Category Archives: Michigan Wolverines

RedHawks start 4-game roadtrip at Michigan

The RedHawks open the final season of CCHA play this weekend
with a 2-game set at Michigan.

Miami will open CCHA play this weekend, and it marks the last time we’ll be able to say those words. We start our “celebration of the legacy” by travelling to Ann Arbor to face Red Berenson and his band of misfits the Michigan Wolverines. (Oops… I did it again.)

Head coach Rico Blasi has had recent success against Michigan, but is still just 12-23-2 in his 14 years in Oxford. Overall, Michigan leads the series 71-26-4, but Miami is making a smidge of progress, as they are 8-5-1 since 2008-09. With a renovated Yost Ice Arena welcoming in their first CCHA opponent, expect the Michigan students to be in full voice this weekend. And let me tell you…it’s not a fun place to be an opposing team.

On the ice, the Wolverines have a similar goalie situation as Miami does, and have yet to finalize who will be their number one guy, if anyone. It may be becoming apparent on who that might be however, as Red Berenson will start Freshman Steve Racine in net on Friday night. Racine is 2-0-0 on the season and has allowed 5 goals in those two games. Another freshman, Jared Rutledge has also seen time in net, but allowed 5 goals in just one game against RIT in Michigan’s 5-4 OT loss to open the season – and he hasn’t been on the ice since. Michigan held a 4-1 advantage in that game, so nothing is outside the realm of possibility this weekend if the Michigan netminders cannot hold their own against Miami’s high-flying attack.

However, in order to get even one tie or win, Miami will get out to a fast start, and they have to be staunch in net and on defense. Michigan has played 4 games so far this season: an exhibition against Windsor, 2 against RIT and one against Bentley last weekend. It’s safe to say they haven’t seen the likes of Miami’s speed and skill and will need to step it up a notch or three to take the series. On the other hand, Michigan has done what they needed to against these teams, and have not scored less than 4 goals in any of the games, including the 4 goals in the OT loss to RIT.

As expected, Senior Captain A.J. Treais leads Michigan on the young season, with 3 goals and 2 assists. Highly touted freshman Jacob Trouba has also started the season strong with 2 goals and 2 assists thus far. The Wolverines’ best defenseman, Jon Merrill has been injured to start the season and likely won’t play. Another D-man Kevin Clare sustained an injury in the win over RIT in the second game of the season, and could return to action this weekend. Both blue-liners are Juniors and are sorely needed for this Michigan team to succeed this season.

On the Miami side of things, Riley Barber (4G-1A—5 Total Points) comes in with a 3 game goal scoring streak, and looks to continue his hot start after earning CCHA Rookie of the week last weekend against Providence. Barber, Blake Coleman (3-2—5) and Austin Czarnik (2-3—5) lead the offensive attack for The Brotherhood. Keep an eye on surprising freshman Taylor Richart on the blue line. Richart has blocked 18 shots in 4 games this season.

Expect Blasi to rotate goalies again this weekend, and I’d expect to see McKay first and Williams second again. So far, the rotation has been magical for Blasi…wait… can we say “so far” any more? For the last 6-8 years, the rotation has worked magically for Blasi. McKay is the big presence we thought he would be in net, and despite only being on the ice for half of Miami’s game time this season, Jay Williams is the firecracker on the bench. The guy never sits still and is quite a presence for the Hawks.

Michigan has 7 freshmen on the squad at the moment, compared to Miami’s 11, and they will look to push the pace as Red Berenson’s teams always do. Miami will need to keep its composure and due to Michigan’s inexperience could skate away with up a bucket of points this weekend. I’ll take Miami 4-2 tonight and Michigan 4-1 on Saturday.

Go RedHawks!!!

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Analysis: One Warrior’s take on the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend

For this Redskin Warrior, a sense of optimism and hope comes along with the tournament brackets for once. Teams like the evil empires BC and BU are nowhere to be found (until the finals, anyway), other teams are missing key components, and momentum from a strong finish seems to be on our side. There are 9 teams that made the tournament in 2011, and 6 teams that have never won the whole thing.

Here are my picks and thoughts on the weekend ahead…

Northeast Region: #1 overall – Boston College, Minnesota-Duluth, Maine, Air Force

Let’s start in Worcester, where BC will undoubtedly have issues with Air Force. The Atlantic Hockey Champion has given teams fits in the last few NCAA tournaments. Last year, the Air Force Academy took the #1 overall seed Yale to overtime. 2 years ago, RIT took down another #1 seed in Denver, then blew out New Hampshire to make its first ever Frozen Four.

