#4 Miami hosts Michigan State for 2 game set
Another week, another Michigan team for the RedHawks to play. This week will mark the 4th straight week that Miami has played a team from Michigan, this time welcoming the Michigan State Spartans to Steve Cady Arena.
The last 3 Michigan teams Miami has played were all ranked teams at the time, having split with Michigan and Ferris State on the road and taking 5 points over Northern Michigan last weekend. (In case you were wondering, Miami heads to Alaska in 2 weeks, but plays the 5th of 6 CCHA schools from the state of Michigan in the Lake Superior State Lakers the first weekend of December, and we have to wait until February to see the 6th such team – Western Michigan.)
As we scout the unranked Spartans, the first thing we notice is that they just beat Michigan 7-2 last Saturday night. In fact, Sparty has won their last 3 Saturday night games and lost each of those series’ 3 Friday night games. Not only that, but they have outscored their opponents 17-5 in those Saturday games. Each of these series has been against CCHA teams, and Michigan State stands in a tie for third in the logjammed CCHA standings at the start of the week (ND beat Michigan Thursday night to jump to the top of the CCHA and push Miami to 2nd and MSU to 4th currently).
Second year coach Tom Anastos had only good things to say about the RedHawks. “I’ve watched them on video half a dozen times,” Anastos said at Tuesday’s press conference. “I’d like to see them in person now. They play really hard, and they’re a good team. They’ve done a good job building a culture that, in spite of bringing in a lot of new (players), they are coming into a culture. That’s what we want to establish here.” (source: The State News)
Michigan State will be led by Sophomore Matt Berry, who currently stands 4th in CCHA scoring with 6 goals and 5 assists (behind RedHawks Riley Barber, 14pts and Austin Czarnik, 13 pts). Berry had a hat trick in the 7-2 victory over Michigan and looks to lead the Spartans over another ranked CCHA foe.
Anastos, the former CCHA Commissioner, seems a bit unsettled on his goalie situation at the moment. Junior Will Yanakeff has played in 7 games, compiling just a 2-4-1 record and is allowing 3.71 goals per contest. Freshman Jake Hildebrand was in net for MSU’s big win against Michigan, and is 2-1 on the season, and has only allowed 1.8 goals in his 4 games played.
In the Miami net, we will likely see the return of Ryan McKay as he returns from injury. Coach Blasi remains quite secretive on who will play: “He’s going,” Blasi said. “I don’t know if he’s going to play this weekend or not, but he’s 100 percent and ready to go if called on.” (source: The Miami Student)
Jay Williams has performed fantastically while McKay has been nursing some sort of groin or leg injury, and we’ll likely see the rotation kick back up again now that he’s healthy. McKay sports a 1-0-1 record with the tie being a shootout win against Providence. After that shootout win, McKay started the Friday night game at Michigan and that is when he quickly came out of the game. Just 5 minutes in, McKay injured himself, came out of the game, and even went into the locker room for a stretch. He was the only other goaltender dressed that night, so he did come back on the bench and was also the only goalie dressed for the other 5 games Miami has played (2 at Ferris and 2 at home against NMU) as well. In any event, it will be nice to see this freshman back on the ice and fighting off the frozen rubber again.
We like repeating it, so we’ll fill you in on the leading scorer in the CCHA – Miami’s Riley Barber. Barber leads all scorers as a rookie with 14 points and Austin Czarnik is just one point behind him. Czarnik leads the RedHawks with 6 goals and leads the country with 3 shorthanded goals. The new “super duo” as coined by CBS College Sports’ Dave Starman will look to continue their hot play this weekend.
As we mentioned in last week’s wrap up, the Hawks will need to stay out of the box this week. Michigan State clearly has the ability to put the puck in the net, it’s a matter of when (Friday or Saturday?). MSU is scoring on 25% (11 of 44) of their power plays and Miami will need to make sure they aren’t caught in the box for a sudden outpouring of goals like MSU had against Michigan last Saturday.
As we wind down towards puck drop, I can’t help but think Miami is going to sweep the weekend and the boys will again sit atop the CCHA standings after 4 weeks of CCHA play. Miami has owned Michigan State of late, having won the last 5 contests including 2 CCHA tournament games last season. Overall, Miami is 31-68-5 against MSU and Coach Blasi looks to improve his record above .500 as he is currently 19-20-0 against the Spartans. Miami is 4-0-2 at home this season, and 2-2 when allowing 3 or more goals. Team defense will again be the name of the game to keep MSU off the scoreboard.
