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“It’s Go Time” – Western Michigan at #5 Miami

Question: Is there anything better than playoff hockey?

Answer: No.

The last time WMU and Miami met, it was under the stars at the Hockey City Classic in Chicago.

Now that we’ve established that, the fifth ranked and second seeded Miami RedHawks (21-12-1, 14-9-1-1 2nd NCHC) are back at home for the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season when they needed three games to dispatch Michigan State en route to the final CCHA championship weekend at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. They will face an old CCHA foe and MAC rival in seventh seeded Western Michigan. The Broncos (13-16-5, 6-13-5-4 7th NCHC) trail the tightly contested all-time series 56-60-11 and went 0-3-1 vs the RedHawks with the only non-loss coming in Kalamazoo a weekend before the Hockey City Classic in Chicago. In that game, Miami led 4-0 after two periods before hanging on to post a 4-3 victory at Soldier Field.

In Oxford, it was a more pleasing storyline as the RedHawks swept the Broncos by 1-0 and 5-2 scores and you never really got the feeling that WMU could challenge Miami offensively. Hopefully we’ll see even more offense this weekend after watching Miami put up 44 shots against North Dakota in a 2-1 loss Friday last before putting six goals on the board against likely NCHC Player of the Year, Zane “Five Spot” McIntyre who trolled the Blog of Brotherhood on Twitter.

What did he do?

He “favorited” our tweet predicting a Miami sweep of UND last weekend. The problem was that he did it after UND won game one by the narrowest of margins when a fluke goal decided the outcome.

Of course he then laid an egg on Saturday surrendering a “five spot” to the RedHawks in a 6-3 Miami victory.

Zane “Five Spot” McIntyre trolled the Blog of Brotherhood last weekend. The problem? Five goals against on Saturday night.

If you’re going to troll, at least do it before the game. And, if not, you might consider backing up the trolling with decent play. Either way, not good.

Anyway, back to this weekend.

Miami enters the NCHC playoffs as the second seed nearly pulling off a “worst to first” story. As it is, Miami turned the tables on last year’s 8th place finish on the strength of a 2nd place effort in the regular season. They built upon last season’s successful NCHC playoff run which ended in the inaugural NCHC championship game where they fell to Denver ending up a mere goal short of a ninth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. This year, an NCAA appearance is all but certain as playoffstatus.com shows the RedHawks as having a 99% chance of reaching the tournament even with two losses this weekend.

Last weekend Miami dropped a close one on Friday before Austin Czarnik went off on Senior Night recording four points on the back of his first career hat trick (including two shorthanded goals) to lead the RedHawks to a dominating 6-3 victory over North Dakota. Jay Williams had goaltending duty and played well on Friday save the first goal by UND, which was an ugly, harmless shot from the corner that he inexplicably misplayed. Ryan McKay had the net Saturday and played well enough to win but I think we definitely see Williams tomorrow. Depending on how game one goes, and based on his play, we could see him again on Saturday night.

Western Michigan is led offensively by three players with 10 or more goals. Colton Hargrove (12-13-25, 72 PIM), Sheldon Dries (13-12-25) and Nolan LaPorte (10-12-22, 89 PIM). On

Kenny Morrison is highly regarded as a potential NHL free agent.

the blueline, Kenny Morrison (5-10-15) is well-regarded and has been mentioned as a possible early departure risk as NHL scouts are circling the would-be free agent.

In net, Lukas Hafner has had a good season including last Saturday’s shutout of #6 Minnesota-Duluth in Kalamazoo. Hafner (11-11-5, 2.35, .916) took the reins from senior Frank “The Big” Slubowski last season and has played the majority of the minutes in the WMU net this year. He has the talent to keep WMU in these games and could even steal one if Miami isn’t getting traffic in front and pucks to the net. Like last weekend, Miami should attempt to make these games up and down affairs and fire more than 40 SOG to wear down the Broncos and their netminder.

Interestingly, the Broncos have four players with 50 or more PIM this year with three of those four having 70 or more. In contrast, Miami has just one, senior Blake Coleman (80 PIM) so this will definitely be a clash of styles. WMU likes to muck it up and play in your face using their size and physicality. That said, they feature uber-goon Mike McKee who is really worse than a goon. He’s a cheap, dirty player. Miami will have to keep their composure because WMU head coach Andy Murray will want his guys in the faces of Miami’s talented and smallish forwards.

