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Coleman’s return lifts Miami past St. Cloud

Well, hello there!

You probably didn’t miss us even though we haven’t posted since Miami got pretty boring to watch about six weeks ago. We haven’t found this season easy to watch, either.

Anywho, Blake Coleman is back! And the junior from Texas netted his 11th and 12th goals of the season to lift Miami to an emotional win over fourth-ranked St. Cloud State at Steve Cady Arena last night.

Blake Coleman celebrates a Miami goal. (Miami University Athletics)

Coleman, who had not seen action since injuring himself (we believe he broke his collarbone) in a game on December 6 against Denver, was easily the best player on the ice. He added an immediate boost of energy and seemed to infect the RedHawks with his sense of purpose and leadership — something that’s been sorely lacking since he left the lineup. He was hitting, backchecking, hustling, creating turnovers … and scoring. Frankly, it was one of his best games since his freshman year. If he can raise his level of play, and lift the team around him, this could be a good sign as the season nears completion.

Austin Czarnik also seemed affected by Coleman’s presence in the lineup. On the first line with regular mate Riley Barber, Coleman was inserted alongside the two of them creating matchup nightmares for SCSU as that line accounted for three of Miami’s four goals and was a handful all night for the Huskies. For Czarnik he scored his 11th goal of the season and assisted twice giving the junior captain a season’s line of 11-30-41. Barber also assisted on Coleman’s first goal of the night, his 20th, in an otherwise quiet night for the sophomore sniper from Pittsburgh.

Sophomore goaltender Jay Williams earned just his fifth win of the season evening his record at 5-5. He wasn’t great, but he did enough to enable Miami to record its second win over SCSU this year. Consider. Miami has only 11 wins this season but they have beaten an impressive list of teams with far better records than the RedHawks. Miami has beaten North Dakota, St. Cloud (twice), Wisconsin, Denver and Ohio State (twice) who is somehow 15-10-3. Oh, wait. I know. It’s because duhOSU has the 46th ranked strength of schedule in college hockey. For the record, Miami has played the 15th most difficult schedule in the nation and sits at 11-15-3.

Austin Czarnik scored a goal and added two assists in Miami’s 4-3 win over SCSU. (Miami University Athletics)

Can one player make a difference?

Well, it certainly looked that way last night. Miami put forth a level of effort, a much higher “compete level” to paraphrase CBS Sports analyst Dave Starman, that I haven’t seen in months. Will this be the start of a late season run that could carry this team into the NCHC playoffs and save the entire campaign? Or will this just be a blip on the radar? While I’m not completely sold on this as a bellwether moment, I’m at least curious for one more night to see how this team responds.

After Rough Road Trip, Miami Returns Home

The Miami RedHawks headed to Kalamazoo last weekend in search of an identity. They were starting off the second half of the season against a familiar foe, with a lot to work on. The defense needed shoring up, the penalty kill needed improvement and most of all, the power play was struggling in the first half, and it was time to figure things out.

Going in, Coach Blasi most certainly wasn’t going to say that the trip to Western Michigan was going to be an easy weekend. In fact, as we said in our weekend preview, he was very complementary to the Broncos. But in the back of his mind, Rico had to be thinking of 6 points. Western Michigan is a team that Miami is very familiar with and has played well against in recent past. The Broncos were expected to have a down year, and were tied at the bottom of the standings with the RedHawks coming into the weekend. Miami was predicted to finish at the top of the conference and started the year as the #2 team in the country.

As we are reminded of time and time again, matchups on paper mean nothing. “That’s why you play the games,” as they say. Miami allowed 3 shorthanded goals against, went just 1 for 13 on the power play (1 PPG on 5 chances on Friday, 0 for 8 on Saturday), and lost 2 heartbreaking 1-goal decisions. 0 points. Last place in the NCHC.

Ouch.

In our time cheering for Miami sports, I know we’ve all drank the Drain-O kool-aid. This was one of those weekends for us here at the Blog of Brotherhood. Having taken our annual guys trip to Kalamazoo for the weekend, I can certainly say the beer and company were better than the hockey. There were many times where we all looked at each other in disbelief as the events transpired on the ice before us.

Jay Williams can't stop Nolan LaPorte of Western Michigan on Saturday night. LaPorte had game winning goals each night last weekend. (GS Photo)

Jay Williams can’t stop Nolan LaPorte of Western Michigan on Saturday night. LaPorte had game winning goals each night last weekend. (GS Photo)

Friday night was just a night of missed opportunities and lackluster play. The shots after 1 period were 19-5 in favor of Western Michigan Friday night and the ice was heavily slanted in their favor. Scoring chances isn’t an NCAA statistic, but Western must have had 6 or 7 grade A chances that they couldn’t put past Miami’s Ryan McKay in net in addition to the one that did find paydirt. They played well the rest of the way, but a soft goal allowed by McKay and a controversial goal with 8.3 seconds left, and Miami was headed to the hotel with a sour taste in their mouths.

