Category Archives: 2014-15

#7 Miami 3, Colorado College 1

Miami takes game one in Colorado Springs tonight by a final score of 3-1. Three different RedHawks scored with sophomore Justin Greenberg getting his first of the season.

With the win, Miami (17-9-1, 10-6-1-1 t2nd NCHC) moves into a tie for second place with Omaha in the ultra-competitive NCHC and creates more distance between itself and 5th place Denver, who lost 4-2 at North Dakota. Miami is now a full five points clear of the Pioneers in the race for home ice in the NCHC playoffs.

Overall, tonight was an impressive effort by Miami against an opponent that did not quit. Despite falling behind early, Miami really took over the game after about the 10 minute mark of the 1st period, and while they only tallied three goals, the game never felt in doubt. In other words, it never seemed like Colorado College would pose a real threat.

CC opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal. Luc Gerdes picked up the garbage in front of Miami netminder Jay Williams and found twine at 6:19. But, Miami would get it back immediately when Cody Murphy tallied his 11th goal of the season, a powerplay marker for the RedHawks just 26 seconds later. Murphy, who was camped in front and redirected a wrist shot from Anthony Louis, has now scored 11 goals in his past 14 games. And, he would have had another, but it was waved off after a lengthy video review.

In the second, Miami absolutely dominated possession but could muster just one goal, albeit a beauty, from Riley Barber who dangled around a defender before roofing a perfect wrister over the shoulder of CC goaltender Tyler Marble at 16:22.

In the third period, it was more of the same as Miami largely dictated play. After a shaky first period, Jay Williams was stellar in net and Justin Greenberg scored his first goal of the season off a ridiculous backhand saucer pass from Kevin Morris on a 2-on-1 rush at 9:09.

With the victory, and the completion of the night’s other league contests, the current NCHC standings look like this.

1. North Dakota – 34 points

2. MIAMI – 32 points

2. Omaha – 32 points (Miami has tiebreaker)

4. Minnesota-Duluth – 31 points

5. Denver – 27 points

6. St. Cloud – 22 points

6. Western Michigan – 22 points (SCSU has tiebreaker)

8. Colorado College – 4 points

Miami and Colorado College go at it again tomorrow night at 9 PM EST. The game can be seen on NCHC.TV and of course Greg Waddell will have the call, well, maybe via Miami All-Access.

 

Random thoughts and stats:

– Miami outshot the Tigers 34-23.

– Jay Williams is now 15-4 on the season.

– Riley Barber really turned it up tonight. His compete level was high from the drop of the puck. That’s extremely encouraging.

– Three stars of the night: 1. Jay Williams (22 saves), 2. Riley Barber (1-0-1, 4 shots), 3. Tyler Marble (31 saves)

– Miami blocked 16 CC shots (Caito 4, Richart 3)

– Miami was dominant in the faceoff circle winning 44 to CC’s 23. Coleman (13-4) and Kuraly (11-2) led the way.

– Miami was 1 for 4 on the powerplay but did allow a shorthanded goal.

– I loved how Rico used Schmit and Lemirande tonight. Putting the Crash Cousins together for extended periods of time combined with altitude was effective at wearing down CC in the 2nd period. There were times that the Tigers could not get the puck out of their zone.

– Austin Czarnik registered his 26th assist on Barber’s goal.

– Miami has a season’s-best four game unbeaten streak (3-0-1).

2-1 Miami after two…

Riley Barber notched his 13th goal of the season while shorthanded to give Miami a 2-1 lead heading to the third period. Miami completely owned about 18 minutes of the period and at times had possession in the CC end for minutes at a time. I’d like to see more finish out of this team, but the effort has been outstanding tonight.

The line of Schmit, Lemirande, Coleman/Murphy was huge (no pun intended) in the period. Rico rewarded the Crash Cousins with more ice time throughout the period. Wearing a team down at altitude with that size is an excellent coaching maneuver.