Overall, this is a very good matchup for Miami on paper. While I believe Hafner could steal a game for the Broncos, I don’t see it happening. I think Miami will take care of business in two tightly contested games. MIAMI SWEEPS.

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

 

#5 Miami at #7 Denver

The jewel of the west, Denver, awaits #5 Miami this weekend.

Fresh off a thrilling come-from-behind victory on Saturday night to gain a valuable series split against Minnesota-Duluth, fifth-ranked Miami heads west for their final road trip of the 2014-15 regular season to take on #7 Denver at Magness Arena.

Last Time We Met

This will be the third and fourth meetings of the season between the two rivals after splitting a series in Oxford just a month ago. That series saw Miami (19-10-1, 12-7-1-1 2nd NCHC) play both Jay Williams and Ryan McKay with Williams getting out-dueled by Denver (18-10-2, 11-8-1-1 t3rd NCHC) freshman netminder Tanner Jaillet when he surrendered just two goals before Miami picked up a dominating 4-1 victory on in front of McKay on Saturday night. These will be the 16th and 17th all-time meetings (8-7 DU) and the 8th and 9th in just the past two seasons as the teams played five times last year including the NCHC championship game where the Pioneers defeated the RedHawks to advance to the NCAA tournament.

The Pioneers

Offensively, the Pioneers are led by high scoring forwards Danton Heinen (12-23-35), Trevor Moore (16-15-31) and defenseman Joey Laleggia (11-20-31) who actually leads the NCHC conference scoring race. That is

Freshman forward Danton Heinen leads DU in scoring this season.

interesting because only one defenseman in the last 10 years has won a conference scoring title — Torey Krug at Michigan State in 2011-12 (he actually shared the title with Michigan’s T.J. Tynan). Notable is that Denver senior forward Zac Larraza (11-7-18) is suspended for Friday night’s game due to an illegal hit delivered in the Pioneers sweep of Colorado College last weekend. Larraza notched 1-1-2 in the series last month so his absence could be beneficial to the RedHawks. He will be eligible to return to the lineup on Saturday night.

The RedHawks

Last weekend, Miami gutted out a split of their series against UMD dropping Friday night’s game 3-1 and climbing out of another 3-1 hole to win 4-3 in overtime on Blake Coleman’s 12th goal of the season on a pretty 2-on-1 feed from sophomore Anthony Louis. The two of them also finished a rush on Friday that netted the team’s only goal. Overall, Miami is still looking inconsistent offensively as they’ve now tallied 3, 2, 1 and 4 goals over their past four games despite playing two of those against the league’s worst in Colorado College. Friday night was so bad, at least in head coach Rico Blasi’s estimation, that he benched Conor Lemirande, Chris Joyaux, and yes, Riley Barber for Saturday’s finale. Sooner or later Barber is going to have to determine if he wants to be a competitor. For as much as I praised him for his efforts two Friday’s ago at Colorado College, that’s been the exception. He just doesn’t look like he cares all the time, which is too bad because guys like Czarnik, Coleman and Murphy deserve better in their senior seasons to say nothing of guys like Dornbrock, Paulides and Kuraly who consistently give a full 60-minute effort each night. Hopefully the message has been received and we’ll see a rejuvenated and committed Barber down the stretch. If he plays to his talent, Miami could be in for a terrific run in March and April.

Senior captain Austin Czarnik continues to lead the RedHawks on the ice and in the scorebook.

Senior captain Austin Czarnik continues to pace Miami with 2-28-30 and leads all active players in career points (154 — tied with Minnesota’s Kyle Rau). Czarnik is trailed on the Miami team by Barber (13-14-27), Louis (6-18-24), Coleman (12-12-24) and Sean Kuraly (15-6-21) who leads the squad in goals. Defensively, Miami has been fairly strong and has gotten respectable goaltending from Williams, and on Saturday, McKay. I suspect we’ll see Williams on Friday and Blasi will take it from there pending the outcome and his play. I’d also like to see more Colin Sullivan now that’s he’s recovered from an injury that cost him most of the first half of the season. Getting an opportunity last Saturday, he looked smooth and fleet of foot — something Miami can use more of against the top tier teams they’ll face from this point forward.