I actually think the RedHawks played better on Saturday night, even with several stats showing otherwise. First, they went 0 for 8 on the power play and were behind by 2 goals for a long chunk of the game (the only time that either team was ahead by more than 1 goal, by the way). Criticisms of the power play and lack of effort rained down from various RedHawks fans in attendance at times due to the out-of-character performance by several on the ice.

New Leadership

One thing that I did see this past weekend was excellent leadership and guts by Sean Kuraly. Before the weekend, Kuraly was given an A on the newly minted sweaters for the RedHawks (more on the jerseys to come). I can’t say enough about the hustle, determination and sheer disregard for his body that Sean showed all weekend, and Sean certainly earned his Assistant Captain position last weekend. From our vantage point, it was clear that Sean was the best player on the ice for either team both nights.

On Friday night, Kuraly had 2 goals on 4 shots, went 11 for 24 on faceoffs, and I’m certain would have recorded 5 or more hits on the night if it was a recorded statistic. Saturday’s line would only see Kuraly receive an assist with 5 shots, but he did have a goal that would have been unassisted had the referees not overturned the call on the ice (due to goaltender interference).

Max Cook was also awarded an Assistant Captain’s “A” on his sweater for the weekend. The senior from Frankfort, IL is just 7 games away from playing in 100 in a RedHawks sweater and has 19 hard-earned points over those 93 games, playing mostly on the 2nd and 3rd lines during his time at Miami.

New Attire

As you can see from the recent tweet from The Brotherhood (link), the RedHawks donned new sweaters last weekend. These are a return back to the jerseys of the last several years.

There have been many (unconfirmed) rumors about the jerseys over the course of the first half of the season, and it appears that the bedazzled look of the first half of the year wasn’t cutting it for the RedHawks. In the end, after a color issue for the first weekend of the year (see: jersey sale in the Goggin Pro Shop) and a general dislike for the jerseys from many fans, it seemed that the jerseys were not doing the job and Miami made a switch off of the Nike jerseys to these new Adidas jerseys. This also aligns the hockey team with the rest of the university in terms of their outfitters – a wise choice on all fronts.

The Weekend Ahead – Nebraska-Omaha in Oxford for 2-Game Set

Matthew Caito and the RedHawks look to rebound this weekend as they host Nebraska-Omaha. (Photo: Doug Cutler)

Matthew Caito and the RedHawks look to rebound this weekend as they host Nebraska-Omaha. (Photo: Doug Cutler)

For a while this week, I thought of writing this piece with the thought that the 2 one-goal losses didn’t seem indicative of how the games were played this week. In the end, I really didn’t like how Miami played, with the exceptions of Kuraly and Cody Murphy, who is always hustling, the RedHawks didn’t impress me much last weekend.

This weekend, Miami welcomes the Mavericks of the University of Nebraska-Omaha. These will be the first games in Goggin since December 7th and 8th – a span of 7 weeks. Welcome home, indeed.

If you remember, the weekend before Thanksgiving, Miami traveled to Omaha and got spanked by scores of 6-3 and 3-1. At that point, Miami was starting to realize life in the NCHC was going to be tougher than they thought, and after the 2 wins, UNO found themselves in first place in the new conference.

On Friday night back in November, Miami was up 1-0 after the first, but UNO scored 5 second period goals en route to the 6-3 win and Miami was shell-shocked the rest of the weekend. There was no coming back from that devastating period and Miami’s slide had begun.

At present, Miami sits in the cellar of the NCHC, a conference they were picked to win at the start of the season, and are a whopping 13 points behind first place St. Cloud State. At 3-7-0 in the NCHC, there’s a lot of work to be done over the last 14 games of the season. UNO is in a tie for 3rd in the conference – a position not many expected to this point in the 2013-14 campaign. There are 14 games left for the RedHawks, and this weekend is critical to their success in the conference as well as their hopes to make the NCAA tournament come March.

Injury update

If you remember this past weekend, Austin Czarnik was hit high during the second period of the Friday night game in Kalamazoo. It was a hit that didn’t really look to cause any grief for Miami’s Captain at the time, but Czarnik didn’t play a whole lot in the second and was not on the bench for the third when Miami let the game slip away. Then on Saturday, Czarnik was in his Miami warm-ups and was a spectator in the stands and would disappear into the locker room with the team at each intermission.

Blake Coleman has been a catalyst for MIami, but missed last weekend with an upper body injury. (Miami University Athletics)

Blake Coleman has been a catalyst for MIami, but missed last weekend with an upper body injury. (Miami University Athletics)

We cannot confirm nor deny what happened to Czarnik (because we simply don’t know), but he was out with an undisclosed upper body injury. While a concussion is still a serious injury, I’m hopeful that this is all it was, as this usually means a short turnaround time. With a shoulder, collarbone or other upper body injury, he could miss an extended period of time. We will see tonight whether Czarnik is on the ice or not.

