Category Archives: 2015-16 Weekend Previews

Preview: Miami at Providence

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WHO: Miami RedHawks (0-0-0) at No. 10 Providence Friars (0-0-0).

WHERE: Schneider Center, Providence, R.I.

WHEN: Friday–7:05 p.m.; Saturday–7:05 p.m.

TV: None.

PROVIDENCE RADIO: None.

MIAMI RADIO: None.

NOTES: Providence has had the better of Miami in recent years, with its NCAA Tournament-opening victory over the RedHawks in Dunkin Donuts Area up the street from this building in 2015 and a 1-0-1 mark in Oxford last season.

The Friars went on to win the NCAA championship two seasons ago and were eliminated by Minnesota-Duluth in double overtime in the first round of the NCAAs this spring.

Miami did salvage a tie in the series finale vs. PC last season after getting pounded by the Friars, 7-3 in the opener.

Overall, the RedHawks are 4-6-3 vs. Providence and 1-2-1 in this building, with their lone win coming in 1998. Their last visit to Schneider Arena was in 2013 and resulted in a loss and a tie.

The Friars’ top three scorers and four of their top five from 2015-16 are gone, and the top returning threats for PC are defenseman Jake Walman and forward Brian Pinho, both of whom finished with 28 points.

Pinho and Erik Foley are the lone 15-plus points producers back, so offense may not be a strength of this Providence team after multiple seasons of scoring dominance.

But the Friars are bringing in a pair of drafted forwards in Kasper Bjorkqvist, a second round pick of Pittsburgh, and Minnesota fourth rounder Brandon Duhaime.

On defense, in addition to Walman, Buffalo draftee Anthony Florentino and Josh Monk lead the list of returning starters. Monk had two goals and 11 assists and Florentino scored five times and notched seven helpers.

Steven Ruggiero – selected by Anaheim – also returns to the Providence blue line, and sophomore Vincent Desharnais was picked by Edmonton this past season.

In net, last season’s starter, Nick Ellis, turned pro after three seasons with PC, leaving the reins to Montreal draft pick sophomore Brandon Hawkey.

Possessing a fantastic hockey name, Hawkey played just five games in 2015-16 but went 2-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage.

Brandon Leahy is back between the pipes after playing one game last season, and Kris Carlson comes in as a freshman out of the NAHL.

With a huge freshman contingent, this will be a very tough road test for Miami, but long road trips can aid in the bonding process, and the team could be better off down the road because of it.

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NCHC Quarters: (5) MIAMI at (4) UMD

Duluth Skyline

Beautiful Duluth, Minnesota and the UMD Bulldogs await Miami in the quarterfinals of the NCHC Tournament

Well folks, that was fast.

Another regular season has come and gone. Frankly, I’m glad to see this one go because it goes without saying that in this rebuilding year, Miami (15-16-3) was about as mediocre as it gets.

Now, that’s not to say this season wasn’t exciting. As we wrote a few weeks back, a movie could have most definitely be made about the season.

Consider the drama…a senior goaltender being summarily dispatched after an on-ice incident. A horrible first half of the season made mediocre with a solid second half. A senior captain, burdened by the ‘C’ struggling to regain his form. A Miami team that faces a formidable foe this weekend struggling to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes afloat.

A lot of drama.

This weekend, Miami has to find a way to win two of three games against a squad they have not beaten this season. Though Miami is 1-0 all-time (in Minnesota even) against Minnesota-Duluth (15-14-5) in the postseason, the RedHawks went 0-3-1 against them this season including dropping two in suffering an awful sweep last weekend when they were playing to host this series in Oxford. The RedHawks were outscored 8-1 and were never really in either game. Jay Williams was pulled on Friday and the team didn’t play well in front of him either night. On the bright side, freshman netminder Evan McCarthy saw his first collegiate action in the Miami net – so there’s that.

If Miami cannot rally this weekend, and frankly next (in all likelihood, they’re going to have defend their NCHC Frozen Faceoff title in order to qualify for the NCAA Tournament), it will mean that Miami will have missed the Tournament in two of the past three years. What’s worse is that like in the 2013-14 season, they were supposed to host one of the regional brackets in, yep, Cincinnati. At some point, you begin to wonder if this program has plateaued? Have we seen all that it has to give?

But that’s something we’ll consider in greater depth if the team fails to advance this weekend or next.