Even though BC has won 15 in a row, I still think Air Force comes in with the experience of last year’s tournament and gives them quite a fight. They are over sized and over matched on paper, but you can never discount the heart of the Falcons on the field or on the ice. BC in a tight one, maybe even in overtime again.

On the other side, you have the defending National Champions in the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs taking on the Maine Black Bears – Hockey East’s runner-up. If Maine’s Hobey Baker candidate and the nation’s top goal-scorer Spencer Abbott doesn’t play, I think they are 1 and done. If he plays (his status is currently “questionable”), this is a game to watch. I think the ‘Dogs come out on top in either scenario, however.

In the regional final, look for a titanic battle between the last 2 National Champions. BC’s size and speed will overpower UMD and make it to the Frozen Four again.

West Region: #4 overall – North Dakota, Minnesota, Boston University, Western Michigan

Congratulations, Western Michigan! You’ve won the CCHA Tournament, arguably the best conference in NCAA hockey this year. Here’s the Mason Cup, and you get North Dakota as your victory prize!

All kidding aside, I think the Broncos ride their Mason Cup win to a good showing. However, North Dakota has won 3 straight WCHA Playoff tournaments – something no other team has ever done, and they’ve been here before. NoDak moves on in this matchup.

In the early game in St. Paul, the home town team is matched up with Boston University. The Minnesota Golden Gophers make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008. For one of the flagship programs of college hockey, this is somewhat remarkable, and in that time, 29 teams have made the NCAA tournament since Minnesota last did. Can you beat my score of guessing 24 of those 29 teams?

Minnesota, this region’s host, should have about 15,000 of the capacity 18,064 fans in the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, and I have no doubt this will help propel them to a victory.  Don’t count out BU, however. In a battle between head coaches who have 5 total national championships between them (Lucia – 2, Parker 3), I’ll take Minnesota.

This creates a rematch of a conference tournament that we just saw last week, and ironically, it happens in the exact same building.  Last Friday, North Dakota quickly went down 3-0, but rallied and scored 6 unanswered goals to move on. This coming Friday, I predict a different story, and Minnesota heads to Tampa.

Midwest Region: #2 overall – Michigan, Ferris State, Denver, Cornell

Michigan extends its NCAA tournament appearance streak to 22 years in a row – all of them under head coach Red Berenson – and will face the Cornell Big Red, whom Michigan met in the first year of the streak. While Cornell has 18 total wins on the season, Michigan has 18 wins against TUC’s this year. ‘Nuff said. Michigan big.

On the other half, a much depleted Denver squad comes in for its 5th straight trip to the NCAA tournament. The Pioneers could be missing their best player in Jason Zucker, and head coach George Gwozdecky is preparing for the weekend as if they do not have their leading goal-scorer. They will take on a Ferris State squad that was unexpectedly bounced by Bowling Green in round 2 of the CCHA Playoffs, and has only been to the NCAA tournament one other time (2003) in their history. I’m taking Ferris State, here, but they’ll run into a much more stern task in the regional final.

If the 2 CCHA teams prevail in Green Bay, this pits the #1 vs #2 teams from the conference against each other. Ferris State lost 7 times during the CCHA regular season this year, and two of them were to Michigan. I don’t think Ferris State has the star power to overcome Michigan, and Michigan makes it to their second straight Frozen Four.

East Region: #3 overall – Union, Miami, UMass – Lowell, Michigan State

Of the 4 brackets in this year’s tournament, I don’t think Miami could have drawn a better grouping. They don’t have to face Michigan, North Dakota, or either of the Minnesotas OR Bostons. Nice work, selection committee!

In the early game, Michigan State – the last team in the tournament – takes on the ECAC winner, the Union Dutchmen. A school of only 2,000, who is lead by first-year coach Rick Bennett, looks for their first-ever win in the NCAA tournament.  I think they get it this year, as Michigan State is reeling. As we know, they fell 6-0 and 4-1 in Oxford 2 weekends ago, and have a bit of a goalie controversy. Also in his first year, Head Coach Tom Anastos will need to find something for either Drew Palmisano or Will Yanakeff to build on from those embarassing losses. Michigan State is going to be coming off of a bye, those 2 big losses, and another “bye” week, so they are going to be rusty as well. The ECAC Champs from Schenectady, NY (that’s fun to say) take this one handily.