Blake Coleman also didn’t play last weekend, as he is still recovering from a suspected collarbone injury suffered on Friday December 6th against Denver (he was seen in a sling in Goggin also spectating that Saturday’s game before the holiday break). Again, no confirmation if that’s what the injury is/was, but Blake may also make return this weekend against UNO.

Both games will be televised on Miami All-Access, and Friday’s Game is Televised Locally on Time Warner Cable.

Enjoy the games RedHawks. Let’s get a W (or 2?) this weekend!

Miami Returns Home for Weekend Set with Denver

The Miami RedHawks come into this weekend as the Number 12 team in the country, coming off of a 4-game road trip. The Denver Pioneers visit Steve Cady Arena on a 6-game unbeaten streak, and come in as the hotter team. Here comes our week-in-review and preview of the weekend!

Head Coach Rico Blasi was fairly pleased with his team’s play last weekend at Bemidji State: “We played really well in the first period Friday night. We came out and did the things we needed to do. It was a good sign to come off the sweep the week before. I thought we executed really well (outshot 17-5). In the 3rd, the bounces kind of got away from us in a tie game. At least we responded when [Bemidji State] tied it up. They kept coming after us.”

I like that statement. The boys responded when Bemidji tied it up. Sure, the RedHawks held a 4-1 lead into the third period and left with just a tie. But we’ve seen this happen before, and Miami at least responded to salvage a tie. Remember, Miami had been on a 3-game losing streak. This made it 4 in a row without a win, but Saturday night would end that streak and now Miami has turned it around and is on a 2-game unbeaten streak.

“Saturday night we started off great again” Blasi said. “In the third, we really said enough is enough. We played hard and we played within our system and we were rewarded for that. It was a huge win on Saturday night. I could tell with the facial expressions on our team and the way we were playing in the last couple minutes with the lead. A good way to go into our final weekend before break and exams.”

3 Stars of the Week

Devin Loe was a surprise addition to the top line last weekend, and scored his first 2 collegiate goals. (Photo: Bemidji State Beavers)

Devin Loe was a surprise addition to the top line last weekend, and scored his first 2 collegiate goals. (Photo: Bemidji State Beavers)

3. Devin Loe scored his first and second goals of his collegiate career in Saturday night’s game, the first coming just 11 seconds into the contest. Playing with Austin Czarnik (0-5–5 Saturday) and Riley Barber (1-3–4 Saturday) certainly has its advantages. It was another strange pairing from Coach Blasi, but one that certainly paid dividends in Saturday’s 6-3 win.

2. Our number 2 star earns this spot as more of a culmination of the month of November. Ryan McKay has been outstanding in net, and most importantly, he has been alone in net. Early on this season, I wrote that the two-headed goalie monster situation should be revisited, and I preferred that it end. Not that we had much say in the matter, but things have changed in Miami’s net. Ryan McKay has mostly given Coach Enrico Blasi an easier decision lately, and rather than splitting the weekend duties, McKay has gotten the nod in 8 of the last 10 games. Jay Williams started Saturday against Canisius (November 2). In the Friday night game in Omaha, he succumbed to an injury early in the second period, so McKay has played all but 22 minutes in net for the last 4 series.

Including his start Friday night against Canisius on November 1st, McKay was 4-4-1 in those 9 games. He had 2 consecutive shutouts – the aforementioned game against Canisius and then a 2-0 win in St. Cloud – and added a third shutout against Wisconsin. While he did have a rough patch against Omaha, his stats are still rock solid this year: 3 shutouts to lead the NCAA, .927 Save % (17th in the country) and 2.38 Goals Against Average.

1. Guess who? 101 career points (7-17–24 this season), 5 assists on Friday night and the NCHC’s Offensive Player of the Week award (his second of the season). He became the 48th Miami player to eclipse the century mark and was a ridiculous +4 on the night. All of this after being silenced on Friday night with just 1 shot. What a year Czarnik and Barber are having together, and both guys could be headed for Hobey Finalist nods (top 10). But this week belonged to The Captain.

Czarnik, still just a Junior, had this to say about the weekend: “We’ve been dealing with a lot of adversity and Saturday we needed to come out with a mission. I went into the locker room before the third period and said boys, we need to stop this right now and we need to get on the right track. In the third period we just took over and that was huge for us and we got the win. That even helped carry over [to this week] in practice.”

The Weekend Ahead

“Early they lost a couple games,” Coach Blasi said about the Pioneers. “What I see on video is a very good team. They have good special teams. Their D can jump in the play and if you’re not paying attention to things, if you’re not managing the puck well, they’re going to make you pay.”

Austin Czarnik takes a shot in last weekend's series against Bemidji State. (Photo: Bemidji State Beavers)

Austin Czarnik takes a shot in last weekend’s series against Bemidji State. (Photo: Bemidji State Beavers)

After two weeks on the road and a 1-2-1 record to show for it, tonight and tomorrow’s matchups in The Nest will be critical. This is the typical time for Miami to give up a few ghastly losses (don’t call it The Swoon). Blasi echoed the same sentiment: “We had two weekends on the road so it seems like we haven’t been at home for forever. It’s huge. Home ice in any league and especially in our league should make a difference and give you a little extra energy what you might need to go to get a W.” Hopefully the [S-word – redacted] behind this team and we’ll see a nice streak towards the finish.