Duluth is built from the net out led by sophomore netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo who merely led the conference with a 1.69 GAA in conference play while ranking second with a .932 save percentage. The Bulldogs are also blessed with four solid defenders including Willie Raskob, Neal Pionk, Carson Soucy and Andy Welinski who make it hard on opposing forwards in front of Kaskisuo. Up front, UMD has a stable of solid forwards including Kyle Osterberg, Dominic Toninato, Alex Iafallo and Karson Kuhlman. It’s a deep roster that maybe won’t wow you with statistics, but one that has a threat on every line. It will be a challenge for Miami to contain UMD, something they obviously did not do last weekend.

But, I told our friend and UMD PXP man Bruce Ciskie before last weekend that I felt whichever squad won last weekend’s series, and as such home ice, would lose the following weekend when it really counts – at least for Miami.

And, as we wrote after last weekend’s sweep, Miami has over the past few seasons, found a way to make a run through the NCHC Tournament reaching the championship game in the league’s first two seasons of existence. Two years ago they went on the road after finishing dead last in the regular season and upset Penrose Cup champ St. Cloud in Minnesota and defeated North Dakota in Minneapolis before falling by a goal to Denver in the title game. That Miami squad also needed to capture the Frozen Faceoff title to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Last season, Miami finished second in the regular season and then breezed to a Frozen Faceoff championship. In doing so, the RedHawks lost their top two goal scorers, Riley Barber and Blake Coleman to injury and suspension, respectively, in the title match against St. Cloud. One thing is certain, St. Cloud wants no part of Miami in this tournament.

So, Miami can do this and they’re going to have to again. And, despite the record against UMD this year, I have a strange feeling they will find their way to Minneapolis again. And, the gang at USCHO sees this series as incredibly tough to pick as well.

Love and Honor,

Miami advances.

Miami at Colorado College

 

colorado-springs-450

With Pikes Peak as a backdrop, Miami takes on Colorado College this weekend.

After a week off, Miami travels west this weekend to Colorado Springs, Colo. to face the hapless Tigers of Colorado College.

The bye and trip to the mountains comes at a particularly good time for the RedHawks (5-7-2, 2-5-1-1, 6th NCHC) who play for the first time since tying and dropping an overtime match two weeks ago against 6th ranked Omaha in Oxford. Miami will not play again until after the holiday break when they open the second half of the season at home against RPI on January 2-3.

Needless to say, this is a critically important NCHC series for Miami as they currently sit in 6th place having played at least two more league games than any other conference school. Conceivably, Miami could end the weekend as high as third place in the league with a sweep of CC (1-13, 0-6, 8th NCHC).

Last weekend, the Tigers finally recorded their first W of the season defeating in-town rival Air Force at World Arena — the same venue where Miami swept the Tigers a season ago.

CC’s top point producers Trey Bradley (5-3-8) and defenseman Teemu Kivihalme (2-5-7) are underclassmen and after having seen the Tigers in person a few weeks back in the Gold Pan series against Denver, it’s clear this is not a very talented team. Head coach Mike Haviland has 14 freshmen on the roster and is still trying to fill the skates of defensemen Jaccob Slavin who left with two seasons of eligibility remaining to sign a pro contract in the offseason.

In net, the Tigers have rotated between their two goaltenders frequently with Tyler Marble and Jacob Nehama splitting the first 14 games.

Neither has impressive numbers with Marble sporting a pedestrian 3.65/.891 line and Nehama showing a grotesque 4.12/.885 line but he does have the Tigers lone win on the year.

Last season, Miami swept CC in Colorado Springs by 3-1 and 2-1 scores. I do recall Miami looking tired on Saturday night playing on Olympic sized ice at 6,035 feet or 5,107 feet higher than Steve Cady Arena in Oxford. So, we’ll be watching to see how Miami handles the arid climate, high elevation, big ice and Mountain time zone this weekend.

Overall, this should be an opportunity for Miami to make up some ground in the NCHC as they head into the holiday break. Anything less than six points this weekend would be unacceptable. I’ll be live Tweeting from World Arena this weekend, but you can find the game on the American Sports Network as well as NCHC.tv. Greg Waddell will have the Miami radio call this weekend across the Miami Sports Network.

#18 Miami v. Ohio State

#18 Miami should expect a ruckus crowd of dozens of duhOSU fans and several hundred Miami faithful Friday in Columbus. (OSU/Schottenstein Center)

Quick preview this weekend as #18 Miami (0-1-1) travels to take on duhOSU (0-2-0) tonight at Cheap Furniture Arena in Cowtown and hosts the Buckeyes tomorrow at beautiful Steve Cady Arena in Oxford. Game times are 7 PM EST tonight and 7:05 PM EST Saturday night.

