Category Archives: Connor Knapp

Barber, Czarnik earn Player of the Month Honors

It is becoming “old hat” to see RedHawks taking player of the week or month honors (think Reilly Smith – 3 POTM awards in 2011-12, Andy Miele twice and Carter Camper once in 2010-11, Czarnik as rookie of the month last season, and Cody Reichard AND Connor Knapp were each Goalie of the month winners last year). This afternoon, we continue that trend as the CCHA has announced that 2 young RedHawks have earned awards in October.

Riley Barber, sporting a 5 game point streak with 4 goals and 4 assists earned the Gongshow Rookie of the Month award. Barber is tied for the league lead in scoring through 3 weekends, and has been the leader of the RedHawks 11 freshman – 10 of which have seen ice time already in this young season. Seeing as though this is his first month in the CCHA, it’s also his first monthly CCHA honor – not a bad start for the youngster. Barber was also named CCHA Rookie of the week for the week of October 22nd.

In addition to Barber’s honor, Austin Czarnik earned the CCHA Player of the Month award for his outstanding play in October. “Z” has also tallied 8 points on the season, with 3 goals to go along with his league leading 5 assists. His three goals are of three different varieties, having scored one even strength goal, a power play goal and a short-handed goal thus far. The Sophomore didn’t earn any player of the week honors for the month, but was clearly the RedHawks leader on the ice, looking very Andy Miele-like all month.

Our Congrats go out to Riley and Austin!

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Both Miami Goalies Take Home CCHA Hardware, Smith a Hobey Finalist

At last Thursday’s CCHA Awards Banquet, 2 RedHawks took home some hardware on the night. Miami didn’t take home some of the awards we’ve grown accustomed to winning (defensive defenseman, CCHA POTY), but last night was still a success for 2 Miami Seniors.

For the on-ice awards, despite only receiving Honorable Mention for the All-CCHA teams, Senior Connor Knapp took home the goaltender of the year. Somewhere along the lines, the voters changed their minds and moved Knapp from the third best goalie in the league to the best, jumping over .  With his stats in 2012, you can understand why – I would have changed my mind as well. 16 games, 10-5-0 record, 1.41 goals against average, .945 save percentage, and don’t forget those 5 shutouts on the season and 13 career shutouts – a Miami record.

Reilly smith won this year’s Perani Cup, given to the player with the most nominations as one of the “3 stars of the game” in conference play. Check out the standings here, and you’ll see that he beat out this weekend’s opposing goalie Frank Slubowski for the award.

Jumping off of the ice now, we turn to Senior goaltender Cody Reichard. We know about Cody’s efforts with Swoop’s Stoop, and his hard work off the ice has also payed of. Reichard won the prestigious Ilitch Humanitarian Award, which is given to a player “who had tremendous philanthropic efforts.” Tremendous philanthropic efforts… that doesn’t even begin to describe Cody’s work with Swoop’s Stoop. Congratulations Cody on this award, and we hope we get to see a Lowe’s Senior CLASS award on your mantle as well!

In addition to yesterday’s CCHA Awards Banquet, the Hobey Baker Award Committee announced its 10 Finalists for the 2012 Player of the Year Award. Reilly Smith made the top 10 list, marking the 5th time in the last 6 years that Miami has had a Hobey Baker Award Finalist. Of the 10 finalists, 3 will be named to the Hobey Hat Trick, invited to Tampa Bay and the Frozen Four, and will be eligible to win the award.

Here’s a list of the finalists all-time for the Redskins/RedHawks.

  • Reilly Smith, 2012
  • Andy Miele, 2011 Winner
  • Carter Camper, 2011
  • Cody Reichard, 2010
  • Ryan Jones, 2008 – also a Hobey Hat Trick member
  • Nathan Davis, 2007
  • Andy Green, 2006
  • Derek Edwardson, 2004
  • Dan Boyle, 1998
  • Randy Robitaille, 1997
  • Brian Savage, 1993

Sorry for the late posting on this…It was a long weekend for the Warriors!

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.

Weekend Preview: Northern Michigan

After a nice HUGE weekend sweep of Western Michigan, where 3 RedHawks made the CCHA Player of the Week roll, Miami welcomes the Northern Michigan Wildcats to Oxford. The ‘Cats swept Miami on December 2-3, 2011 with a 2-1 victory on Friday night and a dominating 5-1 victory the following night.

