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Miami’s Two-Headed Goalie Monster

The 2013-14 season is just about upon us, and we’re headed for another year of the two-headed monster in net. I want to preface what you’re about to read with a disclaimer that in no way do I think that either goalie that Miami currently has under scholarship is not good enough to be in a nubmer 1 goaltender position. But there is certainly a large part of me that would like to see either or both of these guys get their full-on shot at the #1 goalie spot for the Miami RedHawks.

In the last several years, Head Coach Enrico Blasi has employed the 2-goalie rotation. One of the two stellar goalies plays on Friday night, and the second will play on Saturday. Currently, that rotation is composed of Ryan McKay and Jay Williams. But what if things were different in Oxford? What if Enrico Blasi goes with an established top guy and has a trusted backup? We explore the topic as we prepare for the season that starts tonight.

The start of a trend

Brandon Crawford-West left school early, putting Miami in a situation to start the two-headed monster.

Brandon Crawford-West left school early, putting Miami in a situation to start the two-headed monster.

During the 2004-05 campaign, then-sophomore Brandon Crawford-West was the last clear-cut Number 1 goalie for the RedHawks. He played in 32 games, had a save % of .917 and allowed a fairly stingy 2.48 GAA for a team that went 15-18-5. It would be the last time Miami didn’t make the NCAA tournament before starting their current streak of 8 tournament appearances in a row. Crawford-West knew that Charlie Effinger was waiting in the wings, having posted a 4-2-0 record in 6 starts with 3 additional relief appearances. Crawford-West would then leave Miami after that sophomore campaign, and according to hockeydb.com, has not played any type of major hockey since.

During the offseason, Blasi would recruit and bring 6’2″ Jeff Zatkoff in to play between the pipes as his backup goalie. Only it didn’t turn out that way. Zatkoff actually played 4 of the first 5 games in 2005-06 (including the season-opening exhibition against Windsor) and won 3 of those 4. It seemed like Zatkoff was poised to be the #1 goalie, but would end up splitting games with Effinger. Zatkoff went 14-5-1 in 20 games and Effinger went 12-4-3 in 19 games.

The two would rotate for the rest of their time in Oxford until Effinger graduated in 2008, at which time also Zatkoff left Miami. He left with 1 year of eligibility remaining, and headed to the professional ranks. On a side note, Zatkoff is likely to get his first NHL game action this weekend, as the Pittsburgh Penguins play back-to-back games for the first time this season.

Two’s Company

Connor Knapp was part of the two-headed monster for Miami's 2 Frozen Four appearances.

Connor Knapp was part of the two-headed monster for Miami’s 2 Frozen Four appearances.

Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard were the two-headed monster from the 2008-09 season through the 2011-12 season. Having used Zatkoff and Effinger on a rotating basis, Blasi made no qualms about his rotation strategy, and rotated these two for their entire 4 years. Williams and McKay have continued that trend once again, having played their freshman season as a quite-potent 1-2 punch in Oxford.

Along the way, Coach Blasi has maintained that whomever plays best in practice during the week will play on Friday night, and the Saturday goalie will be determined based on the Friday night performance. In addition, Blasi is frequently quoted as saying that the two goalies are always good friends and truly push each other to be better in practice. But how far can that get you?

The Importance of Having a Number 1

Cody Reichard was part of the two-headed monster with Connor Knapp. (flickr: 560XLS)

Cody Reichard was part of the two-headed monster with Connor Knapp. (flickr: 560XLS)

In the 2008-09 season, Cody Reichard got hot at the end of the season and became the top goalie. He played in all 4 tournament games including the National Championship game against Boston University. He allowed just four goals and made 65 saves during the NCAA Regional in Minneapolis and during 21 period stretch ending with the 2 regional games, only allowed 12 goals. With a vote of confidence earlier in the season and being named “the guy”, I wonder what happens differently late National Championship game. Jump into the 2009 season, and the roles were reversed. Reichard was benched late in the season in favor of Connor Knapp. I’m not saying Knapp definitely gets us past Boston College in the Frozen Four/National Semifinal instead of getting pulled for Reichard in the 2nd period. But who knows?

