Once in a while you have to play the little guys and put a whooping on them to make yourself feel good about life. This past weekend, Miami did just that, posting 2 3-goal wins over Canisius. The RedHawks completed their second sweep of the season, handily beating the Golden Griffins 3-0 and 5-2 in Oxford. As we mentioned in our weekend preview, it was Canisius could have been a team that jumped up and stole a win from Miami. They’re not a bad hockey team, and Miami did well to remain focused and earn two solid victories on the weekend.
Recapping the Canisius Series
“Ryan was a huge difference in the first period,” Head Coach Enrico Blasi said after the game, “and the third period was our best period. I thought we played well, made some good plays, were intense on loose pucks. We started off a little too loose, but we got better in the second period.”
With no scoring from the top line, the star of the night was Alex Wideman, who had two laser shots over the shoulder of the Canisius goalie to score his 3rd and 4th goals of the season. Wideman was quick to give credit to his teammates on both goals: “The first goal was all (Blake) Coleman and (Cody) Murphy. I’m usually a passer, but I decided to shoot on the first one.” He was also in the right spot at the right time and gave credit to Anthony Louis on his second goal for making a great play.
Coming into this season, there was some trepidation as to where the secondary scoring was going to come from. Of course, Riley Barber and Austin Czarnik were expected to score buckets of goals, but Friday was a typical night for these two that they can expect for the rest of the season in the NCHC. Guys like Wideman, Coleman, Jimmy Mullin, Louis and Alex Gacek will need to continue to score to keep the RedHawks at the top of the polls and NCHC standings.
Ryan McKay stopped just about everything thrown his way and was named the second star of the night. However, I tweeted it during the game and after watching the replay, this shutout really falls to the defense. They played great as a team, blocked 13 shots overall, and allowed 9 shots in the final 2 periods combined.
On Saturday, Blasi was pleased with the performance in the defensive zone, and the RedHawks continued their streak of single-digit shots in a period, allowing just 5 in the first.
“We came out strong tonight. Austin’s goal got us going. Once they made it 1-1 we scored twice and that was real important in the game. We were doing a great job of relieving pressure and putting pressure on them. Any time you can sweep in college hockey, that’s a big deal. They play a different style – trying to slow you down because they are real big and strong. You have to be patient and disciplined and our guys did that fairly well all weekend long. We played well for about 5 of 6 periods this weekend. We possessed the puck extremely well. Our power play was very good again. We started to get better with the D-zone and some of the decision making with the puck especially in the neutral zone.”
Blake Coleman dished out 4 assists on the night. “We emphasized coming out hard and jumping all over them early. Everyone else was kind of wheeling, but we made the most of our opportunities. I feel like everyone could have had four assists tonight.”
Jay Williams looked spectacular in net. He only had to face 23 shots, and sure, he let in 2 of them. But really, this could have been a track meet and a 5-5 game if it wasn’t for Williams spectacular saves throughout the game. On top of looking good in net, Williams was credited with an assist on Anthony Louis’s goal – the eventual game winner.
Three Stars of the Weekend
3. The Goaltending Super-Duo of Ryan McKay and Jay Williams – McKay shutout Canisius on Friday night, and Williams followed that up by stopping 21 of 23 and added an assist on Saturday.
2. Alex Wideman – When the top line doesn’t score, Wideman is there picking up the slack and now has 4 goals and 2 assists on the year.
1. Blake Coleman – 4 assists on Saturday night. Throw in a goal on Friday night and Blake Coleman is one of the hottest scorers for Miami right now.
Scouting the Huskies
There’s another big matchup on the schedule this weekend, and the #7 RedHawks are in northern Minnesota for the matchup with #3/4 St. Cloud. This weekend’s opponent will be the third Miami foe that has been ranked in the top 10 of the national rankings. Miami earned a split at home against North Dakota, then lost and tied at Providence a week later. 3 out of the last 4 weekends and 3 of 5 overall against top 10 teams is quite a strong schedule – currently the 6th hardest in the country. Second on that list? St. Cloud State.
In the all time series, Miami is 8-3-2 all-time against St. Cloud State. However, St. Cloud has owned the series lately, and Miami is 0-2-1 in the last three meetings. Coach Blasi is preparing his team for an epic struggle, but when he was asked if last year’s NCAA Regional Final matchup carried any weight, he was quick to say that it will play no bearing this weekend:
It’s a huge weekend for us. They are playing extremely well, sweeping North Dakota in Grand Forks. They went to the Frozen Four and they are well coached. This will be one of the most complete teams we’ll play all season and it’s coing to be a big challenge this weekend. This is just another step. We have to go in ready to go against a veteran experience team that is playing extremely well. Probably the most complete team I’ve seen in this early season. We’re going to have to play our best.
Last year was last year. They have some guys that have graduated and so do we – it’s a new season, we won’t coach that way. We’ve got a lot of things to work on and we know how good SCSU is. We’re going to put our best foot forward and we have to play well. Any time you go on the road in our league it’s gonna be tough. You have to be sure you’re doing all the little things right.