We’ll have some more for you on the Miami vs. UML game later in the week, but I will tease you with this fact from our Sunday #SixPack from this past weekend. Despite the youth on this team, Miami will be the bigger and stronger team. UML’s largest player is just 6′ 1″ tall. Miami averages that in height, with 13 players plus Connor Knapp coming in at 6′ 1″ or taller. It might look like a scene from one of my favorite hockey movies with the size advantage Miami will have on the ice. In any event, the New York Rangers RedHawks take down the scrubs from Mystery, Alaska River Hawks and move on to face Union.

The Regional Final will be a hard fought battle, but I’m confident that Miami will be back on track after a big win on Friday night and will carry the momentum to Tampa where I’ll get to see the RedHawks take on Michigan in the National Semifinals.

To recap, that’s BC against Minnesota on one side, and Michigan vs Miami in the other half of the bracket. Post your picks in the comments below and we’ll see how things turn out this weekend. IS IT FRIDAY YET?!?!?!

Weekend Preview: CCHA Semifinals and Finals

This weekend marks the final weekend of conference play in all of college hockey, with the final positioning for the NCAA tournament at stake and conference championships waiting to be won. Your 4th seeded and defending Mason Cup Champion Miami RedHawks take to the ice at 4:35 pm Friday afternoon against the #3 seed Western Michigan Broncos in the first CCHA Semifinal and #2 seed Michigan takes on the #11 seed Bowling Green in the late game.

Semifinal 1: #3 Western Michigan vs. #4 Miami 4:35
TV: Fox Sports – Ohio (DirecTV 660), Fox Sports Detroit Plus (DirecTV 664 SD, 664-1 HD) and Fox College Sports-Atlantic (it’s out there somewhere)

This season, the Broncos and RedHawks faced off twice, and Miami took both games in Oxford by scores of 3-1 and 4-0. Connor Knapp started both games and  made 48 out of 49 saves on the weekend, and Reilly Smith started his torrid second-half streak with a hat trick on Friday night, and added another goal on Saturday night.

On Friday, expect to see a showdown of Knapp, a senior, and Rookie of the year candidate Frank (the big) Slubowski in opposing nets. Knapp, as we know, has been absolutely on fire in 2012. Here’s the low-down on Knapp’s unbelievable season from muredhawks.com:

  • Connor has not allowed an even-strength goal since Feb. 4, 2012 against Michigan, a span of seven starts.
  • In those 7 games: four goals allowed, all on the power play.
  • Knapp has allowed one or fewer goals in 13 of his last 15 games, during which he has a 0.89 goals against average and .964 save percentage (since the start of 2012).
  • Knapp leads the NCAA with a 1.43 GAA and is second in save percentage at .943.
  • His 5 shutouts this year (all since 1/7/12) are a career high, and he broke the school’s career shutouts record with his 13th last Friday.
Slubowski, on the other hand, has been WMU Head Coach Andy Murray’s goaltender of choice this season, compiling a 15-10-4 record, and a stingy 2.03 Goals Against Average. The Big Slubowski, as he is nicknamed by his teammates, joins teammate Garrett Haar (Defense) and Miami’s Austin Czarnik on the CCHA All-Rookie team this season, and is a finalist with Czarnik and Michigan’s Alex Guptill for the conference’s Rookie of the Year Award.

Miami comes in with an 8-game winning streak, second longest in the nation to Boston College who has won 13 straight contests. In those games, Miami has outscored their opponents 32-5. Western Michigan is unbeaten in its last 4 games, including a win and a tie against the previously bounced Ferris State Bulldogs, and last weekend’s sweep of Lake Superior State in round 2.  While the Friday game is the first time Miami and WMU have met in the CCHA Semifinals, it is a rematch of the CCHA Championship game from 2011, a contest won handily by the RedHawks for Miami’s first Mason Cup title.

More notes for the weekend:

