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Analysis: Better effort on D in Game 2

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami’s defense tightened up considerably on Saturday, and the RedHawks allowed five fewer goals. Plus the blueliners scored all of the team’s goals.

That allowed Miami to pull out a 2-2 tie vs. Providence in the second game in two nights at Cady Arena on Saturday.

The Friars had way too many high-percentage looks at the net in the opener and rarely missed on their opportunities. Those chances were limited in this game, as Providence scored on a blue line shot off ofn offensive zone faceoff win and a rebound shot.

It’s fair to admit that the Friars are the better team right now. They’re experienced, their defense is impressive on both ends of the ice, their forwards have pinpoint shooting accuracy and they have solid goaltending. You might have heard this team won the national championship last season.

Miami has a lot of those things, too, but not as consistently at present. Of course, this is Game 2, and that could change in the next few weeks, few months, or at least (hopefully) by tournament time.

A few other thoughts:

– The power play needs work. It never lived up to expectations last season, and now a number of new players are on these units. Miami went 1-for-10 on the man-advantage this weekend and didn’t seem to have much chemistry. Of course, this was opening weekend and there hasn’t been much chance to build that.

– Defenseman Louie Belpedio had an interesting first period, as he took two undisciplined penalties and then made up for it by scoring the first goal of the game. That makes it easy to forgive the minors.

– Senior goalie Ryan McKay looked a little rusty early but got better as the game went along. He stopped a shot when a forward was left alone in front of the net in the second period as was 15 of 16 the final 45 minutes. If McKay can become McKay Version 2013-14 this team could be in for a phenomenal season.

– As appealing as 3-on-3 is, it doesn’t seem worth it if there are no stakes. Josh Melnick capped off an outstanding first weekend with a completely meaningless 3×3 goal, as the teams decided to play after the tie was official as a demonstration to prepare for conference play. Despite an announcement outlining that, the message didn’t get through to the crowd, which seemed to think that goal meant something. Even in conference play it will only be worth an extra point.

The problem is: The NCAA doesn’t want results of its games decided by artificial means, including 4×4. This has been discussed repeatedly. But the conferences are given leeway in determining their own points systems, so long as games are recorded as ties after 65 minutes of 5×5. That’s where the shootout and now 3×3 hockey comes in. Again, the concept is great, and hats off to league commissioner Josh Fenton for implementing it, but the problem is: It’s confusing to fans. Even the scoreboard operator incorrectly changed the final to 3-2 after the Melnick goal. And there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D+. The forwards were shut out. Providence seemed to have sticks in the lanes at all times, and although Miami overall generated 30 shots, many were right into the goalie’s logo. Senior Alex Gacek did pick up two assists – his third and fourth already – and Roslovic got a primary helper on the tying Chris Joyaux goal. Melnick had an outstanding first weekend.

DEFENSEMEN: B+. This was the most improved area of the team from Friday to Saturday, and they scored both goals. Belpedio had the first one off a feed from senior Matthew Caito, and Joyaux banged home the equalizer. Freshman Grant Hutton iced the puck unnecessarily and it ultimately ended up in Miami’s net, but coach Enrico Blasi clearly likes him and with his size, speed and ability, it looks like it will be worth suffering through any early growing pairs to get him some in-game experience. Joyaux had the other goal despite being benched on Friday, and he played very well overall.

GOALTENDING: B+. McKay had little chance on the first goal, and the second was on a rebound. He scared the crowd early when a routine shot hit the top of his glove and popped into the air in front of him, but he got better as he settled in. It’s way too early to go with one goalie at this point, but McKay had the better game and has the edge at this point if/when that decision is made.

LINEUP CHANGES: Joyaux was scratched on Friday but game back with an excellent game on Saturday. Sophomore Scott Dornbrock sat in his place. Up front, it was freshman Kiefer Sherwood who was scratched in favor of senior Andrew Schmit, who knocked a player out of the game with a crushing hit along the boards. And of course, McKay started over classmate Jay Williams, which everyone expected after Friday’s game.

Miami rallies for a tie vs. Providence

OXFORD, Ohio – It was just the second goal in the 116-game career of stay-at-home defenseman Chris Joyaux, but it could not have come at a better time.

Joyaux slammed home a one-time, cross-crease pass from reshman forward Jack Roslovic with 6:45 left in regulation as No. 10 Miami salvaged a 2-2 tie vs. No. 7 Providence in the series finale at Cady Arena on Saturday.

Roslovic’s assist was the first of his career. The goal by Joyaux was his first since March 14, 2014 in the St. Cloud State NCHC first-round playoff series.

Like Friday, the RedHawks (0-1-1) took the lead first, as sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio’s wrister from just inside the blue line beat goalie Nick Ellis with 6:39 left in the first period.

But just 3:31 later, the Friars’ Jake Walman tied it on a one-time blast.

