Well folks, that was fast.
Another regular season has come and gone. Frankly, I’m glad to see this one go because it goes without saying that in this rebuilding year, Miami (15-16-3) was about as mediocre as it gets.
Now, that’s not to say this season wasn’t exciting. As we wrote a few weeks back, a movie could have most definitely be made about the season.
Consider the drama…a senior goaltender being summarily dispatched after an on-ice incident. A horrible first half of the season made mediocre with a solid second half. A senior captain, burdened by the ‘C’ struggling to regain his form. A Miami team that faces a formidable foe this weekend struggling to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes afloat.
A lot of drama.
This weekend, Miami has to find a way to win two of three games against a squad they have not beaten this season. Though Miami is 1-0 all-time (in Minnesota even) against Minnesota-Duluth (15-14-5) in the postseason, the RedHawks went 0-3-1 against them this season including dropping two in suffering an awful sweep last weekend when they were playing to host this series in Oxford. The RedHawks were outscored 8-1 and were never really in either game. Jay Williams was pulled on Friday and the team didn’t play well in front of him either night. On the bright side, freshman netminder Evan McCarthy saw his first collegiate action in the Miami net – so there’s that.
If Miami cannot rally this weekend, and frankly next (in all likelihood, they’re going to have defend their NCHC Frozen Faceoff title in order to qualify for the NCAA Tournament), it will mean that Miami will have missed the Tournament in two of the past three years. What’s worse is that like in the 2013-14 season, they were supposed to host one of the regional brackets in, yep, Cincinnati. At some point, you begin to wonder if this program has plateaued? Have we seen all that it has to give?
But that’s something we’ll consider in greater depth if the team fails to advance this weekend or next.
Duluth is built from the net out led by sophomore netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo who merely led the conference with a 1.69 GAA in conference play while ranking second with a .932 save percentage. The Bulldogs are also blessed with four solid defenders including Willie Raskob, Neal Pionk, Carson Soucy and Andy Welinski who make it hard on opposing forwards in front of Kaskisuo. Up front, UMD has a stable of solid forwards including Kyle Osterberg, Dominic Toninato, Alex Iafallo and Karson Kuhlman. It’s a deep roster that maybe won’t wow you with statistics, but one that has a threat on every line. It will be a challenge for Miami to contain UMD, something they obviously did not do last weekend.
But, I told our friend and UMD PXP man Bruce Ciskie before last weekend that I felt whichever squad won last weekend’s series, and as such home ice, would lose the following weekend when it really counts – at least for Miami.
And, as we wrote after last weekend’s sweep, Miami has over the past few seasons, found a way to make a run through the NCHC Tournament reaching the championship game in the league’s first two seasons of existence. Two years ago they went on the road after finishing dead last in the regular season and upset Penrose Cup champ St. Cloud in Minnesota and defeated North Dakota in Minneapolis before falling by a goal to Denver in the title game. That Miami squad also needed to capture the Frozen Faceoff title to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Last season, Miami finished second in the regular season and then breezed to a Frozen Faceoff championship. In doing so, the RedHawks lost their top two goal scorers, Riley Barber and Blake Coleman to injury and suspension, respectively, in the title match against St. Cloud. One thing is certain, St. Cloud wants no part of Miami in this tournament.
So, Miami can do this and they’re going to have to again. And, despite the record against UMD this year, I have a strange feeling they will find their way to Minneapolis again. And, the gang at USCHO sees this series as incredibly tough to pick as well.
Love and Honor,