Monthly Archives: March 2015
#1 Miami v. #4 Providence :: 2015 NCAA Tournament First Round
This evening at 6:30 PM EDT the Miami RedHawks, champions of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, are set to mark their return to the NCAA tournament after a one-year absence.
The top seed in the East Region, the RedHawks (4th overall seed) will face fourth seeded Providence College (15th) of Hockey East in their hometown.
The Friars last played two weekends ago when they were ousted by New Hampshire in the quarterfinals of the Hockey East conference tournament. The two squads went the distance in the best-of-three weekend series in Providence playing three low-scoring 2-1 games.
We could end this post right here, because a low-scoring game is precisely what Miami should expect this weekend.
The Friars rank in the top 5 nationally in many defensive categories including goals allowed (3rd) and save percentage (4th) led by junior goaltender Jon Gillies, who’s .931 save percentage and 1.95 GAA each rank 6th best nationally. That said, Miami will run out junior Jay Williams, who’s numbers aren’t too shabby either. Williams actually has a better GAA (1.89, 5th nationally)) than Gillies and his .922 save percentage (29th nationally) ranks just a few spots lower.
Meanwhile, Miami is much more offensively inclined boasting three players with 18 or more goals (Blake Coleman and Riley Barber (20 each) and Sean Kuraly 18) but they will be without Coleman, and likely, Barber for the game against the Friars. In fact, the Friars leading goal scorers, Nick Saracino and Trevor Mingoia have just 13 goals each, but Providence does run out five players with 11 or more goals. Maybe not as dynamic as Miami’s top end forwards, but they certainly have depth. That could be a problem for a Miami team suddenly without a lot of it.
This is not the first time Miami has seen Gillies. The two schools have met four times over the last three seasons playing, amazingly, four consecutive overtime games. Last year, Miami traveled to Providence and put up a four-spot against Gillies on Saturday night scoring six goals on the weekend. Miami should have some confidence against one of the nation’s best.
With both Coleman and Barber likely missing this game, obviously the Crash Cousins, and their size, can play a larger than usual role. Like most Hockey East squads, Providence is relatively small. Miami should use their blend of size and speed to jump on the Friars right away. I’d love to see Rico have the guys throw the body around, but they’ll have to mindful of east coast refs. The NCHC is a big, physical league and the RedHawks are one of the most physical teams in the country. If the refs don’t let the boys play, Miami could find themselves killing far too many penalties despite the Friars woeful powerplay which is converting at a paltry 14.7% clip this year.
Ultimately, this game is Jay Williams’ to win. He has to step up and hold Miami in the game. The RedHawks should expect to have to win a 2-1 style game because, 1) we’re missing 40 goals from the lineup, and 2) it’s how the Friars play.
Despite missing huge parts of the lineup, this is not your father’s Miami. This is not the team from the CCHA that was hardly challenged over the past decade and then, at times, unprepared for the rigors of the NCAA tournament. But, these RedHawks are the champions of the NCHC, a conference that sent six of its eight teams to the Dance. A conference that is currently 3-0 in the 2015 tournament. After last year’s adjustment to life in the National and life on the road, Miami has figured out how to win in the most dominant college hockey conference in the land. That has to account for a lot.
The RedHawks, though missing some big-time talent, have guys that can step up. Miami’s depth will certainly be challenged.
As much as I want to pick Miami, overcoming the losses of Coleman and Barber, along with the need to win a tight 2-1 game just doesn’t seem to fit Miami’s run, gun and bang style.
But, there is just something different about this team. They’re more battle tested. They’re deep. I think Miami finds a way to get it done but the goal scoring will surprise you. Look for a Kevin Morris or Crash Cousin dirty goal to be the difference. Miami wins.
– Williams and the RedHawks’ defense will have to be big tonight because Miami cannot afford to fall behind the Friars and expect to be able to come-from-behind facing such an intensely defensive team.
– Unless Miami wins, we MAY have seen the last of Coleman and Barber in the red and white which would be an unbelievable shame considering how their Miami careers could end. Barber is just a junior, but could decide to sign with Washington. However, if his knee injury is severe, the Capitals could be inclined to see how he does in a comeback situation with Miami meaning, perhaps, Barber could also come back to finish his degree. Something I’d assume his family would be quite happy with given his father, Don Barber, collected his degree from Bowling Green before embarking on a successful pro career. When Miami’s season is finished, I’d expect the New Jersey Devils to sign Coleman (a senior) as quickly as possible.
– Gillies, Kuraly and Barber know each other well having played together on the US U20 team that won gold in 2013 and then again Barber and Gillies returned for the 2014 team when Barber was captain. Gillies was the main netminder that year for Team USA.