From here on out, minus a New Year’s Eve exhibition matchup with the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP U-18), Miami plays 100% NCHC games. That streak starts tonight with Denver, a team that is coming in on a bit of a streak of their own. Czarnik knows this weekend’s series is big: “We’ve been dealing with a lot of adversity and Saturday we needed to come out with a mission. Every week is going to be hard. We’re just 2-4 now (in NCHC play), so every game is going to be a battle until the end. We need to stay with our systems and just execute. We have to focus on executing and playing hard as a team.”

Battle. Execute. It’s a simple formula.

Miami will take the ice tonight at 7:30 and the game can be seen on Miami All-Access. Tomorrow night’s contest starts at 7:00. Go RedHawks!

First period thoughts…

After one period of play from Omaha, Neb., #8 Miami leads Nebraska Omaha 1-0. Bryon Paulazzo had the Miami goal on the powerplay assisted by Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber.

Some thoughts from the pressbox…

  • Blake Coleman is strong. He threw his weight around the ice and can seemingly protect the puck with just one hand on his stick.
  • Austin Czarnik is the real deal. There is a zip on his passes. He doesn’t just make a pass, he means it. It’s impressive to see how accurate, and powerful, his passes are. Additionally, he has a very active stick always getting it in the passing lanes and is really impressive with the puck.
  • Good defensive period for Miami. UNO’s top line of Zombo, Archibald and Walters were relatively invisible.
  • Taylor Richart is a silent assassin. He is everywhere and he is no where. Always in position, always on the puck. His 150 foot slapper that drew a faceoff on the PK was impressive.
  • Riley Barber looks more aggressive tonight. There does appear to be more space tonight than previous games and he is making the most of it getting shots to the net. His shot and subsequent rebound found Paulazzo’s stick for Miami’s goal.
  • Max Cook and Ben Paulides look a little shaky. I think they could both use a boost of confidence.
  • UNO’s transition game might be the only way they score tonight (aside from a powerplay). Their speed is challenging Miami’s D to be alert and the Hawks’ forwards to backcheck — which Czarnik, in particular, has done well.

More to come!

RedHawks to head to ‘Somewhere in Middle America’

With apologies to Adam Duritz and “Counting Crows,” Miami hits the road for Omaha to take on old CCHA foe Nebraska Omaha in a weekend NCHC series.

The Mavericks, you may recall, were conference mates with Miami from 1999 until leaving the CCHA in favor of the WCHA in 2010. That, of course, was an ill-fated and perhaps short-sighted move, as college hockey underwent enormous realignment after the announcement that the Big Ten would field its own hockey conference in spring 2011. And, after all was said and done, UNO and Miami, along with charter schools Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota would announce the formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in summer 2011.

After two more seasons in the CCHA and WCHA respectively, Miami and UNO once again find themselves facing off as conference rivals. This weekend marks the first time the programs have met since February 20, 2010 in Oxford when UNO knocked off then #1 Miami 4-2 in head coach Dean Blais’ first trip to Steve Cady Arena.

The ‘Dean’ of the NCHC

Speaking of Dean Blais, his resume speaks for itself. But, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi summed it up nicely during his weekly press conference.

“The one thing I know about Dean Blais’ teams is they’re going to play hard and they’re going to be in your face and you’re going to have to be ready to compete for 60 minutes.”

UNO’s Dean Blais is in his fifth season behind the Mavericks’ bench. (BleacherReport.com)

One of the most decorated American amateur coaches in recent history, Blais spent 10 seasons behind the bench at North Dakota, where he compiled a record of 262-115-34 and won two national titles (1997, 2000) before leaving to take an associate head coaching job with the Columbus Blue Jackets. After spending four years in Cowtown, also serving as director of player development, Blais went back to his amateur roots where he was hired by the Fargo Force of the USHL to be their head coach, and was eventually lured back to school in 2009 by new Omaha AD Trev Alberts. In going to Omaha, he took over the reins of the program from long time head man Mike Kemp, who is largely regarded as the Father of UNO hockey. Blais has also long been involved with USA Hockey winning a gold medal in 2010 with the U-20 World Junior team. The two-time Spencer Penrose winner (1997, 2001) has an all-time record of 342-189-49 over nearly 15 seasons in college hockey.

