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ECHL report: Gacek excels in debut

Alex Gacek shuffled between three ECHL teams in 2016-17, but he finished seventh in rookie goals and ninth in points by a first-year player in that league.

Alex Gacek as a senior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Gacek, a 2016 Miami graduate, scored 26 times and dished for 26 assists en route to a 52-point rookie campaign with South Carolina, Orlando and finally Atlanta.

Gacek started the season with South Carolina but was traded to Orlando on Dec. 29. On March 7 he was acquired by Atlanta at the trade deadline.

Gacek ended the season with a plus-11 rating and his shooting percentage was 18.7.

OTHER ROOKIES: Matthew Caito played just 23 games with Toledo during the regular season, but the defenseman scored eight times and added six assists.

Caito picked up his first pro hat trick vs. Fort Wayne on Nov. 25 as part of a five-game stretch in which he found the net seven times.

Caito also played with Grand Rapids (AHL) for 13 games before returning to Toledo for the playoffs, racking up nine more points in 17 games. He logged eight games with the Walleye at the end of 2015-16 following Miami’s season.

Taylor Richart (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Defenseman Taylor Richart netted seven goals and picked up 13 assists in his first pro season.

Playing for Utah, Richart was limited to 48 games in 2016-17 but still finished second on the team in blueliner goals. He was tops among ex-Miamians in ECHL defenseman points with 20.

Defenseman Colin Sullivan made his pro debut with Atlanta this spring after wrapping up his season season in Oxford.

Sullivan earned his first career assist at Greenville on April 2.

LEADING AT INDY: Alex Wideman led all former RedHawks in ECHL points last season with 55.

Alex Wideman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

He was tops on Indiana in assists (33) and shootout goals (3) and has already racked up 94 points in 128 games in the league.

Wideman played juniors in Indianapolis for two years prior to his Miami career, and now calls his former rink home.

MINORS MASTERTON: Alden Hirschfeld required season-ending brain surgery in 2015-16 but returned to post a career-high 49 points last season for Toledo.

Hirschfeld also set high marks in goals (23) and plus-minus (17).

After earning a promotion to AHL Grand Rapids, Hirschfeld collapsed on the bench as the result of a seizure on Jan. 8, 2016 and underwent a craniotomy on March 14, during which a malformation on his brain was removed.

MILESTONES: Gary Steffes needed two points to reach the 200 mark for his career entering the final game of the 2016-17 regular season.

His line in that contest: 1 goal, 1 assist, capped off by a clinching marker in a 4-2 win over Wichita.

Steffes also scored his 100th ECHL goal late last season and has rolled up 105 in four seasons in that league.

PLAYOFFS?! PLAYOFFS?!?! No former Miamian advanced to the championship series, but Kevin Morris and Matthew Caito both posted nine points as their respective teams qualified for the conference final.

Morris played 19 games with Manchester, scoring five goals and adding four assists, and defenseman Matthew Caito racked up a goal and eight helpers.

Dynasty team Allen was bounced in the second round, and Gary Steffes finished with three goals and three assists in that team’s postseason.

See also: BoB’s look at RedHawks in the NHL, as well as RedHawks in the AHL in 2016-17.

On deck: BoB takes a look at Miamians in other leagues.

A look at all RedHawks that appeared in ECHL games this season:

Regular season
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Alex Wideman Indianapolis F 70 22 33 55 -19 26
Alex Gacek Atlanta F 61 26 26 52 11 16
Alden Hirschfeld Toledo F 55 23 26 49 17 27
Gary Steffes Allen F 68 21 26 47 19 43
Kevin Morris Manchester F 66 16 20 36 9 93
Tyler Biggs Kalamazoo F 58 13 19 32 -14 42
Taylor Richart Utah D 48 7 13 20 -5 14
Chris Joyaux Tulsa D 54 1 14 15 7 22
Matthew Caito Toledo F 23 8 6 14 7 18
Will Weber Fort Wayne D 67 3 6 9 4 76
Devin Mantha Fort Wayne F 25 2 4 6 2 2
Colin Sullivan Atlanta D 6 0 1 1 -2 6
Justin Vaive Cincinnati F 1 0 0 0 0 0


