Category Archives: Enrico Blasi

Miami’s Two-Headed Goalie Monster

The 2013-14 season is just about upon us, and we’re headed for another year of the two-headed monster in net. I want to preface what you’re about to read with a disclaimer that in no way do I think that either goalie that Miami currently has under scholarship is not good enough to be in a nubmer 1 goaltender position. But there is certainly a large part of me that would like to see either or both of these guys get their full-on shot at the #1 goalie spot for the Miami RedHawks.

In the last several years, Head Coach Enrico Blasi has employed the 2-goalie rotation. One of the two stellar goalies plays on Friday night, and the second will play on Saturday. Currently, that rotation is composed of Ryan McKay and Jay Williams. But what if things were different in Oxford? What if Enrico Blasi goes with an established top guy and has a trusted backup? We explore the topic as we prepare for the season that starts tonight.

The start of a trend

Brandon Crawford-West left school early, putting Miami in a situation to start the two-headed monster.

Brandon Crawford-West left school early, putting Miami in a situation to start the two-headed monster.

During the 2004-05 campaign, then-sophomore Brandon Crawford-West was the last clear-cut Number 1 goalie for the RedHawks. He played in 32 games, had a save % of .917 and allowed a fairly stingy 2.48 GAA for a team that went 15-18-5. It would be the last time Miami didn’t make the NCAA tournament before starting their current streak of 8 tournament appearances in a row. Crawford-West knew that Charlie Effinger was waiting in the wings, having posted a 4-2-0 record in 6 starts with 3 additional relief appearances. Crawford-West would then leave Miami after that sophomore campaign, and according to hockeydb.com, has not played any type of major hockey since.

During the offseason, Blasi would recruit and bring 6’2″ Jeff Zatkoff in to play between the pipes as his backup goalie. Only it didn’t turn out that way. Zatkoff actually played 4 of the first 5 games in 2005-06 (including the season-opening exhibition against Windsor) and won 3 of those 4. It seemed like Zatkoff was poised to be the #1 goalie, but would end up splitting games with Effinger. Zatkoff went 14-5-1 in 20 games and Effinger went 12-4-3 in 19 games.

The two would rotate for the rest of their time in Oxford until Effinger graduated in 2008, at which time also Zatkoff left Miami. He left with 1 year of eligibility remaining, and headed to the professional ranks. On a side note, Zatkoff is likely to get his first NHL game action this weekend, as the Pittsburgh Penguins play back-to-back games for the first time this season.

Two’s Company

Connor Knapp was part of the two-headed monster for Miami's 2 Frozen Four appearances.

Connor Knapp was part of the two-headed monster for Miami’s 2 Frozen Four appearances.

Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard were the two-headed monster from the 2008-09 season through the 2011-12 season. Having used Zatkoff and Effinger on a rotating basis, Blasi made no qualms about his rotation strategy, and rotated these two for their entire 4 years. Williams and McKay have continued that trend once again, having played their freshman season as a quite-potent 1-2 punch in Oxford.

Along the way, Coach Blasi has maintained that whomever plays best in practice during the week will play on Friday night, and the Saturday goalie will be determined based on the Friday night performance. In addition, Blasi is frequently quoted as saying that the two goalies are always good friends and truly push each other to be better in practice. But how far can that get you?

The Importance of Having a Number 1

Cody Reichard was part of the two-headed monster with Connor Knapp. (flickr: 560XLS)

Cody Reichard was part of the two-headed monster with Connor Knapp. (flickr: 560XLS)

In the 2008-09 season, Cody Reichard got hot at the end of the season and became the top goalie. He played in all 4 tournament games including the National Championship game against Boston University. He allowed just four goals and made 65 saves during the NCAA Regional in Minneapolis and during 21 period stretch ending with the 2 regional games, only allowed 12 goals. With a vote of confidence earlier in the season and being named “the guy”, I wonder what happens differently late National Championship game. Jump into the 2009 season, and the roles were reversed. Reichard was benched late in the season in favor of Connor Knapp. I’m not saying Knapp definitely gets us past Boston College in the Frozen Four/National Semifinal instead of getting pulled for Reichard in the 2nd period. But who knows?

