “Clink” as the locals call it, for college hockey. That means that Miami will not have a regular morning skate/practice. However, given Miami’s performance, I wouldn’t be surprised if Miami’s staff was calling local rinks during the game to find available ice tomorrow. That’s kind of a joke…sort of…

Miami drops 6-3 decision to UNO

We’ll have more to say later, but as it is, Miami falls 6-3 to Omaha in a game that was simply bizarre. Miami was flat for most of the 2nd period allowing 5 goals and never really seemed able to slow the Mavericks transition game down after the 1st period.

Paulazzo, Kuraly and Morris had the Miami goals and Williams and McKay split time in net with neither looking elite.

More to come later…

Second period thoughts…

What an exciting 2nd period in Omaha as there were SEVEN goals scored as Omaha leads #8 Miami 5-3 after two periods.

A few thoughts. First…

Also…

  • For the first 17 minutes, it seemed Miami was skating in sand. No life. No energy. And, getting beat back in transition.
  • Dean Blais can coach. The adjustments he made to send an extra forward wide…Miami had no answer. UNO was able to get out in transition and use their speed…and they are fast!
  • Jay Williams and Blake Coleman were both injured and left the game. Williams did come back out to the bench, but we’ll have to see if Coleman returns in the 3rd. He put no weight on his right leg as he was helped off the ice.
  • Ryan McKay is extremely strong when he is down in the butterfly. However, his egregious, and careless, drop of an easy slapper from the point led directly to a goal that was unacceptable. He must focus and concentrate at all times. It looked as if he took it for granted.
  • UNO is putting three D back on Miami rushes up-ice. They are limiting Miami chances to the outside and Miami got gritty on the PP and at even strength to score the last two goals of the night. Miami did not get to the net much in the period until the final few minutes.
  • Ryan Massa’s save on Austin Czarnik’s penalty shot attempt was outstanding. He never moved. He out-waited Z and made the save look easy not biting on a decent head fake.

Well, it looked bleak, but if Miami can get the next goal in the 3rd and make it 5-4, who knows?

As it stands, UNO leads Miami 5-3 after 2 in Omaha.

First period thoughts…

After one period of play from Omaha, Neb., #8 Miami leads Nebraska Omaha 1-0. Bryon Paulazzo had the Miami goal on the powerplay assisted by Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber.

Some thoughts from the pressbox…

  • Blake Coleman is strong. He threw his weight around the ice and can seemingly protect the puck with just one hand on his stick.
  • Austin Czarnik is the real deal. There is a zip on his passes. He doesn’t just make a pass, he means it. It’s impressive to see how accurate, and powerful, his passes are. Additionally, he has a very active stick always getting it in the passing lanes and is really impressive with the puck.
  • Good defensive period for Miami. UNO’s top line of Zombo, Archibald and Walters were relatively invisible.
  • Taylor Richart is a silent assassin. He is everywhere and he is no where. Always in position, always on the puck. His 150 foot slapper that drew a faceoff on the PK was impressive.
  • Riley Barber looks more aggressive tonight. There does appear to be more space tonight than previous games and he is making the most of it getting shots to the net. His shot and subsequent rebound found Paulazzo’s stick for Miami’s goal.
  • Max Cook and Ben Paulides look a little shaky. I think they could both use a boost of confidence.
  • UNO’s transition game might be the only way they score tonight (aside from a powerplay). Their speed is challenging Miami’s D to be alert and the Hawks’ forwards to backcheck — which Czarnik, in particular, has done well.

More to come!

RedHawks to head to ‘Somewhere in Middle America’

With apologies to Adam Duritz and “Counting Crows,” Miami hits the road for Omaha to take on old CCHA foe Nebraska Omaha in a weekend NCHC series.

The Mavericks, you may recall, were conference mates with Miami from 1999 until leaving the CCHA in favor of the WCHA in 2010. That, of course, was an ill-fated and perhaps short-sighted move, as college hockey underwent enormous realignment after the announcement that the Big Ten would field its own hockey conference in spring 2011. And, after all was said and done, UNO and Miami, along with charter schools Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota would announce the formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in summer 2011.