A quick tale of the tape to illustrate where I’m going:

Reichard’s career: 92 starts and 53 wins; Named CCHA Player of the Year and a first-team All-CCHA selection in 2009-10 going 15-5-2.
Knapp: 84 starts and 46 career wins; 2010-11 CCHA Best Goaltender Award finishing with a 15-8-0 record, including 12 wins in his final 16 starts, allowing a goal or less in 13 of his final 17 appearance.

Let’s say that Reichard gets half of Knapp’s starts and keeps the same 57.6 win percentage, that extrapolates to 77 career wins in 134 games. If Knapp gets half of Reichard’s? 130 starts and 71 wins. Staggering numbers while one is the main guy and another is the backup.

The Situation at Hand

Jay Williams was stellar last season before Ryan McKay caught fire. (Columbus Dispatch: Eamon Queeny)

Jay Williams was stellar last season before Ryan McKay caught fire. (Columbus Dispatch: Eamon Queeny)

Fast forward to 2012-13 when Ryan McKay and Jay Williams split time in net. Williams was 12-5-1 in 21 games and was 13-7-2 in 23 games. Jay Williams filled in for McKay at the start of the season while McKay was injured. Later, it was McKay who went on an unbelievable streak and ended up starting 13 of the last 15 games in net. Does that mean McKay will be the #1 guy come Friday night?

Don’t count on it.

I’m only one guy, and Enrico Blasi is one of the best coaches in the NCAA. He has a Spencer Penrose award for the best coach in all of Division 1 hockey, 8 straight and 9 total NCAA tournament appearances, 2 Frozen Fours, 2 CCHA Regular Season Championships, 1 CCHA Tournament Championship and 5 CCHA Coach of the Year awards. You can’t argue with his resume. I just think there’s an opportunity awaiting him this season when it comes to that two-headed monster in net. Here’s my plan for success this year, and into the future.

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

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

Ryan McKay starts as the top guy and plays the majority of the big games, including against teams such as Ohio State (2 games this year), North Dakota (4), St. Cloud State (4), and Wisconsin (2). Williams – by no means what you could call a “backup goalie” – can play the lesser foes such as Canisius, UNO, WMU, and the like. This allows that number one guy to be established. Blasi isn’t the type to encourage anyone to leave Miami early, but let’s say McKay leads the NCAA in GAA and Save % again, the leaves school early for the pros. This creates an ideal situation, and here’s why.

Williams, now a sophomore, will have his time for the next 2 years as a Junior and Senior. At the same time, Blasi is forced to recruit and bring in a goaltender, who is Williams’ protege and backup for 2 years. Barring any other early departures or injuries, at the very least, this gives Miami a succession plan as far as goalies go.

The Truth of the Matter

Turn no further than the season-opening exhibition against Windsor last Saturday night, and you’ll have your answer to the question of “what’s Rico’s goalie plan?” The RedHawks won, with Jay WIlliams getting the start, and Ryan McKay relieving him halfway through the game. Both looked good, although 2 turnovers cost Miami 2 goals in 10 seconds in the third period against McKay. While it has yet to come up during Blasi’s weekly press conferences, I’m sure  you’ll hear the same refrain when asked this season.

The two-headed monster returns to action tonight as Miami takes on Ohio State in the regular season opener, and returns to Oxford on Saturday against the same Buckeyes.

Enjoy the games, and be sure to follow us on Twitter at @MiamiHockeyBlog for updates.

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Both Miami Goalies Take Home CCHA Hardware, Smith a Hobey Finalist

At last Thursday’s CCHA Awards Banquet, 2 RedHawks took home some hardware on the night. Miami didn’t take home some of the awards we’ve grown accustomed to winning (defensive defenseman, CCHA POTY), but last night was still a success for 2 Miami Seniors.