A quick tale of the tape to illustrate where I’m going:

Reichard’s career: 92 starts and 53 wins; Named CCHA Player of the Year and a first-team All-CCHA selection in 2009-10 going 15-5-2.
Knapp: 84 starts and 46 career wins; 2010-11 CCHA Best Goaltender Award finishing with a 15-8-0 record, including 12 wins in his final 16 starts, allowing a goal or less in 13 of his final 17 appearance.

Let’s say that Reichard gets half of Knapp’s starts and keeps the same 57.6 win percentage, that extrapolates to 77 career wins in 134 games. If Knapp gets half of Reichard’s? 130 starts and 71 wins. Staggering numbers while one is the main guy and another is the backup.

The Situation at Hand

Jay Williams was stellar last season before Ryan McKay caught fire. (Columbus Dispatch: Eamon Queeny)

Jay Williams was stellar last season before Ryan McKay caught fire. (Columbus Dispatch: Eamon Queeny)

Fast forward to 2012-13 when Ryan McKay and Jay Williams split time in net. Williams was 12-5-1 in 21 games and was 13-7-2 in 23 games. Jay Williams filled in for McKay at the start of the season while McKay was injured. Later, it was McKay who went on an unbelievable streak and ended up starting 13 of the last 15 games in net. Does that mean McKay will be the #1 guy come Friday night?

Don’t count on it.

I’m only one guy, and Enrico Blasi is one of the best coaches in the NCAA. He has a Spencer Penrose award for the best coach in all of Division 1 hockey, 8 straight and 9 total NCAA tournament appearances, 2 Frozen Fours, 2 CCHA Regular Season Championships, 1 CCHA Tournament Championship and 5 CCHA Coach of the Year awards. You can’t argue with his resume. I just think there’s an opportunity awaiting him this season when it comes to that two-headed monster in net. Here’s my plan for success this year, and into the future.

Ryan McKay stops a shot by Minnesota State's Matt Leitner in NCAA Regional action. (Toledo Blade: Andy Morrison)

Ryan McKay stops a shot by Minnesota State’s Matt Leitner in NCAA Regional action. (Toledo Blade: Andy Morrison)

Ryan McKay starts as the top guy and plays the majority of the big games, including against teams such as Ohio State (2 games this year), North Dakota (4), St. Cloud State (4), and Wisconsin (2). Williams – by no means what you could call a “backup goalie” – can play the lesser foes such as Canisius, UNO, WMU, and the like. This allows that number one guy to be established. Blasi isn’t the type to encourage anyone to leave Miami early, but let’s say McKay leads the NCAA in GAA and Save % again, the leaves school early for the pros. This creates an ideal situation, and here’s why.

Williams, now a sophomore, will have his time for the next 2 years as a Junior and Senior. At the same time, Blasi is forced to recruit and bring in a goaltender, who is Williams’ protege and backup for 2 years. Barring any other early departures or injuries, at the very least, this gives Miami a succession plan as far as goalies go.

The Truth of the Matter

Turn no further than the season-opening exhibition against Windsor last Saturday night, and you’ll have your answer to the question of “what’s Rico’s goalie plan?” The RedHawks won, with Jay WIlliams getting the start, and Ryan McKay relieving him halfway through the game. Both looked good, although 2 turnovers cost Miami 2 goals in 10 seconds in the third period against McKay. While it has yet to come up during Blasi’s weekly press conferences, I’m sure  you’ll hear the same refrain when asked this season.

The two-headed monster returns to action tonight as Miami takes on Ohio State in the regular season opener, and returns to Oxford on Saturday against the same Buckeyes.

Enjoy the games, and be sure to follow us on Twitter at @MiamiHockeyBlog for updates.

Advertisements

RedHawks 2013-14 Wish List: We Want It All

For 2013-14, I can’t help but be hopeful for big things. A new conference that will provide new rivalries, new teams coming to Oxford and new barns to visit. Today, we give you our 3 wishes for the new season that has us thinking big. Be sure to comment below with your wish list items or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter by using the links above.

Open in Style

(Flickr/Billy V)

A strong start against OSU and North Dakota will be crucial. (Flickr/Billy V)

There isn’t much more that I like seeing out of the RedHawks than crushing Ohio State. It will be very important for this young team to gel in the Exhibition game against Windsor on October 5th. Miami will – as usual – have all it can handle with OSU on October 11 in Columbus and October 12 in Oxford.