Other thoughts…

  • We said earlier that Riley Barber looked sharp tonight. And, as usual, we were right. Barber’s sick wrister from between the circles after a toe drag/dangle was criminal. Keep it up big fella.
  • Crash Cousins are big. We haven’t seen a ton of the two of them together this year, but tonight, they are dominating the Tigers in the offensive zone digging out pucks and showing more offensive prowess than I can recall seeing from them this year. Well done.
  • Jay Williams has found his game. After not being tested for what seemed to be the entire second period, Williams came up big as CC mounted several good chances late in the period. He looks much sharper.

2-1 Miami after two. Let’s finish this and get ready for tomorrow night!

First period thoughts…1-1

After one period of play in Colorado Springs, #7 Miami and Colorado College are tied at 1.

Miami allowed its 3rd shorthanded goal early in the period at CC’s Scott Wamsganz converted a mess out front of Jay Williams off a rush.

Miami would answer right back on the same powerplay as Cody Murphy recorded his 11th goal of the season off a tip in front of an Anthony Louis wrist shot from between the circles. Matt Caito notched the other assist.

Other thoughts…

  • Dornbrock. A huge hit along the boards to break up a CC rush. He has also blocked shots and looks physical tonight.
  • Czarnik’s back checking effort on the play that ended up being the CC goal was impressive. His effort is the type of thing you want to see out of your senior captain.
  • Riley Barber’s compete level is up tonight. He made a couple outstanding stretch passes taking advantage of the big ice.
  • Jay Williams rebound control is “off” at best. He looks a bit lost on the big ice and doesn’t seem to be playing the angles nor seeing the puck very well.
  • Taylor Richart continues to do the little things. He made a big block of a CC shot on their last powerplay to end the first period.

So far, so good. Miami looks smooth and in control. Hopefully they are well hydrated to compete for 60 minutes at 6,000 feet.

More to come from Colorado Springs.

#7 Miami at Colorado College

With Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak as a backdrop, #7 Miami comes west to face Colorado College in the Springs.

Welcome to Colorful Colorado!

Well Miami fans, we’ve reached the final month of the regular season. And, I have to admit, I’ve been waiting for this point in the year for quite some time because I’ll have the opportunity to see Miami in person four times in a three week span.

In the NCHC, this will be the month that will determine who hoists the Penrose Cup as the regular season champion and identify three other teams who will claim home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

Miami’s stretch run includes six games against (current USCHO rankings) #9 Denver, #6 Minnesota-Duluth and #2 North Dakota meaning Miami will have its league destiny in its hands facing teams it is chasing in the standings and realistically battling each one for home ice.

But first, Miami (16-9-1, 9-6-1-1 3rd NCHC) has a potential trap series in front of it facing lowly Colorado College (5-19-1, 1-14-1 8th NCHC) in Colorado Springs.

The RedHawks are coming off an interesting two weekends that saw them play just twice as they picked up a tie and win over 7th place Western Michigan. The tie came during an exciting game in Kalamazoo that went back and forth before the Broncos tied the game late with an extra attacker goal, but Miami came away with an important extra league point when Cody Murphy scored a classic shootout goal in sudden death. Then last Saturday, the RedHawks jumped out to a four-goal lead after two periods but had to hang on as Western Michigan scored three unanswered goals in the third period to turn a laugher into a close game at the Hockey City Classic in Chicago.

Looking ahead to the weekend, this will be the final regular season meetings between the Tigers and RedHawks. Earlier in the year, Miami swept Colorado College in Oxford by a combined 8-1 score as Miami dominated the Tigers behind Jay Williams’ stellar goaltending and big offensive weekends from Riley Barber, Sean Kuraly and Alex Wideman.

The Series

Miami and Colorado College have met just six times with each squad having earned three wins. However, Miami has won the last three in the series by a combined score of 14-2. Clearly, Miami has the upper-hand against this former national powerhouse.

The Coach

Mike Haviland is behind the bench for his first season in Colorado Springs after replacing longtime CC head man Scott Owens over the

Mike Haviland is hoping to turn the Colorado College program around.

summer. A former Chicago Blackhawks assistant from 2008 through 2012, Haviland is a native of New Jersey, played a season of college hockey at Elmira and was a 1990 supplemental draft pick of the Devils, but never played in the NHL.

Haviland has his hands full attempting to rebuild a proud Colorado College program that hasn’t had much success over the past few seasons.