The Prediction

This is a huge weekend for both teams as just three points separates the two teams. NCHC seeding. PairWise implications. Playoff home ice…a lot on the line! And, as with two weekends ago in Colorado Springs, Miami will be battling the dry, snowy altitude here in Colorado and will have to dig deep to compete for 120 minutes. It was no secret that Miami looked gassed at 6,000 feet on the big ice late in the game Saturday night at Colorado College. It’s encouraging however that they were just here and their bodies should be more acclimated to the altitude and they’ll also get to skate on a regulation ice surface this time out. As with most of these elite league series, I’ll call a split but Miami will have to work hard on the road to get it.

How to Watch/Listen

The Blog of Brotherhood will be in attendance for both games, but we’ll be a fan in the stands this weekend. We’ll do our best to keep you updated via Twitter but you can catch both games at MURedHawks.com with Drew Davis at the mic, not Greg Waddell. A rare conflict in schedules will prohibit Waddell from traveling west with the team this weekend. The games can be heard over the airwaves on both WMOH (1450 AM) and WKBV (1490 AM) this weekend. Friday’s game will be covered by Root Sports (DirecTV Ch. 683 & 684; Dish Ch. 414 & 5414). Saturday’s game will be streamed on NCHC.tv. (source: MURedHawks.com)

The road toughens here – #7 UMD at #6 Miami

Miami looks to strengthen its grip on home ice and a NCAA tournament berth this weekend vs. UMD.

Starting with this weekend, things are about to get real for the 6th ranked Miami RedHawks over the course of the regular season’s final three weekends.

This weekend, Miami (18-9-1, 11-6-1-1 t1st NCHC) faces #7 Minnesota-Duluth (18-11-1, 10-7-1-0 4th NCHC) in Oxford. Earlier this season, the schools split a series in Duluth playing two tight one-goal games with Miami winning the first night 3-2 and dropping the finale 4-3.

Last Time We Met

The series over Halloween weekend was a fright-fest for special teams.

On Friday, Miami netted two powerplay goals getting the game-winner from Sean Kuraly in the third period, who has nine such tallies this year, good enough for second nationally (Austin Ortega of Omaha has 10). While on Saturday, Miami erased a 3-1 deficit but came up short as UMD got the game-winner on their second powerplay tally of the night in the third period.

Blake Coleman was huge the last time Miami faced UMD. (photo: Cathy Lachmann, WCPO)

Blake Coleman had three goals that weekend (including a penalty shot tally) and was clearly the best player on the ice. He’ll have to be again if Miami is to get a win or two this weekend.

The Bulldogs

Offensively, the Bulldogs are led by forwards Alex Iafallo (7-16-23) and Dominic Toninato (14-8-22). While not as dynamic as Miami’s top forwards, they get the job done. Both UMD and Miami have four players with 21 points or more, but Miami can run out more top end goal scorers. UMD has just one player with 10 or more goals (Toninato) while Miami has four who have notched at least 10 showing the scoring depth the RedHawks possess.

Defensive, UMD is a rugged group led by hard-hitting Carson Soucy and Andy Wellinski who adds a scoring touch from the blueline with seven goals on the year. In net, freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo has played 83% of the minutes in the blue paint compiling a 15-9-1 record with a solid 2.31 and .911 slash line.

The RedHawks

For Miami, I’d expect both Crash Cousins to be in the lineup to counter UMD’s physicality and I suspect we’ll see Jay Williams tonight for certain. Because he played both games in Colorado Springs last weekend, it’s reasonable to believe Miami head coach Enrico Blasi has selected Williams as the #1 ‘tender for the reminder of the season. Unless Williams plays poorly or is injured, I’m willing to bet he’ll be in there on Saturday as well.

The Prediction

This will be the just the sixth and seventh all-time meetings between the schools (UMD leads 3-2). Expect a low scoring weekend with Miami netting just five goals last weekend at Colorado College and the defensive responsibility with which UMD plays. If Miami could make the weekend an up-and-down track meet, it would favor the RedHawks with their team speed and skill up front.

As with many of these high-profile NCHC weekends this year, I’ll pick a split.

Tonight’s contest starts at 7:35 PM and Saturday’s finale at 7:05 PM. Greg Waddell will have the call for both games which be heard at MURedHawks.com and over the air on 1450 AM and 1490 AM. Additionally, both contests are televised on Time Warner Cable (Ch. 311 & 1311) and Saturday’s game will also air on Fox College Sports (DirecTV Ch. 608, Time Warner Ch. 319).

Around the League

#1 North Dakota at Western Michigan – The Broncos can help Miami with a victory or two this weekend over the nation’s top ranked team.