It will be nice to have the home and home series back with Ohio State even though they have joined the Big Ten Hockey Conference. But a series is just a series when you’re not in the same conference any more. With that said, don’t expect a walk in the park on opening weekend.

Following the Ohio State series is what may be the biggest series of the season in week 2, as Miami welcomes North Dakota to Oxford for just the third time ever. The first game of the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference will be on national television on CBS Sports Network, and Miami will look for its first ever win against North Dakota during the series in Steve Cady Arena. Miami has lost 3-0 and 3-2 to North Dakota in Oxford and tied them 5-5 in Grand Forks just a few years ago. It will be important to gain at least a split in the series that should match up 2 top 10 teams in the first month of the season.

Avoid the Rico Swoon

Blasi

Enrico Blasi comes into the season with a record of 311-196-53, good for 71st all time in NCAA wins.

We all know it seems to happen around the middle of the year. Perhaps this is why Miami scheduled a game against the US National Team Development Program on New Year’s Eve instead of a tournament trip to play games that count. The game will be in Oxford, so there won’t be any extended travel, and the game will be a nice bridge to keep the team fresh between NCHC games against Denver on December 6 and 7 and the second half opener against Western Michigan in Kalamazoo on January 10 and 11.

For year’s we’ve been complaining about the Swoon, and with good reason. In 2011-12, the Swoon came pretty early with an overtime loss to Colgate, 2 losses at Ferris State and another 2 losses to Lake Superior State in Oxford – all of which came in October. At the end of the year, Miami would go on to win 9 out of their last 10, before losing to UMass-Lowell in the NCAA East Regional.

In 2012-13, the Swoon hit in December and continued into early January. Losses to LSSU and Ohio State, a 1 goal performance in the Three Rivers Classic (1-0 win against OSU and 1-0 loss to Robert Morris) finished 2012 and then Miami opened 2013 with a loss and shootout win in Northern Michigan, and another 1-0 loss at Wisconsin. The story repeats itself once again as the Hawks got hot down the stretch and ended up winning the final CCHA Regular Season Championship.

We could go back and back and back and just about every year find a stretch such as the above. It always turns out okay for the Hawks, as Enrico Blasi has led the Hawks to 8 straight seasons with at least 23 wins, all of which also led to NCAA Tournament appearances.

National Title or Bust

Jonathan Biles/www.bloguin.com

Can the RedHawks hoist this bad boy in April? (Jonathan Biles/www.bloguin.com)

This was a foregone conclusion with this wish list, right? While many think that a regular season championship and tournament championship are possibilities in the first year of the NCHC, those championships are small potatoes compared to what this team has the potential to do. I’m certainly not going to be upset if we win one or the other, but these RedHawks have a real shot at greatness.

With a quick glance down the roster, you’ll find just 2 seniors and 8 juniors including a candidate for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award in Austin Czarnik. The 11 Sophomores are part of what may become the best recruiting class that Miami has ever had, and the Freshmen are arguably the second best class ever, at least on paper.

The defense may have a little work to do after losing seniors Joe Hartman and Steven Spinell – guys who played a combined 307 games as RedHawks. However, replacing them are 3 great recruits: 2 brothers of current/former players (Matt Joyaux, brother of sophomore Chris, and Johnny Wingels, brother of former Miamian and current San Jose Shark Tommy) and one of the more highly regarded defensive recruits in the country in Trevor Hamilton. The defense was the second best in the country last year only allowing 1.74 goals a game over 42 games, so the new guys will certainly have big skates to fill.

But… Losing those 2 star defensemen isn’t all bad when you look who is in net for Miami. Behind the blue liners are not just one, but 2 goalies in the top 10 in the NCAA. Ryan McKay was statistically the 2nd best goalie in the country with a ridiculous 1.39 goals against average and a .946 save percentage – both numbers just whispers away from the number 1 spot.

This team is going to be good. How good? Well, I can’t predict the future. But with a new conference and a bunch of unknown foes, who says the RedHawks can’t take advantage of the unfamiliarity, run off a bunch of wins, gain the confidence they need to roll off 4 all-important season-ending wins and take home the NCAA Championship? There’s only one thing that Miami hasn’t done, and that’s win the last game of the season and hoist THAT trophy. This year, more than ever, the RedHawks have all the pieces to take the Frozen Four by storm and win it all. We start the wild ride on October 11th. See you there!