– Despite playing at “home,” the Friars have not played a game at the Dunkin Donuts Center since 2004. And, with Providence having a fairly small fan base, the advantage Providence will have shouldn’t really affect the RedHawks. Certainly, this team is road tested playing in hostile environments like the Ralph (UND), Amsoil (UMD) and Lawson (WMU) to say nothing of having made long road trips all year, twice in fact, to Colorado to play at altitude. In other words, Miami has seen and heard it all.
#4 Miami vs. #15 Providence
Earlier this morning, the Miami RedHawks, champions of the NCHC, learned their NCAA region and opponent. The RedHawks will travel to Providence, R.I. to take on Providence College of Hockey East in a first round East Region game. Miami is no stranger to going east to face HEA opponents as they have done so countless times taking on the likes of UMass-Lowell, UNH and BC over the past 10 years. Unfortunately, the majority of those contests have turned out poorly for Miami as they have been skated out of the rink.
But, that’s what’s so intriguing about this draw.
Head coach Enrico Blasi built this team to compete against HEA teams. Smallish, fast forwards who can possess the puck, get out in transition and put pressure on the forecheck are hallmarks of this squad, and seemingly, what’s been done to Miami over the years. And, this year, Blasi added more size with the Crash Cousins and the addition of Scott Dornbrock on the blueline.
Simply put, this team is built to win against teams big and small. And, since you can’t do anything about the draw. Go east and win the region. If there was ever a year that Miami would get over this hump, it’s this year with this team of veterans.
Honestly, the bracket is pretty good for Miami.
Consider Providence. The #15 overall seed should be playing the #2 overall seed. Sure, we’re playing them in their town, but Providence doesn’t have any kind of fan base. The crowd will not be an issue and Miami has gotten used to traveling after two seasons in the NCHC. We should be playing the #13 overall seed, Yale, but at least on paper, may have gotten a break. Providence has great goaltending, but Miami faces great goaltenders each and every weekend in the NCHC. This team should be ready.
Also consider the other half of the bracket…BC and Denver. We know all about Denver and have beaten them 3-of-5 times this year. We’re a much faster team than the Pioneers and their goaltending is suspect. As for BC? It’s not a great BC team with average goaltending and not the teams of the past with guys like Gaudreau, Gerbe, Kreider and others that were elite college players.
This is a region that Miami can win, but the RedHawks are not without their faults.
Miami will be missing the services of NCHC tournament MVP, Blake Coleman, for the first round match against Providence. And, who knows the injury status of junior sniper Riley Barber, who’s play has been outstanding the last month of the season. Last we saw Barber, he was being helped on and off the ice with a large ice bag on his left knee. Clearly not a good sign, but let’s hope for the best. I’m sure we won’t know his status until very late in the week. If those two guys are out, it’s on the other leaders to step up. Also concerning is Miami’s goaltending. I’d say it’s been average of late. Clearly the RedHawks will ride Jay Williams, but if I had to take Williams or Providence’s Jon Gillies to win this game, all else notwithstanding, I’d have to say I’d take Gillies. He’s a proven stud in the Friars net.
So, Miami fans. A lot to celebrate this season. Let’s hope the boys have four more W’s in them.
Love and Honor!
More to come this week.
On the strength of three Blake Coleman goals, solid goaltending from Jay Williams and spectacular penalty killing, the Miami RedHawks won the second Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis. The RedHawks defeated a stingy St. Cloud State team 3-2 and have earned a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Concerning however, is that Blake Coleman was issued a game misconduct, his third of the season, meaning he will be suspended and miss Miami’s first round tournament game next weekend. And, Riley Barber was injured late in tonight’s game and was seen being helped on the ice by teammates to join the celebration following Miami’s victory. Barber had an ice pack on his left knee as he hopped across the Target Center ice.
Coleman was named tournament MVP and Austin Czarnik and Louis Belpedio joined him on the all-tournament team.
More to come later, but tune in tomorrow at noon EDT for the NCAA selection show on ESPNU. USCHO.com will have a bracket projection up soon I’m sure so check out Jason Moy’s excellent analysis there as well.
Love and Honor!
NCHC Semifinal :: Miami vs. Denver
The RedHawks are back in the Frozen Faceoff for the second consecutive year and like last year, will face Denver albeit in the semifinal rather than the championship game.
Miami and Denver have played four times this year splitting two weekends with the most recent contests coming just three weeks ago in the Mile High City. In that series, Miami dominated play on Friday night and Riley Barber and Alex Gacek had two goals in a 5-3 victory before the Pioneers returned the favor drubbing the RedHawks 6-2 on Saturday night.
