Category Archives: College Hockey – Analysis

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?!?!?!

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>Miami Dominates in the D

>Detroit, Mich. – Well, my predictions were actually pretty good…for once.

CCHA Player of the Year Andy Miele had 2 goals and 2 assists and Hobey Baker finalist Carter Camper had 2 goals and 1 assist as the Miami RedHawks defeated Notre Dame 6-2.

If not for two fluke goals, Cody Reichard may have registered another shutout. As it was, Reichard was solid as Miami extended its unbeaten streak to a school best 12 games.

Both Camper and Miele were at their best as both scored highlight reel goals including one from Miele while he was prone on the ice after being crosschecked from behind.

The Crying Irish stuck to their routine of running Reichard as I counted at least four times the Miami netminder was knocked to the ice including once where his helmet was taken off his head. Unlike February’s 5-5 tie, however, Reichard would not be rattled and he maintained his stellar play of the past several weeks. On the other hand, Mike Johnson proved unworthy as Miami torched him for six goals before he was pulled midway through the third period.

Alden Hirschfeld and Bryon Paulazzo chipped in with goals and Reilly Smith added three assists to round out the bulk of the Miami scoring. It was the freshman Paulazzo’s second career goal.

The RedHawks await the winner of tonight’s WMU/Michigan game which starts at 8pm EST and can be seen on FS Detroit + in tomorrow’s championship game.

Notes

  • With another four point game, Andy Miele now has 23-46-69 on the year. Can you say Hobey Baker?
  • Carter Camper has a career best 19-36-54 good enough for third in the nation.
  • Alden Hirschfeld notched his career best 24th point of the year
  • With three assists, super sophomore Reilly Smith now has 26-25-51. Miami now has three players with more than 50 points on the season.

>Miami Battles Notre Dame in CCHA Semifinal #1

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Detroit, Mich. – For the fifth, and possibly final time this season, the Miami RedHawks faceoff against Notre Dame in the first CCHA semifinal at 4:35pm at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

The RedHawks and Irish split the season series 1-1-2 with the teams winning and losing in Oxford before tying twice in South Bend last month.

Miami allowed third period leads to evaporate in both Friday night games enabling Notre Dame to escape with a win and a tie. Based on each team’s performance, Miami is clearly the better team, but they’ll need to shore up their late game play against a relentless, young Irish squad trying to knock off a veteran team to earn a spot in the CCHA Championship game Saturday night. When the teams met early in the season, and even last month, Miami was not playing its custom team defense as they are currently. Along with Miami’s significant experience advantage, Miami is deeper with better goaltending and is playing its best hockey of the season.

Here’s a look at each team.

Offense

Up front, both teams are dynamic with Notre Dame being led by freshmen T.J. Tynan and Anders Lee while Miami counters with Hobey Baker finalists Andy Miele and Carter Camper along with leading goal scorer Reilly Smith and senior co-captain Pat Cannone.

Miami is deeper and more experienced up front so as long as they control the two freshmen, they should have an advantage here.

Defense

Sean Lorenz leads Notre Dame’s excellent defensive corps and was named CCHA Defensive Defenseman of the Year for his efforts supplanting Miami’s Will Weber who won last year’s award. Unlike Miami, the Irish don’t get much offensive production from their blueline, but they can be stout in their own end.

Again, Miami’s battle-hardened group of juniors (Chris Wideman, Will Weber, Matt Tomassoni, Cameron Schilling) plus senior Vincent LoVerde and rugged sophomore Steven Spinell should have an advantage in terms of experience. All have played in Frozen Four games and they have recommitted themselves to team defense. If Miami continues to play the way they have over the past month, the RedHawks should have an advantage here.

Goaltending

Probably the weakest link of the Irish, Mike Johnson has been beaten up pretty good by Miami this year though the RedHawk tandem of Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp have each been beaten for five goals in a single game by Notre Dame this year.

However, the Miami goaltenders have been fabulous down the stretch. I’ll take junior Cody Reichard, and his big game experience, over Mike Johnson any day.

Intangibles

Miami has played in many big games over the past few seasons. They have the experience to know how to win in tough situations. These Notre Dame freshmen have not as evidenced by their struggles last weekend against a Lake Superior team that Miami absolutely destroyed. I like the way Miami is playing bringing an 11-game unbeaten streak into play today. I like Miami’s experience and the will of this senior class to attempt to earn Miami’s first ever Mason Cup.

I think Miami wins 4-2.