After two more seasons in the CCHA and WCHA respectively, Miami and UNO once again find themselves facing off as conference rivals. This weekend marks the first time the programs have met since February 20, 2010 in Oxford when UNO knocked off then #1 Miami 4-2 in head coach Dean Blais’ first trip to Steve Cady Arena.

The ‘Dean’ of the NCHC

Speaking of Dean Blais, his resume speaks for itself. But, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi summed it up nicely during his weekly press conference.

“The one thing I know about Dean Blais’ teams is they’re going to play hard and they’re going to be in your face and you’re going to have to be ready to compete for 60 minutes.”

UNO’s Dean Blais is in his fifth season behind the Mavericks’ bench. (BleacherReport.com)

One of the most decorated American amateur coaches in recent history, Blais spent 10 seasons behind the bench at North Dakota, where he compiled a record of 262-115-34 and won two national titles (1997, 2000) before leaving to take an associate head coaching job with the Columbus Blue Jackets. After spending four years in Cowtown, also serving as director of player development, Blais went back to his amateur roots where he was hired by the Fargo Force of the USHL to be their head coach, and was eventually lured back to school in 2009 by new Omaha AD Trev Alberts. In going to Omaha, he took over the reins of the program from long time head man Mike Kemp, who is largely regarded as the Father of UNO hockey. Blais has also long been involved with USA Hockey winning a gold medal in 2010 with the U-20 World Junior team. The two-time Spencer Penrose winner (1997, 2001) has an all-time record of 342-189-49 over nearly 15 seasons in college hockey.

Whom to Watch

On the ice, the Mavericks (6-6, 3-1 T2nd NCHC) are led by 2013 Hobey Baker finalist, senior Ryan Walters, who finished last season with 52 points (which tied for 2nd in program history for a single season) after scoring 22 goals. Listed at 6-0/190, Walters has started strong and is tied for the team lead in points (13) on three goals and has helped the Mavs rebound from a 2-4 start to win four of their past six including last weekend’s split with then #2 Michigan in Omaha. Along with Walters, Miami much watch

Senior Ryan Walters leads a dangerous UNO offense. (Colorado Springs Gazette)

junior forward Josh Archibald who leads the team in goals (9) and is tied with Walters atop the team’s scoring list. Archibald’s name should be familiar to some as he skated on Team USA’s 2012 U-20 team which failed to medal a year after earning bronze in Buffalo. Others to make note of include junior forward Dominic Zombo (5-5-10) and senior Brock Monpetit (6-3-9) who rank third and fourth in team scoring for UNO.

Overall, the Mavericks are second in the NCHC in scoring averaging 3.08 goals per game. Miami at 3.42 goals per game leads the way in the league with 41 goals though St. Cloud is averaging just a shade more at 3.50 goals per game in two fewer contests played.

Who’s in Net?

Defensively, the Mavericks are allowing 3.25 goals per game as they have struggled to find consistency in net. Lately however, UNO has gotten better goaltending from junior Ryan Massa and freshman Kirk Thompson having allowed more than three goals just once over their past six games. Massa and Thompson are very similar goaltenders. Both are around six feet tall and possess nearly identical numbers. For instance, both goaltenders are 3-2 with goals against averages north of 3 and save percentages below .900. In contrast, Miami allows just 2.08 goals per game and sophomore Ryan McKay leads the nation with three shutouts and has posted sterling 1.74/.943 numbers. However, because McKay has played the last four games for Miami, I would not be at all surprised to see McKay in net Friday night and fellow sophomore Jay Williams (2-2/2.75/.905) between the pipes on Saturday.

The RedHawks

For Miami (7-4-1, 2-2 T5th NCHC), the eighth ranked RedHawks enter the weekend having faced two top 15 teams in a row after splitting series with NCHC foe St. Cloud State and Big Ten opponent Wisconsin just last weekend in Oxford. That stretch has catapulted Miami’s strength of schedule to the top of the heap. This week’s KRACH ratings show Miami’s SOS sitting at #1 having played the most challenging schedule in the land.

Overall, the offense is simply not delivering against top teams as they have managed just 13 goals in their last six games against ranked opponents including just seven goals total over the past two weekends.