  • Reilly Smith is carrying an 8 game point streak into this weekend. He had previously scored goals in 7 straight until Saturday night’s game. He continues to lead the NCAA with 8 game winners and is second in the NCAA with 27 goals scored.
  • Jimmy Mullin has scored in 5 straight games – his career long – and has 11 points in those games.
  • Western Michigan Head Coach Andy Murray will coach in his 22nd game at Joe Louis Arena in Friday’s CCHA Semifinals. As a head coach of the Los Angeles Kings he went 1-9-1 against in Joe Louis Arena, with the lone win coming as a playoff series clinching victory over the Red Wings in 2001. (Source: wmubroncos.com)
  • Miami will want to stay out of the penalty box this weekend. WMU is 3 for 5 on the power play during the CCHA playoffs, and were performing at a 20.1% clip in the regular season. Miami’s penalty kill stands at 6th in the nation at 85.9% of penalties successfully killed, and also ranks 6th with 16.4 penalty minutes per game.
  • As the games go final on the weekend, keep your eye on USCHO’s PairWise rankings. Miami sits tied with Boston University for the #4 spot at this moment, meaning if  the season had ended and today we were watching the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, Miami would be a #1 seed. After every final score of the weekend, these standings are going to jostle ever so slightly, and almost every game is important.
  • Senior Goalie Cody Reichard was named one of 5 finalists for the NCAA’s Wooden Citizenship Cup. The award is  presented annually to two distinguished athletes, one collegiate and one professional, for their character and leadership both on and off the field and their contributions to sport and society. (source: muredhawks.com)
  • For your reading pleasure, check out USCHO blogger Elliot Olshansky’s Hobey Baker picks for 2012, where he picks Reilly Smith as a finalist.
  • And for your viewing pleasure, take a gander at the CCHA’s 20 Questions with Miami Senior Defenseman Chris Wideman, and their CCHA Now feature for 3/14/12.

Semifinal 2: #11 Bowling Green vs. #2 Michigan; approx 8:05PM Eastern
TV: Fox Sports-Detroit Plus, and Fox College Sports-Atlantic

Coming off of a 2-1 series victory over Northern Michigan 2 weekends ago, Bowling Green got 5 more goals from Freshman Dan DeSalvo and took down top-seeded Ferris State in dramatic fashion last weekend. Ferris State led 3-0 after 1 period of play in Sunday’s round 2 finale, but 4 straight goals from the Fighting Chris Bergerons, and they move on to Detroit for the first time since 2001. Consider these facts about BG’s improbable run:

  • BG was the first team to win a playoff series from the last place seed in 2011. They repeated that feat in 2012, and in doing so, knocked off the #6 and #1 seeds in the CCHA tournament in the process
  • BG won 5 CCHA conference games all season, and have now won 4 of their last 6 in the tournament. Throw in a win over Michigan in the last series of the season, and they’re 5-3 in the last 3 weeks of play
  • Freshman Dan DeSalvo scored 4 goals all season in 17 games, and missed the last 4 games of the season with an injury. Against NMU, he had 5 goals in the 3 game series, and he scored another 5 in the three games against Ferris State.
  • DeSalvo scored the first hat trick for BG since Jan. 18, 2008, and DeSalvo’s 10 playoff goals are already a new CCHA Tournament record, with 2 more games to play.
The primetime matchup of Friday night is sure to be a crowd pleaser, and we’d just love it if BG were able to pull of the upset of Michigan. Just 3 weeks ago, BG took down Michigan at the BGSU ice rink in a 4-3 decision, so it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility to think that BG could advance to the CCHA Championship win a win on Friday night.

Third place game: The losers of the semifinal games will meet at 3:35PM Eastern Saturday.

CCHA Championship game: winners of the 2 semifinal games, 7:35PM Saturday; Fox Sports-Detroit, Fox Sports-Ohio (Alternate channel)

If you’re looking for your hockey fix tonight and can’t wait until tomorrow, catch 3 future Miami conference-mates in action from the WCHA’s Final Five tournament (that consists 6 teams). Denver takes on Michigan Tech at 3:07 Eastern today and St. Cloud State takes on North Dakota at 8:07 Eastern. You can catch both with the “sports packages” on Fox Sports-North (DirecTV ch. 668) out of St. Paul, Minnesota’s Xcel Energy Center tonight.

After all the dust settles on the entire weekend, jump over to ESPNU on Sunday at high noon. John Buccigross, Barry Melrose and Aaron Ward will announce the NCAA Tournament Field on the NCAA Hockey Selection Show, and we’ll find out exactly where Miami is heading for its first round NCAA tournament game.

Weekend Wrap-up

Thank goodness for good friends this weekend. Taking in a game at Yost Ice Arena was something every NCAA Hockey Fan should experience.  The loudest arena in the country, hosting an important series at the end of the season where every point matters. I won’t say that Miami made it easy for the Michigan faithful, but they didn’t seem to make it hard to cheer, and jeer, this weekend.