For Miami, this game is simple. Contain the DDT line of Daniel (Doremus), Danton (Heinen) and Trevor (Moore), you limit Joey LaLeggia’s chances from the point and you fire shots against good but not great goaltending (either Evan Cowley or Tanner Jaillet) and you walk away a winner.
But, you let that top line get going and Miami will have its hands full.
Of concern is that Miami has been lax defensively over the past several weeks. I know Jay Williams played well and got his fifth shutout of the season last weekend (BTW – Can we be done with the goaltender rotation? Let’s pick Williams and move on) but there were also two disallowed goals in Sunday’s series clinching win over Western Michigan that helped retain that goose egg. Miami has to get back to playing sound defensively and needs Williams to put this team on his back. Remember, one of his very few poor games this year was the 6-2 loss to DU a few weeks ago when he surrendered four goals in less than one period of play. He has to put that out of his mind and focus on doing what he’s done nearly all of this year, which is play fantastic hockey.
Offensively, Riley Barber is hot. Ten points in his last seven games including six goals. He had three vs. DU in the series in Denver a few weeks back so he can hurt this team. Austin Czarnik is hot. Six goals in his past four games. Blake Coleman is hot with nine points in his past four games.
These are the right guys to carry this team.
A little defense, a little goaltending and some tenacity from Coleman and friends up front and Miami could really make a run not only this weekend, but next weekend in the NCAA tournament as well.
I’m optimistic that this team is peaking at just the right time.
“It’s Go Time” – Western Michigan at #5 Miami
Question: Is there anything better than playoff hockey?
Now that we’ve established that, the fifth ranked and second seeded Miami RedHawks (21-12-1, 14-9-1-1 2nd NCHC) are back at home for the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season when they needed three games to dispatch Michigan State en route to the final CCHA championship weekend at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. They will face an old CCHA foe and MAC rival in seventh seeded Western Michigan. The Broncos (13-16-5, 6-13-5-4 7th NCHC) trail the tightly contested all-time series 56-60-11 and went 0-3-1 vs the RedHawks with the only non-loss coming in Kalamazoo a weekend before the Hockey City Classic in Chicago. In that game, Miami led 4-0 after two periods before hanging on to post a 4-3 victory at Soldier Field.
In Oxford, it was a more pleasing storyline as the RedHawks swept the Broncos by 1-0 and 5-2 scores and you never really got the feeling that WMU could challenge Miami offensively. Hopefully we’ll see even more offense this weekend after watching Miami put up 44 shots against North Dakota in a 2-1 loss Friday last before putting six goals on the board against likely NCHC Player of the Year, Zane “Five Spot” McIntyre who trolled the Blog of Brotherhood on Twitter.
What did he do?
He “favorited” our tweet predicting a Miami sweep of UND last weekend. The problem was that he did it after UND won game one by the narrowest of margins when a fluke goal decided the outcome.
Of course he then laid an egg on Saturday surrendering a “five spot” to the RedHawks in a 6-3 Miami victory.
If you’re going to troll, at least do it before the game. And, if not, you might consider backing up the trolling with decent play. Either way, not good.
Anyway, back to this weekend.
Miami enters the NCHC playoffs as the second seed nearly pulling off a “worst to first” story. As it is, Miami turned the tables on last year’s 8th place finish on the strength of a 2nd place effort in the regular season. They built upon last season’s successful NCHC playoff run which ended in the inaugural NCHC championship game where they fell to Denver ending up a mere goal short of a ninth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. This year, an NCAA appearance is all but certain as playoffstatus.com shows the RedHawks as having a 99% chance of reaching the tournament even with two losses this weekend.
Last weekend Miami dropped a close one on Friday before Austin Czarnik went off on Senior Night recording four points on the back of his first career hat trick (including two shorthanded goals) to lead the RedHawks to a dominating 6-3 victory over North Dakota. Jay Williams had goaltending duty and played well on Friday save the first goal by UND, which was an ugly, harmless shot from the corner that he inexplicably misplayed. Ryan McKay had the net Saturday and played well enough to win but I think we definitely see Williams tomorrow. Depending on how game one goes, and based on his play, we could see him again on Saturday night.
Western Michigan is led offensively by three players with 10 or more goals. Colton Hargrove (12-13-25, 72 PIM), Sheldon Dries (13-12-25) and Nolan LaPorte (10-12-22, 89 PIM). On
the blueline, Kenny Morrison (5-10-15) is well-regarded and has been mentioned as a possible early departure risk as NHL scouts are circling the would-be free agent.