Last time out for Miami, it was an opening weekend against a familiar and formidable opponent as the defending national champion Providence Friars came to Oxford. Little was known about Miami’s youngsters but highly touted Jack Roslovic did not disappoint with a 1-1-2 line on the weekend while classmate Josh Melnick really impressed with his speed and all-around game also notching 1-1-2 including Miami’s first 3×3 OT goal in Saturday’s 2-2 tie. Senior Alex Gacek contributed four assists on the weekend as he and senior captain Sean Kuraly will be counted upon to lead the RedHawks offensively this season.

For duhOSU, well they started by being swept by #10 Bowling Green including a shutout defeat on Saturday night. Really, there’s not much to say about Ohio State. They aren’t very good, and they play in a weak conference. But perhaps that could be a testament to how good BG is though they were routed 4-1 on Tuesday night in Kalamazoo by Western Michigan, a team that’s expected to compete for the basement of the uber competitive NCHC.

This weekend, MIami should get right and should sweep the Buckeyes in the now annual home-and-home series between the two former CCHA rivals. Expect the Miami fans to nearly outnumber duhOSU “fans” tonight. We expect to hear the sieve chant loud and proud!

Per MURedHawks.com, coverage of the weekend can be found at:

TV/Stream: Buckeye Vision (Friday), NCHC.tv (Saturday)

Radio: 1450 WMOH-AM (Saturday) (Greg Waddell/pxp, Drew Davis/color)

#10 Miami v. #7 Providence

Yep.

We’re back. And, we are the three best friends any Miami hockey fan could ever have as the Tremendous Trio of John, Mike and Doug will conspire to bring you even better coverage this year than in past years.

But, more on that later. Enough of the offseason previews and fancy media day pressers. It’s time for the first weekly preview of the season and we couldn’t be happier.

When we last saw you, Miami, minus it’s top two goal scorers, played a first round NCAA tournament game against eventual national champion, Providence. Well, those two goal scorers have since moved on, so once again, Miami will face Providence without its top two goal scorers from a season ago.

For Miami, it was heartbreak as the RedHawks fought back from a 6-2 deficit to make it a 6-5 game on the strength of three extra-attacker goals.

Then, this happened.

And, you really felt like Miami would find a way to tie the game. Alas, Providence finally found an empty-net goal and won the game 7-5 en route to the program’s first national championship.

But, this is a new season and both squads will line up differently than they did in March.

Providence

One of these days Miami will pose for a picture like this. (Maddie Meyer)

Last season’s Providence Friars were built from the net out as they relied heavily on their goaltender and an impressive group of blueliners. Lost among all that defense was a solid, if unspectacular, group of forwards with the talent to put enough pucks in nets. That squad engineered a four-game winning streak at precisely the right time that included victories over three consecutive NCHC squads — Miami, Denver and Omaha — en route to a championship win over fellow Hockey East foe Boston University.

This season, Providence returns 19 letter-winners including a group of experienced forwards looking to end their college careers with back-to-back national titles including last season’s top scorer Nick Saracino (14-24-38) who contributed two assists in the win over Miami. In addition, Trevor Mingoia (15-16-31) and Brandon Tanev (10-13-23) who both contributed 1-1-2 in the 7-5 win return as do Mark Jankowski (8-19-27) and the top scorer from the blueline Tom Parisi (5-19-24). In short, the Friars are loaded with veteran talent looking to prove that last season’s improbable run to a national title was no fluke.

The only real question mark for Providence is in net where two juniors, Brendan Leahy and Nick Ellis, along with freshman Hayden Hawkey (I swear I did not make that up) will vie to fill the vacancy created by Gillies’ early departure. Last season, the two of them played a combined 193 minutes with Ellis getting 189 of them meaning the Friars are extremely inexperienced in net. It would seem that the race for the starting goaltender job is wide open.

During his weekly press conference, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi talked about the challenge of facing the Friars.

“Everything that they do is a challenge (to play against),” Blasi said. “They’re well coached…they have a D-corps that is very mobile and veteran, they have forwards that have contributed to their national championship run that are back, high-end forwards – their power play is very good, so we’re going to make sure that we stay out of the box. We’re going to have to play good team defense, and they do a real good job in transition. They’re as good as anybody that we’re going to see all year, and we’ve got to be ready for them.”

Miami

Miami would love to “sing a song” again this season. (Jim Rosvold)

Considering the challenge in facing the defending national champions and the team that just ended your season, Miami senior netminder Jay Williams had this to say about the need for additional motivation for the season’s opening weekend.

“Absolutely not,” Williams said. “But at the same time it’s important that we not over-hype it and approach it like we have every day and be consistent and not let the emotions take over too much. Because then you become a bit of a wild card. But certainly we’re excited to play them.”