While 5 points is nice, 6 points is nicer. Let’s get a sweep, RedHawks! See you at the game on Saturday night!
Union, UMass-Lowell and Michigan State
So, at the start of the season, if you knew Miami would be the second seed in the East Regional with these three schools, how many of you would have said “sign me up?”
Well, that’s precisely what the RedHawks have in front of them this weekend as they look to secure their third trip to the Frozen Four in four seasons. When you break it down, there is absolutely no logical reason I can think of why Miami shouldn’t win this regional going away. Sadly though, it doesn’t always turn out that way as we well know.
This region is so ripe for the taking, it’s highly possible the #1 seed in the east, Union, won’t even make it past a well-rested, but certainly not powerful Michigan State program with a new lease on life. After the shellacking Miami put on them in Oxford a few weeks ago, the Spartans had to sweat out the CCHA’s championship weekend awaiting word on whether they’d have an opportunity to continue their year. Unfortunately for the Dutchmen, the Spartans have much to prove and will be well-motivated to send the ECAC champions back to Schenectady empty-handed just like last year and I think they will.
When you look at the River Hawks of Lowell, on paper it’s hard to believe they have 23 wins in what was a down year for Hockey East. Traditionally strong programs Vermont and New Hampshire were down and mediocre squads like UML, Maine and BU were able to compete for a championship with only BC emerging as a true national title threat. Heck, Providence whom Miami destroyed 6-2 at the Denver Cup was a threat in that league this year and dispatched the River Hawks (WTF?) in the Hockey East playoffs in three games. In some of the worst uniforms I’ve ever seen, the tiny Lowell squad is made up of guys I’ve never heard of before. Again, none of this means anything. Miami has traditionally struggled with small, quick (though I have no idea if the River Hawks can skate) Hockey East teams in the past but this year’s edition of the RedHawks has speed and our traditional size to burn. A small, quick team such as Michigan State has had absolutely zero success against Miami this year as evidenced by our 4-0 record against the Spartans. You’d like to think this game is Miami’s to lose, but in a one game format, absolutely anything can, and usually does, happen. And, apparently their best player, someone named Riley Wetmore (12-25-37), a nearly 23 year old junior (good lord), has a broken hand to deal with and his effectiveness will undoubtedly be limited against a Miami squad that can bring physicality on every line. And, their leading scorer, Scott Wilson (16-21-37), is just a freshman who lacks experience in big time games, though he is also advanced in age (20).
Size, speed, experience, goaltending, coaching. They all belong to Miami in this game. The one thing Lowell has in its court is the home ice advantage as I’m sure the River Hawks will feel right at home playing hockey in a dump like Bridgeport.
In looking at this regional, Miami has a Frozen Four run set up nicely. In addition to their advantages over UML, they are 4-0 against Michigan State and would either face the Spartans or Union in the second round who has no scholarship players and plays in the relatively weak ECAC.
Hopefully, the hockey gods look favorably upon RedHawk Nation this weekend and we are fortunate enough to advance. Regardless, it should be an exciting weekend. But, you have to feel like its our time. We’ve endured disappointing regional performances before so that’s always a cautionary point. Yet, this Miami team is peaking at the right time and should come into the weekend with the confidence knowing they’ve been here before, and more importantly, they’ve done this before – which no one else in the region can say. Hell, Lowell hasn’t been to the tournament in 16 years. Miami is led by its 10 seniors and it feels like things are coming together at just the right time.
Here are the highlights from Friday’s 6-0 victory over Michigan State.
It’s going to be a long couple weeks waiting for Miami’s second round CCHA playoff series against the Michigan State Spartans. Here are a few links and tidbits to help you cope through the bye week.
Smith, Knapp, Mullin Named CCHA Players of the Week
For what seems like the 40th time this year, the Miami RedHawks had multiple members of the club named CCHA players of the week. And, for Reilly Smith and Connor Knapp, their names have been etched on the awards almost weekly during the second half of the season.