Goalies

Player Team GP Min. W L GAA Sv% SHO
Ryan McKay Utah 7 288 2 3 3.53 .862 0
Connor Knapp Norfolk 14 774 2 10 3.65 .893 0
Jay Williams Orlando 10 364 1 3 3.95 .895 0

Playoffs
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Kevin Morris Manchester F 19 5 4 9 26
Matthew Caito Toledo F 17 1 8 9 15
Gary Steffes Allen F 9 3 3 6 4
Alden Hirschfeld Toledo F 13 1 5 6 7
Tyler Biggs Kalamazoo F 7 0 5 5 8
Taylor Richart Utah D 3 0 0 0 2
Will Weber Fort Wayne D 8 0 0 0 4
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Thank you Seniors! — #1 North Dakota vs. #5 Miami

By the end of the weekend, Miami hopes to once again pose with hardware. This time as NCHC champions.

As Miami returns home for the final two games of the regular season, could there be more drama in the air than what’s flying around in Oxford, Ohio?

Consider.

Fifth ranked Miami (20-11-1, 13-8-1-1 2nd NCHC) will close out the season against #1 North Dakota (24-6-3, 15-5-2-0 1st NCHC) in a battle of two teams that have spent the majority of the year ranked in the top 10. Should the RedHawks sweep, they will claim a share of the NCHC regular season title and the #1 seed in the NCHC playoffs. Though the teams will be tied atop the standings, Miami would claim the top seed by virtue of its 3-1 record against UND.

And, consider.

Saturday is senior night and six RedHawks (Austin Czarnik, Blake Coleman, Anthony Jacaruso, Cody Murphy, Alex Wideman and Ben Paulides) will skate in their final regular

Alex Wideman is one of six Miami seniors who will play the final regular season games of their career this weekend against North Dakota.

season games at Steve Cady Arena with a chance to earn their second regular season championship of their remarkable careers.

No Miami class has won more than one regular season championship in program history.

Yep, you read that right.

No Miami class has EVER won two regular season championships in any four year period in the history of the university, which of course, dates back to 1809. Probably overly dramatic since the hockey program has only existed since 1978 — pure semantics. This class could become the first to do so after capturing the CCHA’s final regular season title at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season.

North Dakota is a storied program that’s won seven national championships and fifteen, now sixteen, regular season titles. Getting a share of the NCHC title in our second year in the conference would be fantastic. It took Miami 15 years of program existence and 13 CCHA seasons to win a regular season title in that now defunct league.

And, to do it against North Dakota would be even sweeter.

Last Time We Met

Like most of the top teams in the NCHC when pitted against one another, and certainly Miami has seen this, the squads split a series in Grand Forks back in November with Miami winning 3-2 on Friday before dropping the finale 4-1. In the Miami win, Jay Williams had to make just 21 saves and Sean Kuraly had two goals to lead the RedHawks. Ryan McKay struggled in the Miami net in the loss as North Dakota started junior Zane McIntyre both nights.

Certainly Miami would like to replicate the Friday victory as they limited UND to just 23 SOG and controlled the green and white with tight checking defense.

North Dakota

UND comes to Oxford on a roll having won four in a row. Their last non shootout loss was a 3-2 OT setback to Omaha way back on January 30. And, their last regulation loss? January 9 to UMD.

However, UND suffered a loss in a sweep last weekend (yeah, I see what I did there). The loss to which I am referring was that of senior assistant captain and leading goal scorer Mark MacMillan (16-9-25) to a lower body injury which required surgery earlier this week. MacMillan, a fourth-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadians (one of 14 NHL picks — I think — I lost count at 10) had already set a career high in goals before being injured Saturday night while blocking a shot off the stick of SCSU’s Jonny Brodzinski. Presumably, MacMillan

The loss of senior assistant captain Mark MacMillan will be difficult for North Dakota to overcome.

fractured his foot and I’m assuming surgery was required to fix what was likely an ugly injury. But, I’m speculating. Regardless, MacMillan won’t play this weekend, and I’d find it hard to see him returning for the remainder of his college career, but never say never.

UND is led by its d-corps which boasts numerous NHL draft picks and junior netminder Zane McIntyre who shared the USHL’s goaltender of the year award with Miami’s Ryan McKay just over three years ago.