For the on-ice awards, despite only receiving Honorable Mention for the All-CCHA teams, Senior Connor Knapp took home the goaltender of the year. Somewhere along the lines, the voters changed their minds and moved Knapp from the third best goalie in the league to the best, jumping over .  With his stats in 2012, you can understand why – I would have changed my mind as well. 16 games, 10-5-0 record, 1.41 goals against average, .945 save percentage, and don’t forget those 5 shutouts on the season and 13 career shutouts – a Miami record.

Reilly smith won this year’s Perani Cup, given to the player with the most nominations as one of the “3 stars of the game” in conference play. Check out the standings here, and you’ll see that he beat out this weekend’s opposing goalie Frank Slubowski for the award.

Jumping off of the ice now, we turn to Senior goaltender Cody Reichard. We know about Cody’s efforts with Swoop’s Stoop, and his hard work off the ice has also payed of. Reichard won the prestigious Ilitch Humanitarian Award, which is given to a player “who had tremendous philanthropic efforts.” Tremendous philanthropic efforts… that doesn’t even begin to describe Cody’s work with Swoop’s Stoop. Congratulations Cody on this award, and we hope we get to see a Lowe’s Senior CLASS award on your mantle as well!

In addition to yesterday’s CCHA Awards Banquet, the Hobey Baker Award Committee announced its 10 Finalists for the 2012 Player of the Year Award. Reilly Smith made the top 10 list, marking the 5th time in the last 6 years that Miami has had a Hobey Baker Award Finalist. Of the 10 finalists, 3 will be named to the Hobey Hat Trick, invited to Tampa Bay and the Frozen Four, and will be eligible to win the award.

Here’s a list of the finalists all-time for the Redskins/RedHawks.

  • Reilly Smith, 2012
  • Andy Miele, 2011 Winner
  • Carter Camper, 2011
  • Cody Reichard, 2010
  • Ryan Jones, 2008 – also a Hobey Hat Trick member
  • Nathan Davis, 2007
  • Andy Green, 2006
  • Derek Edwardson, 2004
  • Dan Boyle, 1998
  • Randy Robitaille, 1997
  • Brian Savage, 1993

Sorry for the late posting on this…It was a long weekend for the Warriors!

Miami routs Michigan State 6-0

Connor Knapp made 27 saves and Jimmy Mullin notched four points as Miami defeated Michigan State 6-0 in the first game of their best-of-three series at Steve Cady Arena.

For Knapp, it was his fifth shutout of the season to set a new single-season career high, his second shutout of the Spartans this year and his 13th shutout overall which is a new Miami school record. Meanwhile, freshman forward Jimmy Mullin netted two goals and added two assists to set a career high in points in a single game. Mullin now has an impressive 25 points on the season (11-14-25) trailing only junior forward Reilly Smith (26-13-39) and freshman forward Austin Czarnik (9-22-31) for team leadership.

Mullin opened the scoring just :12 into the game as he banged home a loose puck behind MSU goaltender Will Yanakeff who allowed five goals on 26 shots including four in the second period when Miami broke the game open with two quick goals just :34 apart. Senior defenseman Chris Wideman joined the rush and scored just his second goal of the season and freshman forward Tyler Biggs netted his 9th on the year making the game 3-0 and enabling the RedHawks to relax and cruise to the 6-0 victory.

Miami entered tonight’s game 0-9 all-time against the Spartans in the CCHA playoffs but the two teams had never met in Oxford. Overall this season, Miami is 3-0 against MSU and has allowed just one goal against including Knapp’s two shutouts.

MSU head coach Tom Anastos had this to say after this evening’s game.