Providence (1-0-1) took the lead when John Gilmour banged home a rebound shot three minutes into the second period after Miami had failed to score on a 5-on-3.

After the five-minute overtime, the game ended in a tie, but the teams played 3-on-3 to simulate conference play, and RedHawks freshman Josh Melnick scored in that.

Senior forward Alex Gacek picked up secondary assists on both goals, giving him four points on the weekend. He had 14 points all of last season.

Miami senior goalie Ryan McKay stopped 24 shots to earn the tie.

The RedHawks return to action this weekend with a home-and-series vs. Ohio State. The teams play in Columbus at 7 p.m. on Friday and in Oxford at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.

Analysis: Yeah, it was bad, but it was 1 game

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami has built a reputation for being one of the toughest teams to score on in college hockey.

Providence appears to be the RedHawks’ defensive kryponite.

The Friars beat Miami, 7-3 at Cady Arena on Friday, giving them 14 goals in two games vs. Miami, which likely can’t wait to play anyone else after losing to PC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to end its 2014-15 season.

With the lopsided score, it’s easy to say the defense and goaltending let the RedHawks down, and oh by the way, that’s supposed to be the team’s strength heading into this season, and while that isn’t completely untrue, as much credit belongs to Providence in this game.

The Friars were seemingly able to pick the corner of the net at will, and when they had opportunities, they did not miss.

Maybe it’s just because of the optimism of opening night, but this game seemed more like a team that is better right now played a nearly perfect game than Miami laid an egg on home ice to start 2015-16.

The first and third goals the Friars scored were perfect shots in the corner of the net. The second was on a penalty shot that was awarded even though it didn’t look like PC’s skater had a clear step breakaway.

The RedHawks got back to within one, but Providence put up four more in a row, as Miami sometimes has a tendency of not being able to stop the bleeding in games like this.

Overall this still looks like a good MU team. One loss doesn’t change that, even though it was lopsided, and of course it’s magnified because it was the season opener.

A few other thoughts on the game, trying to stay in line with the insert optimism theme:

– OK, one negative that needs to make it into prose is that Captain Kuraly didn’t play particularly well in this game. Sean looked like he may have been banged up or fighting an illness, as he appeared out of breath at times and hunched over. Defenses will pay much more attention to him this season with Czarnik-Barber-Coleman gone, and the 19-goal scorer from 2014-15 will need to step up if he hopes to match that goal total this season.

– Obviously Jack Roslovic, a first-round draft pick, was studly. He scored the first goal of the season, whipping it jai alai style into the net off a power play centering feed. Clearly Roslovic is going to be an offensive beast this season.

Miami's Jack Roslovic.

Miami’s Jack Roslovic.

– There’s a ton to like about Josh Melnick, who may have been better than Roslovic in this game. Melnick set up the Roslovic goal, scored one of his own and made a couple of great plays on the penalty kill. It speaks volumes about how much confidence Coach Enrico Blasi has in him that he’s on the first power play and first PK unit. From a purely Miami hockey fan perspective, Melnick not being drafted means he will likely spend four years in Oxford, and that will be fun.

– None of the other freshmen forwards stood out, bad or good. That’s OK. It was their first game. The chemistry will come. None looked lost on the ice. Roslovic and Melnick will obviously make up some of the void left by the departing forwards, and in theory the veteran defense and goaltending should make these players’ transitions easier, as the coaches can concentrate on helping develop them, and the team shouldn’t need to score as much to win. Friday didn’t exactly advance that theory, though.

It a tough way to start the season, but it was only one game. Time to move on. Some good things happened Friday, and it will get better.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. It was a pretty good night for this group. Melnick was awesome, Roslovic is going to be excellent, and senior Alex Gacek and junior Devin Loe also played really well. The latter two are what Miami needs: Veteran players who weren’t studs to step up. Gacek played his best hockey the second half of last year, and Loe has looked very good at times when given the opportunity, and with a short stash of reserves, he should have a chance to earn plenty of ice time this season.

DEFENSE: C-. As usual, this is the hardest area to grade, and with the lamp getting lit seven times, it makes it tougher to grade higher. Freshman Grant Hutton did some really good things and looks like he has a lot of potential, but he also let a player cut in for the breakaway on which he was called for the penalty shot that resulted in the second PC goal. He allowed another player to cut in for an odd-man chance later in the game. But he looks big, strong, smart and agile for his size, and he should turn into a solid defenseman. Colin Sullivan’s goal was a thing of beauty, which gets the grade above the ‘D’ range.

GOALTENDING: D. Like we said, Goals 1 and 3 for PC were just wired. The second goal was a penalty shot, and except for a big rebounds, Providence had very good looks on the rest and did not miss. Not a fan of ever allowed a goalie to give up seven, whether it’s his fault or not, so it would’ve been nice to see him lifted earlier to his confidence doesn’t take a bigger hit. Ryan McKay stopped one shot in relief and will almost certainly start the series finale.