Junior Blake Coleman has picked up his game this year. (MURedHawks.com)

As teams focus on shutting down the top line of Riley Barber, Austin Czarnik and Jimmy Mullin, Miami must have secondary scoring from throughout the lineup. To this point, most of that scoring has come from junior Blake Coleman as he has netted seven goals which ties him with Czarnik for second on the team. Last season, Coleman scored nine goals so he’s well on his way to surpassing that total as his game continues to improve. But, outside of Coleman’s efforts, only two other RedHawks have scored at many as four goals (Alex Wideman and Anthony Louis).

And, as head coach Enrico Blasi said earlier this week, Miami needs to have all four lines contributing in order to play their game and be successful. Said Blasi,

“We need everybody in our lineup doing the same thing. Everybody’s got to be on the same page. This is not a team that’s going to rely solely on one or two players.”

Prediction

All-time, Miami is 17-7-3 against Omaha including a 7-4-1 mark in the self-proclaimed, “Gateway to the West.”

Tired of splitting, I think Miami gets a much-needed league sweep this weekend in Omaha. And, we’ll be live tweeting from the press box of the Century Link Center @miamihockeyblog and will have updates and recaps immediately following Friday night’s game. Miami All-Access has the call both nights along with local radio coverage at 1450-AM (Friday only) and 1490-AM (both nights).

Miami Grinds out a Big Win over #12 Wisconsin

In front of Miami’s 6th consecutive sellout crowd at Steve “Coach” Cady Arena, Miami played a gritty style of hockey and came away with a thrilling 2-0 victory over the 12th ranked Wisconsin Badgers.

From the start, Miami was flying around the puck. It was quickly evident that Miami wanted to use their speed tonight to overwhelm Wisconsin and much of the evening was dominated in this fashion. From top to bottom, Miami was the better team tonight and it started with their speed. “They’re a good team,” Head Coach Enrico Blasi said. “They have waves coming at you and you have to back check. You have to collapse and make sure you’re strong in front of the net.”

Coach Blasi is going to lose some sleep tonight deciding who to start net for Saturday's showdown. (Miami University Athletics)

Coach Blasi is going to lose some sleep tonight deciding who to start net for Saturday’s showdown. (Miami University Athletics)

Blasi was very positive after the game saying “it was like that when we played them last year in their building. It was a real good college hockey game. They had their chances and it could have gone either way. They have 3 full lines that can hurt you.”

Miami and Wisconsin would play a scoreless first, with Wisconsin really having the better of the few chances there were to go around. Late in the first, Wisconsin forward Joseph LaBate fed a pass across the slot and the entire arena thought it was 1-0 Wisconsin. As the puck got over to linemate Matt Zengerle, the puck skipped, however, and the scoreless tie was in tact.

Halfway through the second period, after being kicked out of the faceoff circle, Blake Coleman scooped up a puck and fed Anthony Louis in the slot and Louie didn’t miss, scoring his 4th goal of the season. “[This was] Louie’s best game tonight,”said Blasi. “He’s a skill guy but he’s starting to get a little grit to his game which helps. When he starts to chances, he becomes really dynamic.”

Ryan McKay hasn't allowed a goal on Friday night  this season. (Toledo Blade: Andy Morrison)

Ryan McKay hasn’t allowed a goal on Friday night this season.
(Toledo Blade: Andy Morrison)

Ryan McKay was quick to point out that despite his 3 consecutive Friday night shutouts, it’s not all him. “It’s a credit to our team defense. Compared to the beginning of the season it’s a dramatic difference.” McKay never really looked to be in danger of letting a goal in, and Miami’s team defense was stifling all night. In his last 4 starts, McKay has 114 saves on a possible 116 shots. In addition, he hasn’t allowed a goal on Friday night this season (he was swapped with Jay Williams for the Canisius series 2 weeks ago), and now leads the NCAA with 3 shutouts.

Wisconsin’s leading scorer Nic Kerdiles was held without a shot until late in the 3rd period. Blasi was stern in saying that he wasn’t playing a shut down defense type of game against him: “We were just aware of him, no different than they are aware of Barber and Czarnik. You have to play a good brand of 60-minute hockey when you play Wisconsin beacuse if it’s not him it’s going to be someone else. To key in on one guy, that’s not how we do it. Whether it’s him or someone else, you have to play good team defense.”

From beginning to end, it seemed that come hell or high water, Riley Barber and Austin Czarnik were going to be held off the score sheet. Wisconsin took one penalty stopping Barber in front of the net, and could have had 2-3 more because of his strong play.