The Team

Unfortunately for the Tigers, there simply isn’t a lot of talent on this team. Owens did not leave Haviland with much to work with and aside from sophomore defenseman Jaccob Slavin, there aren’t many Tigers that have that eye-popping look. I have seen the Tigers once in person this season, and though it was very early, they looked ordinary in narrowly defeating Alabama-Huntsville 4-3. While that victory sealed a series sweep, the Tigers weren’t very impressive in earning two one-goal victories over the Chargers.

Offensively, the Tigers are led by juniors Cody Bradley (8-13-21) and Hunter Fejes (5-9-14) and are two of only four Tigers with at least five goals on the season. Simply put, CC cannot score.

Jaccob Slavin is a star on the Colorado College blueline.

Defensively, there is more talent as four of the Tigers six NHL draft picks are on the blueline. Led by the aforementioned Jaccob Slavin (3-9-12) and senior Peter Stoykewych (2-5-7), the Tigers have some size and puck-moving ability that Miami will have to be aware of in case the defense activates. And, on the big ice at altitude, Miami will have to be mindful not to chase too much and lose their legs in the third period.

Entering the weekend, CC has lost six in a row and is averaging just 2.04 goals per game this year. In net, goaltenders Tyler Marble and Chase Perry have largely split time and sport a combined 3.87 GAA and .880 save percentage. Rather dismal goaltending numbers for certain. (source: MURedHawks.com)

The Prediction

With the final three series of the year looming, Miami needs six points this weekend to give themselves a shot at winning the Penrose Cup. Perhaps more importantly, the points can help secure a spot in the league’s top four earning home ice.

Despite the 5,000 foot difference in altitude, Miami is far too talented and these games are far too important to the RedHawks.

Miami sweeps.

#9 Miami at Western Michigan

WMU’s Lawson Ice Arena is a great old barn.

In an odd “home” series, Western Michigan (11-10-3, 4-7-3-3 7th NCHC) will host #9 Miami (15-9, 8-6 T4th NCHC) in Kalamazoo tonight and again next Saturday in Chicago as Miami once again will go outside to play at the Hockey City Classic for the second time in three years.

Earlier this season, Miami swept a home NCHC series in Oxford by 1-0 and 5-2 scores while the Broncos were really struggling. But, Andy Murray’s squad has faired much better over the past several weeks going 8-2-2 over its past 12 games including a demolition of defending national champion Union in the Shillelagh Tournament in South Bend, Ind.

For Miami, these are two incredibly important games.

I suppose every game down the stretch for the RedHawks is important as they struggle to maintain a top four league finish and secure home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

What’s clear is Miami has a very difficult schedule down the stretch and they’ll have to perform much better if they want to challenge for a regular season title — or at this point — a top four finish in the very competitive NCHC.

The Broncos are a big, physical team. Most fans, coaches and pundits call WMU an “awful team to play against.” As they have gotten more confident in themselves, and head coach Andy Murray’s system, the wins have come.

Offensively, the Broncos are led by senior forward Justin Kovacs (4-16-20) and junior forwards Colton Hargrove (10-9-19) and Nolan LaPorte (9-10-19). Junior defenseman Kenny Morrison (5-8-13) and junior goaltender Lukas Hafner (10-7-3, 2.13, .922) form the backbone of a Bronco team that has surrendered just 28 goals in the past 12

Junior Lukas Hafner has had an outstanding year for Western Michigan.

games. Of note is that WMU was blown out 7-0 by SCSU a few weeks ago. If you remove that game, it’s just 21 goals in 11 games. Needless to say, the WMU defense has been playing well which is a bad sign given Miami’s almost incredible inability to manufacture goals. Over the past nine games, Miami has netted only 21 goals which is a dismal 46th in the country during that stretch. (source: MURedHawks.com)

As stated, this brutal run to the finish began last weekend. Miami stands 1-1 in the series of games that will largely determine their post-season fate. Miami has had difficulty winning important games and with Western Michigan perhaps in an even more desperate mode, I do not see Miami winning tonight but I do see a bounce-back in Chicago next weekend. Still, Miami really needs a sweep here. Will they have enough to rise to the occasion?