Friday Night:  Highlights — Box Score

All I can say about Friday is: momentum. After the first goal came less than 2 minutes into the game, the ice was tilted in Michigan’s favor for the rest of the period and Miami couldn’t recover. As mentioned in the Saturday #SixPack, Miami has allowed 10 goals within 3 minutes of scoring this season, having allowed one 4 times within 1 minute of the most recent Miami tally.  The 4th Michigan goal on Friday night was a dagger that killed the momentum Miami had gained. After the first period that saw 3 Michigan goals, 2 of the power play variety, Miami had outshot Michigan 11-1 in the second period, and had just scored to bring the game to 3-1.  The reply goal in this case was the straw that broke the camel’s back and Miami never recovered and went down 4-1.

Saturday Night: Highlights — Box Score

I’ve uploaded several pictures for your perusal. Head over to our Facebook page for the full album. Don’t miss the end of the album to enjoy the “many faces of Rico Blasi” portion. Coach Blasi was bummed out absolutely incensed with the officials in the third period of Saturdays game after a weekend of inconsistency and unbelievable calls.  The following pretty much sums it up. Thanks to these fashionable crazily dressed Wolverine fans for the picture opportunity:

The biggest issue that I’ve always had with CCHA Referees like Brian Aaron, Mark Wilkins, Barry Pochmara and last weekend’s pairing of Keith Sergott and Brian Hill is the inconsistency.  The best thing I can say about the refereeing is that they are consistently inconsistent.  The forever lively Michigan Student section said it best during both games: “The refs have lost control! … The refs have lost control! … The refs have lost control!”

In addition to a number of offsides calls that were just too close to blow a whistle, the weekend’s referees missed several blatant slashes and blows to the head from each side of the ice.  Keith Sergott and Brian Hill had actually been pulled after 1 game of a series earlier this season, after some say he mis-managed the first game of the Western Michigan against Notre Dame series on January 13-14. With such a budding, yet heated rivalry between Miami and Michigan, it’s a mystery why Sergott and Hill were even in charge of this series less than a month after such an incident.

There are two things you’ll notice after the 2:00 minute mark of the highlight video posted above. First of all, take a look at the goal/no-goal that Rico was rather furious about.  From just about every vantage point I’ve seen – on the replays in the arena (I’m amazed the arena staff kept replaying it on the video boards) and afterwards on the DVR – the puck doesn’t appear to cross the line.

From page HR-68 of the NCAA Ice Hockey Rulebook (emphasis added):

A goal is scored when the puck, … passes between the goal posts, entering from the front and below the top of the net, and completely crosses the goal line

I can’t find any reason referees Brian Hill and Keith Sergott should have overturned the call. It hurts to say that. The goal would have pulled Miami to 2-1 in a heated 3rd period that featured 76 penalty minutes total.  Despite the blatant inconsistency, I believe that they got this one right, and that video replay was inconclusive in showing whether the ENTIRE puck made it the ENTIRE way past the goal line.  Coach Blasi did say to the media afterwards: “When 6000 people go ‘uhhhhhh’ it’s a pretty good chance that the home team knows that it’s a goal. The explanation was that from [Brian Hill’s] view, it wasn’t a goal. So, we’ve got to accept that and move on.”

On the other hand, if you had watched the game on CBS College Sports this weekend, the overhead replay was not available on the play, and it was NOT due to the broadcast not having rights to this camera. As to why, we can only speculate at this time. I was sitting directly behind the penalty box area several rows up, and never did we see the requisite overhead view on the monitor with our limited view.  In an arena with something like THIS hanging from the rafters, you’d think they would have a working overhead replay camera that is 1. required by the CCHA, and 2. actually functions.  In this case Michigan will have to pay a fine, and get away with highway robbery on what could have made a tough weekend for Miami one that was more easily swallowed.

The second item to look for is immediately following Chris Brown’s undressing of the usually steady Will Weber to score the 3rd Michigan goal of the night. Brown pulls a Tebow on the ice as he skates in front of where the Miami parents were sitting for the game. If you saw this action with 1 minute left in the game (please watch your volume here – slightly NSFW), you now can see why Weber had good reason to drop the gloves.

With just 1 minute left in the weekend’s play, Michigan freshman Alex Guptill slashed Connor Knapp well after the puck was buried and play had been whistled dead. This was not the first time this had happened on the weekend, and Weber made it known that it would not be tolerated with a solid crosscheck to Guptill to clear the crease area. Guptill didn’t like it, appeared to hit Weber in the helmet with his stick, and followed that foul up with a blatant spear to Weber’s midsection.  The aforementioned Brown skated in and laid a Tyson-esque right hook to Webers head, followed by a facemasking penalty that would carry a 5-minute major and game misconduct in any other situation.  Weber stood his ground, and after the dust settled, both had been sent off for fighting majors and game disqualifications.