LINEUP: The odd men out for this game were forwards Andrew Schmit and Justin Greenberg, and defenseman Chris Joyaux. Greenberg is banged up, and we’ll see how the defense is handled moving forward. Joyaux played well at the end of 2014-15, so we’ll see how much patience Blasi is going to have with Hutton. Knowing Blasi, he’ll probably rotate which blueliner sits, with Louie Belpedio, Matthew Caito and Taylor Richart likely being the three with job security at this point.

Providence scores 7 again to beat Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – In a press conference earlier this week, Miami coach Enrico Blasi was asked about his team’s strategy against Providence this weekend, and he joked that his team needed to not allow seven goals like it did in the NCAA Tournament in March.

The Friars scored seven times against the RedHawks again on Friday. Not surprisingly, the outcome was not good for Miami again, a 7-3 loss in the teams’ season opener at Cady Arena.

It was the first career goal for all three RedHawks scorers.

Miami took the lead just over five minutes into the game when freshman Jack Roslovic whipped home a centering feed from classmate Josh Melnick on the power play.

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

But that lead was short-lived, as Robbie Hennessey picked the top corner of the net seven-plus minutes later.

Trevor Mingoia put Providence ahead for good when he cut through the RedHawks’ defense and drew a penalty shot, which he converted by slipping the puck through the legs of Miami senior goalie Jay Williams.

Anthony Florentino found the top corner of the net to make it 3-1 with 4:40 left in the opening frame.

The RedHawks cut the lead to one early in the second period when junior defenseman Colin Sullivan skated through the high slot, juked around a defender and fired a shot into the corner of the net.

The Friars sealed it with four unanswered goals, giving them a 7-2 lead before Melnick tipped home a shot by senior defenseman Taylor Richart with 7:42 left in regulation.

It was the third time in six games Miami allowed seven goals. Providence beat the RedHawks, 7-5 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in March, and Western Michigan won by the same score in the best-of-3 series on the NCHC Tournament earlier that month.

The last time Miami has allowed more than seven goals was Feb. 15, 2014 at North Dakota, which beat the RedHawks, 9-2.

Mingoia finished with two goals and two assists to lead the Friars.

Melnick tallied a goal and an assists, and senior forward Alex Gacek recorded a pair of helpers in Miami’s losing effort.

Williams’ seven goals against were a career high. He stopped 18 shots.

The series wraps up at Cady Arena at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday in Oxford.

#10 Miami v. #7 Providence

Yep.

We’re back. And, we are the three best friends any Miami hockey fan could ever have as the Tremendous Trio of John, Mike and Doug will conspire to bring you even better coverage this year than in past years.

But, more on that later. Enough of the offseason previews and fancy media day pressers. It’s time for the first weekly preview of the season and we couldn’t be happier.

When we last saw you, Miami, minus it’s top two goal scorers, played a first round NCAA tournament game against eventual national champion, Providence. Well, those two goal scorers have since moved on, so once again, Miami will face Providence without its top two goal scorers from a season ago.

For Miami, it was heartbreak as the RedHawks fought back from a 6-2 deficit to make it a 6-5 game on the strength of three extra-attacker goals.

Then, this happened.

And, you really felt like Miami would find a way to tie the game. Alas, Providence finally found an empty-net goal and won the game 7-5 en route to the program’s first national championship.

But, this is a new season and both squads will line up differently than they did in March.

Providence

One of these days Miami will pose for a picture like this. (Maddie Meyer)

Last season’s Providence Friars were built from the net out as they relied heavily on their goaltender and an impressive group of blueliners. Lost among all that defense was a solid, if unspectacular, group of forwards with the talent to put enough pucks in nets. That squad engineered a four-game winning streak at precisely the right time that included victories over three consecutive NCHC squads — Miami, Denver and Omaha — en route to a championship win over fellow Hockey East foe Boston University.

This season, Providence returns 19 letter-winners including a group of experienced forwards looking to end their college careers with back-to-back national titles including last season’s top scorer Nick Saracino (14-24-38) who contributed two assists in the win over Miami. In addition, Trevor Mingoia (15-16-31) and Brandon Tanev (10-13-23) who both contributed 1-1-2 in the 7-5 win return as do Mark Jankowski (8-19-27) and the top scorer from the blueline Tom Parisi (5-19-24). In short, the Friars are loaded with veteran talent looking to prove that last season’s improbable run to a national title was no fluke.

The only real question mark for Providence is in net where two juniors, Brendan Leahy and Nick Ellis, along with freshman Hayden Hawkey (I swear I did not make that up) will vie to fill the vacancy created by Gillies’ early departure. Last season, the two of them played a combined 193 minutes with Ellis getting 189 of them meaning the Friars are extremely inexperienced in net. It would seem that the race for the starting goaltender job is wide open.

