Connor Knapp made 22 saves in notching his second shutout of the season and added an assist on Miami’s second goal as the RedHawks received goals from four different players and completed the sweep of #8 Western Michigan by a final score of 4-0.
With the victory, Miami moved into a tie for second place in the tightly packed CCHA and are now just two points behind league leading, duhOSU.
Junior co-captain Reilly Smith opened the scoring in the first period for Miami with his fourth goal of the weekend, and his team leading 18th on the season, while freshman Jimmy Mullin (8th) and senior co-captain Alden Hirschfeld (8th) added breakaway goals to blow open a close game in the third period. Freshman Tyler Biggs (5th) added the fourth and final Miami goal just 24 seconds after Hirschfeld’s to send the Broncos back to Kalamazoo empty handed.
Miami received solid efforts from several players tonight including an “under the weather” Curtis McKenzie who fought through a bug with hustle and hard work that helped contain the Broncos and make life miserable for them.
And, in addition to scoring a goal, Miami’s Reilly Smith was all over the ice killing penalties and even blocking shots for the RedHawks. Adding the captain’s ‘C’ to Reilly’s sweater seems to have brought even more out of him.
Freshman Ben Paulides has been earning head coach Enrico Blasi’s trust lately and his game has been mentioned by several folks as having greatly improved since the start of the season. And, again tonight. Paulides was solid in his own zone and was credited with an assist on Mullin’s goal early in the third period. It bodes well for next year if Paulides can lock down one of the top six defense positions with the impending losses of seniors Will Weber, Cameron Schilling and Chris Wideman.
As much as Miami dominated the Broncos tonight by limiting their time and space, they also exposed Western as maybe not yet ready to play “big boy hockey” as their alums and fans have been shouting for the past year. With multiple breakaway chances, Miami’s speed and size were simply too much for Western to handle as they’ve proven they do not possess the kind of elite talent to match a group of forwards as skilled as Miami’s. But, they play a great team game and will be a difficult out for anyone at full strength.
For the RedHawks, it was business as usual. And, Miami needs to continue to play well and make up ground in the national standings. If they continue to ride the superior goaltending of Connor Knapp and if the second and third lines continue to contribute scoring, the RedHawks will be fine as the year begins to wind down. It goes without saying that Miami has dialed up the team defense and is becoming very difficult to play against. Expected to be a strength at the start of the year, the RedHawks are now flexing their defensive muscles as they have absolutely shut teams down since a 2-6 start to the season. And, unbelievably, there are just ten regular season contests remaining in the 2011-12 season.
Next weekend, Miami continues a four-game homestand as they welcome Northern Michigan to the Goggin for another important CCHA series.
– Connor Knapp has now won six consecutive starts and for the second time in three weeks, played both games. He again allowed just one goal on the weekend equaling his effort at Michigan State January 6-7.
– Knapp lowered his goals against average this weekend to a ridiculous 1.77 and improved his save percentage to an inhuman .932 after stopping 48 of 49 shots in the two wins
– The Broncos again played without leading scorers Dane Walters and Shane Berschbach
– Tampa Bay Lightning GM and former Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman was in the house tonight, presumably to check in on his fourth round selection from 2010, Miami’s Jimmy Mullin (nice time to score a goal, Jimmy).
– By playing Connor Knapp in both games this weekend, head coach Enrico Blasi redeemed himself after going against his gut last weekend. Knapp has to play until he proves he can’t handle the workload.
– Here’s the MURedHawks.com recap
– An interesting, if not whiny take, from MLive.com with whiny quotes from Bronco head coach Andy Murray. I have to admit, I didn’t expect this from him.
In their only exhibition tune-up before the puck drops for real next weekend, the Miami RedHawks got two goals from “Awesome” Alden Hirschfeld and defeated the Windsor Lancers 4-1 at Steve Cady Arena.
Hirschfeld got his final season in a Miami uniform off to a fast start, and along with classmate Matt Tomassoni and junior Curtis McKenzie, provided all the offense senior goaltenders Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp would need as the RedHawks outshot Windsor 51-13.
Miami went 2 for 5 on the powerplay and surrendered one goal in six shorthanded situations as the game featured 21 penalties for 48 minutes. One night earlier, the Lancers skated to a 6-5 loss in Columbus as their game with the Buckeyes was also a chippy affair for the visitors from Canada who play their hockey in the Ontario University Athletics Conference.
The RedHawks skated without top returning goal scorer, Reilly Smith, but were able to overcome his absence in dominating lesser competition. If Smith is out for an extended period, Hirschfeld and the other upperclassmen will have to shoulder the load until his return.
Next weekend, Miami skates for real against Bemidji State of the WCHA in the first two regular season games of the year. We’ll have a season preview for the RedHawks as well as a weekend preview posted later in the week.
MURedHawks.com has a game recap HERE.
As we ramp up our preseason coverage, Miami senior co-captain Alden Hirschfeld was kind enough to sit down with Redskin Warriors to provide his insight into the upcoming year. Hirschfeld (Sylvania, Ohio) enters his senior season with a career line of 24-22-46 in 93 career games for the RedHawks. But last season, he set career highs in goals (12), assists (14) and points (26) in just 34 games as he helped lead Miami to its first ever Mason Cup championship.