#5 Omaha at St. Cloud State – Ditto for the Huskies. Wins over the Mavericks will help Miami’s cause in the NCHC standings.

#9 Denver at/vs. Colorado College – The Front Range rivals conclude the season’s battle for the Gold Pan with a home-and-home. Should the Tigers find a way to get a win in this rivalry series, it would help Miami dramatically in their effort to secure home ice in the NCHC playoffs.

From the League Office

Omaha sophomore forward Austin Ortega scored his 10th game-winning goal of the season last Saturday, which leads the NCAA and ties the NCAA single-season record, last set in 2002 by New Hampshire’s Colin Hemingway. Ortega is one of eight players to tally 10 game-winners in a season. Miami junior forward Sean Kuraly is second

Sean Kuraly is second nationally with 9 game-winning goals.

in the country with nine game-winners this season, just one away from tying the record also.

In a battle of top-seven teams, No. 7/7 Minnesota Duluth travels to face No. 6/6 Miami. Expect a lot of shots to be fired as Miami and UMD rank first and second, respectively, among NCHC schools in shots for (34.46 /33.53), shots against (25.14/25.93) and shot margin (+9.32/+7.60). The two teams are third and fourth nationally in terms of shot margin as well.

NCHC teams scored two short-handed goals last weekend and now have three of the top 12 teams nationally in short-handed goals. No. 1/1 North Dakota leads the NCAA with nine short-handed tallies, while UMD is tied for second with seven shorties and Miami is tied for seventh with five. The NCHC has six players with two short-handed goals this season, which is among 27 players nationally tied for the NCAA lead with two short-handed goals. Four of the six play for UND while Miami and UMD have one each.

#7 Miami 3, Colorado College 1

Miami takes game one in Colorado Springs tonight by a final score of 3-1. Three different RedHawks scored with sophomore Justin Greenberg getting his first of the season.

With the win, Miami (17-9-1, 10-6-1-1 t2nd NCHC) moves into a tie for second place with Omaha in the ultra-competitive NCHC and creates more distance between itself and 5th place Denver, who lost 4-2 at North Dakota. Miami is now a full five points clear of the Pioneers in the race for home ice in the NCHC playoffs.

Overall, tonight was an impressive effort by Miami against an opponent that did not quit. Despite falling behind early, Miami really took over the game after about the 10 minute mark of the 1st period, and while they only tallied three goals, the game never felt in doubt. In other words, it never seemed like Colorado College would pose a real threat.

CC opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal. Luc Gerdes picked up the garbage in front of Miami netminder Jay Williams and found twine at 6:19. But, Miami would get it back immediately when Cody Murphy tallied his 11th goal of the season, a powerplay marker for the RedHawks just 26 seconds later. Murphy, who was camped in front and redirected a wrist shot from Anthony Louis, has now scored 11 goals in his past 14 games. And, he would have had another, but it was waved off after a lengthy video review.

In the second, Miami absolutely dominated possession but could muster just one goal, albeit a beauty, from Riley Barber who dangled around a defender before roofing a perfect wrister over the shoulder of CC goaltender Tyler Marble at 16:22.

In the third period, it was more of the same as Miami largely dictated play. After a shaky first period, Jay Williams was stellar in net and Justin Greenberg scored his first goal of the season off a ridiculous backhand saucer pass from Kevin Morris on a 2-on-1 rush at 9:09.

With the victory, and the completion of the night’s other league contests, the current NCHC standings look like this.

1. North Dakota – 34 points

2. MIAMI – 32 points

2. Omaha – 32 points (Miami has tiebreaker)

4. Minnesota-Duluth – 31 points

5. Denver – 27 points

6. St. Cloud – 22 points

6. Western Michigan – 22 points (SCSU has tiebreaker)

8. Colorado College – 4 points

Miami and Colorado College go at it again tomorrow night at 9 PM EST. The game can be seen on NCHC.TV and of course Greg Waddell will have the call, well, maybe via Miami All-Access.

 

Random thoughts and stats:

– Miami outshot the Tigers 34-23.

– Jay Williams is now 15-4 on the season.

– Riley Barber really turned it up tonight. His compete level was high from the drop of the puck. That’s extremely encouraging.