>Poll Activity

>Oxford, Ohio – The RedHawks move up one spot to 6th in this week’s USCHO.com poll and have moved all the way to #3 in the INCH Power Rankings which are more based on recent performance than an entire body of work. Considering Miami’s 11-game unbeaten streak, their ranking seems to make sense but could be a little high.

Importantly, Miami enters the CCHA Championship Weekend tied for 4th in the PairWise Rankings with Michigan, a team they could conceivably meet over the weekend depending on the outcome of each semifinal on Friday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

Hobey Miele Update

Oxford, Ohio – With two goals and two assists including a game-winner over the weekend, Hobey Baker Award candidate Andy Miele increased his nation’s best points and assists totals to 65 and 44 respectively. Miele’s line on the season is now 21-44-65 as he leads the national scoring race by 10 points over Niagara’s Paul Zanette and by 11 points over North Dakota’s Matt Frattin. Frattin once again picked up huge points against Michigan Tech, the nation’s 52nd ranked team by KRACH, with 4-1-5 on the weekend including an empty net goal.

Miele has now notched at least one point in 15 consecutive games, a career best. He has picked up his game and carried Miami into the postseason over the past two months. The RedHawks are 10-2-3 during Miele’s streak including an 11-game unbeaten streak heading into their semifinal matchup at Joe Louis Arena against Notre Dame.

For the season, Miele has been at his best when the score is close.

Of his 65 points, 25 (38%) have either given Miami the lead or tied the score during games this season. Clearly he is both shooting and distributing the puck appropriately right now and will be counted on over the final weeks of the season to carry Miami along with fellow seniors Carter Camper and Pat Cannone and sophomore Reilly Smith.

As a key cog in both Miami’s power play and penalty kill, Miele plays at both ends of the ice and is a major reason why both units rank in the top 10 in the nation. Miami’s power play ranks 5th nationally and their penalty kill ranks 2nd among all of Division I.

www.gotmiele.com

>The Case for Andy Miele or Debunking the Myth of the Frattin

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Photo: Rachel Lewis Photography

Oxford, Ohio – Over the past several weeks, there has been a significant push from fans and the SID of the University of North Dakota to promote their one-year wonder, Matt Frattin (32-21-53, 38 games) for the Hobey Baker Award. As you know, Miami has a Hobey Baker candidate of our own, the nation’s leading scorer, senior Andy Miele (20-42-62, 35 games).

Much of the misinformation has been directed at one thing, UND’s perceived strength of schedule advantage over Miami. While the Fighting Sioux’s schedule strength is rated fourth by College Hockey News and Miami’s is rated 14th, it’s simply not a big enough discrepancy to matter. If we were talking about Yale’s SOS (42) or Boston College’s (27), then there might be an argument. But, just to even the playing field, I’ve pulled each players statistics in games against teams that finished in the top 6 of the WCHA and CCHA (top 6 since both UND and Miami are in the top 6 so we have 5 league teams to evaluate) and against common opponents.

Here’s what I found.

In 19 total games against Denver, Omaha, Duluth, Minnesota and Colorado College plus common opponents St. Cloud, Notre Dame and Maine, Frattin posted 11-9-20.

In 18 total games against Northern Michigan, Ferris State, Western Michigan and Michigan plus common opponents St. Cloud, Notre Dame and Maine, Miele posted 12-21-33. Since Notre Dame is a CCHA top 6 opponent as well as a common opponent, we could add New Hampshire to Miele’s resume as another top tier team. If you do that, Miele’s numbers become 12-22-34 in 20 total games.

To drill even deeper, what if we take two opponents from each league such as Denver and Omaha, and Michigan and Notre Dame, and break down each player’s performance against the very best of each league?

Frattin had 2-2-4 in 6 games and Miele posted 2-12-14 in 6 games.

Or, what if we just look at common opponents?

Frattin had 7-7-14 in eight games against St. Cloud, Maine and Notre Dame. Miele had 4-9-13 in eight games so that comparison’s about even.

So, what we’ve seen is that Frattin has absolutely destroyed the bottom half of his league and lower ranking non-conference opponents racking up huge numbers (33 points) against the likes of Minnesota State, Alaska-Anchorage and poor Michigan Tech with only 20 points against better competition.

Consider — with still one more game to play, Frattin has absolutely destroyed Michigan Tech, the 49th ranked team by KRACH of 58 in the NCAA.