Up front, speedy Drake Caggiula (15-16-31) leads an attacking set of forwards including Michael Parks (12-19-31) that are a handful but perhaps not as talented as Miami’s crew led by Czarnik, Coleman, Murphy, Kuraly, Anthony Louis and Riley Barber. That said, UND will want to slow things down. Miami, on the other hand, should look to run the green and white out of the building. Forty shots on net each night should be the goal.

Miami

Well, here we are. The end of another solid regular season and the end of a bounce-back year for the program. While it’s too early to hand out accolades, the team has played hard and well enough to have earned the chance to win a regular season title on home ice.

Last weekend in Denver, Miami split its series with the Pioneers, but one thing that really stood out? The rejuvenated play of junior forward Riley Barber who had three goals on the

Miami fans are crossing their fingers that Captain America has returned.

weekend playing hard, inspired hockey. If Barber is ready to roll, look out this weekend and for the rest of the year.

However, questions abound in net as neither Ryan McKay, and most certainly Jay Williams, looked overly strong. McKay allowed three goals in Friday’s win, but Williams was ineffective surrendering four goals in less than one period of play. McKay steadied the ship when he came into the game, but still gave up two goals after Miami attempted to crawl back into the contest at 4-2. Whomever Blasi goes with (I’ll bet it’s McKay on Friday) has to give this team a chance to win by scoring three goals because getting more than that against UND just isn’t realistic. Miami has to be prepared to win two slugfests.

The Prediction

These two teams are very evenly matched with the defensive and goaltending edge belonging to UND. That said, I’d probably give the RedHawks an advantage up front with, in my opinion, more top-end guys, more game-breakers than UND which really has a grinding offensive mentality. Miami could earn a significant size advantage this weekend, especially if head coach Enrico Blasi chooses to dress both Crash Cousins. Even with one or the other in the lineup, and Miami’s size on the blueline, they match up quite well in both the size and speed categories.

But, with UND missing one of their best players, the excitement around the weekend, senior night, and what it means to Miami (home ice, #1 seed in the NCHC, Penrose Cup, redemption for last year, NCAA seeding on the line, etc., etc.), I’m going to call a MIAMI SWEEP and watch the RedHawks skate off Saturday night with the Penrose Cup.

How to Listen/Watch

The Voice of the RedHawks, Greg Waddell, will be back on the radio this weekend as both games will be available at MURedHawks.com and over the air at 1450-AM (Saturday only) and 1490-AM. Friday’s game will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network which unfortunately means no NCHC.tv for Friday. Saturday’s regular season finale will be streamed through the league’s package and also available on Time Warner Cable (Chan. 311 & 1311) and on Fox College Sports Pacific (DirecTV Chan. 608, Time Warner Chan. 321).

From the League Office

  • This weekend marks the final weekend of the NCHC regular season before beginning NCHC Tournament play next weekend. No. 1/1 North Dakota has already clinched a share of the Penrose Cup, awarded to the NCHC regular-season champion. UND needs just one point at No. 5/5 MIAMI this weekend to win the title outright. The RedHawks need to sweep UND to also get a share of the title, which would then give MIAMI the No. 1 seed in the NCHC Tournament and make UND the No. 2 seed.
  • North Dakota enters the top-five series with MIAMI riding a four-game win streak and seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1), which is the longest active unbeaten streak in the NCAA. With its share of the Penrose Cup, UND has secured its 16th conference championship in program history, the most of any NCAA Division I men’s program.
  • Four teams (MIAMI, Omaha, Denver and Minnesota Duluth) are separated by just five points with two games to play, while only three of those teams will get home ice for the NCHC Quarterfinals. UMD currently sits in fifth place on the outside looking in, but can make that up with at least three points and some help this weekend. UND has already secured home ice. Tiebreakers for seeding, should they be needed, are listed on page 8 of the release. More information on possible place finishes for these teams are listed below.
  •  According to the KRACH Ratings, the eight NCHC teams have played the eight toughest schedules in the country this season, led by Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State at No. 1 and 2, respectively. Omaha, Denver, MIAMI, CC, WMU and UND round out the top eight, respectively.

