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Preview: Miami at Ice Breaker Tourney

WHO: Miami RedHawks (2-0) vs. No. 5 Providence Friars (1-0).

WHEN: Friday – 4 p.m.; Saturday – vs. Notre Dame/Mercyhurst 4 p.m./7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Erie Insurance Arena, Erie, Pa.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Providence leads, 9-5-3.

PROVIDENCE RADIO: WHJJ-FM (104.7), Providence, R.I.

NOTES: Miami dominated Alabama-Huntsville in a home sweep to open its season last weekend, but the RedHawks will face at least one top five team as they participate in their first Ice Breaker since 2006.

MU will face either host Mercyhurst or No. 2 Notre Dame on Saturday, depending on the outcome in the openers. The last time the RedHawks participated in an Ice Breaker was the weekend Cady Arena opened in October 2006.

Miami finished second that weekend, beating Denver but falling to Vermont.

The RedHawks and Providence have frequently met in October the past few seasons, but typically on one of the teams’ campuses. The last time they met at a neutral site was the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2015 when PC won 7-5 in Providence at a game hosted by Brown.

Hayden Hawkey was in net for all 24 Providence wins last season and is already 1-0 in 2018-19. He posted a 2.04 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage as he seeks his 50th career collegiate victory.

He is one of 17 returning members of the Friars, who have added three NHL draft picks including their fourth-ever first-round pick in Philadelphia Flyers selection forward Jay O’Brien.

Providence lost its top two points-producers from 2017-18 but has four of its double-digit goal scorers back, including Kasper Bjorkqvist, who tied for the team lead with 16 last season.

Josh Wilkins potted 15 and tallied 31 points, Scott Conway scored 13 times and is 1-1-2 already in 2018-19, and Vimal Sukumaran finished with 10 markers.

PC swept Miami last October at Cady Arena and beat American University, 3-1 in this season’s opener. Notre Dame is seeing its first regular season action this weekend, and Mercyhurst dropped an 8-2 decision vs. Bowling Green in its lone game last weekend.

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Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

So, it would be an understatement to say that we’ve been a little distracted here over the past couple weeks. Previews? Nah. Recaps? What?

Well, here’s a little Saturday update to tide you over til tonight.

What’d we miss?

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RedHawks announce commemorative jersey for Hockey City Classic

Tonight, Miami unveiled their uniform for the 2013 Hockey City Classic, and it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen from the RedHawks. Or maybe it’s a combination of a lot of what you’ve seen in the past from them? Either way, I can’t say they are the prettiest jerseys I’ve ever seen, but they do look pretty darn special.

Here’s Miami’s release on the new jersey design, with Steven Spinell showing off the new unis. Spinell is a Chicago-born and raised kid, who will certainly relish this weekend’s game against Notre Dame in Soldier Field.

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Miami to face Notre Dame in Hockey City Classic

Well, what we’ve known for some time became reality today as Miami, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Minnesota held a joint press conference at Chicago’s venerable new Soldier Field to announce the inaugural Hockey City Classic. Aside from the egregious ripoff of Detroit’s “Hockeytown” mantra, the name and logo are both serviceable.

The RedHawks will face CCHA rival Notre Dame in the two schools final regular season meeting as conference mates on Sunday, February 17, 2013. As of now, I believe this is technically a home game for Miami as the teams will meet on Friday, February 15 in Oxford, then make the five hour bus trip to the Windy City to complete the two-game CCHA weekend series. This is the first outdoor game in program history for both Miami and Notre Dame.

Last year, Miami went 2-0 against Notre Dame as they swept an important home series by 3-0 and 4-1 scores as the RedHawks were streaking toward the playoffs.

Interestingly, Miami has yet to play a game inside Notre Dame’s new Compton Family Ice Arena which opened last season. Miami’s first trip there will either be a CCHA playoff series at the conclusion of this season, or in the years to come, as a non-conference tilt.

Here’s the full release at the newly redesigned MURedHawks.com (as an aside, the new design is hideous). Miami senior defenseman Steven Spinell was Miami’s player rep at today’s presser.

In the second part of the doubleheader, Wisconsin will meet longtime WCHA rival Minnesota in one of their final regular season clashes before bolting the league for the Big Ten Hockey Conference.

Knapp, RedHawks stop Irish

Connor Knapp made 31 saves and Miami received goals from freshmen Blake Coleman and Tyler Biggs and junior Reilly Smith as the RedHawks defeated Notre Dame 3-0.

Blake Coleman opened the scoring at 2:08 of the first period and that was all senior netminder Connor Knapp would need as he cruised to his third shutout of the season and the 11th of his outstanding Miami career. He is just one behind classmate Cody Reichard and underloved David Burleigh for the school’s career record of 12 shutouts. If it were up to me, Knapp would be in net again tomorrow as Miami goes for the series sweep.

In giving Miami a 1-0 lead, Coleman ensured the RedHawks would improve upon their superb record when scoring first. Miami is now 15-5-1 when scoring first this year.

