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Weekend Recap: RedHawks get 5 CCHA points on the weekend

Sing a song? Light the lantern? Sweepness? Well…almost anyway.

The Miami RedHawks came back to Goggin Ice Arena and despite a rough first period on Saturday night, got their season in full gear for a young team that is now atop the CCHA standings.

That feels good to say… “Atop the CCHA standings.” After opening the CCHA’s Celebrate the Legacy season with road trips to Michigan (now 6-46-3 all time) and Ferris State (always a tough place and opponent), to come out of the first 3 weekends of CCHA play on top feels real nice.

In the process, Miami has seen freshman goaltender Jay Williams take the spotlight in what we thought would be another 4 years of rotating goalies. While we still will likely see the rotation for a while, Ryan McKay stayed on the bench – a sweet sweet luxury that head coach Enrico Blasi will certainly enjoy. If Williams does continue to get the nod and later falters, a healthy, rested and eager McKay will be eager to get back out there. Knowing Blasi, however, McKay has healed up and will be back on the ice against Michigan State next weekend. In any event, Williams improves to 5-2-1 on the year, has a .911 save percentage and is allowing just 2.5 goals per game.

Last night, Jay stood tall in net (at 6’2″ I suppose he is always standing tall) despite a lot of untimely turnovers and 2 awful embellishment calls from the Referee combination of Steven McInchak and Rodney Tocco (did somebody say Taco?). They certainly cost Miami 2 power play chances that Miami could have turned into paydirt.. In addition, the 2 embellishment calls were widely contested by the raucus Miami crowd last night, and at the end of the night, may have earned coach Blasi a penalty on consecutive nights.

On Friday night, Miami was assessed a Bench Minor at 15:20 of the third period, and Blasi was less than pleased with McInchak and Taco Tocco. It may have been because NMU’s Kyle Follmer was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the whistle. That was Follmer’s 4th 2-minute minor of the night, and he continued some of his antics on Saturday night with another 2-minute minor in the 2nd period. Then, during Saturday’s handshake line, Blasi was seen having a civil conversation berating one of the linesmen and a 10 minute misconduct was added to Miami’s totals when everything was said and done. To say that Da Coach was upset would be an gross understatement.

An unnamed source has given us an inside scoop as to what happened this weekend from an officiating standpoint. Apparently Coach Blasi despises is less than friendly with McInchak, and because of it has even gone to CCHA head of officials Steve Piotrowski about the situation. Whether it be a history of awful calls or just a general distaste for the guy, McInchak hasn’t been to Oxford in over 4 years. Friday night’s call that cost Miami 2 minutes in the box was just the start, and it escalated on Saturday. Rico could be heard across the arena on one occasion (after the second of 2 embellishment calls), and to put the feud to rest, McInchak finished the weekend with a 10-minute misconduct for the bench (which was shaking hands at the time), primarily aimed at Rico.

In good news from the weekend, Alex Wideman made sure that we knew he was back on the ice last night as well. The shortest player on the team at 5’7″ can get lost out there sometimes due to his size. Last night, it came at the right time for him to reappear after missing a few weeks with an mono. With just 2:13 left in the night, Wideman knocked home the game-tying goal just over NMU goalie Jared Coreau’s pad as he tried to hug the post (It was eerily similar to the game tying goal that snuck past Cody Reichard against BU in Washington, DC in 2009).

“I didn’t really aim it; I just kinda threw it at the net just to see what happened,” said Wideman. “Good things happen when you throw pucks at the net. Luckily, it got in short side. In that kind of situation, you’re not going to get a pretty goal, not gonna get a back-door goal or anything like that. It’s gonna be hard. The ice is terrible. It’s gonna be a gritty goal or even a lucky goal like that.” (source: USCHO.com)

Then, Wideman streaked down the ice and put the game winner past Coreau in the shootout to delight the hometown crowd. You can view the 2 shootout goals at the bottom of this page!

To top it off, after the weekend, just 3 RedHawks have yet to score on the season: Michael Mooney, Paulides and Taylor Richart. To say that Richart has been unproductive, however, would be a gross understatement. He may just be the best defender on the ice, and I’ve yet to see him look nervous or rattled.

After holding the Wildcats to 4, 9 and 7 shots in the 3 periods on Friday, the defense was also stout Saturday night after allowing 2 goals in the first period. After being outshot 15-5 in that first period, they held NMU to 12 more shots: 8 in the second, just 2 in the 3rd and 2 more in OT. Williams knew that Miami was going to pull out the victory on Saturday: “Before the third period in the locker room, there was no doubt in our minds we were going to win that game,” Williams said. “We just had to keep going, keep fighting.” (source: muredhawks.com)

Usually Miami is a team that scores early and holds on for the victory. This year, however, Miami has evened things out and have 9 first period goals, 9 more second period goals and 11 third period tallies. On the other side of the puck, Miami has allowed 10 first period and 8 third period goals, and just 2 in the middle frame.

After taking 11 points against the first 3 teams from Michigan these last three weeks, Miami welcomes yet another team from that state up north in the Michigan State Spartans. MSU smashed Michigan on Saturday night by a score of 7-2 after betting slammed 5-1 on Friday night. To this point in the season, all 11 teams are still just one weekend sweep of 1st place, as Miami stands at 11 points and Northern Michigan is in 11th with just 5 points. There’s a long way to go in the season, but the Hawks are positioning themselves well to start things off.