On the other end of special teams, Miami is now perfect on their last 15 penalty kill chances. Miami killed their last 2 penalties against Canisius, followed it up with 5 kills each night in St. Cloud and killed all 3 chances tonight.

Despite the goaltending and defense, the line of the night was the Cody Murphy, Coleman and Louis line. The three RedHawks posted a combined 10 shots, were +3, and were seen killing penalties seemingly at will.

These two teams lace up the skates again tomorrow night. There’s certainly no reason for Coach Blasi to bench Ryan McKay at this point, but in his press conference after the game, there was no indication that he would or would not make the switch. In fact, when asked, Blasi said “I’m going to have a sleepless night tonight.”

Well, rest easy Coach. Tonight’s win, while out of conference, runs Miami’s record to 7-3-1 and relieves some of the pressure from their shoulders for tomorrow night, allowing them to play loose and free once again. Expect more of the same from the RedHawks they try to sweep the Badgers in Oxford.

Miami Hosts Wisconsin for Weekend Set

There are a lot of similarities between Miami and Wisconsin this weekend: Red and White as team colors; “Jump Around” as the unofficial team songs (for Bucky Football, anyway); size, speed and strength as their defining characteristics on the ice. But after that, Miami and Wisconsin are 2 very different teams. This weekend, the two teams face off in non-conference action in Oxford.

Wisconsin comes in as the number 12 team in the nation, just itching to break into the top ten. While the conference schedule hasn’t started yet, the Badgers play in the newly formed Big Ten Conference. Miami comes in having played the 8th toughest schedule in the country this weekend. After last weekend’s games at St. Cloud, the RedHawks have now played against 3 then-top 10 teams (current #3 St. Cloud, #5 Providence and now #13 North Dakota). Head Coach Enrico Blasi had these words of praise for the visiting Badgers:

“Another tough weekend for our team. We’ve grown accustomed to that right now. Wisconsin is very deep up front with some high-end forwards. They are very well coached. We need to focus and continue to get better and be ready on Friday night. I know our team got better last weekend and that’s really our goal every time we step on the ice.”

Riley Barber is tied for 3rd in the NCAA in scoring. (Flickr: Dani Mackenzie)

Riley Barber is tied for 3rd in the NCAA in scoring. (Flickr: Dani Mackenzie)

Blasi will have his hands full as the Badgers come in scoring 3.83 goals per game – just a touch ahead of Miami’s 3.70 goals per game, and 9th in the country in scoring. On the other hand, Wisconsin does allow the same 3.83 goals per game and is currently 52nd in the country in scoring defense, while Miami comes in at number 11, allowing just 2.2 goals per game.

Another point of emphasis will be the special teams this weekend. Miami is currently killing 84.3% of power plays, including killing all 10 chances in St. Cloud last weekend. Wisconsin is 6 for 24 (24%) on their power play, so limiting the man advantage situations will be key for Miami. On the other hand, Miami’s power play, currently 7th in the nation at 27.3% will look to continue it’s torrid streak against Wisconsin’s 40th ranked penalty kill, stopping just 79.3% of their opponents’ power play chances.

Who’s in Net?

Wisconsin’s Goalie situation is one to be wary of. Over the last 2+ seasons, Joel Rumpel is 29-21-6 in net for the Badgers, but was injured during the second game of the season and will not play tonight. Backup Landon Peterson has stepped in nicely and sports a 2-2-1 record. He will likely start in Rumpel’s place for both games this weekend.

On the Miami end of the ice, you can’t say that Ryan McKay has been anything short of fantastic so far this season. When called upon, he has been stellar and sports a 4-1-1 record including a split last weekend at St. Cloud State. We have to guess on the rotation or non-rotation status every week, so we’ll see who Coach Blasi sends out for the weekend series.