In my eyes, Weber, who had been through an awful weekend of play, not to mention endless jeers from the relentless Michigan students, had every right to protect his goaltender. (In return, as you see in the video, Connor Knapp comes to ensure that Brown got what was coming to him at the hands of Weber after a game full of chippy-ness from both sides.) Weber and Brown face 1-game suspensions due to the Game Disqualification penalties they received to go along with their fighting majors.  While a Miami blueline without Will Weber is certainly going to take some adjustments and younger players to step up, Miami takes on Alabama-Huntsville in non-conference play next weekend. Michigan will face the Spartans of Michigan State, and missing their leading scorer will certainly be a tough pill to swallow in perhaps the CCHA’s only more heated rivalry besides the Miami/Michigan one.

Other Notes (forewarning – these aren’t fun):

  • Miami was 0-12 on the power play on the weekend and allowed 2 power play goals in Michigan’s 3-goal first period to start the weekend series.  Miami drops to 49th nationally on the Power Play, and jump to 3rd in total Penalty minutes in the country with 518 total (17.3 PIMs per game is 6th most).
  • There were 35 penalty minutes handed out on Friday, and an impressive 98 PIMs Saturday, including 76 in the third period.
  • Michigan Head Coach Red Berenson won his 745th game as a head coach. He is now alone in 5th all-time in NCAA coaching victories.
  • Michigan D-man Lee Moffie scored an assist on Friday night and had two goals on Saturday night, including the game winner, which was also shorthanded.  Throw in 3 blocked shots on the weekend and Moffie is your CCHA Defenseman of the Week.
  • Michigan Goalie Scott Hunwick stopped 53 of 54 shots on the weekend (and added in a 2-minute tripping minor penalty) and took home the CCHA Goaltender of the week as well.
  • Miami is now 5-46-1 at Yost Ice Arena all-time.

Poll Update:

More importantly, Miami’s two losses catapulted Michigan to the #2 spot in the PairWise Rankings, and dropped Miami to 18th. With 2 non-conference games, 4 CCHA games, and the CCHA Tournament looming, Miami seems to be on the outside looking in at the NCAA tournament at this point.

UPDATE: After Monday’s Beanpot semifinal games where Boston University beat Harvard 3-1 and Boston College beat Northeastern 7-1, Michigan drops to a tie for 3rd

We’ll have your preview later in the week as the RedHawks return to action Friday night at 7:05 and Saturday at 7:35 against the University of Alabama-Huntsville. Both games will be televised on ONN across Ohio.

Going the Distance?

Head Coach Enrico Blasi, Captains Alden Hirschfeld and Will Weber, and probably just about everyone else associated with the Miami Hockey program will tell you that rankings before the season starts, on opening night, and even in the second half of the season don’t mean anything. Coach Blasi certainly has said in the past that the only ranking that matters will be where and when Miami ends up on April X. This year, that date happens to be April 7th, and that location is Tampa, Florida.

With that said… A Number 1 ranking is still something to celebrate, and celebrate we will.

Thanks to College Hockey News, we have that reason to celebrate.  CHN has put Miami at the head of the class for the 2011-2012 season. Check out the headlines here.

Again, we appreciate the great preseason accolades. But how serious should we take the rankings?  Let’s wait until April and see what shakes out in the next six and a half months. Especially with fellow defectors CCHA-ers Notre Dame, Michigan and Western Michigan joining Miami in CHN’s entirely too early preseason top 10 rankings.

11 days until the exhibition. The countdown is on!!

>CCHA Championship Weekend

>Farmington Hills, Mich. – The CCHA has announced the times for the two semifinal matchups on Friday, March 18 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Miami will play the early game on to set up better TV viewing and attendance for Michigan’s game later that evening.

Miami and Notre Dame will begin play at 4:35pm with Michigan and Western Michigan to face off at the made-for-TV time of 8:05pm.

Normally, you want to “protect” the number one seed by having them play the earlier game, but to enable as many local WMU and U-M fans to attend as possible, the league has moved the game to prime time. This simply means the Wolverines will have a little less time to recover for Saturday’s championship or consolation game as appropriate while Miami and Notre Dame will benefit from a marginal amount of additional rest.

>Miami to Host Alaska in 2nd Round of the CCHA Tournament

>Oxford, Ohio – It took until late Sunday night in Marquette, Mich. to finally determine the second round match ups in the CCHA Tournament, but after Bowling Green defeated Northern Michigan 2-1 in double overtime, we know Miami will face the Alaska Nanooks in the second round of the CCHA Tournament.