Recap: Hawks cool off Alaska, head to Western Michigan

lanternLight the Lantern!
RedHawks sweep again!

Before we recap the week, we remember Brendan Burke. Burkie died 3 years ago today (February 5, 2010). Each and every RedHawk, including those freshmen who didn’t know him miss him like a brother. His legacy will live on in Oxford and throughout hockey and sports through the You Can Play project. We encourage you to support You Can Play at http://www.youcanplayproject.org, and always remember Brendan as an important part of The Brotherhood.

BurkePatch

For the second week in a row, Miami has swept their opponent out of Oxford, this time sending the Alaska Nanooks back to Fairbanks significantly cooler than they were coming in. The 2 wins snapped a 6 game win streak for the Nanooks, who fell back out of the polls, but still remain as a TUC in the PairWise – a good thing for Enrico Blasi’s talented young squad. Here’s what you missed so far this week.

Read the rest of this entry

RedHawks Entertain White Hot Nanooks

>Where Will They Finish? 1-6

“Red hot” just wouldn’t be fitting for the fighting polar bears from Alaska at the moment. The Nanooks come to town on a 6-game win streak with each of the 6 wins coming at a critical time in the race to the CCHA playoffs. Behind the EZAC’s ECAC’s Quinnipiac (15-0-2) and Hockey East’s UMass-Lowell (10-0-1), they are one of the hottest teams in the country. Looking at those team’s opponents, it’s safe to say that Alaska is truly that hottest team.

Read the rest of this entry

Rico gets 300th (and 301st), RedHawks Sweep

Lantern

Coming off of a weekend sweep in Oxford, the RedHawks look ahead to another (!?!?!) home series against Alaska to start off what looks to be a rugged February schedule. Miami hadn’t been at home for a game in 48 days before Friday night, and after the upcoming weekend will have played 4 home games in 9 days. Follow that up with the Western Michigan Broncos in Kalamazoo and Notre Dame on Friday 2/15 and Sunday in Chicago on 2/17, and Miami’s strength of schedule and RPI should be rising quickly. Here’s what you missed over the last week.

Read the rest of this entry

RedHawks and Badgers face off for weekend tilts

keep-calm-and-redhawk-on

Keep calm, RedHawk fans.
Miami hockey is back and better than ever!

Miami is in Madison, WI for a set of 2 games against the WCHA’s Wisconsin Badgers this weekend. It will be the last out-of-conference series on the season and afterwards, the story of the standings will be a lot clearer. With all of the other 10 CCHA schools facing off against each other, Miami will come back to the pack a bit in terms of games played. Miami can only fall to 3rd in the CCHA standings, but Notre Dame, Western Michigan and Ohio State – all within striking distance – will have the same amount (16) of games played after having 2 games in hand for much of the season. The Irish(1st place and +1 point on Miami) hosts Alaska and Western Michigan (3rd, -2 points) heads to Bowling Green.

Read the rest of this entry

Hawks finish first half, get 5 points in Columbus

Lantern

The RedHawks lit the lantern and earned
5 points
against OSU this weekend.

This past weekend’s game had me singing “takin’ care of business” after the RedHawks took 5 points from Ohio State in their own barn in 2 hard-fought contests. We expected some gritty hockey with lots of big hits and a whole lot of energy, and what we received for the weekend was well worth the admission price. Both games were very intense, with Friday night’s game going all the way to a shootout, and Saturday’s coming down to some staunch defense in the third period for an exciting 3-1 victory. Here are some game notes and our weekend recap.