“This is a very good team, and I believe I said it earlier in the week – [Miami] is under-rated, offensively. Not that they scored six goals, but the really nice plays they made and the offensive pressure they are able to generate. I thought the first period was pretty good for us, but obviously the second period was a challenge. We just need to regroup and be ready to go on Saturday.” (source: MSUSpartans.com)

In addition to Mullin’s two tallies and Biggs’ and Wideman’s goals, Miami received offensive support from junior Curtis McKenzie (5th) and freshman Blake Coleman who scored his 12th on the season and has now scored a goal in three of his past four games. And, Miami has now won a season-high seven consecutive games and has vaulted up to a tie for fifth in the PairWise (as of 9:33pm MDT) as several games went Miami’s way in addition to the victory. For reference, they are also fourth in KRACH.

Game two is scheduled for 7:05pm EST at Steve Cady Arena and with the students still away on Spring Break, tickets should be available. If you can’t make the game, it will be available via Miami All-Access at MURedHawks.com with Greg Waddell and Drew Davis carrying the call.

Additional Coverage

USCHO.com

MURedHawks.com

MSUSpartans.com

TheMunnMinute.com

Lansing State Journal

Dayton Daily News

 Around the CCHA

Bowling Green defeated Ferris State 3-2 in overtime (BG leads series 1-0) – Huge win for the Falcons and head coach Chris Bergeron

Michigan defeated Notre Dame 2-1 in overtime (Michigan leads series 1-0) – Chris Brown notched the game-winner

Western Michigan defeated Lake Superior 4-2 (WMU leads series 1-0) – Broncos cruised to a victory behind freshman goaltender Frank Slubowski

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!!!

Knapp Named INCH National Player of the Week

For the second time in two months, Miami senior goaltender Connor Knapp was named the Inside College Hockey National Player of the Week.

At this rate, Knapp is stocking up on more hardware than most Home Depot stores begging the questions — will Knapp enter the CCHA Player/Goaltender of the Year discussions, and possibly, merit Hobey Baker consideration?

One thing is certain, with the way he is currently playing, Miami would do well to ride the big man as far as he can carry them.

Congratulations, again, Connor!

Knapp Nabs Goaltender of the Week Honors

Miami senior netminder Connor Knapp was, once again, named the CCHA Goaltender of the Week for his performance in the RedHawks’ sweep of then #13 Notre Dame last weekend.

Knapp stopped 59 of 60 Irish shots on the weekend (I’m sure there’s a joke there somewhere) including a 3-0 whitewash on Friday night and was named the #1 star in both games. The only goal he allowed came on an Irish two-man advantage off a rebound in Miami’s 4-1 win on Saturday.

The senior from York, N.Y. has now claimed the league’s weekly goaltender recognition three times this year as he improved to 11-6 on the season. Knapp has an unbelievable 1.65 goals-against average (second nationally) and a save percentage of .934 which is third in the nation. Both marks lead the CCHA as the big man has seized control of the Miami net. He has now won 10 of his last 13 starts and hasn’t allowed more than one goal in nine of his last 11 games. In league play only, he is also tops in the CCHA with a 1.55 GAA and a .939 save percentage (source: MURedHawks.com).

Congratulations Connor!

Smith, Knapp and Czarnik Named CCHA Players of the Week

                

Reilly Smith               Connor Knapp             Austin Czarnik

Miami seniors Reilly Smith and Connor Knapp were named the CCHA Offensive Player and Goaltender of the Week respectively, while freshman Austin Czarnik was named the CCHA Rookie of the Week for their collective efforts in Miami’s sweep of then #8 Western Michigan.

Smith scored Miami’s first four goals of the weekend including a hat trick in Friday’s 3-1 victory while Knapp stopped 48 of 49 shots on the weekend notching his second shutout of the season. And, not to be overlooked, Miami freshman phenom Austin Czarnik tallied four assists on the weekend including helpers on all three Smith goals on Friday night.

Smith and Czarnik have now won a CCHA weekly award three times each this season and Knapp earned his second — both over the past three weeks.