The standings look a little different for this week’s matchup than they did just 1 week ago, but let’s take a look back where things stood on December 2. On that date, Northern Michigan stood 2-5-1 plus an additional 2 shootout wins. NMU was reeling, having come off of a pair of 4-1 losses at Ohio State, as well as a split at home against Michigan State. The Wildcats were getting pushed around, and Walt Kyle’s team was heading towards the bottom of the league.

Rico Blasi’s squad was also having an interesting go of it. After the 2-6 start of the season, Miami had turned things around, having won 2  games with a score of 2-1 in Alaska, then took 5 of 6 possible points against #4 Michigan, 4 of 6 against BGSU (both in Oxford), and then went to Denver to win the Denver Cup over Providence (6-2) and #9 Denver (4-2). The ‘Hawks had just finished November 6-0-2 and had swept the CCHA Monthly Awards for November.  The first weekend in December was certainly one to forget for the Miami faithful, and after the holiday break, Miami sat in NMU’s position – 9th in the CCHA.

Flash forward almost 2 months, and you have the #17 ranked RedHawks on a tear.  Miami comes off of a sweep of then #8 Western Michigan, a team previously on fire, and is 5-1 in 2012.  Miami sits in a tie for 2nd, just 2 points behind Ohio State in the ever-crowded CCHA standings.  #19 ranked Northern Michigan comes to Oxford stuttering, having gone 2-1-2-0 in the new year, with both ties being shootout losses. Having won last weekend at Michigan Tech in a non-conference matchup, the Wildcats have some catching up to do in the conference standings. Currently 9th, the Cats are sitting with 25 CCHA points, putting them just 6 points out of a tie for 5th and a first-round CCHA Playoff bye.  Having played 2 less games than many of the top teams will help the Cats gain ground, but they will be need to be willing to throw all 9 lives out on the ice this weekend to gain those precious CCHA points.

With 16 underclassmen on the roster, NMU’s season has been successful thus far. Senior Captain Tyler Gron leads the way as expected with 11 goals and 16 assists on the year. He is the reigning RBC Player of the Month for the CCHA. The ‘Cats only current draft pick is Senior Justin Florek (Boston).  He leads the team with 13 goals on the season and 21 points overall, and also has 8 career points in 11 games against Miami. Stopping this duo will certainly be a focus point for Rico’s boys this week in practice.

NMU Head Coach Walt Kyle is is 187-161-43 all time in his current post.  Kyle has been doing his best Rico Blasi impersonation this season, rotating games between Senior Reid Ellingson and Sophomore Jared Coreau in between the pipes.  Both have played 14 games, with Ellingson going 4-5-3 and Coreau sporting a 7-3-2 record.  If ever there was a goaltending conundrum, this would be the game.

You’ve seen our take on the Miami goaltending situation, and Walt Kyle has a similar difficult choice ahead of him this weekend.  Ellingson has started most Friday nights for Kyle, and Coreau most Saturday nights including last Saturday’s 5-2 non-conference victory at Michigan Tech.  Ellingson last played on January 13th against Michigan State, where he allowed 4 goals before being pulled in favor of Coreau under 8 minutes into the second period.  Don’t be surprised if Kyle goes with a hot hand in Jared Coreau, December’s Gongshow CCHA Goaltender of the Month, to try and take a few points out of Oxford.

Fearless Predictions:
Will Miami come off of the WMU weekend and slip up and lose focus with another big weekend ahead? Will Northern Michigan be able to show they belong in the CCHA playoffs discussion?
I don’t think so. I look for Connor Knapp to start both games again, and Miami has a weekend similar to the last time the Cats came to Oxford. Last year, Miami swept NMU back to Marquette by a combined 13-1 score.

Miami 4-1 and 5-1 and pulls to an even 12-12-2 against NMU all-time in Oxford.

Notes

– Here is Pete Conrad’s take on the weekend’s series at the Dayton Daily News

RedHawks stop #8 Western Michigan

Reilly Smith had all three RedHawks goals on the night, and the Miami defense stood tall in handing #8 Western Michigan it’s 8th loss of the season.  Senior goaltender Connor Knapp took the ice again after a much criticized benching against Lake Superior State last weekend.  Proving to be the wise choice tonight, Knapp stopped all but 1 of the 27 Bronco shots, bringing his personal unbeaten streak to 5 games.