Whom to Watch

On the ice, the Mavericks (6-6, 3-1 T2nd NCHC) are led by 2013 Hobey Baker finalist, senior Ryan Walters, who finished last season with 52 points (which tied for 2nd in program history for a single season) after scoring 22 goals. Listed at 6-0/190, Walters has started strong and is tied for the team lead in points (13) on three goals and has helped the Mavs rebound from a 2-4 start to win four of their past six including last weekend’s split with then #2 Michigan in Omaha. Along with Walters, Miami much watch

Senior Ryan Walters leads a dangerous UNO offense. (Colorado Springs Gazette)

junior forward Josh Archibald who leads the team in goals (9) and is tied with Walters atop the team’s scoring list. Archibald’s name should be familiar to some as he skated on Team USA’s 2012 U-20 team which failed to medal a year after earning bronze in Buffalo. Others to make note of include junior forward Dominic Zombo (5-5-10) and senior Brock Monpetit (6-3-9) who rank third and fourth in team scoring for UNO.

Overall, the Mavericks are second in the NCHC in scoring averaging 3.08 goals per game. Miami at 3.42 goals per game leads the way in the league with 41 goals though St. Cloud is averaging just a shade more at 3.50 goals per game in two fewer contests played.

Who’s in Net?

Defensively, the Mavericks are allowing 3.25 goals per game as they have struggled to find consistency in net. Lately however, UNO has gotten better goaltending from junior Ryan Massa and freshman Kirk Thompson having allowed more than three goals just once over their past six games. Massa and Thompson are very similar goaltenders. Both are around six feet tall and possess nearly identical numbers. For instance, both goaltenders are 3-2 with goals against averages north of 3 and save percentages below .900. In contrast, Miami allows just 2.08 goals per game and sophomore Ryan McKay leads the nation with three shutouts and has posted sterling 1.74/.943 numbers. However, because McKay has played the last four games for Miami, I would not be at all surprised to see McKay in net Friday night and fellow sophomore Jay Williams (2-2/2.75/.905) between the pipes on Saturday.

The RedHawks

For Miami (7-4-1, 2-2 T5th NCHC), the eighth ranked RedHawks enter the weekend having faced two top 15 teams in a row after splitting series with NCHC foe St. Cloud State and Big Ten opponent Wisconsin just last weekend in Oxford. That stretch has catapulted Miami’s strength of schedule to the top of the heap. This week’s KRACH ratings show Miami’s SOS sitting at #1 having played the most challenging schedule in the land.

Overall, the offense is simply not delivering against top teams as they have managed just 13 goals in their last six games against ranked opponents including just seven goals total over the past two weekends.

Junior Blake Coleman has picked up his game this year. (MURedHawks.com)

As teams focus on shutting down the top line of Riley Barber, Austin Czarnik and Jimmy Mullin, Miami must have secondary scoring from throughout the lineup. To this point, most of that scoring has come from junior Blake Coleman as he has netted seven goals which ties him with Czarnik for second on the team. Last season, Coleman scored nine goals so he’s well on his way to surpassing that total as his game continues to improve. But, outside of Coleman’s efforts, only two other RedHawks have scored at many as four goals (Alex Wideman and Anthony Louis).

And, as head coach Enrico Blasi said earlier this week, Miami needs to have all four lines contributing in order to play their game and be successful. Said Blasi,

“We need everybody in our lineup doing the same thing. Everybody’s got to be on the same page. This is not a team that’s going to rely solely on one or two players.”

Prediction

All-time, Miami is 17-7-3 against Omaha including a 7-4-1 mark in the self-proclaimed, “Gateway to the West.”

Tired of splitting, I think Miami gets a much-needed league sweep this weekend in Omaha. And, we’ll be live tweeting from the press box of the Century Link Center @miamihockeyblog and will have updates and recaps immediately following Friday night’s game. Miami All-Access has the call both nights along with local radio coverage at 1450-AM (Friday only) and 1490-AM (both nights).

Weekend Preview: What’s a Golden Griffin?

“This weekend will be no different – they are a very good hockey team,” Head Coach Enrico Blasi said. “They beat Denver in Denver. We need to continue to prepare at a high level during the week and start implementing some of those things we are doing during the week during pressure situations (in games). Playing top teams will expose you. Some times you do positive things and you learn from your positive play. I think both things are happening right now. We need to clean up the negatives and hopefully have more positives than negatives.”

Miami had quite the schedule to start the season: weekend series against in-state rival Ohio State, #5 North Dakota and this week’s #3 team Providence. Miami gets a break and faces off against the Canisius Golden Griffins this weekend. It will be more than just a physical test on the ice, but a mental one as well. Miami won’t be able to help thinking “we should crush these guys” and the fans will have that same thought as well. I know I do.

Scouting the Golden Griffins

4-0-0 all time against Canisius? 23-3 all time score over them? 11-5-0 all time against Atlantic Hockey teams overall? Don’t let it go to your heads, boys. All of these facts don’t mean this will be an easy weekend.

Through 3 games, Senior Defenseman Ben Danford leads the Golden Griffins with 5 assists and 5 points. Keegan Asmundson stopped Denver, and led the Golden Griffins to a 4-1 win last weekend. He was named Atlantic Hockey’s goaltender of the week for his effort. But what are we going to see from Canisius on the ice? It’s going to be interesting which team shows up – the team that beat 17th ranked Denver 4-1 in Magness Arena? Or will it be the team that has lost to Air Force AND Niagara on opening weekend?

