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#4 Miami vs. #15 Providence

Earlier this morning, the Miami RedHawks, champions of the NCHC, learned their NCAA region and opponent. The RedHawks will travel to Providence, R.I. to take on Providence College of Hockey East in a first round East Region game. Miami is no stranger to going east to face HEA opponents as they have done so countless times taking on the likes of UMass-Lowell, UNH and BC over the past 10 years. Unfortunately, the majority of those contests have turned out poorly for Miami as they have been skated out of the rink.

But, that’s what’s so intriguing about this draw.

Head coach Enrico Blasi built this team to compete against HEA teams. Smallish, fast forwards who can possess the puck, get out in transition and put pressure on the forecheck are hallmarks of this squad, and seemingly, what’s been done to Miami over the years. And, this year, Blasi added more size with the Crash Cousins and the addition of Scott Dornbrock on the blueline.

Simply put, this team is built to win against teams big and small. And, since you can’t do anything about the draw. Go east and win the region. If there was ever a year that Miami would get over this hump, it’s this year with this team of veterans.

Honestly, the bracket is pretty good for Miami.

Consider Providence. The #15 overall seed should be playing the #2 overall seed. Sure, we’re playing them in their town, but Providence doesn’t have any kind of fan base. The crowd will not be an issue and Miami has gotten used to traveling after two seasons in the NCHC. We should be playing the #13 overall seed, Yale, but at least on paper, may have gotten a break. Providence has great goaltending, but Miami faces great goaltenders each and every weekend in the NCHC. This team should be ready.

Also consider the other half of the bracket…BC and Denver. We know all about Denver and have beaten them 3-of-5 times this year. We’re a much faster team than the Pioneers and their goaltending is suspect. As for BC? It’s not a great BC team with average goaltending and not the teams of the past with guys like Gaudreau, Gerbe, Kreider and others that were elite college players.

This is a region that Miami can win, but the RedHawks are not without their faults.

Miami will be missing the services of NCHC tournament MVP, Blake Coleman, for the first round match against Providence. And, who knows the injury status of junior sniper Riley Barber, who’s play has been outstanding the last month of the season. Last we saw Barber, he was being helped on and off the ice with a large ice bag on his left knee. Clearly not a good sign, but let’s hope for the best. I’m sure we won’t know his status until very late in the week. If those two guys are out, it’s on the other leaders to step up. Also concerning is Miami’s goaltending. I’d say it’s been average of late. Clearly the RedHawks will ride Jay Williams, but if I had to take Williams or Providence’s Jon Gillies to win this game, all else notwithstanding, I’d have to say I’d take Gillies. He’s a proven stud in the Friars net.

So, Miami fans. A lot to celebrate this season. Let’s hope the boys have four more W’s in them.

Love and Honor!

More to come this week.

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Barber, Kuraly Lead USA past Germany

The goals haven’t come as quickly at Miami for freshman sniper Sean Kuraly as he would like, but on Thursday in Ufa, Russia, the 19 year old from Dublin, Ohio opened the scoring for Team USA in the 2013 World Junior Championship as the Americans routed Germany 8-0. Assisting on his goal was Miami teammate Riley Barber who contributed a goal and two assists to help the Red, White and Blue to an opening day win. Barber tied for the team high in shots on goal with six while Kuraly finished with 1-1-2 and won 10 of 14 faceoffs (good enough for a team-leading 71.4%), something we’ve come to expect from him thus far at Miami.

Read the rest of this entry

Quick Hit: Hagel Fitting In

Here’s a nice interview by longtime Journal News sportswriter Rick Cassano, with Miami senior Marc Hagel. As you probably know, Hagel had one year of NCAA eligibility left after finishing his undergraduate degree at Princeton, and per NCAA by-laws, was eligible to transfer to Miami and play immediately.

Cassano goes on to suggest that freshman goaltender, Jay Williams, will see the majority of the action this weekend as Ryan McKay continues to heal up. According to Rico, McKay might be available if needed this weekend.

Miami’s “You Can Play” Submission

Featuring  players and video from this season, Miami has created and released its “You Can Play” submission which is simply amazing.

As you recall, You Can Play was founded after the tragic death of Miami student manager, Brendan Burke, who’s father, Brian, is the current GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Brendan’s brother, Patrick, a Philadelphia Flyers’ scout, has taken up the torch to push YCP’s agenda forward. The vision of creating a locker room devoid of prejudice and hatred of LGBT athletes is something everyone should get behind, and the work the group has done to further that cause in the aftermath of Brian’s death, is amazing.

So, here’s Miami’s entry. I think it’s perhaps the best one done to date. What do you think?

 

Find out more about You Can Play and ways in which you can help.

