#10 Miami vs. St. Lawrence
Fresh off last weekend’s sweep of then #17 Ohio State, Miami (3-1) returns to action this evening in the first of a weekend non-conference series with the Saints of St. Lawrence University.
The Saints (2-2) hail from the state of New York along with other members of the ECAC including RPI, whom Miami will face in January, and Cornell whom Miami could face in the Florida College Hockey Classic at the end of December. So, this is the first of a possible five games against ECAC competition that should help Miami prepare for a return to the NCAA tournament at the completion of the regular season.
All-time, Miami has faced St. Lawrence just 12 times and holds a slim 6-5-1 advantage in the series. However, the last meeting came in November of 2006 so really the all-time series numbers mean next to nothing except to note that Miami head coach Enrico Blasi has had success behind the bench piloting the RedHawks to a 4-3 road victory eight years ago.
St. Lawrence head man Greg Carvel is an upstate New York native and played four seasons for the Saints in the early ‘90s. Carvel is in his third season behind the bench and has seen his share of tough times since replacing long time St. Lawrence coach, Joe Marsh, in the spring of 2012. The Saints finished a disappointing 8th in the competitive ECAC despite featuring a high-scoring offense led by “Hobey Baker Hat Tricker” Greg Carey who led the Saints with 18-39-57. Overall, Carvel is 35-37-8 at his alma mater and is desperately trying to jumpstart a program that has fallen behind the likes of Union, Colgate, Cornell and Quinnipiac as the lions of the ECAC.
The Saints enter the 2014-15 season with nine freshmen, including goaltender Kyle Hayton who recorded his first collegiate shutout last weekend as St. Lawrence split a series with then #4 Ferris State in Canton, N.Y. Hayton sports an impressive 2.49 GAA and .925 save percentage playing in the first four games for the Saints authoring two consecutive series splits.
Miami head coach Enrico Blasi says the Saints are an aggressive speedy team with a mobile defense corps that likes to apply constant pressure. He made a point in this week’s press conference to stress that Miami must have their heads right and be ready to compete in all three zones avoiding turnovers that could lead to transition chances for St. Lawrence.
Up front, the Saints lost four of their top five scorers including brothers Greg and Matt Carey (18-19-37) who tied atop the goal scoring list for St. Lawrence. In fact, the top returning scorer is sophomore defenseman Gavin Bayreuther (9-27-36) who has started fast leading the team in shots on goal (14) and already having contributed 2-2-4 in the first four matches of the year. Currently, sophomore forward Drew Smolcynski leads the Saints with 1-7-8 and another defenseman, Ben Masella is tied for second on the team in scoring having exactly matched Bayreuther’s.
Though the Saints are currently averaging four goals per game, they really are struggling to score because 10 of the season’s 16 goals came in a blowout win over lowly Niagara two weeks ago. In the three other games this year, the Saints are averaging just two goals per game potting only four in last weekend’s home split with Ferris State. Conversely, the Saints are allowing 3.3 goals per game and lost three starters along the blueline from last year’s squad that was one of the worst defensive clubs in the ECAC.
Newcomers to watch include Minnesota transfer Christian Horn who played in the USHL last season after seeing no game action with the Gophers in the 2012-13 season. Also keep an eye on Ryan Lough, who head coach Greg Carvel calls a “quick two-way player.”
The Saints were predicted to finish 11th in the 12 team ECAC.
If the Miami team that played last weekend shows up again, I think it will be a very good weekend for the RedHawks. I just don’t see St. Lawrence being able to score enough to keep up with Miami, and defensively, I expect the Saints to struggle against Miami’s size, tenacity and speed. I’ll pick a Miami sweep.
Both games will be streamed live on NCHC.tv and you can also catch Greg Waddell’s call at Miami All-Access. Tonight’s game gets underway at 7:35 PM and Saturday’s series finale will get things started at 8:05 PM.