– Three stars of the night: 1. Jay Williams (22 saves), 2. Riley Barber (1-0-1, 4 shots), 3. Tyler Marble (31 saves)

– Miami blocked 16 CC shots (Caito 4, Richart 3)

– Miami was dominant in the faceoff circle winning 44 to CC’s 23. Coleman (13-4) and Kuraly (11-2) led the way.

– Miami was 1 for 4 on the powerplay but did allow a shorthanded goal.

– I loved how Rico used Schmit and Lemirande tonight. Putting the Crash Cousins together for extended periods of time combined with altitude was effective at wearing down CC in the 2nd period. There were times that the Tigers could not get the puck out of their zone.

– Austin Czarnik registered his 26th assist on Barber’s goal.

– Miami has a season’s-best four game unbeaten streak (3-0-1).

2-1 Miami after two…

Riley Barber notched his 13th goal of the season while shorthanded to give Miami a 2-1 lead heading to the third period. Miami completely owned about 18 minutes of the period and at times had possession in the CC end for minutes at a time. I’d like to see more finish out of this team, but the effort has been outstanding tonight.

The line of Schmit, Lemirande, Coleman/Murphy was huge (no pun intended) in the period. Rico rewarded the Crash Cousins with more ice time throughout the period. Wearing a team down at altitude with that size is an excellent coaching maneuver.

Other thoughts…

  • We said earlier that Riley Barber looked sharp tonight. And, as usual, we were right. Barber’s sick wrister from between the circles after a toe drag/dangle was criminal. Keep it up big fella.
  • Crash Cousins are big. We haven’t seen a ton of the two of them together this year, but tonight, they are dominating the Tigers in the offensive zone digging out pucks and showing more offensive prowess than I can recall seeing from them this year. Well done.
  • Jay Williams has found his game. After not being tested for what seemed to be the entire second period, Williams came up big as CC mounted several good chances late in the period. He looks much sharper.

2-1 Miami after two. Let’s finish this and get ready for tomorrow night!

First period thoughts…1-1

After one period of play in Colorado Springs, #7 Miami and Colorado College are tied at 1.

Miami allowed its 3rd shorthanded goal early in the period at CC’s Scott Wamsganz converted a mess out front of Jay Williams off a rush.

Miami would answer right back on the same powerplay as Cody Murphy recorded his 11th goal of the season off a tip in front of an Anthony Louis wrist shot from between the circles. Matt Caito notched the other assist.

Other thoughts…

  • Dornbrock. A huge hit along the boards to break up a CC rush. He has also blocked shots and looks physical tonight.
  • Czarnik’s back checking effort on the play that ended up being the CC goal was impressive. His effort is the type of thing you want to see out of your senior captain.
  • Riley Barber’s compete level is up tonight. He made a couple outstanding stretch passes taking advantage of the big ice.
  • Jay Williams rebound control is “off” at best. He looks a bit lost on the big ice and doesn’t seem to be playing the angles nor seeing the puck very well.
  • Taylor Richart continues to do the little things. He made a big block of a CC shot on their last powerplay to end the first period.

So far, so good. Miami looks smooth and in control. Hopefully they are well hydrated to compete for 60 minutes at 6,000 feet.

More to come from Colorado Springs.

#7 Miami at Colorado College

With Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak as a backdrop, #7 Miami comes west to face Colorado College in the Springs.

Welcome to Colorful Colorado!

Well Miami fans, we’ve reached the final month of the regular season. And, I have to admit, I’ve been waiting for this point in the year for quite some time because I’ll have the opportunity to see Miami in person four times in a three week span.

In the NCHC, this will be the month that will determine who hoists the Penrose Cup as the regular season champion and identify three other teams who will claim home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

Miami’s stretch run includes six games against (current USCHO rankings) #9 Denver, #6 Minnesota-Duluth and #2 North Dakota meaning Miami will have its league destiny in its hands facing teams it is chasing in the standings and realistically battling each one for home ice.

But first, Miami (16-9-1, 9-6-1-1 3rd NCHC) has a potential trap series in front of it facing lowly Colorado College (5-19-1, 1-14-1 8th NCHC) in Colorado Springs.

The RedHawks are coming off an interesting two weekends that saw them play just twice as they picked up a tie and win over 7th place Western Michigan. The tie came during an exciting game in Kalamazoo that went back and forth before the Broncos tied the game late with an extra attacker goal, but Miami came away with an important extra league point when Cody Murphy scored a classic shootout goal in sudden death. Then last Saturday, the RedHawks jumped out to a four-goal lead after two periods but had to hang on as Western Michigan scored three unanswered goals in the third period to turn a laugher into a close game at the Hockey City Classic in Chicago.