  • Frattin has scored 11 points or 21% of his total against Michigan Tech
  • He has scored 5 goals or 16% of his total against the Huskies
  • Frattin has 29% of his assists (6) against MTU
  • This in just three games (8%)

Frattin’s performance against Michigan Tech has been superb. However, the Huskies are so bad, his stats are being padded against incredibly inferior competition. Remove the games against MTU and Frattin’s line is 27-15-42. And, he would have played the same number of games, 35, as Miele with 20 fewer points.

Meanwhile, Andy Miele has performed better against top competition and more evenly distributed his points with 33 against top tier teams and 29 against lower performing teams.

Lastly, Miele has been a staple in the community and has built a body of work over the past 3 1/2 seasons. Consider he had 14, 31 and 44 points in his first 2 1/2 seasons (Miele played just half of his freshman season as he enrolled at Miami at the midpoint to help push the ’07-’08 team over the hump) whereas his chief competition had just 15, 25 and 19 points (missed half of last season due to suspension) before putting up 53 in 38 games this year. Further, Frattin had just 4, 13 and 11 goals before coming out of nowhere jumping to 32 this year.

Miele has steadily improved and is clearly not a one year wonder as his goal totals have risen from 6 to 15 to 20 and counting this year. Plus, Miele’s stick handling and playmaking ability set him apart from most players in the NCAA. A trait he has demonstrated since he set foot on campus.

While the Hobey Baker Award is not a career achievement, past history, behavior and playing your best against your best competition should count and I believe they will.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, well make that the Hobey Baker selection committee, I rest my case.

Miele for Hobey.

www.gotmiele.com

>Miami defeats Alaska 4-1

>Oxford, Ohio – Andy Miele and Reilly Smith scored in a decisive third period as #7 Miami defeated Alaska 4-1 at Steve Cady Arena.

Chris Wideman and Patrick Tiesling also scored for the RedHawks who outshot the Nanooks 36-18 in stretching their unbeaten streak to 10 games (7-0-3).

After falling behind 1-0 through one period, Miami evened the score on a powerplay goal by Wideman, his third of the year at 5:06 of the second period.

Miami dominated the third period as Tiesling, Miele and Smith found the back of the net. Tiesling’s goal would stand as the game-winner, just his second of the year, with assists to freshman Max Cook and senior Justin Vaive at 3:15.

Miele and Smith added insurance goals at 11:11 and 17:35 as the big guns got in on the action. For Miele it was his career best 20th goal and 62nd point of the season while Smith tallied his CCHA best 25th marker on the campaign.

Junior netminder Cody Reichard surrendered a goal on the first Nanook shot on goal, but shut down Alaska from that point forward to earn the win.

Miami goes for the series sweep tomorrow night at 7:05pm at Steve Cady Arena. The game will be televised around Ohio on the Ohio News Network and is also available online via Miami All-Access.

>Three RedHawks Named Finalists for CCHA Awards

>Farmington Hills, Mich. – Andy Miele, Reilly Smith and Will Weber were three Miami RedHawks named finalists for the CCHA’s most prestigious awards that will be handed out next Thursday night in Detroit, Mich.

Miele, a senior assistant captain from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. was named one of three finalists for the RBC CCHA Player of the Year Award. As the nation’s leading scorer, Miele is the leading candidate to win the award and is the front runner to win Miami’s first ever Hobey Baker Award, given to the nation’s best collegiate hockey player.

As a two-time recipient of the RBC CCHA Player of the Month Award and the reigning HCA National Player of the Month, Miele could be in line to pick up Miami’s second straight CCHA Player of the Year award. Junior netminder Cody Reichard won the award last year.

Junior defenseman, and reigning CCHA Defensive Defenseman of the Year, Will Weber has battled through a tough season that saw him need surgery and 100 stitches and 15 staples to repair a serious laceration as a result of an errant skate blade. Despite that, Weber missed just six games, contributed ten points and blocked 28 shots this year. If nothing else, Weber has proven his toughness and his determination by returning so quickly from such a scary injury.

Super sophomore Reilly Smith was named a finalist for the CCHA Defensive Forward of the Year. To be perfectly honest, this feels like a nod to Smith’s superb year without actually having a proper award category for him. Since he was not named a finalist for Player of the Year, I guess the league’s coaches and administration saw the need to ensure Smith was recognized for his 24 goals and 44 points.