The Hawks won on Friday night despite not getting a single point from Riley Barber or Austin Czarnik. Blasi had this to say about their performance: “They had some great chances, but that’s going to happen. If you watch the game, our opponent is going to key in on those two guys. Every time they touch the puck, there are three guys on them. It’s not that they didn’t have their chances, they just didn’t go in. As they got better throughout the game, our team started to roll.” You can expect a whole lot more of the same this weekend in St. Cloud, and getting a solid start on Friday night will be crucial.
“Saturday have not been our issue. Friday first periods have been, and I’m not sure why,” Blasi said. “We’re in the process of changing things in practice and how we do things during the week. Really it has been Friday and that needs to change, no question. Maybe it’s a focus thing, but we have to change that.”
This weekend, Miami will need to be on point with their power play. SCSU (5-0-1 overall, 2-0-0 in the NCHC) just doesn’t take penalties, having only 21 penalties (50 minutes) in their first 6 games. That’s an average of just 8 minutes a game, so if Miami expects to continue to stay near the top of the NCAA with their power play, it won’t be because they will have a lot of chances.
Here’s the special teams story:
Miami Power Play: 30.8% (2nd in the nation)
St. Cloud Penalty Kill: 84.2% (21st in the nation)
Miami Penalty Kill: 80.5% (38th in the nation)
St. Cloud Power Play: 13.6% (47th in the nation)
I am hopeful that the Miami penalty kill will be fixed this weekend, but St. Cloud’s numbers can be deceiving. They played North Dakota in their only other NCHC matchup to date, and North Dakota is tops in the nation on the penalty kill – having killed 28 of 29 penalties this year. I’m not so much concerned with the power play, but if there aren’t any chances, then Miami is going to need to get the job done on 5-on-5 play.
The action starts tonight at 8:30 Eastern Time and Saturday at 8:00 pm. Miami coverage for All-Access subscribers will be available (audio only), and St. Cloud’s video service will also be available for a fee.
Guess what…another potential top 10 matchup! Miami hosts Wisconsin who is currently ranked 13 in the USCHO poll and 12 in the USA Today poll. Friday’s game is a rare 6:30pm start time to make way for CBS Sports TV coverage. Saturday’s puck drop is the normal 7:00 pm start time.
Enjoy the action, RedHawks!
Well, that didn’t take long.
After officially extending invitations to the schools on Wednesday, the NCHC became a reality for the Western Michigan Broncos and St. Cloud State Huskies on Thursday. This brings the total schools welcomed into the NCHC up to 8, and gives Miami a conference rival of sorts in Western Michigan, having spent the last 31 years in the CCHA together (WMU has been in the CCHA since the 1975-76 season and Miami joined for the 1980-81 campaign).
Miami Athletic Director Brad Bates was present to welcome the Broncos with WMU director of Athletics Kathy Beauregard providing the big news to local media.
St. Cloud State University President Dr. Earl Potter announced the Huskies are joining the NCHC, and looks forward to “forming new partners with Miami and Western Michigan.”
As far as these two teams go, Miami has a slight 51-49-9 edge all time against Western Michigan, and a solid 7-1-1 record against the Huskies.
That would be my immediate reaction to reports by both College Hockey News and USCHO that Western Michigan University and St. Cloud State University are expected to join the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference that will start play in 2013-14. According to reports, both schools will be invited by week’s end. Both websites cited separate sources with CHN naming the Grand Forks Herald and USCHO citing the Kalamazoo Gazette.
So, what does this mean for Notre Dame?
I think it means they are going to play as an independent while their administration very likely considers a new conference for their other sports as the dramatic changes in college athletics continue. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Notre Dame join either the Big 10 or the ACC for all sports. Of course, only the Big 10 helps the Irish (why Notre Dame gets away with using “Fighting Irish” and others like North Dakota are crucified for using “Fighting Sioux” is beyond me, but a story for another day) on the ice so things are going to be more difficult for them until the situation is resolved.
Notre Dame has committed to announcing a “decision” within 10 days.
As for the NCHC, the addition of Western Michigan makes all the sense in the world. Heavy commitment to hockey, Division I in all-sports, travel partner and MAC rival with Miami, Andy Murray at the helm, etc.
However, I’m perplexed by the addition of St. Cloud.
When the NCHC announced the formation of the conference, “like-mindedness” and a commitment to hockey were noted as key tenets that brought these schools together. I must confess I do not know a ton about St. Cloud as a university, but I know they aren’t a Division I school (though defending national champion UMD isn’t either), they aren’t highly regarded academically and I can only
hope assume their ability to support hockey at this highest level is not a challenge for them financially. Plus, St. Cloud’s president went on the record saying the Huskies would not accept an invite to the NCHC as our pal Goon reported a few months back over at Goon’s World making him either a slick politician or an absolute hypocrite.
So, I’m wondering what SCSU brings that Bowling Green doesn’t?
It’s another Minnesota school which is a boon for recruiting, but Bowling Green is a Division I school and inviting them would have kept the three hockey-playing MAC schools together. If Notre Dame wasn’t (ever) going to accept the invitation, I wonder why the NCHC is going with a small non-Division I school over a program that has won a national title, has reaffirmed their commitment to hockey and is a three-hour drive from Oxford, Ohio?
More on this to come over the next few weeks I’m sure.