Looking ahead to the weekend, this will be the final regular season meetings between the Tigers and RedHawks. Earlier in the year, Miami swept Colorado College in Oxford by a combined 8-1 score as Miami dominated the Tigers behind Jay Williams’ stellar goaltending and big offensive weekends from Riley Barber, Sean Kuraly and Alex Wideman.

The Series

Miami and Colorado College have met just six times with each squad having earned three wins. However, Miami has won the last three in the series by a combined score of 14-2. Clearly, Miami has the upper-hand against this former national powerhouse.

The Coach

Mike Haviland is behind the bench for his first season in Colorado Springs after replacing longtime CC head man Scott Owens over the

Mike Haviland is hoping to turn the Colorado College program around.

summer. A former Chicago Blackhawks assistant from 2008 through 2012, Haviland is a native of New Jersey, played a season of college hockey at Elmira and was a 1990 supplemental draft pick of the Devils, but never played in the NHL.

Haviland has his hands full attempting to rebuild a proud Colorado College program that hasn’t had much success over the past few seasons.

The Team

Unfortunately for the Tigers, there simply isn’t a lot of talent on this team. Owens did not leave Haviland with much to work with and aside from sophomore defenseman Jaccob Slavin, there aren’t many Tigers that have that eye-popping look. I have seen the Tigers once in person this season, and though it was very early, they looked ordinary in narrowly defeating Alabama-Huntsville 4-3. While that victory sealed a series sweep, the Tigers weren’t very impressive in earning two one-goal victories over the Chargers.

Offensively, the Tigers are led by juniors Cody Bradley (8-13-21) and Hunter Fejes (5-9-14) and are two of only four Tigers with at least five goals on the season. Simply put, CC cannot score.

Jaccob Slavin is a star on the Colorado College blueline.

Defensively, there is more talent as four of the Tigers six NHL draft picks are on the blueline. Led by the aforementioned Jaccob Slavin (3-9-12) and senior Peter Stoykewych (2-5-7), the Tigers have some size and puck-moving ability that Miami will have to be aware of in case the defense activates. And, on the big ice at altitude, Miami will have to be mindful not to chase too much and lose their legs in the third period.

Entering the weekend, CC has lost six in a row and is averaging just 2.04 goals per game this year. In net, goaltenders Tyler Marble and Chase Perry have largely split time and sport a combined 3.87 GAA and .880 save percentage. Rather dismal goaltending numbers for certain. (source: MURedHawks.com)

The Prediction

With the final three series of the year looming, Miami needs six points this weekend to give themselves a shot at winning the Penrose Cup. Perhaps more importantly, the points can help secure a spot in the league’s top four earning home ice.

Despite the 5,000 foot difference in altitude, Miami is far too talented and these games are far too important to the RedHawks.

Miami sweeps.

#9 Miami at Western Michigan

WMU’s Lawson Ice Arena is a great old barn.

In an odd “home” series, Western Michigan (11-10-3, 4-7-3-3 7th NCHC) will host #9 Miami (15-9, 8-6 T4th NCHC) in Kalamazoo tonight and again next Saturday in Chicago as Miami once again will go outside to play at the Hockey City Classic for the second time in three years.

Earlier this season, Miami swept a home NCHC series in Oxford by 1-0 and 5-2 scores while the Broncos were really struggling. But, Andy Murray’s squad has faired much better over the past several weeks going 8-2-2 over its past 12 games including a demolition of defending national champion Union in the Shillelagh Tournament in South Bend, Ind.

For Miami, these are two incredibly important games.

I suppose every game down the stretch for the RedHawks is important as they struggle to maintain a top four league finish and secure home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

What’s clear is Miami has a very difficult schedule down the stretch and they’ll have to perform much better if they want to challenge for a regular season title — or at this point — a top four finish in the very competitive NCHC.

The Broncos are a big, physical team. Most fans, coaches and pundits call WMU an “awful team to play against.” As they have gotten more confident in themselves, and head coach Andy Murray’s system, the wins have come.