#11 Denver at #9 Miami

Joey LaLeggia leads a tough Denver team against Miami in Oxford.

After a week spent licking its wounds following an embarrassing sweep at the hands of then seventh place St. Cloud State, 9th ranked Miami (14-8, 7-5 4th NCHC) jumps into the final stretch of the regular season with a challenge from #11 Denver (13-7-1, 6-5 5th NCHC) in Oxford. For Miami, these are the first home games since December 5-6 when they split a league series against Omaha.

After five meetings last year, these are the first of the 2014-15 campaign and first since Miami’s 4-3 loss to Denver in the NCHC championship game in Minneapolis last March. Last season, Miami and the Pioneers split four regular season meetings before Denver prevailed in the title game propelling DU to the NCAA tournament where they were routed by Boston College in the first round of the Dance.

This weekend’s NCHC series against DU is the start of a brutal final month-plus of the regular season as Miami will next face Western Michigan (@Kalamazoo, @Chicago/Hockey City Classic) followed by Colorado College (road), Minnesota-Duluth (home) and Denver again (road) before finishing the regular season with a home series against North Dakota on March 6-7.

The Series

Miami trails the all-time series with the Pioneers 7-6 including a 1-1 mark against Denver in NCAA tournament games.

The Coach

Maine alum Jim Montgomery is in his second season behind the DU bench after replacing legendary head coach George Gwozdecky before the start of last season. Overall, Montgomery is a modest 33-23-7 in his season and a half with the Pioneers and the program is still really looking for the spark I feel they lost in making a mistake by firing Gwozdecky.

The Team

Having seen Denver twice in person, they are a smooth skating, puck-moving team with decent size and goaltending. In a 4-1 victory over outmanned RPI, Denver was dominant. However, in a humbling 3-1 loss to North Dakota, the Pioneers were exposed by speed and stretch passes as UND dominated from start to finish.

Denver was soundly defeated by North Dakota last month. Miami should attempt to replicate UND’s formula for success this weekend.

So, a mixed bag, perhaps. What I will say is that Miami needs to get out in space and challenge the DU forwards to backcheck. It was either an off-night or the Pioneers don’t care much for defensive play so perhaps Miami can use that to its advantage.

Offensively, the Pioneers are led by freshman Danton Heinen (9-16-25) and last year’s leading scorer, sophomore Trevor Moore (9-11-20). On the blueline, junior Joey LaLeggia (8-12-20) leads a stellar group of puck movers and is a player Miami must keep tabs on, particularly on the powerplay.

In net, the Pioneers have split minutes between sophomore Evan Cowley (2.09 GAA, .924 SV, 14 GP) and freshman Tanner Jaillet (2.01 GAA, .920 SV, 12 GP) to almost identical results. Cowley was thought to have been on the short list to make this year’s US WJC team, but was one of the final cuts before the team skidded to a 5th place finish. Frankly, I thought Cowley should have gotten the nod before Brian Halverson who saw little action backing up Boston College’s Thatcher Demko.

Overall, this is a big, fast Pioneer team and Miami will have its hands full. Expect to see both Crash Cousins in the lineup this weekend as Enrico Blasi attempts to get favorable line matchups with the final change.

The Prediction

This is a series Miami needs to sweep. The first two home games in well over a month. Coming off that embarrassing sweep. Despite the fact the students are still on break, I say Miami shows its heart and finds a way to get a tough NCHC series sweep over the Pioneers.

A wasted weekend

In one of the uglier performances in recent memory, #5/6 Miami was swept in St. Cloud by the Huskies this weekend by 3-1 and 3-2 scores.

Offensively, Miami could generate little against a team that came in 7-10-1 and looked listless with the exception of the first period of Friday night’s game when they registered 17 shots on goal and should have buried the Huskies for the weekend. Alas, the RedHawks did not dent the scoreboard and gave SCSU hope and momentum, dangerous living indeed against a desperate team.