We’ve Got a lot of Broken Records

On the Miami side of things, you know what I’m going to say next…

Riley Barber is first in the nation in scoring with 12 points, and his 8 goals are second in the nation. Austin Czarnik has 11 points, had 5 assists last weekend and was named NCHC Offensive Player of the Week. Sound like a broken record? Well, it is, but I’m happy to be talking about leading scorers at this point of the season. Hopefully these two guys will be in those same positions at the end of the season and we’ll be talking about Hobey Baker Finalists again.

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

Like a broken record: we should see Jay Williams Friday night and Ryan McKay (pictured) on Saturday. (Toledo Blade: Andy Morrison)

Another spot on that same record that’s skipping and repeating over and over again? We detailed it as the season started, and so far, it has been a straight-up rotation in net for the RedHawks. Blasi hasn’t wavered in his Friday/Williams and Saturday/McKay rotation and don’t expect it to change this weekend. (Well…actually…depending on how close the games are, you might see walk-on Anthony Jacaruso get his first NCAA playing time this weekend if things get out of hand. With the early season momentum needing to get moving in the right direction however, don’t count on it.)

Prediction Time

This weekend should be a nice clean sweep to get Miami back on solid footing before heading to St. Cloud State next weekend for their first ever NCHC road trip. Ryan McKay and Jay Williams should both get on track to get their seasons rolling as well. Austin Czarnik will pass the puck a million different ways (behind the back, through the legs, off the scoreboard) to Riley Barber, who will impress us with his amazing shooting ability. Whoops. There’s that broken record skipping again…

Be sure to follow us on Twitter, as we will be giving you what we can during this weekend’s games at @MiamiHockeyBlog. Enjoy the hockey, everyone!

Providence Too Much to Handle

We’ll be the first to say it: Miami didn’t look so hot against an up-and-coming Providence Friars team this past weekend. There were several defensive lapses, a couple of soft goals and a continued string of untimely penalties both nights. Those mistakes were just too much to overcome against the now third-ranked Friars. Sure, the offense was able to make things look good with 2 comebacks to force overtime in both games, but plainly said, the defense needs to be better.

Here are Friday’s highlights from Providence:

Keep an eye on the overtime game winner for Providence. Granted this goal came on a 5 on 3 power play for the Friars, but on a shot from within 2 inches of the goal line, the puck has to stay out of the net. This came just 1 second before 1 of the Miami players was due to come out of the box, and Miami’s efforts to come down from an early 2-0 lead were squandered.

And here are Saturday’s highlights. We blame the Friars for the lack of sound (It’s all your fault! It’s all…ok…we’ll stop.):

Saturday night took on an eerily similar feel to it only half way through the first. Providence was up 2-0 again with just 9:25 gone in the period, but Riley Barber would score his second of the weekend to pull within 1 on a short handed goal. Barber’s goal was scored just 15 seconds after Providence went up 2-0, but they’d return the favor immediately thereafter, and it was another 2-goal hole to climb out of.

On each of the first 2 goals, keep an eye out for missed Miami checks. Each aggressive play is what Enrico Blasi will always preach, and it’s the right play – you can’t be waiting for the play to get to you. But in these 2 cases, you have to be certain to take the opposing skater out of the play. When the dust settled on the first period, it was those 2 missed checks and a juicy rebound that led to a 3-2 Providence lead. 4 of the 5 goals were scored in an 86 second blitz midway through the period. We could barely catch our breath:

After the weekend, Head Coach Enrico Blasi has this to say:

Obviously not the weekend we wanted. I thought our guys played hard, but we seemed to be making some plays that resulted in goals against. Of course things need to be cleaned up. I thought the good sign is that we were a resilient group. Both Friday and Saturday night we had to come back, but on Saturday we carried the play for the most part, we came back and really took it to them after that.

I’m disappointed in the outcomes, but we are going to continue to focus on the process.

Here come our three stars and weekend news to use for this week.

Three Stars of the Weekend

I get the feeling you’re going to continue seeing our #1 and 2 stars even more this season.

3. Miami’s Penalty Kill on Friday night. I can’t go as far to say both nights here, mainly because they were just 1 of 3 on Saturday night, but Friday night was nearly perfect. Other than the 5 on 3 goal previously mentioned, Miami killed 8 straight penalties. I’ve not seen a box score so lit up with strange penalties. Blake Coleman was hit with a diving penalty but didn’t get the accompanying call on Providence. Kevin Morris got a 10-minute misconduct late in the third, and Chris Joyaux got a 5-minute major and game misconduct with 3 minutes to go. With all of those penalties and shortening of the bench, Miami still got this game into overtime, much to the thanks of this penalty killing unit.