Possible place finishes for each team entering this weekend:

  •         North Dakota – 1,2 (needs just 1 point at Miami to clinch 1 seed/outright title, already has share of regular season title)
  •         MIAMI – 1,2,3,4,5 (needs 2 points to secure home for sure, needs sweep of UND to share regular season title and get 1 seed)
  •         Omaha – 2,3,4,5 (needs 4 points to secure home ice for sure)
  •         Denver – 2,3,4,5 (needs 5 points to secure home ice for sure)
  •         Minnesota Duluth – 2,3,4,5,6 (needs just 1 point to secure 5 seed, needs at least one team ahead of them to lose/tie to have a chance to get home ice)
  •         St. Cloud State – 5,6 (SCSU has to sweep DU and UMD has to get swept by WMU for SCSU to move up to 5 seed)
  •         Western Michigan – locked in to 7
  •         Colorado College – locked in to 8

 

#2 Miami stops Ohio State

Light the Lantern!

On the strength of six goals from six different players, the #2 Miami RedHawks defeated Ohio State 6-2 in a non-conference game in Columbus, Ohio on Friday night.

In a nutshell, this game came down to penalties and special teams.

Ohio State committed four first period penalties and Miami converted those opportunities into a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.

Junior captain Austin Czarnik opened the scoring for the 2013-14 season by converting a Riley Barber rebound off the back boards with a 5×3 advantage for a quick Miami lead at 7:47 of the first. And again, with Miami skating with a two-man advantage, sophomore Alex Wideman took a pass from Barber and notched his first of the year to give the RedHawks a 2-0 lead they would carry into the third period.

Sophomores Sean Kuraly and Riley Barber recorded assists on Miami’s first two goals. Kuraly would end the night with a career high three helpers and leads the squad in the early scoring race.

In the third, Ohio State would score two goals within the first three minutes of action coming off the mat to even the game with goals by Darik Angeli and someone named Chad Niddery. This was interesting because like last Saturday’s exhibition game against Windsor, Miami suffered two quick defensive lapses allowing for two quick scores.

During his weekly press conference, head coach Enrico Blasi said he felt his defensemen looked a little jittery at times and would need to catch up to the speed of the game. I wonder if it’s so much a speed thing and perhaps more of a consistency element. Playing to the whistle and understanding your opponent can hurt you until the game is over. Certainly there is enough returning experience from last year including sophomores Matthew Caito, Chris Joyaux and Taylor Richart to compensate, but really, Miami is incredibly green on the blueline. Last night, the RedHawks started two freshmen defensemen (Matt Joyaux and Trevor Hamilton), a junior (Ben Paulides) who’s played in only 35 career games,  the aforementioned three sophomore regulars, and started a sophomore goaltender (Jay Williams) who was making only his 20th career start.

Speaking of Williams, he recorded his 13th career victory in making 26 stops on the night. Overall, he was solid and gave the RedHawks what they needed. And, hey, I’ll take two goals allowed per night all year.

Junior Jimmy Mullin recorded assists on two of Miami’s six goals. (photo: Rachel Lewis)

Last thought regarding the defense…all I’m saying is that if there is a part of the game that will take a little time, it’s the defense. And, they only surrendered two goals but duhOSU isn’t exactly a scoring juggernaut averaging only a smidge more than two goals per game last season. I know we’ll see daily improvement here throughout the year as the newbies work their way into the regular grind of college hockey.

Back to the game.

After Ohio State tied the game at two, it was as if a bell sounded for the offense.

Miami would go on to score four unanswered goals in the third including Cody Murphy’s game-winner just 29 seconds after the Buckeyes tied the score. Junior Jimmy Mullin carried the puck into the zone drawing the defense close before dropping a pass to the trailing Murphy who beat Ohio State sophomore goaltender Collin Olson. Following Murphy’s goal, junior Blake Coleman, freshman Anthony Louis and Paulides also found the net as Miami pulled away in style. For Louis and Paulides, it was their first career goals. While Louis’ came in his first collegiate game, it was game 35 for Paulides, the junior defenseman from San Jose, California.

Tonight, Miami and Ohio State will hook up for the final time this season as the RedHawks will open the home schedule at Steve Cady Arena. Faceoff time is 7:05 PM EST and the game can be viewed (hopefully) via Miami All-Access.

Notes

  • Junior Blake Coleman scored only nine goals last season. Getting him going early is a great sign.
  • Miami debuted their new red/away Bauer sweaters (above) adorned with chrome highlights. It’s still early, but I’m not sure I’m loving them. Give me these bad boys any day.
  • Miami was 3-for-3 on the penalty kill and 3-for-8 on the powerplay.
  • Freshman defenseman, Trevor Hamilton, recorded his first collegiate point, an assist, on Murphy’s game-winner.