In fact, this weekend looked a lot like last year when the travel-weary RedHawks could generate little energy. We said in our preview the weekend would be tough. Miami has now played six consecutive games away from home since December 28. They MUST get back to the winning side of things when they welcome in another road-weary opponent, Denver, who was swept themselves in a road series at Omaha after playing in a holiday tournament in New Hampshire (v. Dartmouth, v. Brown) the weekend prior. Before heading out to play Miami January 23-24 in Oxford, the Pioneers have a home series against SCSU meaning they’ll have flown to New Hampshire, Omaha and back to Denver before again flying to Oxford. Miami should take advantage of that heavy travel schedule and get an important home sweep of a league opponent.

The RedHawks will have a much needed week of rest and need to refocus their game before the Pioneers come to town.

#5/6 Miami at St. Cloud State

St. Cloud won the Penrose Cup, awarded to the NCHC’s regular season champion in 2013-14.

Fresh off a 3-1 holiday road trip that featured two shutouts by junior netminder Jay Williams, Miami is on the road again this weekend in a two-game series at NCHC rival St. Cloud State.

This will be the first and only time the two schools meet this year after playing six times last year culminating in Miami’s two-game NCHC playoff series sweep of the Huskies who finished first in the league’s inaugural regular season.

Though they rode high last year, this year has been very different for the defending Penrose Cup Champions.

The Huskies (7-10-1, 2-5-1 NCHC) find themselves mired in seventh place while Miami (14-6-0, 7-3-0 NCHC) sits in first place in the league standings after finishing a disastrous dead last one year ago.

Both games can be seen via NCHC.tv and heard via Miami All-Access. Tonight’s game will also be shown live on Sports Time Ohio and Fox Sports North Plus (good lord) at 8:37 PM EST and tomorrow the puck drops at 8:07 PM EST.

The Series

Miami has dominated this series though the number of games between the burgeoning rivals is relatively limited. Miami leads the all-time series 12-5-1 including a 4-2 mark last year. After splitting two regular season series on each other’s home ice last season, the RedHawks went to St. Cloud fighting for an opportunity to salvage their season, and salvage they did as they swept the Huskies out of the NCHC playoffs.

The Coach

St. Cloud head coach Bob Motzko is a familiar name to Miami fans as he was an assistant with the program under former Miami head coaches George Gwozdecky and Mark Mazzolini for five seasons. At SCSU, Motzko has taken the program to its only Frozen Four and has gone a respectable 191-146-41 in 10 seasons behind the bench of his alma mater.

The Team

Coming off last season’s first place regular season finish, SCSU was picked to finish third in this year’s preseason poll behind North Dakota and Miami. However, they will have to go on some kind of run in order to fulfill those lofty preseason expectations.

In net, the Huskies run out sophomore Charlie Lindgren who has decent numbers with a 2.63 GAA and .905 save percentage. However, the Huskies simply aren’t scoring like they did a year ago averaging just 2.44 goals

SCSU’s Jonny Brodzinski is a Hobey Baker caliber player.

per game vs. 3.58 a season ago. Leading scorer Jonny Brodzinski paces the Huskies with 11-6-17 after netting 21 goals a year ago. The loss of Hobey Hat Trick Finalist Nic Dowd has been huge because after Brodzinski’s 11 goals, only one player, Joey Benik, has at least 8 goals for SCSU. In fact, the next highest scorers after Benik are Andrew Prochno and David Morley who have just three goals apiece.

The Prediction

Looking at this matchup on paper, Miami should sweep the weekend. SCSU can’t score and when Miami’s right, they can. However, road weariness could take its toll as the RedHawks will be playing their fifth and sixth games away from home since December 28. As much as I want to say Miami will sweep, I think they leave the series with yet another NCHC split.

#4 Miami 8, #12 Nebraska-Omaha 2

Thoughts after last night’s 8-2 whipping of #12 Omaha.

Overall, it was a thorough beat down as Miami rattled off seven consecutive goals after actually surrendering the first goal of the game just 4:14 in. Six different RedHawks combined for the 8 goals with senior Cody Murphy notching a natural hat trick (3 consecutive goals) while Kevin Morris, Matthew Caito and Michael Mooney found the net for the first time this season. For Mooney, it was his first career goal, shorthanded, while the Omaha net was mysteriously vacated by Omaha head coach Dean Blais, despite trailing 7-2. Bit of a bush league move if you ask us. Senior captain Austin Czarnik recorded four assists, including his 100th and gave up an opportunity to record his first goal of the season when he passed the puck to Mooney on a 2-on-1 break. On the year, Czarnik has a 0-16-16 line in what can only be described as a bizarre start to his senior season.

