Category Archives: 2013-14 Weekend Recaps

Coleman’s return lifts Miami past St. Cloud

Well, hello there!

You probably didn’t miss us even though we haven’t posted since Miami got pretty boring to watch about six weeks ago. We haven’t found this season easy to watch, either.

Anywho, Blake Coleman is back! And the junior from Texas netted his 11th and 12th goals of the season to lift Miami to an emotional win over fourth-ranked St. Cloud State at Steve Cady Arena last night.

Blake Coleman celebrates a Miami goal. (Miami University Athletics)

Coleman, who had not seen action since injuring himself (we believe he broke his collarbone) in a game on December 6 against Denver, was easily the best player on the ice. He added an immediate boost of energy and seemed to infect the RedHawks with his sense of purpose and leadership — something that’s been sorely lacking since he left the lineup. He was hitting, backchecking, hustling, creating turnovers … and scoring. Frankly, it was one of his best games since his freshman year. If he can raise his level of play, and lift the team around him, this could be a good sign as the season nears completion.

Austin Czarnik also seemed affected by Coleman’s presence in the lineup. On the first line with regular mate Riley Barber, Coleman was inserted alongside the two of them creating matchup nightmares for SCSU as that line accounted for three of Miami’s four goals and was a handful all night for the Huskies. For Czarnik he scored his 11th goal of the season and assisted twice giving the junior captain a season’s line of 11-30-41. Barber also assisted on Coleman’s first goal of the night, his 20th, in an otherwise quiet night for the sophomore sniper from Pittsburgh.

Sophomore goaltender Jay Williams earned just his fifth win of the season evening his record at 5-5. He wasn’t great, but he did enough to enable Miami to record its second win over SCSU this year. Consider. Miami has only 11 wins this season but they have beaten an impressive list of teams with far better records than the RedHawks. Miami has beaten North Dakota, St. Cloud (twice), Wisconsin, Denver and Ohio State (twice) who is somehow 15-10-3. Oh, wait. I know. It’s because duhOSU has the 46th ranked strength of schedule in college hockey. For the record, Miami has played the 15th most difficult schedule in the nation and sits at 11-15-3.

Austin Czarnik scored a goal and added two assists in Miami’s 4-3 win over SCSU. (Miami University Athletics)

Can one player make a difference?

Well, it certainly looked that way last night. Miami put forth a level of effort, a much higher “compete level” to paraphrase CBS Sports analyst Dave Starman, that I haven’t seen in months. Will this be the start of a late season run that could carry this team into the NCHC playoffs and save the entire campaign? Or will this just be a blip on the radar? While I’m not completely sold on this as a bellwether moment, I’m at least curious for one more night to see how this team responds.

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After Rough Road Trip, Miami Returns Home

The Miami RedHawks headed to Kalamazoo last weekend in search of an identity. They were starting off the second half of the season against a familiar foe, with a lot to work on. The defense needed shoring up, the penalty kill needed improvement and most of all, the power play was struggling in the first half, and it was time to figure things out.

Going in, Coach Blasi most certainly wasn’t going to say that the trip to Western Michigan was going to be an easy weekend. In fact, as we said in our weekend preview, he was very complementary to the Broncos. But in the back of his mind, Rico had to be thinking of 6 points. Western Michigan is a team that Miami is very familiar with and has played well against in recent past. The Broncos were expected to have a down year, and were tied at the bottom of the standings with the RedHawks coming into the weekend. Miami was predicted to finish at the top of the conference and started the year as the #2 team in the country.

As we are reminded of time and time again, matchups on paper mean nothing. “That’s why you play the games,” as they say. Miami allowed 3 shorthanded goals against, went just 1 for 13 on the power play (1 PPG on 5 chances on Friday, 0 for 8 on Saturday), and lost 2 heartbreaking 1-goal decisions. 0 points. Last place in the NCHC.

Ouch.

In our time cheering for Miami sports, I know we’ve all drank the Drain-O kool-aid. This was one of those weekends for us here at the Blog of Brotherhood. Having taken our annual guys trip to Kalamazoo for the weekend, I can certainly say the beer and company were better than the hockey. There were many times where we all looked at each other in disbelief as the events transpired on the ice before us.

Jay Williams can't stop Nolan LaPorte of Western Michigan on Saturday night. LaPorte had game winning goals each night last weekend. (GS Photo)

Jay Williams can’t stop Nolan LaPorte of Western Michigan on Saturday night. LaPorte had game winning goals each night last weekend. (GS Photo)

Friday night was just a night of missed opportunities and lackluster play. The shots after 1 period were 19-5 in favor of Western Michigan Friday night and the ice was heavily slanted in their favor. Scoring chances isn’t an NCAA statistic, but Western must have had 6 or 7 grade A chances that they couldn’t put past Miami’s Ryan McKay in net in addition to the one that did find paydirt. They played well the rest of the way, but a soft goal allowed by McKay and a controversial goal with 8.3 seconds left, and Miami was headed to the hotel with a sour taste in their mouths.

I actually think the RedHawks played better on Saturday night, even with several stats showing otherwise. First, they went 0 for 8 on the power play and were behind by 2 goals for a long chunk of the game (the only time that either team was ahead by more than 1 goal, by the way). Criticisms of the power play and lack of effort rained down from various RedHawks fans in attendance at times due to the out-of-character performance by several on the ice.