Tuesday Newsbrief – Election Day Style

The #5 Miami RedHawks completed their four-game Michigan roadie by splitting both series against conference rivals Michigan and Ferris State in what will be Miami’s final regular season trips to those schools as conference mates. In doing so, Miami avoided losing ground to either squad in the standings and returns home this weekend to face #16 Northern Michigan (4-3-1, 1-2-1 CCHA) at Steve Cady Arena.

Last weekend, Miami dropped the Friday opener 3-0 as Ferris State sophomore C.J. Motte blanked the RedHawks by stopping all 25 shots he faced as the Bulldogs outshot the RedHawks 31-25. Saturday was a much different affair as Miami came out flying notching a 4-2 victory on the strength of freshman Sean Kuraly’s first collegiate goal and two goals from sophomore sniper Austin Czarnik. Freshman Jay Williams played both nights in net as Ryan McKay recovers from injury, and picked up his fourth win of the season making 24 saves as Miami outplayed and outshot the Bulldogs 40-26.

On the season, Miami is now just 1-2-1 on Friday nights, but is a perfect 4-0 on Saturday as they ran their overall record to 5-2-1 and 2-2 in the CCHA. Miami is locked in a five-way tie for second in the league.

Looking ahead to the weekend’s opponent, Northern Michigan lost a shootout and defeated Michigan in Marquette blowing a lead on Friday and nearly doing the same on Saturday as Michigan’s senior captain A.J. Treais toyed with the hearts of Wildcat players and fans on both nights.

On Friday, Treais, who has seven goals and ten points on the season, scored with just 0.6 seconds left in regulation as Michigan overcame a 4-1 third-period deficit to send the game into overtime and ultimately to a shootout. In the shootout, Treais notched the only goal giving the Wolverines two league points on the evening and sending the Wildcats home disappointed.

On Saturday, the Wolverines faced the same 4-1 third period deficit and again rallied as Treais and Mac Bennett scored to pull Michigan within one. However, the Wildcats held on to take a 4-3 victory earning three league points and four of six on the weekend.

Notes

Earlier this week, sophomore forward Alex Wideman tweeted that he is “mono free” and hopefully that means we’ll see him this weekend in Oxford.

Sophomore Austin Czarnik (5-5-10) and freshman Riley Barber (4-6-10) share the team lead in points and are tied for second in the CCHA with the aforementioned Treais and trail Northern Michigan’s Matt Thurber (1-10-11) for the league’s top spot. It is interesting to note that both Treais and Thurber are seniors.

Miami is the highest ranked CCHA team (fifth) and seven of the eight NCHC schools are in this week’s top 20 with only Nebraska-Omaha failing to crack the rankings. Only Denver is ranked higher than Miami (third) of teams that Miami will face regularly beginning next season.

Senior defenseman Joe Hartman was again absent from the Miami lineup last weekend. Hopefully big Joe returns soon.

Miami’s victory on Saturday in Big Rapids snapped a five-game losing streak at Ferris’ Ewigleben Ice Arena. The RedHawks last won at Ferris State on Saturday January 16, 2010 when Tommy Wingels netted two goals to lead the RedHawks to a 5-4 victory and a weekend series sweep of the Bulldogs.

The RedHawks are making a concerted effort to take advantage of their speed and defensive lapses by executing stretch passes with Curtis McKenzie and Austin Czarnik hooking up several times already this year. Czarnik is a master with the puck and has extremely good vision while McKenzie is doing a fantastic job getting open by moving his feet up the ice. On Saturday, Czarnik found McKenzie for a breakaway which ultimately resulted in a penalty shot for the RedHawk senior forward that he was unable to convert, but the effort will pay off in time.

2011-2012 Roster Released

On the weekend of the NHL Draft in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Miami Athletic Department has released the 2011-2012 roster. Here’s a quick look at the newest RedHawks and the jersey number they’ll be wearing. Stay tuned for an NHL Draft recap as well!

Austin Czarnik- 7

Alex Wideman- 10

Cody Murphy- 14

Jimmy Mullin- 20

Tyler Biggs- 22

Blake Coleman- 25

Ben Paulides- 28

Connor Murphy- 55 Um, yeah…