Offensively, the Broncos are led by senior forward Justin Kovacs (4-16-20) and junior forwards Colton Hargrove (10-9-19) and Nolan LaPorte (9-10-19). Junior defenseman Kenny Morrison (5-8-13) and junior goaltender Lukas Hafner (10-7-3, 2.13, .922) form the backbone of a Bronco team that has surrendered just 28 goals in the past 12

Junior Lukas Hafner has had an outstanding year for Western Michigan.

games. Of note is that WMU was blown out 7-0 by SCSU a few weeks ago. If you remove that game, it’s just 21 goals in 11 games. Needless to say, the WMU defense has been playing well which is a bad sign given Miami’s almost incredible inability to manufacture goals. Over the past nine games, Miami has netted only 21 goals which is a dismal 46th in the country during that stretch. (source: MURedHawks.com)

As stated, this brutal run to the finish began last weekend. Miami stands 1-1 in the series of games that will largely determine their post-season fate. Miami has had difficulty winning important games and with Western Michigan perhaps in an even more desperate mode, I do not see Miami winning tonight but I do see a bounce-back in Chicago next weekend. Still, Miami really needs a sweep here. Will they have enough to rise to the occasion?

#11 Denver at #9 Miami

Joey LaLeggia leads a tough Denver team against Miami in Oxford.

After a week spent licking its wounds following an embarrassing sweep at the hands of then seventh place St. Cloud State, 9th ranked Miami (14-8, 7-5 4th NCHC) jumps into the final stretch of the regular season with a challenge from #11 Denver (13-7-1, 6-5 5th NCHC) in Oxford. For Miami, these are the first home games since December 5-6 when they split a league series against Omaha.

After five meetings last year, these are the first of the 2014-15 campaign and first since Miami’s 4-3 loss to Denver in the NCHC championship game in Minneapolis last March. Last season, Miami and the Pioneers split four regular season meetings before Denver prevailed in the title game propelling DU to the NCAA tournament where they were routed by Boston College in the first round of the Dance.

This weekend’s NCHC series against DU is the start of a brutal final month-plus of the regular season as Miami will next face Western Michigan (@Kalamazoo, @Chicago/Hockey City Classic) followed by Colorado College (road), Minnesota-Duluth (home) and Denver again (road) before finishing the regular season with a home series against North Dakota on March 6-7.

The Series

Miami trails the all-time series with the Pioneers 7-6 including a 1-1 mark against Denver in NCAA tournament games.

The Coach

Maine alum Jim Montgomery is in his second season behind the DU bench after replacing legendary head coach George Gwozdecky before the start of last season. Overall, Montgomery is a modest 33-23-7 in his season and a half with the Pioneers and the program is still really looking for the spark I feel they lost in making a mistake by firing Gwozdecky.

The Team

Having seen Denver twice in person, they are a smooth skating, puck-moving team with decent size and goaltending. In a 4-1 victory over outmanned RPI, Denver was dominant. However, in a humbling 3-1 loss to North Dakota, the Pioneers were exposed by speed and stretch passes as UND dominated from start to finish.

Denver was soundly defeated by North Dakota last month. Miami should attempt to replicate UND’s formula for success this weekend.

So, a mixed bag, perhaps. What I will say is that Miami needs to get out in space and challenge the DU forwards to backcheck. It was either an off-night or the Pioneers don’t care much for defensive play so perhaps Miami can use that to its advantage.

Offensively, the Pioneers are led by freshman Danton Heinen (9-16-25) and last year’s leading scorer, sophomore Trevor Moore (9-11-20). On the blueline, junior Joey LaLeggia (8-12-20) leads a stellar group of puck movers and is a player Miami must keep tabs on, particularly on the powerplay.

In net, the Pioneers have split minutes between sophomore Evan Cowley (2.09 GAA, .924 SV, 14 GP) and freshman Tanner Jaillet (2.01 GAA, .920 SV, 12 GP) to almost identical results. Cowley was thought to have been on the short list to make this year’s US WJC team, but was one of the final cuts before the team skidded to a 5th place finish. Frankly, I thought Cowley should have gotten the nod before Brian Halverson who saw little action backing up Boston College’s Thatcher Demko.

Overall, this is a big, fast Pioneer team and Miami will have its hands full. Expect to see both Crash Cousins in the lineup this weekend as Enrico Blasi attempts to get favorable line matchups with the final change.

The Prediction

This is a series Miami needs to sweep. The first two home games in well over a month. Coming off that embarrassing sweep. Despite the fact the students are still on break, I say Miami shows its heart and finds a way to get a tough NCHC series sweep over the Pioneers.