Hirschfeld, who is no stranger to scoring big goals for the RedHawks (think 2009 National Semifinal against Bemidji State and 2010 Midwest Region Final against Michigan), is taking on an ever bigger responsibility for Miami as he ascends to take the reins as a co-captain for the 2011-12 season.
So, thanks again Alden for your time. And, here’s our interview with Miami co-captain Alden Hirschfeld.
Redskin Warriors (RW): What are the team’s expectations heading into the season?
Alden Hirschfeld (AH): Obviously our ultimate goal is a National Championship, but we also want to win the Championships for our league. The CCHA regular season and CCHA playoff Championships. It is important for us to get off to a good start and be consistent throughout the entire season.
RW: What’s been different this off-season versus past years?
AH: We changed a little bit of our training routine. Our strength coach did a good job building workouts that are going to benefit us on the ice. Everyone came back in great shape and looking very lean, which is good to see. The numbers guys are putting up in the weight room are great and really shows the hard work everyone put in this offseason.
RW: Clearly, the incoming freshmen are highly regarded. To this point, who has stood out in your mind?
AH: All of the freshman have been outstanding. They are a big class in numbers, but not necessarily size. The smaller ones A. (Alex) Wideman, (Austin) Czarnik and (Jimmy) Mullin make up for their size with their skills. (Tyler) Biggs, (Blake) Coleman, (Cody) Murphy and (Ben) Paulides are bigger guys who are going to fit in great with our style of play. But overall everyone looks great and they are going to be expected to be step in and make a difference right away.
RW: What returning player do you expect to see the largest improvement from?
AH: I think it’s important that we all improve not just any certain individual. Each day you want to get better. That is a mentality that a lot of our guys have, if not everyone, and it will be important for us all to be doing everything we can to be our best.
RW: What are your individual goals this year? How does being named a co-captain impact how you go about your daily business?
AH: I just want to focus on being the best I can each day. Really being consistent and playing great every day. It’s important for me as a captain to make sure I take care of myself as well as the team. There is a little bit more going on when you take the role of captain, but its nice to have Webs (senior co-captain Will Weber) there too so we can help each other out. Obviously there are more people watching you too so its important to always be professional and one of the best on the ice each day.
RW: Describe your leadership style. How are you and Will Weber similar? Different?
AH: I’m a pretty vocal leader. I communicate a lot with the guys. I also try and lead by example. I feel like I have a good work ethic and people respect me for that. I am also a very personable person and am open to the guys to come and talk to about anything. Me and Webs both have good work ethics and compete at a high level. We both try and set good examples and put the team before ourselves. I think that I am a little more vocal than Webs, but he makes up for that in how he leads by example. His demeanor and intensity level are unbelievable.
RW: What’s it been like having former captain Brian Kaufmann back around the program and what does he add to the coaching staff? Has he given you any advice on how to handle the captaincy?
AH: It’s great to have him back. He was the captain my freshman year and I learned a lot from him. Having him around is great because he has great advice about things and is willing to help with anything. He has talked with me and Webs and given us support and ideas that have been very helpful. He will be a great asset to the program this season and we are excited to have him back.
RW: Who do you consider Miami’s key rival in the CCHA?
AH: I think our key rivals are Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State. They are all huge games for us and always ones we key in on as “rivals.” Ohio State obviously being close by is a good in-state rival that has developed over the years.
RW: Though you won’t play in the NCHC, what was your reaction to the announcement? Is realignment good for college hockey?
AH: It’s exciting. I would have loved the opportunity to play in it for a year, but I think its great for the program and everyone seems excited. The CCHA has been awesome though and so no complaints there.
RW: What does “The Brotherhood” mean to you? How has it affected your daily life?
AH: “The Brotherhood” is what our team is all about. It’s extremely important to everyone involved with our program. It is what we live by. It’s our document that we created as a program and developed. It’s a way of life and in a basic sentence it means being the best you can be each day in everything that you do. It really helps you hold yourself accountable and make good decisions. It builds relationships that are trustworthy and meaningful as well as a Championship Culture.
RW: We’ve heard the team is getting new uniforms this year. In fact, we’ve heard the Friday jerseys will say “Miami” but the Saturday jerseys will feature the Hawk Head for the first time in years. What else can you tell us about them? Home only? New roadies too? And, is the program finally migrating to adidas like the rest of the athletic department?
AH: I’m not exactly sure. I do know we will have the ones saying Miami and the ones with the Hawk. I have not seen them and don’t know when we will wear which. I’m not sure about the road jerseys either. I suppose it will be a surprise for us all and just kind of see what we decide to wear when. I’m excited to see them though.
RW: What is your major and how close are you to achieving your Miami degree?
AH: I am majoring in Business Management with a focus on organization and leadership, and minoring in coaching. I believe I am about three classes away from the degree after the fall semester.
RW: What does your future after college look like? What are you hoping to do?
AH: My goal is to continue playing hockey. Hopefully, I can have a good year and achieve the dream and goal of playing professional hockey.
RW: What’s been the best part of playing college hockey at Miami?
AH: I would say the Championships we have won and the relationships I have built with teammates and coaches since I have been here. Also playing in the National Championship game was awesome. And just being able to be apart of The Brotherhood is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.