Congratulations to former Miami captain and assistant coach Chris Bergeron on winning his first ever playoff series as a head coach. As a reward for winning their first round series, the Falcons will now face the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor next weekend for the right to advance to the CCHA semifinals at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

Earlier this season, the RedHawks and Nanooks split a series in Oxford with Miami winning 4-0 on Friday. However, Alaska stole the second game as they scored two goals in the final five minutes of the third period to win 3-2. It was one of several third period meltdowns for Miami this year. Fortunately, the RedHawks seem to have put those problems behind them as they ride a nine-game unbeaten streak into the CCHA Tournament.

Alaska advanced to face Miami on the strength of two overtime victories over a game Michigan State squad in Fairbanks as they helped the Spartans close the book on the coaching tenure of Rick Comley. In doing so, Alaska head coach Dallas Ferguson earned his 50th victory behind the Nanook bench.

>#11 Miami at Lake Superior State

>

Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. – Tonight the #11 Miami RedHawks (17-9-6, 14-7-5-2 CCHA) begin their final series of the regular season as they visit the Lake Superior State Lakers (10-13-9, 8-10-8-5 CCHA) at Taffy Abel Arena. Five Miami seniors will be playing in their final regular season tilts, and with a solid weekend, can place themselves in position to make a run in the CCHA tournament, and possibly, the NCAA tournament.

The Lakers enter the series vying for a first round bye in the CCHA tournament currently sitting just four points behind Western Michigan for fourth and three points behind Ferris State who took two points from Ohio State last night with a shootout victory.

Conversely, Miami has already locked up third place though a tie for second place is still possible pending the outcome of the Michigan/Northern Michigan series in Marquette. Realistically, Miami is locked into third (they cannot drop to fourth) and will earn another first round bye in the CCHA tournament which begins next weekend.

However, the RedHawks are tied for 11th in the PairWise rankings so these games are meaningful for Miami. Coming off a late bye week, they need to extend their seven game unbeaten streak to solidify their national standing. In fact, since an ugly 7-4 loss to Michigan State on January 21, Miami is 4-0-3 climbing from 16th in the PairWise to 11th. And, should the next few nights of national play favor Miami, they could easily find themselves in contention for a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament by the completion of the weekend.

Notes:

· Though trailing the all-time series by a hefty 54-35-11 margin, Miami is 7-0-1 against the Lakers since the 2007-08 season

· Miami has won their last three games in Sault Ste. Marie

· In national play, here are a few teams I believe Miami should be rooting for:

o Ferris State (over Ohio State)

o Northern Michigan (over Michigan)

o Western Michigan (over Notre Dame)

o Quinnipiac (over Union)

o St. Lawrence (over Dartmouth)

o SCSU (over Wisconsin)

o Denver (over UNO)

o Princeton (over RPI)

>Weekend Roundup

>February 21, 2011

Oxford, Ohio – After their bye week, the Miami RedHawks find themselves tied for 11th in the PairWise rankings and have secured a bye and home ice in the second round of the CCHA playoffs.

The RedHawks, currently in third place in the CCHA, can finish no worse than third and no higher than a tie for second. With Notre Dame’s sweep of Ferris State, Miami was mathematically eliminated and cannot repeat as CCHA regular season champions. And, the only way Miami finishes tied with Michigan for second place is if the Wolverines are swept by Northern Michigan in Marquette and Miami sweeps Lake Superior State in Sault Ste. Marie.

Assuming Miami finishes third, and if the season ended today and all the higher seeds win their first round playoff series, the RedHawks would host Ferris State in Oxford March 11-13 in a best 2-of-3 matchup. That’s a lot to assume, but it’s interesting to see that Miami would face the Bulldogs who have been hard on the RedHawks over the past several years. Though Miami won last year’s season series 3-0-2, Miami is just 3-3-4 against the Bulldogs since 2007-08 including 0-1-1 this year. Miami has had a difficult time beating the Ferris State defensive system that, for lack of a better description, simply packs four men in front of senior goaltender Pat Nagle and forces teams to take low percentage point shots. If Miami faces Ferris State again, it will be critical that Miami move the puck from side to side. They won’t be able to rely on puck possession and simply carrying the puck toward the net. The Bulldogs defense collapses too quickly on puck carriers.