Miscellaneous weekend notes:

After this weekend, Miami is now 2-2-1 on Fridays this year, having lost their last 2 Friday night games on the road, and compared to 4-0-1 (1 SO Win) on Saturdays.

On the injury front, Miami seems to be back at full strength. Ben Paulides, who had been out for a couple weeks returned to action for both games this weekend. As did Wideman (mono) and Joe Hartman (ankle).

After tallying a goal and 2 assists Friday, and adding an assist on Saturday, we think we’ll see another CCHA Rookie of the Week award for Riley Barber. Barber is now the CCHA’s leading scorer with 5 goals and 9 assists. Czarnik (6G, 7A) is just behind him, tied with Michigan’s A.J. Treais with 13 points.

In case you missed it

First of all, congratulations go out to @RedHawkCooch on Twitter. “Cooch” won our first ever trivia contest and is the winner of this puck, signed by Coach Blasi. Keep an eye out for future trivia contests, and thanks to those of you who participated and follow us on Twitter!

If you didn’t get a chance to see the shootout winning goals from Saturday night, here you go. (Sidenote: cellphone technology is amazing. These were taken with a phone.)

16th-ranked Wildcats visit Oxford for 2 game set

Northern Michigan logo

Miami welcomes the Northern Michigan Wildcats this weekend

Coming off of a 4 game roadtrip against two other ranked Michigan teams, the RedHawks return to Oxford for a two-game set with the Northern Michigan Wildcats this weekend. Miami got out of Michigan with hard earned splits the last 2 weekends, and come in to the weekend second in the logjammed CCHA standings. 5 teams are 2-2-0 in the CCHA standings, and Northern Michigan is in a tie for 9th (1-2-1, 5 points and 1 shootout loss) in the early going of the CCHA schedule.

Northern Michigan will be led by Senior forward Matt Thurber, who leads the league in scoring with a goal and 10 assists.  Miami’s sophomore forward Austin Czarnik and freshman forward Riley Barber are both at 10 points on the season, just 1 point behind the CCHA leader. This week’s CCHA Now production features the National Rookie of the Month (in case you’ve been living under a rock, that’s Barber), who is also the nation’s leader in points by a rookie.

Walt Kyle leads the Wildcats from behind the bench, and is in his 11th year in Marquette, where he stands 198-170-46. NMU comes to Oxford having blown a 4-1 3rd period lead on Friday night against Michigan (where they lost the shootout), but did pick up a 4-3 win on Saturday night – both games being played in Marquette. The Wildcats have had a truly impressive start to the season, having won twice against Wisconsin (in a non-conference neutral-site series in Green Bay), and splitting a series at Nebraska-Omaha. They were, however, swept at home by Notre Dame before last week’s tilts with the Wolverines.

Miami is just 20-34-3 all-time against Northern Michigan, including going 1-3-0 last year. Kyle has a chance to reach 200 wins at the helm of NMU this weekend, but the RedHawks will certainly have something to say about that. Coach Blasi may return to the goalie rotation this weekend after starting Jay Williams for both games in Big Rapids. Ryan McKay has yet to see action since being injured with a leg or groin injury in the Friday night game at Michigan, and Williams has played all 235 minutes since McKay went down. McKay was still dressed on the bench last weekend as the backup, however, but did not see any game action.

Look for another weekend of play similar to what Ferris State showed us last weekend. NMU likes to pack in a bunch of players in the defensive zone to block as many shots as possible. Their defensive style constantly frustrates the ‘Hawks, as evidenced by Miami’s 1-3 record against them last year. Miami’s talented group of freshmen will have to be smart and stay out of the penalty box – something they have done quite a bit this season. 17 of Miami’s 51 penalties (33%) have come from the freshmen group that has seen ice time. Miami has also been called for 2 misconducts and one more 5 minute major on the season. While Blasi’s Miami teams have always been physical and have always taken a lot of penalties, some that we have seen this season have been a tad on the cheap side, and have often come at just the wrong time.

This weekend, keep an eye on our twitter feed, as we’ll have a Miami-themed trivia contest during Saturday night’s game. The first response to our question, only asked on our twitter feed, will receive a Miami game puck, signed by Coach Blasi.

I’ll take another split this weekend and we’ll stay in touch with the other teams in the league, and will hope that we’re pleasantly surprised if we sweep the Wildcats out of Oxford. Both games will be available for viewing on the Miami All-Access feed (good luck logging in), and on AM 1490 in the Oxford/Hamilton/Cincinnati area.

Other weekend notes:

Alex Wideman returned to practice this week. After a couple weeks off due to being sick with mono, we could see Alex return to the ice this weekend.

On this date 34 years ago:
November 10, 1978: Miami hockey notches its first-ever victory against an NCAA opponent. Miami beat the University of Illinois-Chicago 7-4 at the old Goggin Ice Arena.

In Miami’s “In the Crease” feature, the 11 freshmen will be featured. Meet Matthew Caito this week on the Miami Athletics home page.