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.