Hockey City Classic Teaser Appears Online

Here’s the first teaser spot for the Hockey City Classic. Good production values. Nicely done. It would appear this is going to be a first-rate event. Thanks to Miami’s incoming freshman netminder Ryan McKay (@RyanMcKay35) for pointing it out.

Miami’s incoming class completed

With the announcement that Dubuque (USHL) forward Kevin Morris (8-11-19 with the Fighting Saints) had joined the fold, head coach Enrico Blasi completed his recruiting class for the 2012-13 season, the last year the RedHawks will play in the CCHA.

Here’s Miami’s complete list of incoming players.

Riley Barber (F) – 5’11″/180, 24 games, 5-6-11 (USNTDP)

Alex Gacek (F) – 5’8″/175, 55 games, 13-19-32 (Youngstown, USHL)

Sean Kuraly (F) – 6’2″/192, 53 games, 31-38-69 (Indiana, USHL)

Kevin Morris (F) – 6’4″/180, 42 games, 8-11-19 (Dubuque USHL)

Matthew Caito (D) – 5’11″/180, 57 games, 7-19-26 (Dubuque, USHL)

Chris Joyaux (D) – 6’/190, 54 games, 5-15-20 (Chicago, USHL)

Ryan McKay (G) – 6’/196, 34 games, 2.20/.919 (Green Bay, USHL)

Jay Williams (G) – 6’1″/170, 31 games, 3.05/.894 (Waterloo and Sioux Falls, USHL)

* Marc Hagel (Princeton transfer- F) – 5’11″/190, 32 games, 7-11-18 (Princeton, ECAC)

* Hagel has one year of eligibility remaining (redshirt year) and is transferring and enrolling as a graduate student at Miami. Because he will will earn his undergraduate degree from Princeton this spring, he is eligible to transfer and play for the RedHawks immediately.

Noticeably missing from the list of confirmed players is talented USNTDP forward Ryan Hartman (24 games, 7-9-16) who was widely expected to join the RedHawks for the start of the new year. The absence of his name on the confirmed list made the signing of Morris and addition of Princeton transfer Marc Hagel even more important as Miami lost several forwards including Reilly Smith, Alden Hirschfeld, Matt Tomassoni, Pat Tiesling and Trent Vogelhuber from last year’s NCAA tournament team.

EDIT: Patrick Sieloff removed.

Don’t let basketball fans have all the fun – BRACKET CONTEST!

First off, before you get to picking your brackets, take a read at College Hockey News’s interview with NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Committee Chair Sean Frazier. While the PairWise is nearly Bible when it comes to the selection process, Frazier weighs in on the selection process and the subjectivity that the committee has.

Secondly, jump over to the CHN Bracket Contest and submit your picks. You saw my picks last night/this morning, and they match up there. Whomever wins the bracket contest from our readers gets the best prize ever.

Here’s a current breakdown of all the picks from NCAA hockey fans like us, as of 1:45PM this afternoon (courtesy: collegehockeynews.com). It seems the RedHawks are instilling a lot of confidence in fans right now, as 54% think Miami will make it to the Frozen Four in Tampa. I can’t say I’m opposed to this one bit.

The Bracket is Set!

As we noted as the pairings were announced, #2 Miami will face #3 UMass-Lowell in Bridgeport, Conn. on Friday at 6:30pm EDT. If they should win, they would face the winner of #1 Union College and #4 Michigan State. Check back this week for full previews and analysis.

Saturday night game highlights

Here are the highlights from Saturday night’s 4-1 victory over Michigan State that sent the RedHawks to Joe for the CCHA semifinals against Western Michigan.

Weekend Preview: Miami tries for first playoff win against Michigan State

Your Miami RedHawks take the ice tonight in search of their first-ever win against Michigan State outside of the regular season. The defending Mason Cup Champions have never beaten Michigan State in the CCHA playoffs (they’ve never met in the NCAA tournament). Miami is 0-9 against MSU, but Michigan State has never visited Oxford in these rounds either, so tonight’s contest looks to be a jumping off point for the RedHawks in the best-of-three series. State has played Miami in the quarterfinal round in 1985 and 2000, having swept both series in East Lansing.

Earlier this season, the ‘Hawks headed to East Lansing to face the Spartans and came out with 2 victories. The first came on a Jimmy Mullin overtime goal to lift the RedHawks to a 2-1 victory on January 6th. On the next night, Connor Knapp got his unbelievable 2012 kicked off, notching his first of 4 shutouts of the calendar year. On that weekend, Bryon Paulazzo, Cameron Schilling, Chris Wideman, Blake Coleman and Alden Hirschfeld all tallied at least 2 points, Miami had 6 different goal scorers in the 2-game sweep, and in total, 12 RedHawks made the scoring sheets.