In net, Lukas Hafner has had a good season including last Saturday’s shutout of #6 Minnesota-Duluth in Kalamazoo. Hafner (11-11-5, 2.35, .916) took the reins from senior Frank “The Big” Slubowski last season and has played the majority of the minutes in the WMU net this year. He has the talent to keep WMU in these games and could even steal one if Miami isn’t getting traffic in front and pucks to the net. Like last weekend, Miami should attempt to make these games up and down affairs and fire more than 40 SOG to wear down the Broncos and their netminder.
Interestingly, the Broncos have four players with 50 or more PIM this year with three of those four having 70 or more. In contrast, Miami has just one, senior Blake Coleman (80 PIM) so this will definitely be a clash of styles. WMU likes to muck it up and play in your face using their size and physicality. That said, they feature uber-goon Mike McKee who is really worse than a goon. He’s a cheap, dirty player. Miami will have to keep their composure because WMU head coach Andy Murray will want his guys in the faces of Miami’s talented and smallish forwards.
Overall, this is a very good matchup for Miami on paper. While I believe Hafner could steal a game for the Broncos, I don’t see it happening. I think Miami will take care of business in two tightly contested games. MIAMI SWEEPS.
Thank you Seniors! — #1 North Dakota vs. #5 Miami
As Miami returns home for the final two games of the regular season, could there be more drama in the air than what’s flying around in Oxford, Ohio?
Fifth ranked Miami (20-11-1, 13-8-1-1 2nd NCHC) will close out the season against #1 North Dakota (24-6-3, 15-5-2-0 1st NCHC) in a battle of two teams that have spent the majority of the year ranked in the top 10. Should the RedHawks sweep, they will claim a share of the NCHC regular season title and the #1 seed in the NCHC playoffs. Though the teams will be tied atop the standings, Miami would claim the top seed by virtue of its 3-1 record against UND.
Saturday is senior night and six RedHawks (Austin Czarnik, Blake Coleman, Anthony Jacaruso, Cody Murphy, Alex Wideman and Ben Paulides) will skate in their final regular
season games at Steve Cady Arena with a chance to earn their second regular season championship of their remarkable careers.
No Miami class has won more than one regular season championship in program history.
Yep, you read that right.
No Miami class has EVER won two regular season championships in any four year period in the history of the university, which of course, dates back to 1809. Probably overly dramatic since the hockey program has only existed since 1978 — pure semantics. This class could become the first to do so after capturing the CCHA’s final regular season title at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season.
North Dakota is a storied program that’s won seven national championships and fifteen, now sixteen, regular season titles. Getting a share of the NCHC title in our second year in the conference would be fantastic. It took Miami 15 years of program existence and 13 CCHA seasons to win a regular season title in that now defunct league.
And, to do it against North Dakota would be even sweeter.
Last Time We Met
Like most of the top teams in the NCHC when pitted against one another, and certainly Miami has seen this, the squads split a series in Grand Forks back in November with Miami winning 3-2 on Friday before dropping the finale 4-1. In the Miami win, Jay Williams had to make just 21 saves and Sean Kuraly had two goals to lead the RedHawks. Ryan McKay struggled in the Miami net in the loss as North Dakota started junior Zane McIntyre both nights.
Certainly Miami would like to replicate the Friday victory as they limited UND to just 23 SOG and controlled the green and white with tight checking defense.
UND comes to Oxford on a roll having won four in a row. Their last non shootout loss was a 3-2 OT setback to Omaha way back on January 30. And, their last regulation loss? January 9 to UMD.
However, UND suffered a loss in a sweep last weekend (yeah, I see what I did there). The loss to which I am referring was that of senior assistant captain and leading goal scorer Mark MacMillan (16-9-25) to a lower body injury which required surgery earlier this week. MacMillan, a fourth-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadians (one of 14 NHL picks — I think — I lost count at 10) had already set a career high in goals before being injured Saturday night while blocking a shot off the stick of SCSU’s Jonny Brodzinski. Presumably, MacMillan
fractured his foot and I’m assuming surgery was required to fix what was likely an ugly injury. But, I’m speculating. Regardless, MacMillan won’t play this weekend, and I’d find it hard to see him returning for the remainder of his college career, but never say never.
UND is led by its d-corps which boasts numerous NHL draft picks and junior netminder Zane McIntyre who shared the USHL’s goaltender of the year award with Miami’s Ryan McKay just over three years ago.
Up front, speedy Drake Caggiula (15-16-31) leads an attacking set of forwards including Michael Parks (12-19-31) that are a handful but perhaps not as talented as Miami’s crew led by Czarnik, Coleman, Murphy, Kuraly, Anthony Louis and Riley Barber. That said, UND will want to slow things down. Miami, on the other hand, should look to run the green and white out of the building. Forty shots on net each night should be the goal.
