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Senior Night, with the CCHA title on the line

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After last night’s disappointing result, Miami takes to the ice tonight in what will certainly be an emotional night no matter what the outcome. Tonight, we say goodbye to 6 seniors who will move on to the pro ranks, possibly even the NHL ranks, and others will become working men like many of us. Let’s take a look back at their time as RedHawks. (photos courtesy of http://www.muredhawks.com)

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‘Hawks Send Seniors Out With Win, Knapp Earns Shutout

Apparently Senior Goaltender Connor Knapp felt a little left out when his counterpart Cody Reichard got his 12th shutout of his career a couple weeks ago. Junior Forward Reilly Smith scored twice, Freshman Blake Coleman added his 10th of the year, and Freshman Jimmy Mullin had 2 assists on the night to lead Miami to a crisp 3-0 throttling of Ohio State, their 5th win in a row.

With the win, Miami jumps up a spot in the CCHA Standings, and has guaranteed itself a first round bye in the CCHA tournament. Tonight, things finish up for the regular season, and with some help Miami could finish as high as 2nd, or as low as 5th. More on this to come.

Since Reichard’s 12th shutout on January 28th against Northern Michigan, Connor Knapp has only turned up the dial on his unbelievable season. The shutout is his 4th of the season, but all 4 have come in 2012. Knapp, Rechard and David Burleigh all sit with 12 shutouts in their careers at Miami. It’s pretty impressive to think that Cody and Connor have each tied this Miami record while splitting time in net, and Knapp should have his first chance to break the record tonight in Columbus.

While Connor Knapp continues to streak in net, Reilly Smith is proving that he is good at hockey as well. Smith had the first 2 goals of the night. That makes 25 goals on the season – best in the CCHA, and second in the country. He also leads the country in game winning goals with 8 and is now averaging more than a point per game.

On the night, Ohio State’s Cal Heeter really stood on his head for much of the game. After the opening goal with 3:16 left in the first, the crowd was sitting on their hands for a good portion of the evening. Heeter stopped 15 shots in the second period, coming up with some highlight-reel saves on Seniors Trent Vogelhuber and Patrick Tiesling, as both had breakaway chances.

After nearly 40 minutes of scoreless hockey, however, the seive returned, and Reilly had his second of the night on an wrister from the right faceoff dot to give Miami an insurance goal. Freshman forward Blake Coleman finshed off the night with a goal that hit off of Heeter’s stick, pad and shoulder, and popped up over his head and into the net.

Special teams stayed strong for the ‘Hawks as well, as they went 5 for 5 on the penalty kill. Ohio State managed to stay out of the penalty box except for 2 penalties, but there were several blatant no-calls from the night’s officiating crew. I’ll keep my comments to myself on the interference calls that Miami kept getting called for but were not called the other way.

After last night, Miami is now 17-5-1 when scoring first, and a staggering 16-1-0 when holding a lead going into the third period. They have now shut out their opponents 6 times. Despite the record-tying shutout, Connor Knapp is still focused on getting wins. After the game, he told muredhawks.com and the media “It’s a nice accomplishment for both of us (Reichard) but you’re not worried about shutouts. The biggest thing at this point in the season is the wins, so I’m just happy to get the win tonight.”

After the game, Miami’s 10 seniors were honored for their years of work in the Goggin. We’ll have more for you on each of the seniors as the season winds down, but I will say this: this may be a tougher group of seniors to lose than last year’s group of 5, even with a Hobey Baker Winner

Miami looks for the sweep tonight at 7:05 in Value City Arena in Columbus. You can catch the game for a fee on BTN.com if you won’t be joining 2 of the Redskin Warriors (Alex and Beef) tonight in person.

RedHawks finish Regular Season with Home/Home against Ohio State

It has been a wild week for the Miami Hockey “family” this week.  From the end of the Swoop’s Stoop jersey auctions, to Carter Camper getting the call up to the NHL’s Boston Bruins, everywhere you turned this week, the RedHawks were making headlines.  Connor Knapp took home the CCHA Goaltender of the Week award, as well as the INCH National Player of the Week award, solidifying his spot as Miami’s go-to goalie right now. And finally, add into the mix Tommy Wingels badgering the bigger and taller R.J. Umberger in on Wednesday (while playing on the Shark’s top line) in Columbus.

