Tournament MVP Reilly Smith scored three goals in two games and All-Denver Cup goaltender Cody Reichard made 32 saves Saturday night as the RedHawks swept Providence and host Denver at the 20th annual Denver Cup Classic at Magness Arena.
Joining Reichard and Smith on the all-tournament team were freshman forward Austin Czarnik who registered 1-3-4 and senior defenseman Cameron Schilling, who was initially credited with Miami’s third goal on Saturday before it was awarded to Smith, but chipped in with two assists in the tournament.
With the weekend’s two wins, Miami has now stretched its seasons-best unbeaten streak to eight games and has moved two games above .500 for the first time this year. At 8-6-2, the RedHawks are beginning to find their stride as all facets of their game were on display over the weekend, including the power play, which finished 3-for-9, and the defense that seemed to play with renewed intensity finishing checks and reverting to Miami’s notoriously aggressive style that overwhelmed the Friars and certainly surprised the Pioneers early last night.
Against Providence, Miami skated and passed demonstrating superior speed and skill. While the Friars netted two goals, they were never really a serious threat to win the game as both goals were scored off Miami mistakes. The first a terrible defensive zone turnover, and in perhaps showing a little rust in his return to the net, senior goaltender Connor Knapp appeared to be too deep in his crease when the Friars scored their second goal of the night in the second period.
Other thoughts from Friday as I saw this team live for the first time this season:
– The top 6 forwards were all over the Friars with three tallies from the freshmen which is incredibly encouraging.
– Having speed is something that will really set this team apart as they grow over the next few years. And, we finally have it.
– Jimmy Mullin is very strong on the puck and knows how to find his way between the circles with it.
– Blake Coleman is feisty and will be a point-scoring machine.
– “Awesome” Alden Hirschfeld looked like the captain on Friday night. Workmanlike and efficient. He led by example.
– It was good to see Connor Knapp back in net. He looked a little rusty on the second goal, but was otherwise strong making the saves he needed to enabling Miami to coast to the 6-2 victory.
In last night’s championship game against Denver, Miami got off to a slow start as they tried to dictate terms to the Pioneers. Will Weber was caught up in a scuffle during the first stoppage as he was sent off along with Denver’s Dusty Jackson. The ensuing faceoff was in the Miami zone and won cleanly by the Pioneers leading to Chris Knowlton’s blistering slapshot off the draw that put DU on top 1-0 at the :11 mark of the game.
But, as this team begins to play with the sort of confidence we’ve come to expect over the years, it felt as if it didn’t really matter. Miami struck back shortly thereafter as junior Reilly Smith notched his third goal on the weekend at 4:41 of the first off a wrister from between the circles that appeared to be slowed by Denver freshman goaltender Juho Olkinuora but not stopped.
Miami struck again in the period when at 12:09, freshman center Austin Czarnik stole the puck at the Denver blueline and walked in on Olkinuora sending a nifty backhand through the five-hole that found the back of the net giving the RedHawks a 2-1 lead. Once again, the Pioneers’ third-string goalie who shut out the Princeton Tigers one night before, appeared to get a piece of Czarnik’s shot, but not enough. Miami would not trail again.
In the second, Miami would score their third consecutive goal as senior defenseman Cameron Schilling sent a hard wrister on goal that was ultimately deflected by Smith giving Miami a 3-1 lead. For Smith, it was his team-leading 11th goal of the season.
Later in the second, the Pioneers were the benefactors of yet another poor Miami defensive zone turnover as the RedHawks lost a battle along the boards and the puck squeaked away and onto the stick of Drew Shore who made an easy centering pass to a wide open Ty Loney who beat Reichard glove-side to bring the Pioneers within a goal.
But, while Denver dominated play during the third period, Cody Reichard turned in one of his signature big game performances as he turned aside all 10 shots including three saves on Denver’s Jason Zucker, a second-round draft pick of the Minnesota Wild.
Zucker attacked the goal on a mini-break when he came in with Will Weber trailing and attempted to go from his left to right. But, Reichard stood tall and made the save while Weber was whistled for a slashing penalty. Rather than accept the two minute power play, Denver head coach George Gwozdecky elected for a penalty shot thinking a one-on-one encounter with his best player would be a better way to beat Reichard. But, Reichard came up big waiting out Zucker who attempted a backhand that was stopped by Miami’s senior goaltender.
Reichard would stone Zucker again late in the third period from close range and senior Trent Vogelhuber scored an empty net goal as Miami defeated Denver for the third consecutive time by a 4-2 score.
– Former Miami and current Denver head coach George Gwozdecky coached in his 1,000th career game.
– Enrico Blasi is now 3-1 against the Pioneers, and his former mentor, in his coaching career.
– Miami is now 3-3 all-time against Providence and 4-4 all-time against Denver.
– Miami returns to CCHA play next weekend as they travel to face Northern Michigan in Marquette, Mich.
– This was Miami’s second win ever in Denver, the first coming in 1997 when the RedHawks captured their first Denver Cup title. Miami is now 2-3 all-time at Denver.
Miami freshman forward Tyler Biggs will not be playing in this weekend’s Denver Cup games vs. Providence and Denver according to a tweet posted to his personal Twitter feed yesterday.
Biggs said that he would be traveling with the team, but was disappointed that he would not be playing. We’ll see if we can get an update prior to tomorrow’s 6:37pm EST puck drop against the Providence Friars.
Denver has also announced that starting goaltender Adam Murray and senior defenseman John Ryder will both miss not only this weekend, but significant time meaning that the Pioneers have now lost their top two goaltenders to injury for most of the season. And, in Ryder, they also lose their top shutdown defenseman and physical presence on the blueline.