2. As if he didn’t before, Austin Czarnik is really starting to remind me of Andy Miele. I have these memories in my head of #17 skating around the offensive zone with the puck, from behind the net, around the boards, to the blue line, and back to the net. Only instead of the nameplate being Miele, it’s more and more becoming that of Czarnik (minus the 1). I wish Miami kept the “time on ice” (or TOI) stat because I’m certain Z’s would be north of 22-24 minutes for every game. Miele … er … I mean … Czarnik had assists on 5 of the 6 Miami goals this weekend and 5 blocked shots on Friday, to earn himself our #2 star of the weekend as well as the NCHC Offensive Player of the Week award.

1. I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, but really: Riley Barber IS. GOOD. AT. HOCKEY. Friday night: a game-high 7 shots, and the game-tying power play goal at 7:08 of the third period. Saturday? There was more. 2 goals, including – you guessed it – the game tying, power play tally. This time it was a little sooner, at the 4:53 mark of the third period. John Buccigross reminded us on Sunday where Barber stands in the NCAA scoring race:

Diving In

Let’s take a look at faceoffs quickly, because the box score tells us an interesting story from Friday night. Czarnik took 31 draws on Friday and won just 10 of them. He would recover to win 14 of 26 on Saturday, but overall on Friday night, Miami was just 30 for 78 on the faceoff dot – just 38%. That’s not going to cut it.

Riley Barber has been doing it all for the RedHawks through 6 games. (Flickr: Dani Mackenzie)

Riley Barber has been doing it all for the RedHawks through 6 games. (Flickr: Dani Mackenzie)

Miami is now 8 of 29 on the power play (27.6%) and is ranked 9th in the country. As we mentioned in our 3 Stars, the Penalty Kill was great on Friday night, but stunk it up on Saturday night allowing to power play goals. On the season, Miami is sputtering on the penalty kill at just 80.6%, a portion of the game that will need to be improved upon if they want to stay in the top 5 in the rankings. The 2 shorthanded goals indicate that Miami is being their normal selves – very agressive on the penalty kill, which can lead to some openings, and so far this season, it has been to their detriment.

Coming into the weekend, Providence was 19 for 19 on their penalty kill – a big reason they were sitting at #8 in the country. They would run that to 23 kills on their first 23 penalties until the third period when Blake Coleman and Barber slammed home 2 PPGs to halt that streak. Miami now has power play goals in 4 of their first 6 games.

Coming Up Next

Miami will host Canisius for a 2 game set this weekend in Oxford. Game times are 7:35 Friday night and 7:05 Saturday night. Last year, Canisius made the NCAA tournament, and are 1-2-0 this season. We’ll have more for you later this week.

RedHawks Rewind: Recapping Week 1

Sing a song! Miami Sweeps Ohio State on opening weekend!

Sing a song! Miami Sweeps Ohio State on opening weekend!

We partied too much on Saturday night and you have permission to give us a tongue lashing when you see us in Oxford this weekend for skipping out on the Twitter SixPack and our new Three Stars feature. We’ll be more diligent with the SixPack in the future. Promise. Time for some news you can use after last weekend’s games.

After the win, here are a few things Coach Blasi had to say:

That’s obviously the first weekend of our season against our huge in state rival and its a huge start for us.  We’ve been opportunistic with our chances and if we’re going to play with this intensity, scoring will come. But we still have to clean things up. We’ve got to manage the puck a little bit better and be more determined away from the puck.

I thought our defense handled themselves well – I thought we saw a lot better gap control tonight but we’re still a work in progress, and we have to get better. We’ve got to forget about what happened and get ready for our next game.

Saturday’s 3 Stars

Riley Barber currently leads the NCAA with 7 points after 1 week. (Michael Griggs/Miami University Athletics)

Riley Barber currently leads the NCAA with 7 points after 1 week. (Michael Griggs/Miami University Athletics)

3. Enrico Blasi and the Power Play unit. On Friday night, Blasi deployed 5 forwards on their 2 early 5-on-3 power plays, and why not? They scored twice, so it was clearly the right move. On Saturday, Miami again scored a power play goal, this time on just a normal 5-on-4 scenario. On the ice were Riley Barber who scored the goal, Austin Czarnik, Blake Coleman and Max Cook, plus Matthew Caito – Miami’s best offensive defenseman. Miami is now 4 of 10 on the power play in 2 games, having scored in both games. Sat’s PPG came in just 14 seconds of PP time as well.

2. Austin Czarnik had 4 points (1-3–4) on the night. Add in a goal from Friday and he still wasn’t even close to our #1 star for the weekend. But Czarnik was, as usual, all over the ice and looked like the best player on either squad and an early season Hobey Baker favorite.

1. Was there any question that Riley Barber would get this slot? Barber had 3 assists Friday and 4 goals Saturday (let’s see if he can keep up 3.5 points per game this season!). Barber becomes the first RedHawk to score 4 goals since Tommy Wingels did so in December of 2009.