With yet another stellar performance in net, you’d think Knapp would take home the Perani Cup #1 Star of the Game. However, that honor goes to Captain Reilly Smith. Starting the scoring before the first media timeout, Smith scored the opening goal from Freshmen Austin Czarnik and Jimmy Mullin.  Smith would go on to score the game winner in the second on a shorthanded chance, and a final goal in the third for his 3rd career hat trick.  Reilly has 17 goals on the season, along with 7 assists and leads the team with 24 total points. It isn’t the scoring outbreak that we saw in 2010-11 from Andy Miele, but he is on his well on his way to reaching his 28 goals from last season.

On the night, Czarnik had assists on all 3 goals, and Mullin had assists on the bookend goals. It was quite a night for the RedHawks top line who were a combined +8 on the night with all three goals and all 5 assists handed out. Reilly’s second period, shorthanded goal was also the game winner. That’s his 6th of the season, tying him for the national lead once again.

Outside of the top line, the defense also looked fantastic as the ‘Hawks returned to Oxford for the first time since December 10th. Chris Wideman was a stellar +2 on the night, and the rest of the defense will go down tonight as being the unsung heroes.  In the Miami zone, 19 Western Michigan shots were blocked, and there were countless hits from Miami defenders who were by far the more physical team behind the Miami net all night long.

The RedHawks faithful was treated to a fantastic showing on every inch of the ice, and were very vocal in cheering on the Red and White.  Smith’s third goal was some much needed insurance as well. Miami hadn’t played in Oxford since December 10th and hadn’t won in Oxford in over 2 months. The last Miami win in Oxford was a 4-0 win over BGSU on November 18th. In that span, they had lost an overtime heartbreaker to Ohio State 3-2, and lost in a shootout to BGSU after losing 4 one-goal leads on November 19th.

Be sure to watch the rematch tomorrow night as Miami takes on these same Western Michigan Broncos at. Tomorrow night’s game will be broadcast across the great state of Ohio on the Ohio News Network (ONN) and puck drop is set for 7:05 PM.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@RedskinWarriors) and take a look at our Saturday #SixPack in the morning for some eye-opening statistics from the Friday Night College Hockey landscape.

My 3 stars of the night… Hard to argue with the three official choices made by the Miami Athletic staff, but I’ll change it up a bit:

 Connor Knapp: 26 Saves, 1 Goal Allowed, 5th consecutive win

Junior forward Reilly Smith needs five points to become the 47th player in school history with 100 career points. Reilly Smith: 3 G, +3 Rating, 8 SOG

 Austin Czarnik: 3 Assists, +3 Rating, 2 SOG (he was too busy passing to the red hot Smith)

 

Notes

– Two of Western Michigans’ three leading scorers, Shane Berschbach and Dane Walters did not play. At one point, Berschbach was a Miami commit before his scholarship offer was revoked due to off-ice issues prior to enrolling at Miami. We understand Walters is injured but do not know why Berschbach did not suit up for the Broncos. Something to watch for in the series finale.

>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.

>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

>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.

>Miami Musings

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Carter Camper was buzzing last weekend in frigid Alaska

Here are some mid-week thoughts on the #1 ranked Miami RedHawks.

Pairwise Rankings
It’s hard to believe, but Miami has just five series remaining in the regular season meaning it’s time to start paying real attention to the rankings. Right now, Miami is tied with Denver atop the Pairwise with the slight advantage in RPI to the RedHawks. Pairwise Rankings