Smith had a weekend line of 3-3-6 including a four-point night on Saturday in Miami’s sweep of duhOSU in earning the CCHA Offensive Player of the Week honor. Smith now has 26 goals on the season which is best in the conference and second in the nation. He was +6 on the weekend and named the #1 star both nights. He has now won this award four times this season, most of any player.
Knapp stopped 50 of 51 shots on the weekend in notching both victories and landing the CCHA Goaltender of the Week award. He allowed just the one goal on the weekend, which was a 5×3 powerplay, and earned his fourth shutout of the season on Friday. The reigning INCH National Player of the Week is making a strong stretch run to be included in all major player of the year discussions. His 1.53 GAA is first in the country and his .939 save percentage is second while both lead the CCHA. (source: MURedHawks.com)
Jimmy Mullin earned the first weekly award of his career by being named the CCHA Rookie of the Week after a 1-4-5 line and +5 weekend. Mullin had two assists on Friday and followed that up with a 1-2-3 line on Saturday when he opened the scoring with his ninth goal of the season.
For the season, he has nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points, which ties for third on the team and ranks fifth among freshmen in the CCHA. (source: MURedHawks.com)
As a team, the RedHawks have claimed 17 CCHA weekly awards, four more than any other team. In addition to Smith and Knapp’s four awards each, Miami has won six Rookie of the Week honors, as Mullin is the fourth different RedHawk to win the award, and three CCHA Gladiator Defenseman of the Week accolades. (source: MURedHawks.com)
Moving on Up
The weekend sweep has given Miami a six-game winning streak to close the season. The last loss for the RedHawks came on February 4 when Michigan finished a weekend sweep in Ann Arbor. Miami finds themselves tied for eighth in the most recent PairWise, sixth in KRACH (6th most difficult schedule), eighth in the INCH Power Rankings, 11th in the USCHO poll, and finally getting some respect from USA TODAY as they are eighth in the USA TODAY/USA Hockey poll.
The RedHawks earned a well-deserved first round bye and the right to host a second round series against former CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos’ Michigan State Spartans March 9-11 at Steve Cady Arena.
Anastos Bullish on Miami
Speaking of Tom Anastos…the MSU head coach and former CCHA commissioner made several flattering comments when asked about the RedHawks in his Monday press conference. Take a listen. He’s definitely turning on the coach-speak, but his praise for Miami is well earned. He makes some interesting points about the size differential between the two squads. And, as you recall, he was most concerned about Miami’s physicality the last time the two teams met, a Miami sweep in East Lansing on January 6-7. Here’s what we had to say after that series the opened the RedHawks’ second half surge.
To his credit, Anastos said of the Friday game, “I thought that we got what we expected – a tough, physical game from an opponent that has some pretty good size across the board. They made things tough for us, but we generated some shots and did a good job getting in front of the net.” (source: Lansing State Journal) So, at least the Spartan head man acknowledged the size and strength of the RedHawks and certainly did not go on the record complaining about calls because he got plenty of them Saturday night. On the results of the weekend, Anastos said, “When someone comes into your rink and beats you in every phase of the game, that’s unacceptable.” (source:Lansing State Journal) It’s always great hearing an opposing coach talk about how his team was dominated — especially in their barn.
Winter Break in Review; Weekend Preview against MSU
Get over your New Year’s hangovers, ladies and gentlemen. IT’S HOCKEY TIME AGAIN!!!!
While the Redskin Warriors were busy feasting on some football bowl games, delicious Christmas dinners, and partying way to hard on New Years, but we’re back in the groove now, and ready to rock the second half of the RedHawks’ season.
Austin Czarnik plays in the U-18 WJC in Canada
Austin Czarnik was named Team USA’s Best Three Players of the World Junior Championship in Canada. Czarnik had 3 points in the tournament opener (1-2–3) against Denmark, and was featured by the NHL Network and CBS College Sports’ Dave Starman in a special feature before the US’ loss to Finland last week. Sweden won the WJC in an overtime thriller over Russia last night if you didn’t catch the game, and the US was 3-3 in the tournament, but did not make the medal round. Have no fear – Czarnik will be back in red and white (minus the blue) Friday and Saturday in East Lansing.
Tommy Wingels was called back up to the San Jose Sharks, and Andy Miele made another appearance in Phoenix.