During his weekly press conference, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi talked about the challenge of facing the Friars.

“Everything that they do is a challenge (to play against),” Blasi said. “They’re well coached…they have a D-corps that is very mobile and veteran, they have forwards that have contributed to their national championship run that are back, high-end forwards – their power play is very good, so we’re going to make sure that we stay out of the box. We’re going to have to play good team defense, and they do a real good job in transition. They’re as good as anybody that we’re going to see all year, and we’ve got to be ready for them.”

Miami

Miami would love to “sing a song” again this season. (Jim Rosvold)

Considering the challenge in facing the defending national champions and the team that just ended your season, Miami senior netminder Jay Williams had this to say about the need for additional motivation for the season’s opening weekend.

“Absolutely not,” Williams said. “But at the same time it’s important that we not over-hype it and approach it like we have every day and be consistent and not let the emotions take over too much. Because then you become a bit of a wild card. But certainly we’re excited to play them.”

Predicted to finish third and sixth this season by USCHO writers Matthew Semisch and Candace Horgan respectively, and fifth by the media’s preseason poll, Miami enters the 2015-16 season looking to replace its top two goal scorers (Blake Coleman, Riley Barber) and its captain, Austin Czarnik from a squad that finished second in the NCHC and claimed the conference’s second-ever tournament championship on the strength of victories over Denver and St. Cloud en route to a #1 seed in the national tournament. In fact, Miami must replace five of its top nine scorers from a year ago. You can read more about Miami’s roster makeover from BOB’s John Lachmann here.

Senior captain Sean Kuraly netted a career-high 19 goals last season, and along with junior Anthony Louis, will be expected to carry the offensive load while a large class of freshmen forwards including first round NHL draft pick Jack Roslovic (Winnipeg) adjust to the college game. In net, seniors Jay Williams and Ryan McKay are back for one more season of “goalie

Jack Roslovic is an Ohio native and first round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets. (Miami Athletics)

Jack Roslovic is an Ohio native and first round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets. (Miami Athletics)

carousel” as it’s anybody’s guess if one or the other will seize the bulk of the playing time. In fact, in last weekend’s opening 6-1 exhibition victory over Western Ontario, the two seniors split 60 minutes about as evenly as they possibly could with Williams surrendering the only goal against on the evening.

“This is the national champion from a year ago, but at the same time we’ve got a lot we’ve got to work on,” Blasi said. “Providence, although they have a lot of guys coming back, they have some different looks. For us, for our culture and the way we develop, and the way we try to educate our players, is you have get up for every game in college hockey. Providence happens to be our first opponent, and we’re thrilled that we’re coming, and we’ve got a lot of respect for them and their coaching staff.”

“We want to play the best, and Providence is certainly the defending national champions and they have a lot of weapons,” Blasi said. “We’ve got to be ready and we’ve got to prepare well during the week.”

The Prediction

This is a difficult series to pick because while we know Miami will be leaning on its defense and veteran goaltending, we simply do not know a lot about the newcomers and the lack of roster depth is concerning. That’s not to say there won’t be roster battles as there will be a few skaters sitting each weekend, but with only 24 skaters on the roster it’s more important than ever that the coaching staff dresses the right guys every night.

Considering the emotional way Miami’s season ended a year ago, and the need to prove themselves early in the year, I’ll pick a split, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Providence get a sweep as they return so much from last year’s title team.

Both games can be heard via TuneIn Radio and seen via the NCHC.tv package. Greg Waddell (PxP) and Drew Davis (analysis) return to call all the action.

From the League Office

• After NCHC teams went 6-1 in exhibition games last weekend (Omaha didn’t play), all eight NCHC teams open the 2015-16 regular season this weekend with non-conference games. Two series feature a pair of top-10 teams as No. 11/10 Miami hosts defending national champion and No. 7/7 Providence for two games, while No. 10/11 Omaha travels to No. 6/9 Minnesota State for two games. The Friars eliminated Miami from the NCAA Tournament last season while the two Mavericks also opened last season against each other, splitting two games in Omaha.

• Two other NCHC teams are traveling to opposite ends of the country to open the season at tournaments. No. 4/4 North Dakota drops the puck on 2015-16 at the Ice Breaker Tournament in Portland, Maine, while No. 17 St. Cloud State begins at the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage, Alaska.

  • UND officially begins the Brad Berry era on Friday as he begins his first season at the helm of his alma mater after nine seasons as an assistant coach at UND. He is the only new head coach in NCAA men’s hockey (D-I) this season.

• St. Cloud State senior forward Kalle Kossila is the active career leader in points in the NCHC with 99 and sixth among active NCAA players. His 65 career assists are second among active NCAA players.

• Omaha returns 91.4 percent of its goal-scoring from last season and 90.1 percent of its points from a year ago, both of which are the highest percentage of any NCAA team this season. 