Coleman took the puck off the half boards on the left wing and skated toward the UND net wristing a quick shot on Notre Dame junior netminder Mike Johnson who was far too deep in his net hugging the near post. Coleman picked his spot and hit it with deadly accuracy as Johnson never had a chance given how he was playing the shot. It was another example of poor goaltending that, along with an inability to find the opposing net, has hindered this talented, but underachieving, Irish squad.

In actuality, the Irish outshot Miami 31-16 on the evening, but it certainly didn’t feel that way as, quite frankly, I was never concerned that Notre Dame could dent the net. If they had 31 shots, then they were the quietest 31 shots I’ve seen in a long time.

As we noted in the preview, Miami had to control Notre Dame’s top line including sophomores T.J. Tynan and Anders Lee. And, the Miami defense, led by Chris Wideman and Will Weber did just that as head coach, and newly minted man, Enrico Blasi utilized the last change to match his top defensive pairing against the Irish top line all night.

And, as we said in the preview, goaltending was a major factor in tonight’s game as Miami got it from Knapp while the Irish suffered through yet another substandard performance from Mike Johnson who made just 13 saves on 15 shots (Biggs’ goal was an empty-netter as Miami put the Irish away) for another ugly loss where his save percentage was just .867. That’s simply not good enough in college hockey of today.

For Miami and Connor Knapp, it was another dominating defensive performance as the RedHawks appear to be finding their defensive legs just in time as the season winds down. Knapp lowered his goals against average to 1.69 and improved his save percentage to .931 in earning his 10th win of the season. Knapp’s GAA and save percentage are career highs while his win total is just short of the 13 games he won in his freshman season when Miami reached the NCAA title game.

Junior forward Reilly Smith would add his league leading 22nd goal of the season in the second period when he gobbled up a rebound of a Ben Paulides shot off a rush. Smith made a nifty play taking the puck from his skate to his backhand to beat Johnson who was still recovering from Paulides’ wrister. Biggs picked up the other assist on the play giving him two points on the evening as he would add an empty netter late in the third period as the Irish pulled Johnson during the waning moments of a powerplay that went for naught.

Notes

– Both teams finished just 0-for-2 on the power play

– Miami head coach Enrico Blasi earned his 200th career CCHA victory, becoming the ninth coach in history to win 200 CCHA games

– Miami found itself shorthanded just twice tonight as they did what they had to to stay out of the box and play a disciplined game against a very questionable opponent in terms of tactics. I actually thought CCHA officials Keith Sergott and Barry Pochmara called a great game as they let the players decide the outcome in this important weekend matchup.

– The RedHawks are now 9-1-2 against Notre Dame in the last 12 contests head-to-head and go for the series sweep tomorrow night at 7:05PM EST at Steve Cady Arena

– With a few games yet to final tonight, the victory has propelled Miami into a tie for 11th in the PairWise rankings strangely enough with Michigan State due to Alaska falling out of TUC status with a loss to the Spartans. Miami could use some help from the Space Bears as they take on the Spartans again tomorrow night. Speaking of the Space Bears…enjoy.

Weekend Preview: #13 Notre Dame v. #19 Miami

The Notre Dame Racist Nicknames Fighting Irish travel to Steve Cady Arena this weekend for the teams’ only two regular season clashes this season.

Last season Miami and Notre Dame split a series in Oxford and tied twice later in the season in South Bend, Ind. However, in the one that really counted, Miami (17-13-2, 11-11-2-1 t7th CCHA) dominated the Irish (16-13-3, 11-10-3 t7th CCHA) in the CCHA semifinal in Detroit, Mich. winning 6-2 behind four points from eventual Hobey Baker winner Andy Miele and another three from junior forward Reilly Smith en route to the Mason Cup. Notre Dame is led by head coach Jeff Jackson who brings his brand of whiny hockey back to Oxford where Miami is 18-8-2 all-time against the Irish. The RedHawks lead the all-time series by a substantial 36-16-10 mark and are 8-1-2 against the Irish in the last 11 games.

Despite what appears to be a wealth of offensive talent, the Irish have struggled to score goals this year averaging just 2.8 goals per game while featuring a veteran team coming off a Frozen Four appearance. Up front, the Irish are led by sophomores T.J. Tynan (12-26-38) and Anders Lee (14-16-30), neither of whom have shown signs of a “sophomore slump.” The Irish are also led by junior hack forward Riley Sheahan (9-15-24) who has a knack for running opposing goaltenders and was suspended for one game earlier this season for knocking Western Michigan’s best player, senior Dane Walters, out of their series with a blow to the head. Walters would also miss the subsequent series against Miami when the RedHawks swept the Broncos in Oxford. In what was considered a first in the CCHA, that suspension was appealed by the Irish who have no problem resorting to questionable tactics but absolutely cannot stand it when their opponents are physical with them. I expect Miami to come at the Irish and try to get them off their game this weekend.