Wingels came from the Worcester Sharks on 1/5/12, and has a 13-8–21 line in 29 games this season. Tommy had 4 goals, 2 assists and a +6 rating during the week ending 12/18/11, and was named AHL Player of the Week for his efforts. Wingles likely takes the place of the Sharks injured Colin White, who is on IR. He has recoorded 10 shots, 1 assist and 4 penalty minutes in his previous 4 games with the NHL club this season. Tommy has since been sent back to Worcester. He played over 10 minutes against the Blue Jackets on 1/5/12, and registered just 1 shot.
Miele was called back up on December 27th. He has played 24 games with the Portland Pirates (AHL), and was named the AHL’s Rookie of the Month for November (4-9–13 points in 10 games in November) and earned a spot on the AHL Eastern Conference’s All-Star Team. In his previous stint with the big club, Miele played 5 games and collected 4 penalty minutes, but no points. If you’re in the Providence area, Andy faces off against the Providence Bruins and former classmate Carter Camper tonight as he returns to AHL action.
Kevyn Adams to be inducted to Miami Hall of Fame on February 11
Kevyn Adams, Miami’s 4th leading scorer all time with 172 points and a lenghty NHL career, will join the Miami Hall of Fame on February 11. Adams scored 69 goals, 103 assists and was a CCHA All-Rookie Team member, hit the 2nd Team All-CCHA squad in 94-95, and signed redhawk95’s #10 Miami jersey in a now-infamous visit to Oxford several years ago. Adams’ good looks are rivaled only by redhawk95, and for it, Kevyn bought the table a pitcher of beer.
That’s myself, some guy who was stealing our “Kevyn Adams beer” (Hi A.S.!!!), and redhawk95 from left to right.
Adams is also one of just 2 Miami Redskins/RedHawks to have his name enscribed on the Stanley Cup, having won the cup with the Carolina Hurricanes (now the Winnipeg Jets) in 2006. The induction will take place at the Miami Men’s Basketball game on February 11 at 3:30pm, and Adams is sure to head over to the Goggin for the 7:05 puck drop against Alabama-Huntsville.
WEEKEND PREVIEW: RedHawks travel to East Lansing for 2-game set against Michigan State
Michigan State (the “consensus No. 15 team in the country” per MSUSpartans.com) starts a 6 game homestand with this weekend’s series, and they come off of a runner up finish in the Great Lakes Invitational last weekend. MSU beat Michigan Tech in the semifinals of the 4-team tournament, and allowed a game-winner 3:22 into overtime against Michigan last Friday night in the championship game.
MSU is led by former CCHA Commissioner Tom Anastos, and are currently tied for 6th in the topsy-turvy CCHA standings. Michgan State is 6-5-1 in the CCHA and 11-7-2 overall. The Spartans have at least 2 games in hand on each of the other 10 teams in the league though, and will look to climb up those standings quickly in 2012.
It’s been a long time off for the Hawks, as they have not played since losing to the second-ranked Ohio State University in overtime on December 10th. After the month off, it will be interesting to see how the Hawks fare as they start the second half, or if the Rico Swoon will be of the season-long variety this year. Miami finished the first half losing 3 of 4 games, and looks to make a turnaround in the second half after a disappointing start of the season.
Reilly Smith is still leading the way for the RedHawks, tallying 12 goals and 5 assists. Czarnik, who will be back from Canada in time for the game Friday night, has 7 goals and 9 assists and also leads the team with a +7 rating. Captain Alden Hirschfeld is the only other ‘Hawk in double digits with 5 goals and 9 assists. No other ‘Hawks were in action over the break with any international teams, so look for a slow start on Friday night and a better effort Saturday.
MSU will likely send out Drew Palmisano to keep the net clear of RedHawk shots in both contests. Last year, Palmisano led MSU to a 7-4 victory on Friday night in East Lansing. Miami’s head coach Enrico Blasi got medieval on the Hawks, only starting 20 skaters the next night, and the motivation worked, as Miami took a 4-0 victory Saturday night. Look for the Reichard/Knapp rotation again for Miami, as both goalies are healthy (as are all skaters, INCLUDING Cody Murphy, who starts Friday night!).
MSU got a jump on the break and will rock us tonight, but we’ll come back strong Saturday night.
MSU 4-1 Friday, Miami 4-2 Saturday.
Enjoy the games, and Go RedHawks!