• Omaha junior forward Austin Ortega, who set the NCAA single-season record with 11 game-winning goals last season, is the active NCAA leader in career game-winners with 12. Miami senior forward Sean Kuraly is tied for second among active players with 11 career game-winning tallies. 

• North Dakota senior forward Drake Caggiula has played in 123 career games, the most of any active NCAA player. Miami senior defenseman Matthew Caito and Denver seniors Nolan Zajac and Gabe Levin have all played in 119 career games, which is tied for third among active players.

• NCHC teams have a combined 44 NHL Draft picks on their rosters.

•  In the NCHC Preseason Poll, Minnesota Duluth was picked as the favorite to capture the Penrose Cup, earning 17 of 30 first-place votes. UND, the defending Penrose Cup champions, Denver and Miami also received first-place votes in the poll.

#1 Miami v. #4 Providence :: 2015 NCAA Tournament First Round

Founded in 1636, historic Providence, R.I. will host the 2015 NCAA Tournament’s East Region.

This evening at 6:30 PM EDT the Miami RedHawks, champions of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, are set to mark their return to the NCAA tournament after a one-year absence.

The top seed in the East Region, the RedHawks (4th overall seed) will face fourth seeded Providence College (15th) of Hockey East in their hometown.

The Friars last played two weekends ago when they were ousted by New Hampshire in the quarterfinals of the Hockey East conference tournament. The two squads went the distance in the best-of-three weekend series in Providence playing three low-scoring 2-1 games.

We could end this post right here, because a low-scoring game is precisely what Miami should expect this weekend.

Junior Jon Gillies could sign with Calgary upon the completion of the Friars season. Tomorrow, perhaps?

The Friars rank in the top 5 nationally in many defensive categories including goals allowed (3rd) and save percentage (4th) led by junior goaltender Jon Gillies, who’s .931 save percentage and 1.95 GAA each rank 6th best nationally. That said, Miami will run out junior Jay Williams, who’s numbers aren’t too shabby either. Williams actually has a better GAA (1.89, 5th nationally)) than Gillies and his .922 save percentage (29th nationally) ranks just a few spots lower.

Meanwhile, Miami is much more offensively inclined boasting three players with 18 or more goals (Blake Coleman and Riley Barber (20 each) and Sean Kuraly 18) but they will be without Coleman, and likely, Barber for the game against the Friars. In fact, the Friars leading goal scorers, Nick Saracino and Trevor Mingoia have just 13 goals each, but Providence does run out five players with 11 or more goals. Maybe not as dynamic as Miami’s top end forwards, but they certainly have depth. That could be a problem for a Miami team suddenly without a lot of it.

This is not the first time Miami has seen Gillies. The two schools have met four times over the last three seasons playing, amazingly, four consecutive overtime games. Last year, Miami traveled to Providence and put up a four-spot against Gillies on Saturday night scoring six goals on the weekend. Miami should have some confidence against one of the nation’s best.

The Prediction

With both Coleman and Barber likely missing this game, obviously the Crash Cousins, and their size, can play a larger than usual role. Like most Hockey East squads, Providence is relatively small. Miami should use their blend of size and speed to jump on the Friars right away. I’d love to see Rico have the guys throw the body around, but they’ll have to mindful of east coast refs. The NCHC is a big, physical league and the RedHawks are one of the most physical teams in the country. If the refs don’t let the boys play, Miami could find themselves killing far too many penalties despite the Friars woeful powerplay which is converting at a paltry 14.7% clip this year.

Ultimately, this game is Jay Williams’ to win. He has to step up and hold Miami in the game. The RedHawks should expect to have to win a 2-1 style game because, 1) we’re missing 40 goals from the lineup, and 2) it’s how the Friars play.

Despite missing huge parts of the lineup, this is not your father’s Miami. This is not the team from the CCHA that was hardly challenged over the past decade and then, at times, unprepared for the rigors of the NCAA tournament. But, these RedHawks are the champions of the NCHC, a conference that sent six of its eight teams to the Dance. A conference that is currently 3-0 in the 2015 tournament. After last year’s adjustment to life in the National and life on the road, Miami has figured out how to win in the most dominant college hockey conference in the land. That has to account for a lot.

The RedHawks, though missing some big-time talent, have guys that can step up. Miami’s depth will certainly be challenged.

As much as I want to pick Miami, overcoming the losses of Coleman and Barber, along with the need to win a tight 2-1 game just doesn’t seem to fit Miami’s run, gun and bang style.

But, there is just something different about this team. They’re more battle tested. They’re deep. I think Miami finds a way to get it done but the goal scoring will surprise you. Look for a Kevin Morris or Crash Cousin dirty goal to be the difference. Miami wins.

Parting Thoughts

– Williams and the RedHawks’ defense will have to be big tonight because Miami cannot afford to fall behind the Friars and expect to be able to come-from-behind facing such an intensely defensive team.

