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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!

With Canisius Crushed, Miami heads to St. Cloud State

Once in a while you have to play the little guys and put a whooping on them to make yourself feel good about life. This past weekend, Miami did just that, posting 2 3-goal wins over Canisius. The RedHawks completed their second sweep of the season, handily beating the Golden Griffins 3-0 and 5-2 in Oxford. As we mentioned in our weekend preview, it was Canisius could have been a team that jumped up and stole a win from Miami. They’re not a bad hockey team, and Miami did well to remain focused and earn two solid victories on the weekend.

Recapping the Canisius Series

“Ryan was a huge difference in the first period,” Head Coach Enrico Blasi said after the game, “and the third period was our best period. I thought we played well, made some good plays, were intense on loose pucks. We started off a little too loose, but we got better in the second period.”

With no scoring from the top line, the star of the night was Alex Wideman, who had two laser shots over the shoulder of the Canisius goalie to score his 3rd and 4th goals of the season. Wideman was quick to give credit to his teammates on both goals: “The first goal was all (Blake) Coleman and (Cody) Murphy. I’m usually a passer, but I decided to shoot on the first one.” He was also in the right spot at the right time and gave credit to Anthony Louis on his second goal for making a great play.

Coming into this season, there was some trepidation as to where the secondary scoring was going to come from. Of course, Riley Barber and Austin Czarnik were expected to score buckets of goals, but Friday was a typical night for these two that they can expect for the rest of the season in the NCHC. Guys like Wideman, Coleman, Jimmy Mullin, Louis and Alex Gacek will need to continue to score to keep the RedHawks at the top of the polls and NCHC standings.

Ryan McKay stopped just about everything thrown his way and was named the second star of the night. However, I tweeted it during the game and after watching the replay, this shutout really falls to the defense. They played great as a team, blocked 13 shots overall, and allowed 9 shots in the final 2 periods combined.

On Saturday, Blasi was pleased with the performance in the defensive zone, and the RedHawks continued their streak of single-digit shots in a period, allowing just 5 in the first.

“We came out strong tonight. Austin’s goal got us going. Once they made it 1-1 we scored twice and that was real important in the game. We were doing a great job of relieving pressure and putting pressure on them. Any time you can sweep in college hockey, that’s a big deal. They play a different style – trying to slow you down because they are real big and strong. You have to be patient and disciplined and our guys did that fairly well all weekend long. We played well for about 5 of 6 periods this weekend. We possessed the puck extremely well. Our power play was very good again. We started to get better with the D-zone and some of the decision making with the puck especially in the neutral zone.”

Blake Coleman dished out 4 assists on the night. “We emphasized coming out hard and jumping all over them early. Everyone else was kind of wheeling, but we made the most of our opportunities. I feel like everyone could have had four assists tonight.”

Jay Williams looked spectacular in net. He only had to face 23 shots, and sure, he let in 2 of them. But really, this could have been a track meet and a 5-5 game if it wasn’t for Williams spectacular saves throughout the game. On top of looking good in net, Williams was credited with an assist on Anthony Louis’s goal – the eventual game winner.

Three Stars of the Weekend

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

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

3. The Goaltending Super-Duo of Ryan McKay and Jay Williams – McKay shutout Canisius on Friday night, and Williams followed that up by stopping 21 of 23 and added an assist on Saturday.

2. Alex Wideman – When the top line doesn’t score, Wideman is there picking up the slack and now has 4 goals and 2 assists on the year.

1. Blake Coleman – 4 assists on Saturday night. Throw in a goal on Friday night and Blake Coleman is one of the hottest scorers for Miami right now.

Scouting the Huskies

There’s another big matchup on the schedule this weekend, and the #7 RedHawks are in northern Minnesota for the matchup with #3/4 St. Cloud. This weekend’s opponent will be the third Miami foe that has been ranked in the top 10 of the national rankings. Miami earned a split at home against North Dakota, then lost and tied at Providence a week later. 3 out of the last 4 weekends and 3 of 5 overall against top 10 teams is quite a strong schedule – currently the 6th hardest in the country. Second on that list? St. Cloud State.

In the all time series, Miami is 8-3-2 all-time against St. Cloud State. However, St. Cloud has owned the series lately, and Miami is 0-2-1 in the last three meetings. Coach Blasi is preparing his team for an epic struggle, but when he was asked if last year’s NCAA Regional Final matchup carried any weight, he was quick to say that it will play no bearing this weekend:

It’s a huge weekend for us. They are playing extremely well, sweeping North Dakota in Grand Forks. They went to the Frozen Four and they are well coached. This will be one of the most complete teams we’ll play all season and it’s coing to be a big challenge this weekend. This is just another step. We have to go in ready to go against a veteran experience team that is playing extremely well. Probably the most complete team I’ve seen in this early season. We’re going to have to play our best.

Last year was last year. They have some guys that have graduated and so do we – it’s a new season, we won’t coach that way. We’ve got a lot of things to work on and we know how good SCSU is. We’re going to put our best foot forward and we have to play well. Any time you go on the road in our league it’s gonna be tough. You have to be sure you’re doing all the little things right.