There are four regions in the 2010 NCAA Tournament which culminates with the Frozen Four at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan on April 8 and 10. This year’s four regional sites are St. Paul, Minn., Ft. Wayne, Ind., Wooster, Mass. and Albany, N.Y. Obviously, the Ft. Wayne regional would be the closest in terms of travel for Miami and that would probably be where the RedHawks are sent as long as the host school, Notre Dame, does not get into the tournament as a #4 seed. Because the host school must be sent to their regional regardless of seed, it could interfere with first-round matchups. That is, teams from the same conference cannot play each other in the first round. The problem could occur if Miami earns a #1 seed whereby the tournament selection committee sends the top seeds to the closest regional to help boost attendance. Accordingly, Miami could not go to Ft. Wayne as a #1 if Notre Dame squeaks in as a #4. Currently, Notre Dame is just 22nd in the Pairwise, but we don’t know exactly where the cutoff line will be in selecting the 16 teams meaning we do not know how high Notre Dame would have to finish in the Pairwise to get in, assuming the Irish do not win the CCHA’s auto-bid by winning the conference tournament. Something else to consider are potential upsets that effectively “steal” at-large bids. For instance, Bemidji State will get into the tournament as an at-large team should they not win the final CHA tourney, so the Irish will be rooting for the Beavers so as not to lose one of the 10 at-large bids. The same can be said for other likely tournament locks like Denver, Wisconsin and probables such as St. Cloud State and New Hampshire. The Irish want as few upsets by teams like Boston University or Minnesota – teams that are currently behind the Irish in the Pairwise to increase their chances of getting in.

While it doesn’t seem likely as of now that the Irish get into the Tournament, things will change over the next several weeks. As of now, Miami is on pace to get a the #1 seed in Ft. Wayne as long as they are not matched with the Irish. So, while it would be good for the CCHA to get Notre Dame into the dance, I’d probably like the Irish to stay home to ensure that Miami would play in Ft. Wayne, and have a great shot at a big crowd.

The Polls
Miami regained their perch atop all three college hockey polls this week as voters for INCH, USCHO and USA Today all ranked Miami as the #1 team in the nation following their tie and win at Alaska coupled with Denver’s tie and loss at Wisconsin. Speaking of Wisconsin, they are the new #2 team and are playing as well as anyone in the nation. The Badgers check in at #3 in the Pairwise rankings.

Teams Under Consideration (TUC)
As I wrote on Sunday, Miami has played 26 games this year with 18 coming against current TUC’s. The RedHawks are 11-2-5 against current TUC’s, but keep in mind this will ebb and flow as teams move in and out of the Top 25. Here’s a look at the teams that Miami has faced, record against and current Pairwise rank.

Bemidji State – Rank: tied for 3rd – Result: (0-1)
St. Cloud State – Rank: tied for 5th – Result (2-0)
New Hampshire – Rank: 7 – Result (1-0-1)
Ferris State – Rank: tied for 8th – Result (2-0-2)
North Dakota – Rank: tied for 10th – Result (0-0-1)
Michigan State – Rank: 13 – Result (1-1)
Michigan – Rank: tied for 17th – Result (2-0)
Alaska – Rank: 20 – Result: (1-0-1)
Notre Dame – Rank: tied for 22nd – Result: (2-0)

At present, Miami has just one series remaining against current TUC’s and that comes up in two weeks against Lake Superior State in Oxford. To demonstrate how these rankings can change, Norrthern Michigan fell out of the Top 25, a team that Miami is 2-0 against meaning it bodes well for the RedHawks if they can get back in by the end of the season. According to the KRACH rankings, a sophisticated computer model, Miami has played the 8th most difficult schedule in the nation.

Jeff Jackson
Am I the only one that’s tired of Jackson’s whining? The Notre Dame coach has complained incessantly about the injuries, specifically concussions, his team has sustained throughout the normal course of the season. Naturally, these injuries are to no fault of his squad, but rather, completely caused by the opposition. Clearly, a concussion is a serious injury and no one wants to see young men encounter brain injuries that might threaten the rest of their normal lives, but at some point, there is a common denominator.

Jackson first started on the “it’s not fair” warpath following the early December series with Miami when he essentially suggested the RedHawks were head hunting. Jackson said he thought several hits from Miami players were “high, dirty hits” that delivered concussions to both Eric Ringel and Ian Cole. In fact, Jackson said the injuries were “…direct results from high hits that weren’t called.” By the way, Jeff, if you’re going to allow Kyle Palmieri and other Irish players to run Cody Reichard at least three times (Reichard even got so tired of it, he drew a retaliation penalty), then you have to expect some retribution for those actions. No one wants to see someone injured, but Notre Dame has to stand up and take some responsibility for the situation.

Of course suggesting there were illegal hits that “weren’t called” immediately weakens his argument. Looking back at the Friday box score, I recall that Tommy Wingels was given a five-minute major penalty for checking from behind on a hit where the Notre Dame player looked over his shoulder, clearly saw Wingels coming, and turned his back to the Miami captain just before impact. That is, the Irish player could have prevented the hit, but instead chose to place himself in a vulnerable position. This is important to consider because I firmly believe we are teaching many of our young players to use their body to shield the puck from the opponent, but in doing so are, at times, placing the player in jeopardy. Further, there was a Notre Dame player who later checked a RedHawk from behind that was only assessed a two-minute minor, and frankly, that hit looked much more dangerous.