– Unless Miami wins, we MAY have seen the last of Coleman and Barber in the red and white which would be an unbelievable shame considering how their Miami careers could end. Barber is just a junior, but could decide to sign with Washington. However, if his knee injury is severe, the Capitals could be inclined to see how he does in a comeback situation with Miami meaning, perhaps, Barber could also come back to finish his degree. Something I’d assume his family would be quite happy with given his father, Don Barber, collected his degree from Bowling Green before embarking on a successful pro career. When Miami’s season is finished, I’d expect the New Jersey Devils to sign Coleman (a senior) as quickly as possible.

– Gillies, Kuraly and Barber know each other well having played together on the US U20 team that won gold in 2013 and then again Barber and Gillies returned for the 2014 team when Barber was captain. Gillies was the main netminder that year for Team USA.

The home of the AHL’s Providence Bruins will host the 2015 NCAA Tournament East Region.

– Despite playing at “home,” the Friars have not played a game at the Dunkin Donuts Center since 2004. And, with Providence having a fairly small fan base, the advantage Providence will have shouldn’t really affect the RedHawks. Certainly, this team is road tested playing in hostile environments like the Ralph (UND), Amsoil (UMD) and Lawson (WMU) to say nothing of having made long road trips all year, twice in fact, to Colorado to play at altitude. In other words, Miami has seen and heard it all.

Providence Too Much to Handle

We’ll be the first to say it: Miami didn’t look so hot against an up-and-coming Providence Friars team this past weekend. There were several defensive lapses, a couple of soft goals and a continued string of untimely penalties both nights. Those mistakes were just too much to overcome against the now third-ranked Friars. Sure, the offense was able to make things look good with 2 comebacks to force overtime in both games, but plainly said, the defense needs to be better.

Here are Friday’s highlights from Providence:

Keep an eye on the overtime game winner for Providence. Granted this goal came on a 5 on 3 power play for the Friars, but on a shot from within 2 inches of the goal line, the puck has to stay out of the net. This came just 1 second before 1 of the Miami players was due to come out of the box, and Miami’s efforts to come down from an early 2-0 lead were squandered.

And here are Saturday’s highlights. We blame the Friars for the lack of sound (It’s all your fault! It’s all…ok…we’ll stop.):

Saturday night took on an eerily similar feel to it only half way through the first. Providence was up 2-0 again with just 9:25 gone in the period, but Riley Barber would score his second of the weekend to pull within 1 on a short handed goal. Barber’s goal was scored just 15 seconds after Providence went up 2-0, but they’d return the favor immediately thereafter, and it was another 2-goal hole to climb out of.

On each of the first 2 goals, keep an eye out for missed Miami checks. Each aggressive play is what Enrico Blasi will always preach, and it’s the right play – you can’t be waiting for the play to get to you. But in these 2 cases, you have to be certain to take the opposing skater out of the play. When the dust settled on the first period, it was those 2 missed checks and a juicy rebound that led to a 3-2 Providence lead. 4 of the 5 goals were scored in an 86 second blitz midway through the period. We could barely catch our breath:

After the weekend, Head Coach Enrico Blasi has this to say:

Obviously not the weekend we wanted. I thought our guys played hard, but we seemed to be making some plays that resulted in goals against. Of course things need to be cleaned up. I thought the good sign is that we were a resilient group. Both Friday and Saturday night we had to come back, but on Saturday we carried the play for the most part, we came back and really took it to them after that.

I’m disappointed in the outcomes, but we are going to continue to focus on the process.

Here come our three stars and weekend news to use for this week.

Three Stars of the Weekend

I get the feeling you’re going to continue seeing our #1 and 2 stars even more this season.

3. Miami’s Penalty Kill on Friday night. I can’t go as far to say both nights here, mainly because they were just 1 of 3 on Saturday night, but Friday night was nearly perfect. Other than the 5 on 3 goal previously mentioned, Miami killed 8 straight penalties. I’ve not seen a box score so lit up with strange penalties. Blake Coleman was hit with a diving penalty but didn’t get the accompanying call on Providence. Kevin Morris got a 10-minute misconduct late in the third, and Chris Joyaux got a 5-minute major and game misconduct with 3 minutes to go. With all of those penalties and shortening of the bench, Miami still got this game into overtime, much to the thanks of this penalty killing unit.

2. As if he didn’t before, Austin Czarnik is really starting to remind me of Andy Miele. I have these memories in my head of #17 skating around the offensive zone with the puck, from behind the net, around the boards, to the blue line, and back to the net. Only instead of the nameplate being Miele, it’s more and more becoming that of Czarnik (minus the 1). I wish Miami kept the “time on ice” (or TOI) stat because I’m certain Z’s would be north of 22-24 minutes for every game. Miele … er … I mean … Czarnik had assists on 5 of the 6 Miami goals this weekend and 5 blocked shots on Friday, to earn himself our #2 star of the weekend as well as the NCHC Offensive Player of the Week award.