Oxford is again the host of a second-round CCHA playoff series, as Miami is the only CCHA school that can claim that honor. After a rough trip to face Michigan, the Hawks have swept Alabama-Huntsville, Notre Dame and Ohio State to jump from 9th in the CCHA standings up to their 4th place finish. Since the CCHA changed to the current playoff format, Miami is 4-2 in this round of the playoffs, having faced 6 different teams in that span. Michigan State makes the 7 team in 7 years to play in Oxford in the playoffs, where Miami is 9-5 in those 6 series.

Leading the RedHawks as he has done all season is Junior Reilly Smith, who looks to continue his current scoring streaks of 4 games with a goal and 6 games with at least one point. Smith is coming off of a career-high 4 point game at Ohio State on 2/25/12, leads the CCHA and is second in the country in goals scored with 26, has just been named the CCHA All-Conference First Team, and was named Inside College Hockey (INCH) CCHA Player of the Year. From INCH’s CCHA beat writer James Dowd:

Last year’s [INCH] breakthrough player of the year becomes INCH’s CCHA Player of the Year. Miami’s Reilly Smith carried a young team on his back, notching 26 goals on the season—second nationally behind only fellow Dallas draft pick Austin Smith of Colgate. After a strong 2010-11 season, one had to wonder whether Smith’s success hinged primarily on the playmaking wizardry of 2011 Hobey Baker Award winner Andy Miele, but Smith proved this year he’s a pure goal scorer even without the likes of Miele and Carter Camper surrounding him. The Redhawks looked lost at times this year, but Smith kept putting the puck in the net, buying time for his young teammates to mature.

In addition to the above accolades, for some pre-game reading enjoyment, take a gander at John Lachmann’s article at wcpo.com which chronicles Smith’s outstanding Miami career to date.

We would expect to see Connor Knapp in net tonight, as he is coming off of one of the best statistical seasons by any Miami goaltender in history. Knapp has had 4 shutouts in 2012, and has posted some unbelievable stats this season. His .939 save percentage is second best in the nation (Chris Noonan of Niagara is just ahead at .941), and his 1.53 goals against average is tops in the NCAA (Troy Grosenick from Union is 2nd at 1.64 GAA). The Buffalo Sabres draft pick has also finished first in CCHA conference play with a gnarly .945 save percentage and a 1.41 GAA and he even tallied an assist on the season. He, Cody Reichard and David Burleigh (’03) are all tied at 12 career goose-eggs, and will be looking to break the Miami shutout record this weekend. Despite having those impeccable numbers, Knapp was only voted to Honorable Mention in the CCHA awards, finishing behind First-Teamer Taylor Nelson of Ferris State and the baby goalie Shawn Hunwick of Michigan, who made the Second Team.

As for the Spartans, they will almost certainly deploy Junior Torey Krug when Reilly Smith is on the ice. Krug was also named to the All-CCHA First Team, and is Michigan State’s best defenseman.  Not only is he staunch on the defensive side of the ice, but he also tied for the CCHA lead in scoring with an impressive 11 goals and 18 assists, finishing 1 point ahead of Smith for the CCHA in-conference scoring lead.

In net could be either of Will Yanakeff or Drew Palmisano. Yanakeff has posted a record of 13-7-1 this year, allowing 2.32 goals per game and has a save percentage of .927. He has played in 3 of the last 4 Spartans games, having gone 2-1. Palmisano, a senior is 6-6-3 on the season, with 2.59 GAA and a .919 save percentage.  Head Coach Tom Anastos will try to lead the Spartans to the CCHA Championship weekend in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena for the first time since 2007, Michigan State’s latest National Championship season. Looking back, no current Spartan has been on the winning side of a CCHA playoff series or game.

A few final notes for the weekend:

  • Michigan State is just 6-7-0 on the road this season, but has a commanding 29-12-3 record in Oxford all-time against Miami.
  • The Spartans hold a 6-2-1 record on the season against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time of the game.
  • Miami has outscored their opponents 19-3 in the last 6 games, all wins.
  • 2 victories would push Miami’s current seniors to the 4th most all time. They currently stand at 96 wins in their 4 years, and could make it a magical 100 with a second-consecutive Mason Cup Championship next weekend.
  • Miami sits at 9th in the current Pairwise, and MSU is in a tie for 12th. This is a comparison we don’t want to lose, so wins this weekend are crucial.

The puck drops on this critical series at 7:35pm tonight, 7:05pm Saturday, and 7:05pm on Sunday night, if necessary. The weekend’s games are not televised, but can be viewed on http://www.muredhawks.com using the All-Access subscription service. Just $9.95/month gets you the video feed for all three games, and can be cancelled at any time!

This week went entirely too slow, and it’s going to be a fun weekend in Oxford.

BEAT STATE!!!