So, now we move in to the realm of judgment. And, that’s really a big part of this. The player about to deliver the big hit, has just microseconds to decide how and where to strike the opponent. The player being hit has to decide whether to turn into, or away from, the attacking player. And, the ref, coaches and fans must debate whether the hit was clean or not. It’s extremely subjective, but I fear Coach Jackson is looking at this issue through “Irish-colored glasses.”

At least Jackson’s rant against Miami was relatively short-lived because while he then complained about losing defensemen and having to play some sort of “torpedo” formation against Michigan, the Irish would lose additional players to injury in the coming weeks.

For instance, in the Ferris State series a couple weekends ago, the Irish lost Billy Maday (concussion, shoulder) and Teddy Ruth to injuries due to what Jackson termed “blatant head blows” and that the hit to Ruth “could have been life-threatening.”

Step away from the ledge, Jeff.

And, in last weekend’s series against Lake Superior State, all hell broke loose with the Lakers losing players to hits and the Irish losing more players to injury. This time Ian Cole was knocked out of the game with, apparently, another concussion leading Jackson to go off yet again.

“That’s the seventh concussion for our team this year, and I’m starting to get really tired of the high hits and checks from behind. It might come across as whining since we’re not having a great season, but it’s having a direct impact on my players’ futures and their lives.”

“We have someone like Eric Ringel, who is still dealing with post-concussion syndrome and I don’t know if he’ll ever play hockey again. If we don’t do something soon about these things in all levels of hockey, something bad is going to happen. But for one team to have seven concussions in a season, it’s outrageous.” USCHO

Again, Jeff, step off the ledge. Unless you’re a doctor, you shouldn’t make giant leaps about a player’s future when you clearly don’t have enough information for such a claim. Frankly, I”m sure that’s the last thing Ringel wants to hear. Jackson has created such a stir that USCHO.com’s CCHA beat writer, Paula Weston, took up the topic in her article prior to last weekend’s games. Her argument doesn’t make much sense, but that’s a typical result of reading her column.

At the end of the day there is a common denominator here – Notre Dame – but this whole thing is so subjective. Is it something that Jackson is teaching or not teaching his guys about playing along the boards? Are they turning away from attacking players (as is my firm belief about the Wingels hit in December) and exposing themselves to injury? Is there something endemic in the make-up of the Irish roster the preconditions them to injury? If it were me, I’d be careful if I were coach Jackson. To make such far-reaching accusations, about roughly half the league now, just sounds like sour grapes. Make your point about the need to address head shots and concussions and move on. Is it about the health of your players or the fact that Notre Dame has, at times, struggled this season?

Defense Wins Championships
Miami leads the nation in team defense allowing just 1.69 goals per game (44 goals in 26 games) which includes two games in which they allowed five goals a piece to New Hampshire and North Dakota. Remove those and the number is just 1.41 goals allowed per game over the other 24 games.

In conference play, Miami has only surrendered 1.17 goals per game (21 goals in 18 games played) and has already set a team record for shutouts in a single season with seven in the first 26 games. CCHA.com

Cody Reichard has four of those shutouts which ties the single-season record held by David Burleigh and Connor Knapp has the other three including Saturday’s 5-0 whitewashing of the Alaska Nanooks in Fairbanks.

While the goaltending has been superb, I would be remiss without mentioning the defense corps solid play. With the size that Miami has on the blueline, they make it tough on opposing forwards that, generally, are in the range of 5’8″ to 6’0″ in college, with exceptions of course. Consider:

– Miami allows just over 23 shots-against per game

– The RedHawks have blocked 327 shots this year or more than 12 per game

– Spinell (6’1″), Schilling (6’2″), Hartman (6’4″) and Weber (6’4″) make quite an intimidating lot back there and LoVerde isn’t afraid to throw the body or block shots (in fact, he leads the team in blocked shots this season)

This unit has been fabulous all season, and if they can stay healthy, will really help keep the pressure off Reichard and Knapp throughout the rest of the year.