1. I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, but really: Riley Barber IS. GOOD. AT. HOCKEY. Friday night: a game-high 7 shots, and the game-tying power play goal at 7:08 of the third period. Saturday? There was more. 2 goals, including – you guessed it – the game tying, power play tally. This time it was a little sooner, at the 4:53 mark of the third period. John Buccigross reminded us on Sunday where Barber stands in the NCAA scoring race:

Diving In

Let’s take a look at faceoffs quickly, because the box score tells us an interesting story from Friday night. Czarnik took 31 draws on Friday and won just 10 of them. He would recover to win 14 of 26 on Saturday, but overall on Friday night, Miami was just 30 for 78 on the faceoff dot – just 38%. That’s not going to cut it.

Riley Barber has been doing it all for the RedHawks through 6 games. (Flickr: Dani Mackenzie)

Riley Barber has been doing it all for the RedHawks through 6 games. (Flickr: Dani Mackenzie)

Miami is now 8 of 29 on the power play (27.6%) and is ranked 9th in the country. As we mentioned in our 3 Stars, the Penalty Kill was great on Friday night, but stunk it up on Saturday night allowing to power play goals. On the season, Miami is sputtering on the penalty kill at just 80.6%, a portion of the game that will need to be improved upon if they want to stay in the top 5 in the rankings. The 2 shorthanded goals indicate that Miami is being their normal selves – very agressive on the penalty kill, which can lead to some openings, and so far this season, it has been to their detriment.

Coming into the weekend, Providence was 19 for 19 on their penalty kill – a big reason they were sitting at #8 in the country. They would run that to 23 kills on their first 23 penalties until the third period when Blake Coleman and Barber slammed home 2 PPGs to halt that streak. Miami now has power play goals in 4 of their first 6 games.

Coming Up Next

Miami will host Canisius for a 2 game set this weekend in Oxford. Game times are 7:35 Friday night and 7:05 Saturday night. Last year, Canisius made the NCAA tournament, and are 1-2-0 this season. We’ll have more for you later this week.

Great series ends with Miami OT Victory

Miami takes a 4-3 overtime victory behind 3 points each from Czarnik and Barber.

Entering the night, Miami was already the only unbeaten CCHA team, as all 10 others have at least one loss. After the night’s play was over, the Providence Friars proved they are going to be a team to watch in Hockey East, but Miami came out with a hard-fought 4-3 overtime victory and remain the CCHA’s only unbeaten team.

Freshman Riley Barber had a goal and 2 assists and Austin Czarnik did him one better with 2 goals and an assist, including the game winner, to lead the RedHawks. Czarnik had 5 shots and was a +2 on the night. Throw in 4 blocked shots and he earned the #1 star of the night, without question.

Barber has now scored goals in 3 straight games, not to mention 3 assists in the exhibition against Western Ontario. He had one assist on Austin Czarnik’s 2nd period goal – Czarnik’s first of the year – as well as another helper on the overtime winner. He is very quickly becoming a formidable scoring touch on the top line and will be certain to get more and more looks all season. We’ll be looking for Barber in a certain CCHA weekly release around Monday morning.

The Friars proved to the Hockey East front runners that they are not to be taken lightly with a shootout loss and overtime loss in hostile Coach Cady Arena. They went down 1-0 after Barber’s goal in the first, and were also down 2-1 and 3-2 in the game. It has to be tough to think you came back 3 times in the game, held a lead on Friday night, and didn’t leave Oxford with even a split, rather just a loss and a tie. Providence Head Coach Nate Leaman agreed: “What hurt us was a slow start,” said Leaman. “We played from behind all night. I’m proud of the guys coming back in the third period to tie the game, but it’s tough to play on the road from behind.” (source: USCHO) Miami now holds a 4-3-1 lead in the all-time series against Providence after this weekend’s highly entertaining series.

Providence didn’t have a shot on goal until 12:08 in the first, and they made it count. John Gilmore put the first PC shot in the back of the net on a 3 on 2 rush in the first period, and had 3 shots and 2 blocks on the night. Frehman Jon Gillies looked good in net again tonight, blocking 26 of 30 shots, and was again bailed out by his teammates as he was last night. The Friars recorded 13 blocked shots on the night and many of his saves were of the routine variety.

Heading down the closing stretch of the game, Miami looked like they were playing in their shell and doing a great job of applying a little pressure at the right times to try and get an insurance goal. Until, that is, Blake Coleman was called for a 5 minute major penalty. Coleman was called for charging with just 5:52 left in regulation – a call that just about everyone in the building thought was a very clean, shoulder to chest check. It must be his size advantage that the hit was considered dangerous, and Coleman may have left his feet for maximum effect. In any event, the Hawks killed the 5 minutes, but only 4 seconds after the penalty expired, Noel Acciari scored his first collegiate goal for Providence and the game was tied once again. The goal – of the 6 on 5 variety – would send the game to overtime where Miami would tally the game winner on Gillies.