Predicted to finish third and sixth this season by USCHO writers Matthew Semisch and Candace Horgan respectively, and fifth by the media’s preseason poll, Miami enters the 2015-16 season looking to replace its top two goal scorers (Blake Coleman, Riley Barber) and its captain, Austin Czarnik from a squad that finished second in the NCHC and claimed the conference’s second-ever tournament championship on the strength of victories over Denver and St. Cloud en route to a #1 seed in the national tournament. In fact, Miami must replace five of its top nine scorers from a year ago. You can read more about Miami’s roster makeover from BOB’s John Lachmann here.

Senior captain Sean Kuraly netted a career-high 19 goals last season, and along with junior Anthony Louis, will be expected to carry the offensive load while a large class of freshmen forwards including first round NHL draft pick Jack Roslovic (Winnipeg) adjust to the college game. In net, seniors Jay Williams and Ryan McKay are back for one more season of “goalie

Jack Roslovic is an Ohio native and first round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets. (Miami Athletics)

Jack Roslovic is an Ohio native and first round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets. (Miami Athletics)

carousel” as it’s anybody’s guess if one or the other will seize the bulk of the playing time. In fact, in last weekend’s opening 6-1 exhibition victory over Western Ontario, the two seniors split 60 minutes about as evenly as they possibly could with Williams surrendering the only goal against on the evening.

“This is the national champion from a year ago, but at the same time we’ve got a lot we’ve got to work on,” Blasi said. “Providence, although they have a lot of guys coming back, they have some different looks. For us, for our culture and the way we develop, and the way we try to educate our players, is you have get up for every game in college hockey. Providence happens to be our first opponent, and we’re thrilled that we’re coming, and we’ve got a lot of respect for them and their coaching staff.”

“We want to play the best, and Providence is certainly the defending national champions and they have a lot of weapons,” Blasi said. “We’ve got to be ready and we’ve got to prepare well during the week.”

The Prediction

This is a difficult series to pick because while we know Miami will be leaning on its defense and veteran goaltending, we simply do not know a lot about the newcomers and the lack of roster depth is concerning. That’s not to say there won’t be roster battles as there will be a few skaters sitting each weekend, but with only 24 skaters on the roster it’s more important than ever that the coaching staff dresses the right guys every night.

Considering the emotional way Miami’s season ended a year ago, and the need to prove themselves early in the year, I’ll pick a split, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Providence get a sweep as they return so much from last year’s title team.

Both games can be heard via TuneIn Radio and seen via the NCHC.tv package. Greg Waddell (PxP) and Drew Davis (analysis) return to call all the action.

From the League Office

• After NCHC teams went 6-1 in exhibition games last weekend (Omaha didn’t play), all eight NCHC teams open the 2015-16 regular season this weekend with non-conference games. Two series feature a pair of top-10 teams as No. 11/10 Miami hosts defending national champion and No. 7/7 Providence for two games, while No. 10/11 Omaha travels to No. 6/9 Minnesota State for two games. The Friars eliminated Miami from the NCAA Tournament last season while the two Mavericks also opened last season against each other, splitting two games in Omaha.

• Two other NCHC teams are traveling to opposite ends of the country to open the season at tournaments. No. 4/4 North Dakota drops the puck on 2015-16 at the Ice Breaker Tournament in Portland, Maine, while No. 17 St. Cloud State begins at the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage, Alaska.

  • UND officially begins the Brad Berry era on Friday as he begins his first season at the helm of his alma mater after nine seasons as an assistant coach at UND. He is the only new head coach in NCAA men’s hockey (D-I) this season.

• St. Cloud State senior forward Kalle Kossila is the active career leader in points in the NCHC with 99 and sixth among active NCAA players. His 65 career assists are second among active NCAA players.

• Omaha returns 91.4 percent of its goal-scoring from last season and 90.1 percent of its points from a year ago, both of which are the highest percentage of any NCAA team this season. 

• Omaha junior forward Austin Ortega, who set the NCAA single-season record with 11 game-winning goals last season, is the active NCAA leader in career game-winners with 12. Miami senior forward Sean Kuraly is tied for second among active players with 11 career game-winning tallies. 

• North Dakota senior forward Drake Caggiula has played in 123 career games, the most of any active NCAA player. Miami senior defenseman Matthew Caito and Denver seniors Nolan Zajac and Gabe Levin have all played in 119 career games, which is tied for third among active players.

• NCHC teams have a combined 44 NHL Draft picks on their rosters.

•  In the NCHC Preseason Poll, Minnesota Duluth was picked as the favorite to capture the Penrose Cup, earning 17 of 30 first-place votes. UND, the defending Penrose Cup champions, Denver and Miami also received first-place votes in the poll.