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.”
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 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.