MURedHawks.com has more on each player’s success.

Congratulations!

Miami completes sweep of Western Michigan 4-0

Connor Knapp made 22 saves in notching his second shutout of the season and added an assist on Miami’s second goal as the RedHawks received goals from four different players and completed the sweep of #8 Western Michigan by a final score of 4-0.

With the victory, Miami moved into a tie for second place in the tightly packed CCHA and are now just two points behind league leading, duhOSU.

Junior co-captain Reilly Smith opened the scoring in the first period for Miami with his fourth goal of the weekend, and his team leading 18th on the season, while freshman Jimmy Mullin (8th) and senior co-captain Alden Hirschfeld (8th) added breakaway goals to blow open a close game in the third period. Freshman Tyler Biggs (5th) added the fourth and final Miami goal just 24 seconds after Hirschfeld’s to send the Broncos back to Kalamazoo empty handed.

Evening Observations

Miami received solid efforts from several players tonight including an “under the weather” Curtis McKenzie who fought through a bug with hustle and hard work that helped contain the Broncos and make life miserable for them.

And, in addition to scoring a goal, Miami’s Reilly Smith was all over the ice killing penalties and even blocking shots for the RedHawks. Adding the captain’s ‘C’ to Reilly’s sweater seems to have brought even more out of him.

Freshman Ben Paulides has been earning head coach Enrico Blasi’s trust lately and his game has been mentioned by several folks as having greatly improved since the start of the season. And, again tonight. Paulides was solid in his own zone and was credited with an assist on Mullin’s goal early in the third period. It bodes well for next year if Paulides can lock down one of the top six defense positions with the impending losses of seniors Will Weber, Cameron Schilling and Chris Wideman.

As much as Miami dominated the Broncos tonight by limiting their time and space, they also exposed Western as maybe not yet ready to play “big boy hockey” as their alums and fans have been shouting for the past year. With multiple breakaway chances, Miami’s speed and size were simply too much for Western to handle as they’ve proven they do not possess the kind of elite talent to match a group of forwards as skilled as Miami’s. But, they play a great team game and will be a difficult out for anyone at full strength.

For the RedHawks, it was business as usual. And, Miami needs to continue to play well and make up ground in the national standings. If they continue to ride the superior goaltending of Connor Knapp and if the second and third lines continue to contribute scoring, the RedHawks will be fine as the year begins to wind down. It goes without saying that Miami has dialed up the team defense and is becoming very difficult to play against. Expected to be a strength at the start of the year, the RedHawks are now flexing their defensive muscles as they have absolutely shut teams down since a 2-6 start to the season. And, unbelievably, there are just ten regular season contests remaining in the 2011-12 season.

With tonight’s victory, Miami has moved into a tie for second in the CCHA and has moved into a tie for 14th in the Pairwise and 10th in KRACH.

Next weekend, Miami continues a four-game homestand as they welcome Northern Michigan to the Goggin for another important CCHA series.

Notes

– Connor Knapp has now won six consecutive starts and for the second time in three weeks, played both games. He again allowed just one goal on the weekend equaling his effort at Michigan State January 6-7.

– Knapp lowered his goals against average this weekend to a ridiculous 1.77 and improved his save percentage to an inhuman .932 after stopping 48 of 49 shots in the two wins

– The Broncos again played without leading scorers Dane Walters and Shane Berschbach

– Tampa Bay Lightning GM and former Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman was in the house tonight, presumably to check in on his fourth round selection from 2010, Miami’s Jimmy Mullin (nice time to score a goal, Jimmy).

– By playing Connor Knapp in both games this weekend, head coach Enrico Blasi redeemed himself after going against his gut last weekend. Knapp has to play until he proves he can’t handle the workload.

– Here’s the MURedHawks.com recap

– An interesting, if not whiny take, from MLive.com with whiny quotes from Bronco head coach Andy Murray. I have to admit, I didn’t expect this from him.