Miami captain, Austin Czarnik, is now 13th on the RedHawks all-time scoring list. (photo: Miami University)

Thinking more about Czarnik’s scoring line, I wonder if it’s something having to do with last season when this team seemed to be all about individuals rather than the greater good. I wonder if it’s a sign of maturity as a leader on this club that Czarnik isn’t trying to do to much. That he’s more comfortable with the ‘C’ on his sweater? While I still have some leadership concerns with the ‘C’ I think the formal addition of Sean Kuraly and Blake Coleman as assistant captains was an appropriate move.

Coleman was a bit out of his mind last night, but you have to like the combination of skill and snarl he brings. He’s tough to play against and will make his presence known to the opposition when he doesn’t like something.

Other thoughts and notes:

Depth: This team has it. It didn’t last year. I believe Tim Bray said 14 Miami skaters have tallied goals this year and that, amazingly, does NOT include senior captain Austin Czarnik who entered 2014-15 with 37 career goals.

Goaltending: Jay Williams was good, not great last night. I’m sure he’d like to have the first goal back scored off an ugly rebound of a harmless point wrist shot that hit him square in the chest. But, with this offense (and really any offense), two goals or less should get a W and Williams now has 11 of them this year. Those 11 wins are just one short of his career high set his freshman year, the last year of existence for the CCHA. Despite his success, I could see Miami head coach Enrico Blasi give Ryan McKay a start tonight since he hasn’t played in a few weeks. However, this is another important league game. I’d rather see Williams again tonight and then give McKay a start in the Florida College Hockey Classic on either December 28 or 29. There’s certainly no fatigue issue with Williams, or shouldn’t be, because Miami is coming off a bye week, and will have two off-weeks for exams and Christmas before heading south.

Attendance: 2,006? For a matchup of top-15 top-12 squads? I really don’t know what’s going on in the SW Ohio area. The Reds don’t draw. The Bengals don’t draw. And now, Miami hockey doesn’t draw.

Admittedly, I live in Denver and my partner-in-crime Miamibeef04 lives in Columbus. However, Beef was there last night making the two hour drive south. Just because it’s no longer Michigan and Ohio State is no reason that building isn’t full. Here’s a rundown of Miami’s home attendance this year. Because capacity has never really been settled — is it 3,200? 3,642? 4,000? — I’m going with 3,200 to qualify as a sellout.

vs. Bowling Green – 1,860

vs. Ohio State – 3,554 (sellout)

vs. St. Lawrence – 2,589 and 2,663

vs. Colorado College – 3,153 (sellout) and 2,878

vs. Western Michigan – 2,633 and 2,470

Frankly, this is pathetic. You have a top-5 team again. It was one bad season last year. That there aren’t at least 3,000 butts in seats (seriously, it’s not a big building to fill) each night is embarrassing. I don’t want to hear about the new seat licenses, though surely that hasn’t helped. Tickets are available. If you don’t want your season tickets anymore, fine. Walk up and buy a ticket. Good seats still available.

I can guarantee you I will be at Magness Arena here in Denver and World Arena in Colorado Springs when Miami visits the Centennial State twice in February.

Get to the games, people!

Highlights: Here is a link to the highlights from last night courtesy of NCHC.tv

http://www.nchc.tv/omaha/video/omaha-miami-vs-omaha-highlights—12-5-14

And, check out John Lachmann’s analysis at http://www.wcpo.com/sports/redhawkey

Tonight: Miami and Omaha will complete their NCHC weekend series, and the season’s series, tonight at 7:05 PM at Steve Cady Arena in Oxford.