Ryan McKay stops a shot by Minnesota State's Matt Leitner in 2013 NCAA Regional action. (Toledo Blade: Andy Morrison)

Ryan McKay stops a shot by Minnesota State’s Matt Leitner in 2013 NCAA Regional action.
(Toledo Blade: Andy Morrison)

“Jay and Ryan play extremely well,” he said at this week’s press conference. “It’s really tough to make a decision who to play in net. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them split again. How do you go against Ryan when he pitches 2 shutouts back to back? Just a gut feeling more than anything, but we’ll re-evalutate from day to day.” Lately, Blasi has been going with McKay on Friday nights, but who plays on Saturday is anyone’s guess. With another solid performance Friday, it very well could be McKay for his 4th start in a row on Saturday.

Shaking Off the Rust

Wisconsin comes in to the series having played just 6 games overall, and has had off weeks every other week it seems. They played October 18-19 at Boston College and at Boston University (2 losses and 16 goals against on the weekend), had a week off, and then hosted Lake Superior State (3-3 tie and 8-1 win). After another week off, they come to Oxford still trying to get on a roll, and will have another off week next weekend before playing their first Big Ten games the last weekend of November.

Head Coach Enrico Blasi likes to get his team moving and keep them rolling. I’m guessing Wisconsin’s Mike Eaves wants to get his team rolling as well. Shaking off the rust over the first 6 weeks of the season isn’t exactly the way to do it, so this weekend, the Badgers will certainly be looking for blood.

Predictions

Coleman has been on fire for the RedHawks. (Miami University Athletics)

Coleman has been on fire for the RedHawks. (Miami University Athletics)

Miami won’t have it easy this weekend, but if the Badgers cannot stay out of the penalty box, they’re going to be in trouble. According to tonight’s play-by-play man Dave Starman, Wisconsin likes to pack it in on the penalty kill and this will leave the 5-forward line including Czarnik, Barber and Wideman wide open on the blueline during power plays. Look for several power play goals on the weekend from the specialty units.

I can’t help myself. Miami 4-1 and 3-1.

Where to Watch

Friday’s game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network with Dave Starman, Ben Holden and Shireen Saski calling the action. Saturday’s game can be caught on Miami All-Access.

Enjoy the action and GO REDHAWKS!

#7 Miami Drops #3 St. Cloud 2-0

In one of their most complete games of the season, the #7 Miami RedHawks went into the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minn. and handed #3 St. Cloud State their first loss of the season shutting out the Huskies 2-0.

The win was significant as it was St. Cloud that knocked Miami out of last year’s NCAA tournament winning a 4-1 Midwest Regional final in Toledo in front of a crowd that would make duhOSU’s crowds at Cheap Furniture Arena look huge.

Miami got on the board first about halfway through the first period as freshman defender Matt Joyaux recorded his first collegiate goal on a nifty pass from junior Alex Wideman. After Miami won a puck battle at the SCSU blueline, sophomore forward Sean Kuraly muscled the puck into the offensive zone where Wideman collected the puck along the boards and centered a pass to a trailing Joyaux who one-timed a low shot on the ice past Husky goaltender Ryan Faragher for what turned out to be the game-winning goal.

Sophomore Ryan McKay makes one of his 31 saves in a 2-0 Miami victory. (Miami University Athletics)

In the third, Miami collected an insurance marker as sophomore Riley Barber connected on his ninth goal of the season by firing a wrist shot off a draw in the SCSU end. Junior captain Austin Czarnik won the draw cleanly and directly to Barber, and he made no mistake ripping a shot past Faragher on the far side.

Sophomore netminder Ryan McKay made 31 saves to record his second consecutive shutout and sixth of his career and the Miami penalty kill went 5-for-5 and forced many of the SCSU chances to the outside though the Huskies certainly had their share of good scoring chances, but were simply unable to find the back of the net. Miami will still need to focus on limiting chances down low tonight and for the rest of the season as the young defense corps continues to grow.

“It was a great team effort, our most complete game all season,” said McKay. “We blocked a ton of shots (17). We weren’t blocking a lot of shots at the beginning of the season.”

“The size of the ice helps us,” McKay said of the Olympic-sized sheet at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. “We’re similar teams in a lot of ways. I thought our ‘D’ kept their position on the dots and kept stuff to the outside,” he said. “And when we needed to, we collapsed and won battles in the tough areas.”

Miami and St. Cloud will finish the two-game NCHC series tonight from the National Hockey Center. Faceoff is at 8:07 PM EST and the game can be heard via Miami All-Access. The Huskies also offer a pay video feed from their website, scsuhuskies.com.