I’m guessing that Tommy didn’t have Miami’s upcoming series against Ohio State on his mind as he dropped gloves against the former Ohio State Captain and current Columbus Blue Jacket, but it was definitely a preview of what is sure to be a heated series this weekend in Oxford and Columbus. Of late, the series has been of the intense variety, with the Red and White holding the advantage in the overall series. Bolstered by the addition of the no-defunct Ohio Hockey Classic as well as a few CCHA playoff series, the RedHawks have faced Ohio State more than any other team in school history.  Earlier this season, each team won on the road in the first home and home series, and the all-time mark is now 64-60-12. Surprisingly, Ohio State holds the edge in Columbus with a 21-33-7 mark, despite the raucous crowds empty cavern of an arena they now play in.

Miami's 10 seniors will be honored following Friday's game, which has an early start time of 6:05 p.m.photo courtesy of muredhawks.com

Friday night’s contest will be at 6:05pm in the Goggin, with the puck drop moved up to accomodate the CBS Sports Network telecast.  It wil be senior night for the ‘Hawks, and the 10 Miami Seniors will be honored AFTER the game due to the early start. The RedHawks look to finish of the regular season on Saturday night in Value City Arena in Columbus on Ohio State’s Senior night.  Puck drop is set for 7:05pm and the game will be only be streamed online at BTN.com. The first 5,000 fans will receive rally towels on Saturday night, as well as thundersticks from Big Money U Ohio State, so get there early (yawn…).  You can take a quick glance at the weekend’s tale of the tape from College Hockey News by clicking here.

To say that 2012 has been dismal for Ohio State would be an understatement. After shooting out of the gate with a 14-4-1 record to start the year, including a 11 game unbeaten streak (ended by Miami), Ohio State has since gone 1-7-4. To make matters worse, all 4 of those ties were shootout losses, with 2 of them coming at the hands of last place BGSU. That’s a measly 7 points in CCHA conference play since we rang in 2012. The only thing that could make this half of the season worse for Ohio State is another ugly sweater contest. Here are a few of the glorious entries of recent memory:

Along with Ohio State’s free fall over the course of 2012, they’ve also slid down the PairWise rankings and CCHA standings. After hitting the top spot on the PairWise, where they stayed for a long period largely due to their strength of schedule, Ohio State now sits in 13th, just 1 spot behind Miami and Michigan State. In the CCHA standings, Ohio State has fallen from the top spot all the way to 7th, and even with only 3 points this weekend would still likely not get a first round bye in the CCHA playoffs. Ohio State can finish as high as 3rd or as low as 9th in the CCHA standings.

Miami, on the other hand, bottomed out at 9th early in the year, and will finish somewhere between 2nd and 7th. Many RedHawks fans will likely be watching the scoreboards this weekend, and rightfully so. Currently, Miami’s Magic Number to clinch a first round bye in the CCHA Playoffs stands at just 3 points. Just one win will put Miami far enough ahead of Lake Superior State and Ohio State who sit in 6th and 7th respectively, that those two teams will not be able to catch up on this final weekend of the CCHA regular season. Miami currently sits in 5th place, and keep in mind that 1st through 5th get byes in the current CCHA playoff format.

In addition to cheering for Northern Michigan as they host Lake Superior State in the lower half of the standings, Miami will also be looking up the standings, as they are currently tied with Michigan State in the PairWise at 11th. MSU will be playing in South Bend against a Notre Dame team that hasn’t won since February 3rd against Bowling Green, and have lost 5 straight. Western Michigan, currently 3rd in the CCHA is within striking distance, especially considering the Broncos have a home/home series with Ferris State this weekend (FSN Detroit, 7:05pm Friday).

For those keeping score at home, outside of beating Ohio State, cheer for Ferris State to win the CCHA and sweep Western Michigan, and follow that up with a 5 points from Notre Dame over MSU (CBS Sports, 8:35pm Friday; Comcast Sports, 7:35 Saturday). And finally, root on Northern Michigan over Lake State.

Hopefully you’re one of the 400+ that purchased tickets through miamibeef and the Columbus Chapter of the Alumni Association, nearly 100 who will be joining RedAlert or the Miami Blue Line Club’s bus trips, and will be joining Beef for the game in Columbus.

Enjoy the games and GO REDHAWKS!