New Leadership

One thing that I did see this past weekend was excellent leadership and guts by Sean Kuraly. Before the weekend, Kuraly was given an A on the newly minted sweaters for the RedHawks (more on the jerseys to come). I can’t say enough about the hustle, determination and sheer disregard for his body that Sean showed all weekend, and Sean certainly earned his Assistant Captain position last weekend. From our vantage point, it was clear that Sean was the best player on the ice for either team both nights.

On Friday night, Kuraly had 2 goals on 4 shots, went 11 for 24 on faceoffs, and I’m certain would have recorded 5 or more hits on the night if it was a recorded statistic. Saturday’s line would only see Kuraly receive an assist with 5 shots, but he did have a goal that would have been unassisted had the referees not overturned the call on the ice (due to goaltender interference).

Max Cook was also awarded an Assistant Captain’s “A” on his sweater for the weekend. The senior from Frankfort, IL is just 7 games away from playing in 100 in a RedHawks sweater and has 19 hard-earned points over those 93 games, playing mostly on the 2nd and 3rd lines during his time at Miami.

New Attire

As you can see from the recent tweet from The Brotherhood (link), the RedHawks donned new sweaters last weekend. These are a return back to the jerseys of the last several years.

There have been many (unconfirmed) rumors about the jerseys over the course of the first half of the season, and it appears that the bedazzled look of the first half of the year wasn’t cutting it for the RedHawks. In the end, after a color issue for the first weekend of the year (see: jersey sale in the Goggin Pro Shop) and a general dislike for the jerseys from many fans, it seemed that the jerseys were not doing the job and Miami made a switch off of the Nike jerseys to these new Adidas jerseys. This also aligns the hockey team with the rest of the university in terms of their outfitters – a wise choice on all fronts.

The Weekend Ahead – Nebraska-Omaha in Oxford for 2-Game Set

Matthew Caito and the RedHawks look to rebound this weekend as they host Nebraska-Omaha. (Photo: Doug Cutler)

Matthew Caito and the RedHawks look to rebound this weekend as they host Nebraska-Omaha. (Photo: Doug Cutler)

For a while this week, I thought of writing this piece with the thought that the 2 one-goal losses didn’t seem indicative of how the games were played this week. In the end, I really didn’t like how Miami played, with the exceptions of Kuraly and Cody Murphy, who is always hustling, the RedHawks didn’t impress me much last weekend.

This weekend, Miami welcomes the Mavericks of the University of Nebraska-Omaha. These will be the first games in Goggin since December 7th and 8th – a span of 7 weeks. Welcome home, indeed.

If you remember, the weekend before Thanksgiving, Miami traveled to Omaha and got spanked by scores of 6-3 and 3-1. At that point, Miami was starting to realize life in the NCHC was going to be tougher than they thought, and after the 2 wins, UNO found themselves in first place in the new conference.

On Friday night back in November, Miami was up 1-0 after the first, but UNO scored 5 second period goals en route to the 6-3 win and Miami was shell-shocked the rest of the weekend. There was no coming back from that devastating period and Miami’s slide had begun.

At present, Miami sits in the cellar of the NCHC, a conference they were picked to win at the start of the season, and are a whopping 13 points behind first place St. Cloud State. At 3-7-0 in the NCHC, there’s a lot of work to be done over the last 14 games of the season. UNO is in a tie for 3rd in the conference – a position not many expected to this point in the 2013-14 campaign. There are 14 games left for the RedHawks, and this weekend is critical to their success in the conference as well as their hopes to make the NCAA tournament come March.

Injury update

If you remember this past weekend, Austin Czarnik was hit high during the second period of the Friday night game in Kalamazoo. It was a hit that didn’t really look to cause any grief for Miami’s Captain at the time, but Czarnik didn’t play a whole lot in the second and was not on the bench for the third when Miami let the game slip away. Then on Saturday, Czarnik was in his Miami warm-ups and was a spectator in the stands and would disappear into the locker room with the team at each intermission.

Blake Coleman has been a catalyst for MIami, but missed last weekend with an upper body injury. (Miami University Athletics)

Blake Coleman has been a catalyst for MIami, but missed last weekend with an upper body injury. (Miami University Athletics)

We cannot confirm nor deny what happened to Czarnik (because we simply don’t know), but he was out with an undisclosed upper body injury. While a concussion is still a serious injury, I’m hopeful that this is all it was, as this usually means a short turnaround time. With a shoulder, collarbone or other upper body injury, he could miss an extended period of time. We will see tonight whether Czarnik is on the ice or not.

Blake Coleman also didn’t play last weekend, as he is still recovering from a suspected collarbone injury suffered on Friday December 6th against Denver (he was seen in a sling in Goggin also spectating that Saturday’s game before the holiday break). Again, no confirmation if that’s what the injury is/was, but Blake may also make return this weekend against UNO.

Both games will be televised on Miami All-Access, and Friday’s Game is Televised Locally on Time Warner Cable.

Enjoy the games RedHawks. Let’s get a W (or 2?) this weekend!

Weekend Highlights

More to come on the weekend that was, but here are some high quality highlights courtesy of BSU. Dear Miami, why can we not have a decent feed…or announcing crew for video? Bemidji is an isolated city of 13,000 people. Oxford is in the Cincinnati DMA which has a total pop of 900,000. There has to be a way to do this better. Just a thought…

Friday

Saturday

And, a nice article on Riley Barber from one of the Washington Caps’ blog sites — Russian Machine Never Breaks (which is an awesome name by the way).

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…

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.

#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.

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!

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.