Deep (Weekend) Thoughts…belatedly

This is more of a rant than a true weekend recap at this point, but I haven’t completely been able to put my shock into words at how the weekend series split against then #19 Lake Superior State went down.

Miami entered Saturday night’s game having won three straight including Friday’s 2-1 victory. They’d clawed their way into third place in the CCHA and into the Pairwise top 10. Connor Knapp had been in net for all three of those contests and (still) has won four straight starts. Knapp had been nearly flawless allowing just two goals in the three wins and lowered his goals against average to 2.04 and improved his save percentage to .922. Both of those numbers are in line with Knapp’s career averages at Miami and if the season ended today, his save percentage would set a career’s best mark (by .001).

But, as we know, head coach Enrico Blasi decided to sit Knapp and instead start senior Cody Reichard who hadn’t seen the ice since a 3-2 overtime loss to then #4 Ohio State on Saturday, December 10. By my fuzzy math, that’s a span of 35 days between starts.

Now, I understand the need to get Cody into a game, but it seems clear the winningest head coach in Miami hockey history did not heed his own preachings.

Prior to the series, Blasi went on record with the Dayton Daily News’ Pete Conrad and told the longtime Miami beat writer that practice would determine Friday’s starter and Friday’s game would determine Saturday’s starter.

Specifically, Blasi said, “We’ve told both goalies the week of practice will determine who plays Friday and Friday’s game will determine who plays Saturday, and it’ll be that way for the rest of the year.”

By that account, there is absolutely no reason I can think of (save an undisclosed suspension, violation of team rules or injury) why Knapp did not play Saturday night. Obviously, this is Coach Blasi’s team, not mine, but “getting Cody some ice time” when you have a goaltender so locked in right in the middle of a dogfight for CCHA points and national Pairwise rankings does not make sense.

The numbers and Coach Blasi’s own testimony speak to putting Connor Knapp in the net and riding him as far as he can go.

Consider that before Friday night’s game, Knapp’s goals against average was 2.35. Reichard’s was 2.52.

Before Friday’s game, Knapp’s save percentage was .917. Reichard’s was .900.

And, obviously by now, you know what happened.

Reichard started and was rocked for four goals on just 26 shots as Miami lost 4-3. This despite outshooting the Lakers 46-26 including an 18-2 margin in a dominant third period that saw Lake’s Kevin Kapalka do his best “Dominik Hasek in his prime” impression. Cody saw his goals against average balloon to 2.63 and his save percentage fall to .897 which as most know, are pedestrian numbers by today’s goaltending standards — and Reichard’s career numbers for that matter.

So, there wasn’t a huge statistical disparity but Knapp was hot. He obviously earned the right during practice to start Friday, so I just can’t understand how making 25 saves and surrendering one goal in Friday’s victory wasn’t enough to earn him the start on Saturday night?

And, trust me, this isn’t to say I don’t want to see Cody Reichard in Miami’s goal. Everyone knows he’s EARNED the right to playing time. I just question Coach Blasi’s thought process when he could not have laid out a clearer path just a few days prior.

Hopefully, both netminders get/stay hot for the remainder of the season, but Saturday night’s loss was costly as Miami fell from third to fifth in the CCHA and from 10th in the Pairwise to a tie for 15th, barely good enough to make the tournament if the season ended today.

Thankfully, there’s still plenty of hockey (12 meaningful games) to be played.

Connor Knapp named INCH National Player of the Week

Fresh off earning CCHA Goaltender of the week honors, Miami senior netminder Connor Knapp is the Inside College Hockey National Player of the Week.

Knapp’s stellar weekend in which he allowed just one goal on 54 shots leading Miami to a needed road sweep of then #15 Michigan State earned the distinction over several players including Daniel Bahntge (Mercyhurst), Daniel Carr (Union), Joey Diamond (Maine) and Carter Rowney (North Dakota).

Congratulations, again, Connor!