Friday Night

  • Miami had only 5 shots in the entire first period. Ohio State had 10 for the first, but didn’t register their first shot until 6:45 into the game. After the slow start and subsequent slow second period, the Hawks had us thinking that we were headed for a “Rico Swoon.” We’re also happy it didn’t end up that way.
  • It wasn’t until the third period until any scoring happened, with OSU’s Devin Krogh scoring 3:52 in to put Ohio State up 1-0. Jay Williams made a big save, but kicked out a rebound to the right side, and on an awkward angle, Krogh snuck the puck through his legs for the first tally of the season
  • At 11:25 of the third, Krogh then took what would turn out to be a very costly penalty. At 12:43 of the period, Riley Barber made a slick pass into the slot area and Curtis McKenzie drilled a 1-timer that found twine, and the game was tied. The power play goal was McKenzie’s 3rd goal of the season, and it earned him the #1 star of the game. It was nice to see Curtis was flying around the ice throwing body blows all night. He ended the night with a team-high 5 shots and also recorded 2 blocked shots.
  • The defense and goaltending were the stories of the night on both sides.
    • Miami was limited to 5 first period shots and just 7 in the third.
    • Ohio State had more shots in overtime (4) than they did in the third (3), and had just 23 total on the night.
  • Somehow, Ohio State goalie Brady Hjelle was named the #2 star of the game ahead of Jay Williams, who won his 8th game in Oxford and stopped all 3 shootout attempts. For the season, Miami has now faced off with 4 different opponents in shootouts and has not allowed even one attempt to find the back of the net (3 wins for Williams and 1 win for Ryan McKay).
  • In a somewhat troubling statistic, Miami’s record in the faceoff circle was a paltry 22-41. Austin Czarnik had a rough night all around, and won just 2 of the 19 faceoffs he fought for. Ohio State’s Tanner Fritz was 19-3 on the night, and this was likely a big contributing factor to the sloppy looking play for the first half of the game.
  • Czarnik made up for his rough night on faceoffs with yet another sweet move in the shootout. He beat Hjelle with a forehander that had it all: speed, deception and creativity… AND he roofed it over the goalie’s shoulder. We’ve got the video of the goal (and the game winning save from Williams) below.
  • Blasi put a somewhat strange lineup on the ice for the night. Bryon Paulazzo, Jimmy Mullin and Taylor Richart got the night off, possibly because of finals week. There were no indications of injuries, and only Paulazzo did not play on Saturday.

Here’s Czarnik’s shootout winner:

And here’s the save and celebration from Jay Williams:

Saturday night

  • Ryan McKay was the story on Saturday and almost came away with his 3rd shutout in just his 5th career start. Unfortunately, after spotting OSU a 2-0 lead, he did allow a goal 6:20 into the third, but he stood tall and stopped the flurry of shots Ohio State threw at him the rest of the way, stopping 22 of 23 on the night.
  • McKay allowed just 1 goal on the night, the third ever of his young 5-game career, and it was the first even strength goal he has allowed.
  • Alex Gacek scored his 3rd goal of the season in the first period, and from there Miami settled into their shell and just stifled Ohio State the rest of the way.
  • Blake Coleman returned to the scoring sheet, as he assisted on Gacek’s 1st period goal and scored the eventual game winner in the second.
  • Miami was 5 for 5 on the penalty kill, and did not allow any shots on the power play until the 5th and final kill, which started with 12:39 left in the third period.
  • Once again, no mention of a Miami goalie in the 3 stars of the game, where Coleman, Hjelle (!?!?!?!?!) and Riley Barber took those honors. There is no explanation other than being a home game for Ohio State that Hjelle got the 2nd star of the game nod each night. It’s clear once again that Ohio State can’t seem to get over themselves when they were outclassed on the ice on Saturday night.

For his efforts this weekend, Riley Barber once again earned the CCHA Rookie of the week award. Barber is the 2-time reigning CCHA Rookie of the Month, and this is his 3rd rookie of the week honor. On Friday night, he had an assist on McKenzie’s goal. He had the OSU goalie beat on his shootout attempt, but his shot hit the knob of the goalie’s stick and didn’t trickle in. He also tallied a goal (the empty net clincher that sent Ohio State fans to the exits) and an assist on Saturday night in Miami’s 3-1 win. Barber now has 8 points and 14 assists on the season, and leads the CCHA in scoring. He has left Oxford and is now in New York in hopes of playing for Team USA with teammate Sean Kuraly in the World Junior Championships.

Speaking of the WJC, tryouts will start in Finland tomorrow the 19th, and you can keep an eye on Team USA during the tournament on the NHL Network. The 2013 World Junior Championships will be held in Ufa, Russia Dec. 26, 2012 to Jan. 5, 2013. (We’ll post any roster updates and the upcoming schedule when we know more.) The only other CCHA players headed overseas are Michigan freshman Jacob Trouba and Notre Dame freshman Mario Lucia.