#4 Miami vs. #12 Nebraska-Omaha

Miami captain Austin Czarnik hopes to have more success this season than last against Ryan Massa and Nebraska-Omaha. (Michelle Bishop, USCHO.com)

After a week off following a sweep of Western Michigan, the #4/5 Miami RedHawks (10-4, 6-2 1st NCHC) prepare to face another ranked NCHC team as Dean Blais and the #12/13 Mavericks of Nebraska-Omaha visit Oxford for a two game series. To date, six of Miami’s first eight opponents are either currently ranked, or were when the RedHawks played them awarding MU the 5th toughest schedule in the country.

And, if that weren’t enough, this weekend’s series against Omaha (7-3-2, 3-2-1-1 4th NCHC) is huge in more than one way.

First, six NCHC league points are on the line.

Second, Miami owes the Mavericks for putting a line of 0-3-1 on the RedHawks last season as UNO owned Miami, especially in Omaha where I had the displeasure of watching both whippings live and in person.

Lastly, Omaha is just above Miami in the PairWise rankings checking in at #3 while the RedHawks currently rank #4 in the all-important table that largely determines the participants in the national tournament at the conclusion of the regular season.

Simply put, this is a monster series to conclude the first half of the conference season.

The Series

This is a rekindling of an old CCHA rivalry as Miami and Omaha are once again conference mates with the formation of the NCHC after college hockey’s realignment. Overall, Miami has had success against the Mavericks going 17-10-4 but are a dismal 0-4-1 in the last five against them.

The Coach

Dean Blais brings his Omaha Mavericks to Oxford to battle Miami. (Omaha.com)

Thinking about Miami’s recent run of poor play against Omaha, it certainly corresponds with the arrival of legendary head coach Dean Blais. Blais, who coached North Dakota for 10 seasons guiding the green and white to two national championships before departing for the CBJ of the NHL, has also led Team USA to World Junior Championship gold in 2010 and will once again wear the red, white and blue later this month as Team USA plays for the title in Canada — ironically the same country where Blais last struck gold for the US. Needless to say, the man can coach and has Omaha’s program pointed in the right direction.

The Team

Surprisingly, this team is built from the net out as senior goaltender Ryan Massa has been nothing short of outstanding so far. Massa, who entered 2014-15 having never had a GAA lower than 2.60, leads the NCHC with a ridiculous .943 save percentage and owns a minuscule 1.68 GAA. Of course, Miami can counter with junior Jay Williams, his 10-1 record, 1.56 GAA and .928 save percentage. What a goaltending battle we could have this weekend.

Offensively, the Mavs are led by uber-pest/sophomore Austin Ortega (5-8-13) and classmate Jake Guentzel (5-6-11). Ortega was particular chirpy following UNO’s 4-1 victory over UMD three weeks ago saying, “Tonight we were able to get up on the board; we really showed we’re a scoring team,” Ortega said. “Kind of sending a message to North Dakota that we can score on any goalie out there.” Um, of course, UND took four of six points from UNO last weekend in Grand Forks with the Mavericks securing a shootout win on Friday to avoid a series sweep. During the weekend, the Mavericks scored just four goals so it wasn’t like they were proving to be a true “scoring team.” We’ll see what happens this weekend against Miami’s 12th ranked scoring defense.

On the blueline, Omaha is powered by junior Brian Cooper (2-5-7) and Ian Brady (2-3-5). They aren’t flashy, but the team defense numbers speak for themselves as they are obviously helping Ryan Massa in a big way.

Overall, this is one of the smaller teams that Miami will face in NCHC play. I’d like to see them throw their combination of speed and size at Omaha to wear down the defense and make it very tough on smaller Maverick forwards like Ortega (5’8″ = Hobbit?), Guentzel, Dominic Zombo, Tyler Vesel and Jake Randolph who are all under six feet tall. Let’s get the Crash Cousins on the forecheck and Scott Dornbrock, and possibly, Colin Sullivan in our zone taking the body and making it hard to get to the scoring area, force turnovers and lead to transition opportunities.

Yeah, that’d be my approach if I were Miami head coach Enrico Blasi.

The Prediction

Omaha has been very good on the road this season going 5-1-2 so far. But, Miami is 7-1 at home. I think Miami owes Omaha a little “adjustment” and I really like how we match up against a younger, smaller opponent. I think we get some revenge this weekend.

Miami sweeps.