Well, here we are. The end of another solid regular season and the end of a bounce-back year for the program. While it’s too early to hand out accolades, the team has played hard and well enough to have earned the chance to win a regular season title on home ice.
Last weekend in Denver, Miami split its series with the Pioneers, but one thing that really stood out? The rejuvenated play of junior forward Riley Barber who had three goals on the
weekend playing hard, inspired hockey. If Barber is ready to roll, look out this weekend and for the rest of the year.
However, questions abound in net as neither Ryan McKay, and most certainly Jay Williams, looked overly strong. McKay allowed three goals in Friday’s win, but Williams was ineffective surrendering four goals in less than one period of play. McKay steadied the ship when he came into the game, but still gave up two goals after Miami attempted to crawl back into the contest at 4-2. Whomever Blasi goes with (I’ll bet it’s McKay on Friday) has to give this team a chance to win by scoring three goals because getting more than that against UND just isn’t realistic. Miami has to be prepared to win two slugfests.
These two teams are very evenly matched with the defensive and goaltending edge belonging to UND. That said, I’d probably give the RedHawks an advantage up front with, in my opinion, more top-end guys, more game-breakers than UND which really has a grinding offensive mentality. Miami could earn a significant size advantage this weekend, especially if head coach Enrico Blasi chooses to dress both Crash Cousins. Even with one or the other in the lineup, and Miami’s size on the blueline, they match up quite well in both the size and speed categories.
But, with UND missing one of their best players, the excitement around the weekend, senior night, and what it means to Miami (home ice, #1 seed in the NCHC, Penrose Cup, redemption for last year, NCAA seeding on the line, etc., etc.), I’m going to call a MIAMI SWEEP and watch the RedHawks skate off Saturday night with the Penrose Cup.
How to Listen/Watch
The Voice of the RedHawks, Greg Waddell, will be back on the radio this weekend as both games will be available at MURedHawks.com and over the air at 1450-AM (Saturday only) and 1490-AM. Friday’s game will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network which unfortunately means no NCHC.tv for Friday. Saturday’s regular season finale will be streamed through the league’s package and also available on Time Warner Cable (Chan. 311 & 1311) and on Fox College Sports Pacific (DirecTV Chan. 608, Time Warner Chan. 321).
From the League Office
- This weekend marks the final weekend of the NCHC regular season before beginning NCHC Tournament play next weekend. No. 1/1 North Dakota has already clinched a share of the Penrose Cup, awarded to the NCHC regular-season champion. UND needs just one point at No. 5/5 MIAMI this weekend to win the title outright. The RedHawks need to sweep UND to also get a share of the title, which would then give MIAMI the No. 1 seed in the NCHC Tournament and make UND the No. 2 seed.
- North Dakota enters the top-five series with MIAMI riding a four-game win streak and seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1), which is the longest active unbeaten streak in the NCAA. With its share of the Penrose Cup, UND has secured its 16th conference championship in program history, the most of any NCAA Division I men’s program.
- Four teams (MIAMI, Omaha, Denver and Minnesota Duluth) are separated by just five points with two games to play, while only three of those teams will get home ice for the NCHC Quarterfinals. UMD currently sits in fifth place on the outside looking in, but can make that up with at least three points and some help this weekend. UND has already secured home ice. Tiebreakers for seeding, should they be needed, are listed on page 8 of the release. More information on possible place finishes for these teams are listed below.
- According to the KRACH Ratings, the eight NCHC teams have played the eight toughest schedules in the country this season, led by Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State at No. 1 and 2, respectively. Omaha, Denver, MIAMI, CC, WMU and UND round out the top eight, respectively.
Possible place finishes for each team entering this weekend:
- North Dakota – 1,2 (needs just 1 point at Miami to clinch 1 seed/outright title, already has share of regular season title)
- MIAMI – 1,2,3,4,5 (needs 2 points to secure home for sure, needs sweep of UND to share regular season title and get 1 seed)
- Omaha – 2,3,4,5 (needs 4 points to secure home ice for sure)
- Denver – 2,3,4,5 (needs 5 points to secure home ice for sure)
- Minnesota Duluth – 2,3,4,5,6 (needs just 1 point to secure 5 seed, needs at least one team ahead of them to lose/tie to have a chance to get home ice)
- St. Cloud State – 5,6 (SCSU has to sweep DU and UMD has to get swept by WMU for SCSU to move up to 5 seed)
- Western Michigan – locked in to 7
- Colorado College – locked in to 8