After this weekend, Miami is in a tie with Notre Dame for the top spot in the CCHA. Looks can be deceiving, however, as the Irish have 3 games in hand on Miami. In fact, the RedHawks have played the most games in the CCHA, and 3rd place Western Michigan has 2 games in hand on them and sit just 4 points behind. Meanwhile, Michigan, selected #1 by the media and #2 by the coaches of the CCHA in the preseason polls, sits in a tie for 7th with Alaska and behind teams like Ohio State, Lake Superior State and Ferris State. It should be an interesting second half, that’s for sure. Miami will need to keep taking 5 and 6 points a weekend and also play well in their non-conference games to be well positioned in the PairWise rankings, which will lead to a berth in the NCAA tournament.

And finally, let’s take a quick look at the polls. Miami now sits in the #5 spot in both polls, staying exactly where they were last week. Seeing as though it’s the half way point of the season, now is a good time to take a good look at the PairWise, and Miami is currently 9th there. Not a bad place to be, especially considering the recent opponents. Teams like Dartmouth, Yale and Quinnipiac should drop a smidge, and Miami should be able to move up with upcoming opponents like Wisconsin (in Madison January 18-19), Western Michigan (in Kalamazoo February 8-9) and Notre Dame (home and in Chicago on February 15th and 17th).

The Hawks will be off for 2 weeks, adn return to action December 28th in the Three Rivers Classic. Miami plays the same Ohio State squad on Friday night, and Saturday’s games will be determined by Friday’s results. It will be Robert Morris or Penn State on Saturday night.

Quick preview – Miami at Alaska

Ahh Alaska. The Last Frontier. The place where it’s 86 degrees cooler than Oxford, Ohio today. Also the school furthest from civilization Oxford and all other teams in the NCAA (other than Anchorage, of course and maybe Hawaii). Miami left home on Wednesday, didn’t get there until Thursday (3:00am, anyway) and takes on an Alaska squad that took NMU to overtime twice last weekend in Marquette and only took 1 point out of it.

The Nanooks come in at 6-5-3 on the season, and 4-4-2 in the CCHA. They are only 2 points behind Miami at the top of the standings and are doing something that Miami has prided itself on in seasons past – staying balanced. Alaska has 4 players tied at the top of their scoring charts – 2 seniors, and to underclassmen. Not surprising to see at the top of the list is Senior Andy Taranto. I feel like he’s a guy we’ve been seeing with the Nanooks for about 17 years.

In net, Freshman John Keeney has played 6 of the 14 games, and 3 goalies have seen significant time for the Polar Bears. Keeney is 2-2-2 with a 1.79 GAA and .935 save percentage – by far the best on the team for both. Senior Steve Thompson has played in 4 games this season and took home the October 22 CCHA Goalie of the week, but is struggling with just a 2-2 record, 3.24 GAA and .876 save percentage. Thompson only played in 3 games before this season, all coming last year, and Sophomore Sean Cahill played once last season, both getting mop-up duties while Senior Scott Greenham took ice time all season. It’s anyone’s guess who we’re going to see this weekend, but I’d suspect we see a lot of Keeney, as he has been the hot hand.

For Miami, Enrico Blasi continues his run to 300, and stands at 293 wins on his career. Miami has a 36-14-5 edge against Alaska and despite the 18+ hours of travel to get there every time, is still a surprising 16-7-3 in Fairbanks.

Leading the scoring for Miami is Riley Barber, but Sophomore Alex Wideman has been absolutely on fire the last few games. As we mentioned in our 2-week “Turkey Day hangover” recap, Wideman has goals in his last 3 games, has 4G and 3A in 6 total games, and has also scored the game winner in each of the 2 of Miami’s shootouts in which he has participated.

Look for more from Wideman, and let’s hope Miami scores first. Miami is 6-1-1 this season when doing so, and 6-0-0 when scoring thrice. I’m confident Miami brings home 6 points this weekend behind Jay Williams continued strong goaltending (and perhaps we see Ryan McKay return as well?).

Where have you been for 2 weeks?

We hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving with your families and didn’t miss us and the Miami RedHawks too much. You guys should have been asking “where are you guys” because we’ve been MIA for a bit. We’re sorry for leaving you hanging, and we’re back at it this week as Miami is already en route to Alaska for a 2 game set in The Last Frontier. For now, here’s what you’ve (we’ve?) missed in the last 2 weeks.

First of all, and most importantly, Miami took 5 more points against the Spartans way back on the 16th and 17th of November. On Friday night, Miami held a 2-0 lead and let MSU tie the game before taking the shootout. It was Miami’s 2nd shootout win in a row and 3rd of the season (Providence, NMU, MSU). In the three shootouts, Miami still has not allowed even one goal, as Ryan McKay has stopped the 2 shots he has seen and Jay Williams has stopped all 4 shootout attempts in his 2 wins. John Doherty played in his first game for Miami, Alex Wideman scored to continue his point streak and Alex Gacek scored his 2nd of the year.

In Saturday’s game, Miami again went up 2-0, but this time played some outstanding defense and Williams posted the shutout. Miami held MSU to 13 shots on the night, with 9 of them coming from 2 players. Freshman Taylor Richart recorded his first career point as he helped Wideman continue his blazing hot scoring streak in the third period. McKenzie recorded his 3rd goal of the season and Jay Williams got his first career shutout.

For the effort on the weekend, Williams took home the CCHA Rookie of the Week award – his first such honor. Jay is the second Miami freshman to win the award (Riley Barber has won it twice), and it’s the 4th weekly award for Miami.  He stopped 19 shots and 2 shootout attempts on Friday as well as all 13 shots on Saturday. The wins ran his season record to 6-2-2, while allowing 2.18 goals against and a save percentage of .915. Get to know Jay a little better by reading muredhawks.com’s “In the Crease with Jay Williams.”

Even though Miami didn’t play this past weekend, the top of the CCHA standings is still in the hands of the RedHawks at 16 points. Notre Dame had a weekend series against North Dakota (and split). For now, Miami holds a 1 point lead on the Irish, Ferris State and Ohio State. Alaska is just 2 points behind at 14 and Lake Superior State is in 6th at 12 points. The next 3 weekends have Miami playing three of those teams (at Alaska, Lake State, at Ohio State), so to say they will be an important 3 weeks is an understatement.

Alex Wideman missed three weeks of play with mono, and since his return has been lights out. He now has 4 goals and 3 assists on the season – good enough for 3rd best on the team. He has also scored the shootout clinching goals in each of Miami’s 2 CCHA shootout wins and is looking better and better on the ice every night out.

After the MSU weekend, Miami dropped a spot from #4 to #5 in the polls. We’ll reserve judgement, but Really, that’s stooooopid. The voters made up for their poor choices last week to bump Miami up 1 spot in this week’s (November 26th) polls, but Denver, who lost AT HOME to Yale and New Hampshire, dropped just 3 spots to #5 behind the Hawks. The PairWise is the important ranking, and we’re still a few weeks away from knowing where Miami really stands compared to the rest of the NCAA.

In addition, Miami’s All-1990’s CCHA team was announced. In the decade where Miami earned its first ever CCHA Championship in the 1992-93 season and gained momentum throughout, this team looks fantastic. Some guys named Kevyn Adams, Brian Savage, Enrico Blasi, Dan Boyle, Bobby Marshall and Mark Michaud made the first team. The second team has forwards Chris Bergeron, Randy Robitaille and Ken House, defensemen Joe Cook and Steve Wilson and goaltender Richard Shulmistra. The only thing I’d change is putting Shulmistra on the first team and Michaud on the second. You can vote for the all-2000s team on muredhawks.com.

And finally, but certainly not least important, Steven Spinell was named a Senior CLASS Award Candidate.

Stay tuned for our Weekend Preview before Miami takes on Alaska at 11:00pm Eastern time on Friday and Saturday nights!

#4 Miami hosts Michigan State for 2 game set

Another week, another Michigan team for the RedHawks to play. This week will mark the 4th straight week that Miami has played a team from Michigan, this time welcoming the Michigan State Spartans to Steve Cady Arena.