Clearly, the RedHawks must slow Tynan and Lee who have combined for 16 points in five career games against Miami. However, the Irish are deep and talented, if not underachieving, as they come into Oxford having won just three of their last ten contests. But, this squad is perhaps as deep as they have been under Jackson with 10 players with 10 or more points including senior forward Billy Maday who has faced the RedHawks more than any other Notre Dame player. Maday has played in nine contests against the Red and White and has notched five points.

Defensively, the Irish have struggled this year allowing a rather lofty 2.8 goals per contest. Goaltending has been problematic as sieve junior Mike Johnson and sophomore Steven Summerhays have been fairly awful this year. This despite playing behind a talented blueline featuring senior captain Sean Lorenz, sophomore Stephen Johns and junior Sam Calabrese – all three of whom were members of the USNTDP. Last season, Lorenz was named the CCHA’s Defensive Defenseman of the Year and he is the lone senior defenseman for the Irish.

Regardless of pedigree, the Irish have been unable to overcome the mediocre play of their goaltenders. Johnson, who Miami has often lit up like a Christmas tree enters the weekend carrying a 9-7-3 record with a 2.59 goals against average and .889 save percentage. Summerhays has actually been worse this season despite, in my opinion, having more talent than Johnson. The sophomore is just 7-6 with a 2.93 goals against average and .887 save percentage. Johnson’s goals against numbers are good enough for 13th in the CCHA while Summerhays’ are dead last at 16th. And, the two Irish goaltenders are 15th and 16th, respectively, in save percentage – second-to-last and dead last if you’re scoring at home.

In contrast, Miami senior netminder Connor Knapp leads the CCHA with a sparkling 1.81 goals against average and is fifth in the league in save percentage at .925. However, Cody Reichard is 11th and 14th, respectively in what most would consider a disappointing season for the Miami senior.

Scoring first could be big this weekend as the teams’ have shown dramatic differences in getting a jump on their opponents.

Notre Dame has allowed the first goal of the game in 18 of the team’s 32 games to date. When they allow the game’s opening goal, the Irish are just 7-10-1. But, when they score first, Notre Dame is 9-3-2 on the season. In contrast, Miami has scored first in 20 of its 32 games this year, going 14-5-1 in those contests. Miami’s only three wins when it didn’t score first were Nov. 26 at Denver, Jan. 13 at Lake Superior and last weekend (Feb. 11) vs. Alabama-Huntsville. Miami has scored within the first 10 minutes of the game 13 times this year and six times within the first five minutes (source: MURedHawks.com and UND.com).

Clearly, if Miami can get off to a good start both nights, they’ll have an opportunity to sweep the series as MU is a terrific team when they have a lead and the Irish do not play well from behind.

This series could very well determine which of these two bubble teams makes the NCAA tournament without likely having to plow through the CCHA tournament and capture the Mason Cup in order to get in. Miami enters the weekend 13th in the PairWise rankings while Notre Dame is currently on the outside looking in at 18th. The six points will be huge in the CCHA standings as the teams enter locked in a tie for seventh place with four games remaining.

Miami has played reasonably well against TUCs this year going 14-13-1 against top competition while Notre Dame has gone 12-12-3 in similar contests. Each team averages 2.8 goals per game but Miami is significantly stouter defensively allowing just 2.2 goals per game which I think could tilt this series toward the RedHawks. And, with the Irish coming in slumping, Miami could be catching them at the right time as the RedHawks attempt to get hot entering the post-season.

If Miami can slow down Notre Dame’s top line and get secondary scoring from the likes of senior captain Alden Hirschfeld, who has his only career hat trick against the Irish and notched seven points against them in five games last season, they’ll have a great opportunity to take at least four points this weekend heading into the regular season’s final weekend.

Notes

– Notre Dame sophomores Stephen Johns and T.J. Tynan played alongside Miami freshman forward Austin Czarnik for Team USA in the World Junior Championship early this year in Alberta.

– Friday’s game will air nationally (7:35pm EST) on the CBS Sports Network as Ben Holden will handle play-by-play duties while Jim Paradise will provide color commentary and Shireen Saski will serve as the rink-side reporter.

– Last season, senior forward Alden Hirschfeld and junior forward Reilly Smith combined for nine goals, seven assists and 16 points in five games against Notre Dame. Smith had four goals and five assists while Hirschfeld tallied five goals and two assists. Hirschfeld recorded his only career hat trick last year against Notre Dame on Dec. 4, 2010 in Oxford. In last year’s CCHA Tournament semifinal, which Miami won, 6-2, Smith handed out three assists and Hirschfeld notched a goal and an assist. (source: MURedHawks.com)

– Miami head coach Enrico Blasi has a career record of 199-122-39 in CCHA games and needs just one more win to become the ninth coach to win 200 CCHA games in a career (source: MURedHawks.com). Since today was his 40th birthday, a sweep this weekend would provide a nice present from the boys. He is 19-9-7 all-time against the Irish.

As a reminder, here’s what Miami did to the Irish the last time the two schools met on the ice. Enjoy the games, folks.