Blake Coleman goes hard to the net against SCSU in the 2013 NCAA Regional Final. (Miami University Athletics)

Blake Coleman goes hard to the net against SCSU in the 2013 NCAA Regional Final. (Miami University Athletics)

The Hawks won on Friday night despite not getting a single point from Riley Barber or Austin Czarnik. Blasi had this to say about their performance: “They had some great chances, but that’s going to happen. If you watch the game, our opponent is going to key in on those two guys. Every time they touch the puck, there are three guys on them. It’s not that they didn’t have their chances, they just didn’t go in. As they got better throughout the game, our team started to roll.” You can expect a whole lot more of the same this weekend in St. Cloud, and getting a solid start on Friday night will be crucial.

“Saturday have not been our issue. Friday first periods have been, and I’m not sure why,” Blasi said. “We’re in the process of changing things in practice and how we do things during the week. Really it has been Friday and that needs to change, no question. Maybe it’s a focus thing, but we have to change that.”

This weekend, Miami will need to be on point with their power play. SCSU (5-0-1 overall, 2-0-0 in the NCHC) just doesn’t take penalties, having only 21 penalties (50 minutes) in their first 6 games. That’s an average of just 8 minutes a game, so if Miami expects to continue to stay near the top of the NCAA with their power play, it won’t be because they will have a lot of chances.

Here’s the special teams story:

Miami Power Play: 30.8% (2nd in the nation)
St. Cloud Penalty Kill: 84.2% (21st in the nation)

Miami Penalty Kill: 80.5% (38th in the nation)
St. Cloud Power Play: 13.6% (47th in the nation)

I am hopeful that the Miami penalty kill will be fixed this weekend, but St. Cloud’s numbers can be deceiving. They played North Dakota in their only other NCHC matchup to date, and North Dakota is tops in the nation on the penalty kill – having killed 28 of 29 penalties this year. I’m not so much concerned with the power play, but if there aren’t any chances, then Miami is going to need to get the job done on 5-on-5 play.

The action starts tonight at 8:30 Eastern Time and Saturday at 8:00 pm. Miami coverage for All-Access subscribers will be available (audio only), and St. Cloud’s video service will also be available for a fee.

Next Weekend

Guess what…another potential top 10 matchup! Miami hosts Wisconsin who is currently ranked 13 in the USCHO poll and 12 in the USA Today poll. Friday’s game is a rare 6:30pm start time to make way for CBS Sports TV coverage. Saturday’s puck drop is the normal 7:00 pm start time.

Enjoy the action, RedHawks!

Weekend Preview: What’s a Golden Griffin?

“This weekend will be no different – they are a very good hockey team,” Head Coach Enrico Blasi said. “They beat Denver in Denver. We need to continue to prepare at a high level during the week and start implementing some of those things we are doing during the week during pressure situations (in games). Playing top teams will expose you. Some times you do positive things and you learn from your positive play. I think both things are happening right now. We need to clean up the negatives and hopefully have more positives than negatives.”

Miami had quite the schedule to start the season: weekend series against in-state rival Ohio State, #5 North Dakota and this week’s #3 team Providence. Miami gets a break and faces off against the Canisius Golden Griffins this weekend. It will be more than just a physical test on the ice, but a mental one as well. Miami won’t be able to help thinking “we should crush these guys” and the fans will have that same thought as well. I know I do.

Scouting the Golden Griffins

4-0-0 all time against Canisius? 23-3 all time score over them? 11-5-0 all time against Atlantic Hockey teams overall? Don’t let it go to your heads, boys. All of these facts don’t mean this will be an easy weekend.

Through 3 games, Senior Defenseman Ben Danford leads the Golden Griffins with 5 assists and 5 points. Keegan Asmundson stopped Denver, and led the Golden Griffins to a 4-1 win last weekend. He was named Atlantic Hockey’s goaltender of the week for his effort. But what are we going to see from Canisius on the ice? It’s going to be interesting which team shows up – the team that beat 17th ranked Denver 4-1 in Magness Arena? Or will it be the team that has lost to Air Force AND Niagara on opening weekend?

We’ve Got a lot of Broken Records

On the Miami side of things, you know what I’m going to say next…

Riley Barber is first in the nation in scoring with 12 points, and his 8 goals are second in the nation. Austin Czarnik has 11 points, had 5 assists last weekend and was named NCHC Offensive Player of the Week. Sound like a broken record? Well, it is, but I’m happy to be talking about leading scorers at this point of the season. Hopefully these two guys will be in those same positions at the end of the season and we’ll be talking about Hobey Baker Finalists again.

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

Like a broken record: we should see Jay Williams Friday night and Ryan McKay (pictured) on Saturday. (Toledo Blade: Andy Morrison)

Another spot on that same record that’s skipping and repeating over and over again? We detailed it as the season started, and so far, it has been a straight-up rotation in net for the RedHawks. Blasi hasn’t wavered in his Friday/Williams and Saturday/McKay rotation and don’t expect it to change this weekend. (Well…actually…depending on how close the games are, you might see walk-on Anthony Jacaruso get his first NCAA playing time this weekend if things get out of hand. With the early season momentum needing to get moving in the right direction however, don’t count on it.)

Prediction Time

This weekend should be a nice clean sweep to get Miami back on solid footing before heading to St. Cloud State next weekend for their first ever NCHC road trip. Ryan McKay and Jay Williams should both get on track to get their seasons rolling as well. Austin Czarnik will pass the puck a million different ways (behind the back, through the legs, off the scoreboard) to Riley Barber, who will impress us with his amazing shooting ability. Whoops. There’s that broken record skipping again…

Be sure to follow us on Twitter, as we will be giving you what we can during this weekend’s games at @MiamiHockeyBlog. Enjoy the hockey, everyone!

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.

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.

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.