But, that’s still a few weeks away. Miami needs to take care of business against Lake Superior State this week, rest up during their second bye in three weeks and be ready on March 11 for whomever they face. The RedHawks need to win the next four games to be more assured of an NCAA tournament berth. A nicely rested, and hopefully healthy, RedHawks team should be more than ready to go.

>Miami Victorious on Senior Night

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Band of Brothers – The 2011 Senior Class (Camper, LoVerde, Vaive, Cannone, Miele)

Photo: Rachel Lewis

Oxford, Ohio – One night after allowing a 3-1 lead to slip away in a 3-3 tie with #15 Western Michigan, the Miami RedHawks defeated WMU 3-1 on Senior Night at Steve Cady Arena.

Senior assistant captain Andy Miele, junior Matt Tomassoni and sophomore Curtis McKenzie had the goals for the RedHawks (17-9-6, 14-7-5-2 CCHA) and junior netminder Connor Knapp made 16 saves to earn his sixth win of the year.

The five-member senior class consisting of co-captains Carter Camper and Pat Cannone, Justin Vaive, Vincent Loverde and Miele have helped lift Miami’s program to heights unseen in their time on campus. This class has been part of the first two Frozen Fours in school history, has won 102 games — and counting, and could lead this year’s squad to the first Mason Cup championship in a few weeks in Detroit, and just perhaps, an elusive national title.

For the weekend, Miami dominated the Broncos. If not for a stretch of about 1:40 on Friday, they would have easily swept Western Michigan. On Saturday, Western at one point went 23:15 between shots on goal as Miami opened a 3-0 lead. The RedHawks outshot the Broncos 35-17 including 17-5 in the third period. It was clear these seniors were not going to lose another third period lead to the upstart Broncos.

But rather than sweeping, Miami earned four league points on the weekend as they tied, but dropped the shootout Friday night. Though they entered the weekend in first place in the CCHA, they left tied with Michigan for second, just one point behind Notre Dame. Both Michigan and Notre Dame picked up weekend sweeps of conference opponents and both have two games in hand over Miami. They will spend that “capital” next weekend as the RedHawks are off.

Though they left in second place, Miami gained points in a much more important way.

Entering the weekend tied for 16th place in the Pairwise Rankings that largely determine the NCAA Tournament field, Miami helped themselves with a win and a tie against Western Michigan. After last night’s games went final, Miami had moved all the way to a tie for 9th position jumping CCHA leader Notre Dame and weekend foe Western Michigan in the process. They are currently tied with Michigan (Miami leads series 2-0) and New Hampshire (series tied 1-1) and are actually ahead of 7th place Nebraska-Omaha in terms of their RPI.

While I haven’t been able to go through all of the math, here is roughly what I believe happened to enable Miami to so significantly move up in the Pairwise.

  • Miami tied and defeated Western Michigan turning that comparison in the RedHawks favor as they win the season series 2-1-1
  • Michigan swept Ohio State dropping the Buckeyes out of the Teams Under Consideration (TUC) category. Since the Buckeyes swept Miami earlier this year, that 0-2 mark was damaging the RedHawks’ record vs. TUC’s. Not that this is different than any other time, but we want Ohio State to continue to lose.
  • Since winning the Florida College Classic championship over Miami, St. Cloud State has been on fire entering the TUC race. Miami has a 1-1-1 record against SCSU and that win replaces the two Buckeye losses
  • Miami’s strength of schedule is rated 13th toughest in the nation. Of the teams ranked ahead of them in the Pairwise, only North Dakota, Denver, UMD and UNO (WCHA, anyone?) have higher rated schedules with some of the ECAC and Hockey East schedules being embarrassingly bad (e.g., Yale, Merrimack, Union, etc.)

With this weekend being a bye week for Miami, it will be interesting to see how their 9th place ranking in the Pairwise fares. I’ll try to provide context for the teams we should be “rooting for” as Miami prepares to finish the regular season February 25-26 at Lake Superior State. Earlier this season Miami defeated and tied the Lakers in Oxford by 6-2 and 2-2 scores.

Lastly, I’d like to thank the seniors for their devotion and performance on and off the ice. Having watched them largely in person over the past three years, it’s been bittersweet to have only attended two games this year due to relocating out west. Between dropping the national title game in ’09 to losing Brendan Burke and losing a tough one in last year’s national semifinals, this group has battled adversity. It would be quite the send-off if they could somehow muster a way back to the Frozen Four for the third consecutive year, and maybe, just maybe go out with a bang in St. Paul.

But, first things first.

Let’s sweep the Lakers in two weeks.