On the other end of the ice all night was Miami’s Jay Williams. The firecracker looked good all night and probably could have stopped 2 of the 3 goals if it weren’t for well-timed screens. From my point of view on my computer, he had a great game and looked stellar in recording his second win in as many games.

Defenseman Matthew Caito gets on the score sheet for his first point as a RedHawk. Caito made a LASER of a pass about 100 feet up the ice to a streaking Blake Coleman for a goal at 18:59 of the first. Caito is proving to be a more than worthy pair for Captain Steven Spinell, and has been showing some great vision on the blue line.

In addition to Barber and Caito’s strong play, another freshman Michael Mooney appeared in his first NCAA game tonight. He was paired with yet another freshman Chris Joyaux on the blue line. Joyaux and Mooney were the third defensive pairing on the night, but each played solid minutes and should grow into a solid pairing, if they continue to play together for up to 4 years. Mooney took Ben Paulides spot on the ice tonight. We’ll look for some information on Ben, but after taking 2 penalties last night, we wonder how that played into tonight’s benching.

In this weekend’s matchup, the “Hawks certainly got more than they bargained for, and it turned into a good test as they head to Michigan next weekend. We’ll certainly have more on next week’s matchup later in the week, and keep an eye out for the Sunday #SixPack on our twitter page.

Thanks for reading, RedHawks fans, and BEAT MICHIGAN.

Miami Box Score and Game Notes.

Freshmen help #4 Miami salvage 1-1 draw with Providence

Photo: Ryan McKay courtesy MURedHawks.com

Freshman netminder Ryan McKay made 37 saves and classmate Riley Barber scored his second goal of the season as Miami fought to a 1-1 draw with visiting Providence on Friday night.

As freshman goaltender Jay Williams has put it, “Miami is goaltending nation.” Or, something like that.

In a highly competitive, somewhat chippy and certainly entertaining college hockey game last night, Miami’s other touted freshman goaltender, Ryan McKay, again put his substantial talents on display as he made a career-best 37 saves helping the RedHawks salvage a 1-1 tie against Providence of Hockey East. McKay, who has now allowed just one goal in his first 125 minutes of collegiate play, made several outstanding saves and was beaten just once on a 5×3 Providence powerplay as Miami has now successfully killed 15 of the first 16 opponents powerplay opportunities in 2012.

This game, that more appeared more like a conference tilt but featured just 8 powerplay situations and 10 man advantages overall, was closely fought and the competitive nature of the game made it feel more like a mid-season clash rather than the third game of the season for both squads. Second-year coach Nate Leaman’s Friars carried the play through the opening period and at one point led the shots on goal category 14-3. However, Miami began to tilt the ice back in the RedHawks favor in the second and seemed to carry most of the play during the third. Seeing Providence and Miami play in last season’s Denver Cup, I thought Providence would be better than a 6-2 drubbing, and they showed last night they belong on the ice with the nation’s fourth ranked team.

After allowing the first goal of the game for the second time already this year, Miami found itself down 1-0 after the first period. The RedHawks were outplayed and outshot 15-7 as the Friars came out hot early on the road in Oxford. Sophomore forward Ross Mauermann netted what would be the Friars only goal on the evening as he converted a rebound on the powerplay to give Providence the early lead.

Miami would rally in the second period with the help of 10 more saves from McKay and a goal from classmate Riley Barber, his second of the season, off a feed from sophomore Austin Czarnik. Senior Curtis McKenzie, seeing his first action of the new year, added the secondary assist. It was certainly good to see #16 back out on the ice as this team can surely use his experience and grit, particularly as Providence tried to get physical with several smaller Miami forwards during the night. As Miami got back into the game, they also tightened up on the defensive end but saw Providence freshman Jon Gillies (perhaps the nation’s top goaltending recruit – he’s 6’5″ and just 18 years of age) make six saves on just seven RedHawk shots to keep the Friars even.

In third and into overtime, both teams had outstanding chances but McKay and Gillies were flawless. McKay did get some help on a tremendous stop by Curtis McKenzie as he flung himself in front of a wrap around attempt late in the third that should have given the Friars the lead while McKay was out of position.

Overall, this was a highly entertaining game with lots of end to end action. It will be interesting to see how Miami adjusts to the Providence pressure and what they do to get the big Friar goaltender moving side to side. Look for the RedHawks to let the puck do more of the work and I’d suspect a slower tempo tonight from Miami as I’d think they’d try to slow Providence in the neutral zone and make it more difficult for them to move the puck into the RedHawk end.

Tonight’s series finale is at 7:05pm. Expect to see Jay Williams in net tonight for Miami.