The last 3 Michigan teams Miami has played were all ranked teams at the time, having split with Michigan and Ferris State on the road and taking 5 points over Northern Michigan last weekend. (In case you were wondering, Miami heads to Alaska in 2 weeks, but plays the 5th of 6 CCHA schools from the state of Michigan in the Lake Superior State Lakers the first weekend of December, and we have to wait until February to see the 6th such team – Western Michigan.)

As we scout the unranked Spartans, the first thing we notice is that they just beat Michigan 7-2 last Saturday night. In fact, Sparty has won their last 3 Saturday night games and lost each of those series’ 3 Friday night games. Not only that, but they have outscored their opponents 17-5 in those Saturday games. Each of these series has been against CCHA teams, and Michigan State stands in a tie for third in the logjammed CCHA standings at the start of the week (ND beat Michigan Thursday night to jump to the top of the CCHA and push Miami to 2nd and MSU to 4th currently).

Second year coach Tom Anastos had only good things to say about the RedHawks.  “I’ve watched them on video half a dozen times,” Anastos said at Tuesday’s press conference. “I’d like to see them in person now. They play really hard, and they’re a good team. They’ve done a good job building a culture that, in spite of bringing in a lot of new (players), they are coming into a culture. That’s what we want to establish here.” (source: The State News)

Michigan State will be led by Sophomore Matt Berry, who currently stands 4th in CCHA scoring with 6 goals and 5 assists (behind RedHawks Riley Barber, 14pts and Austin Czarnik, 13 pts). Berry had a hat trick in the 7-2 victory over Michigan and looks to lead the Spartans over another ranked CCHA foe.

Anastos, the former CCHA Commissioner, seems a bit unsettled on his goalie situation at the moment. Junior Will Yanakeff has played in 7 games, compiling just a 2-4-1 record and is allowing 3.71 goals per contest. Freshman Jake Hildebrand was in net for MSU’s big win against Michigan, and is 2-1 on the season, and has only allowed 1.8 goals in his 4 games played.

In the Miami net, we will likely see the return of Ryan McKay as he returns from injury. Coach Blasi remains quite secretive on who will play: “He’s going,” Blasi said. “I don’t know if he’s going to play this weekend or not, but he’s 100 percent and ready to go if called on.” (source: The Miami Student)

Jay Williams has performed fantastically while McKay has been nursing some sort of groin or leg injury, and we’ll likely see the rotation kick back up again now that he’s healthy. McKay sports a 1-0-1 record with the tie being a shootout win against Providence. After that shootout win, McKay started the Friday night game at Michigan and that is when he quickly came out of the game. Just 5 minutes in, McKay injured himself, came out of the game, and even went into the locker room for a stretch. He was the only other goaltender dressed that night, so he did come back on the bench and was also the only goalie dressed for the other 5 games Miami has played (2 at Ferris and 2 at home against NMU) as well. In any event, it will be nice to see this freshman back on the ice and fighting off the frozen rubber again.

We like repeating it, so we’ll fill you in on the leading scorer in the CCHA – Miami’s Riley Barber. Barber leads all scorers as a rookie with 14 points and Austin Czarnik is just one point behind him. Czarnik leads the RedHawks with 6 goals and leads the country with 3 shorthanded goals. The new “super duo” as coined by CBS College Sports’ Dave Starman will look to continue their hot play this weekend.

As we mentioned in last week’s wrap up, the Hawks will need to stay out of the box this week. Michigan State clearly has the ability to put the puck in the net, it’s a matter of when (Friday or Saturday?). MSU is scoring on 25% (11 of 44) of their power plays and Miami will need to make sure they aren’t caught in the box for a sudden outpouring of goals like MSU had against Michigan last Saturday.

As we wind down towards puck drop, I can’t help but think Miami is going to sweep the weekend and the boys will again sit atop the CCHA standings after 4 weeks of CCHA play. Miami has owned Michigan State of late, having won the last 5 contests including 2 CCHA tournament games last season. Overall, Miami is 31-68-5 against MSU and Coach Blasi looks to improve his record above .500 as he is currently 19-20-0 against the Spartans. Miami is 4-0-2 at home this season, and 2-2 when allowing 3 or more goals. Team defense will again be the name of the game to keep MSU off the scoreboard.

While 5 points is nice, 6 points is nicer. Let’s get a sweep, RedHawks! See you at the game on Saturday night!