Check out the Saturday night highlights from Miami All-Access and Rachel Lewis’s Photo Gallery of Saturday’s game.

Press Clippings

By now you know that Miami sits firmly atop the National Polls. What you may not remember is that the last time Miami played North Dakota on November 28, 2009, they were amidst a 12-week run (their longest ever) at #1. North Dakota was #4 at the time.

Barber and Hamilton garner two of the four first-ever NCHC weekly awards. You know what Barber did – basically undressed Ohio State for two nights, notching 3 assists and 4 goals, to earn the first NCHC Player of the Week. Trevor Hamilton is one of the new faces in Oxford, and had 3 assists and was a +4 on the weekend to earn Rookie of the Week. Read all about it from the NCHC.

Upcoming

North Dakota heads to Oxford for their first ever visit. Miami is 0-2-1 vs North Dakota all time. The three matchups were in 1999 in Milwaukee, WI, in the Lefty McFadden Invitational to start the 2005-06 season and the aforementioned 5-5 tie in 2009. Get used to seeing North Dakota, as we see them twice more this year (Happy Valentine’s Day), and a whole bunch more as we move forward in the NCHC. Most likely, the NCHC Tournament will have to go through them as well. We are reminded by Brad Schlossman – writer for North Dakota at the Grand Forks Herald – how good Miami has been at home recently:

After playing UND this weekend, Miami then heads out to Providence, RI for a return date with the Friars after they came to Oxford last year.

#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.

Going the Distance – Game 3 tonight

keep-calm-and-redhawk-on

After Friday night, there was some panic around Oxford in regards to the Miami Hockey program after being shut out by the 11th seeded Spartans in game 1. “Was the whole season a waste?” “Was the regular season a fluke?” “Why did a team with such firepower get shutout 7 times this year?”

Well, I think Enrico Blasi and the RedHawks turned all of those doubts into more hope for this young team with a 4-1 victory that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated last night. Let’s take a look at the two nights’ work.

On Friday, Michigan State came out firing with their first goal at 8:04 of the night. Miami couldn’t counter punch at all. A usually stout Austin Czarnik was just 5 for 21 in the faceoff circle, and Miami’s scoring chances were minimal. Ryan McKay stopped 21 of 24 shots on the night, but on the other end, Freshman Jake Hildebrand blocked all 34 shots Miami fired at him and MSU skated away with the shutout win.

Turn the page to Saturday night, and we saw the team that has been in the top 10 for the entire season, currently stands as the #3 team in the land and the team that is second in the country in scoring defense at 1.63 Goals per game.

To start the game, Miami wasn’t messing around. Senior Captain Steven Spinell, having not played entirely up to his potential over the last several weeks, decided to set the tone. The very first time MSU tried to cross the red line at center ice, Spinell laid out MSU’s Kevin Walrod. In the post-game press conference, Spinell said he “saw the opportunity and took it to send a message and set the tone for our team. We’re here to battle, and that was our focus.” (courtesy: Rick Cassano, Hamilton Journal-News) Spinell took a 2 minute penalty for and Indirect contact to the head – elbowing infraction, but the tone was set.

Last night, Miami held Michigan State to just 4 shots in the first period, 5 in the second and 8 in the third. Unfortunately, scoring chances isn’t an official stat, but I’d venture a guess that Miami had around 17 scoring chances compared to those 17 actual shots by Michigan State. In the second period alone, Miami outshot MSU 20-5 and really made the game look like it was theirs without question.

Once again, Blasi pulled the right strings and added some extra strokes to his masterpiece of a season. Blasi took Blake Coleman out of the game as a healthy scratch and inserted Bryon Paulazzo seemingly on a whim. To make the lines fit, he also dropped Cody Murphy down to the fourth line. Murphy was centered by Max Cook and also had Jimmy Mullin on his line for the night. Murphy had a goal and an assist, and Mullin scored the first Miami goal of the series that really turned the momentum in favor of the Hawks.

Miami was clearly the better team, and after Mullin opened the scoring, the rout was on. Austin Czarnik scored the game winning goal – his NCAA leading 4th shorthanded goal – off of a fantastic effort from Riley Barber, and Miami never looked back. In all, 4 RedHawks had multi-point nights: Czarnik would add a second goal in the 3rd period, Matthew Caito (team high 6 shots) and Barber had 2 helpers each, and Murphy had his spectacular goal and added an assist to go along with his 4 shots on the night.

Tonight, we find out if the momentum gained in the first period of Saturday’s game will carry into Sunday’s deciding game 3. If Miami can win, they will head to The Joe and will face the hottest team in the NCAA in Michigan (7-0-1 in their last 8). If MSU wins, Miami still likely has a #1 seed wrapped up, but will not have the opportunity to win the final CCHA Tournament Championship in Detroit next weekend.

Tickets are still available for tonight’s game. Tickets are $3 for students and $18-23 otherwise. Puck drop is at 7:05 once again, and the game can be seen in HD on Miami All-Access.