Smith was twice named the CCHA Offensive Player of the Week and is joined as a finalist for the award by Michigan senior forward Carl Hagelin who is also a finalist for Player of the Year. Something tells me the powers also wanted to reward Hagelin’s solid, if not inconsistent and uninformed, season by throwing him a bone. With three Miami players named first team all conference, I wonder if Hagelin would like to amend his earlier comments?

That Miele guy and his friends sure seem like a pretty good offensive team to me.

>RedHawks Pick Up Swag

>Farmington Hills, Mich. – If postseason awards are any indication of future results, Miami should be in great shape during the remainder of the 2011 college hockey season.

Miami placed six players on the CCHA All Conference teams with a league-leading three on the first team.

Seniors Andy Miele and Carter Camper were joined by sophomore Reilly Smith as the RedHawks offensive stars dominated the first team.

Miele, the nation’s top scorer and leading candidate for the Hobey Baker Award was a unanimous selection to the first team, the first CCHA player to do so since 2008. The senior assistant captain was named to the conference’s second team last year while Camper was honored with a first team selection for the second time in his career after earning honorable mention a season ago.

For Smith, the league’s leading goal scorer, it was his first selection to the CCHA All Conference team in just his second year in the league. Smith potted 8 goals and 20 points a season ago but has tripled his goal output (24) and more than doubled his point total (44) in a breakout season.

Junior defenseman Chris Wideman was named to the second team after earning a spot on the All-Rookie team two seasons ago. For the year, Wideman had 2-18-20 in 34 games as the offensive minded defenseman has eclipsed the 20 point barrier in each of his three seasons.

Senior Pat Cannone and junior Cody Reichard were named honorable mention to round out the RedHawk contingent.

The three RedHawks on the first team is a school record.

>CCHA Round 2 – Miami v. Alaska

>Oxford, Ohio – If defense wins championships, then offense wins games. Fortunately for the seventh ranked Miami RedHawks, they have plenty of each.

The 2010-11 edition of the Miami RedHawks (19-9-6, 16-7-5-2, 3rd CCHA) finished second overall in team scoring and first overall in team defense in the CCHA. It was another stellar year for the program that continues to set the bar higher and higher.

Led by seniors Andy Miele (19-42-61) and Carter Camper (17-33-50), Miami boasts three of the top 17 scorers in the nation, and two of the top four, with sophomore Reilly Smith pacing the RedHawks with 24 goals.

Junior netminders Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp once again turned in solid seasons with each posting goals-against averages around 2.10 and save percentages near .910. Reichard leads Miami in minutes played, victories (12) and shutouts (3), while Knapp’s 1.76 goals-against average in conference play was best in the CCHA.

Under Dallas Ferguson, Alaska (16-15-5, 10-13-5-3, 7th CCHA) has taken a defense-first approach. It’s no understatement to say the Nanooks do not score much. But, while their offense ranked 8th overall in the CCHA, only Miami and Ferris State allowed fewer goals. Led by junior netminder Scott Greenham, Alaska allows an average of just 2.31 goals per game. In fact, Greenham played all but ten minutes of empty net time in goal this year for the Nanooks and earned second team All-CCHA honors for his efforts.

This weekend offers an opportunity for Miami to advance to Joe Louis Arena to play in the conference semi-finals for the third time in four years. Importantly, this series against Alaska offers the chance for at least two games against a current TUC and a chance for the RedHawks to improve their record in that PairWise category. If Miami can win this weekend’s series, and win at least one game in Detroit against another TUC, they will solidify themselves as a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Should the RedHawks finally capture the Mason Cup, it’s conceivable that Miami could earn a #1 seed in the national tournament.

Prediction

Miami has played just two games since February 12. They will enter the weekend’s series rested, and presumably, healthy. But it’s possible there could be some rust. The RedHawks are playing their best hockey of the season. They enter the weekend riding a 9-game unbeaten streak. The seniors are leading by example and you know they want one more chance at a Mason Cup and I think they’ll get it.

Miami advances to the semifinals in two games, 2-1 and 4-1.

Notes:

  • Miami is 33-14-5 all-time against Alaska and 18-7-2 in Oxford
  • Miami is 1-4 all-time as the #3 seed in the CCHA playoffs
  • Miami and Alaska have split each of the last four regular-season series in Oxford
  • Miami won the only other previous playoff meeting 2 games to 1 back in 1994 in Oxford
  • The RedHawks haven’t made it to the Joe in an odd numbered year for the CCHA Championship weekend since 1997
  • Hobey Baker Award front runner Andy Miele enters the weekend having notched a point in 13 consecutive games. During the streak, he’s scored 28 points