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Miami completes sweep of Western Michigan 4-0

Connor Knapp made 22 saves in notching his second shutout of the season and added an assist on Miami’s second goal as the RedHawks received goals from four different players and completed the sweep of #8 Western Michigan by a final score of 4-0.

With the victory, Miami moved into a tie for second place in the tightly packed CCHA and are now just two points behind league leading, duhOSU.

Junior co-captain Reilly Smith opened the scoring in the first period for Miami with his fourth goal of the weekend, and his team leading 18th on the season, while freshman Jimmy Mullin (8th) and senior co-captain Alden Hirschfeld (8th) added breakaway goals to blow open a close game in the third period. Freshman Tyler Biggs (5th) added the fourth and final Miami goal just 24 seconds after Hirschfeld’s to send the Broncos back to Kalamazoo empty handed.

Evening Observations

Miami received solid efforts from several players tonight including an “under the weather” Curtis McKenzie who fought through a bug with hustle and hard work that helped contain the Broncos and make life miserable for them.

And, in addition to scoring a goal, Miami’s Reilly Smith was all over the ice killing penalties and even blocking shots for the RedHawks. Adding the captain’s ‘C’ to Reilly’s sweater seems to have brought even more out of him.

Freshman Ben Paulides has been earning head coach Enrico Blasi’s trust lately and his game has been mentioned by several folks as having greatly improved since the start of the season. And, again tonight. Paulides was solid in his own zone and was credited with an assist on Mullin’s goal early in the third period. It bodes well for next year if Paulides can lock down one of the top six defense positions with the impending losses of seniors Will Weber, Cameron Schilling and Chris Wideman.

As much as Miami dominated the Broncos tonight by limiting their time and space, they also exposed Western as maybe not yet ready to play “big boy hockey” as their alums and fans have been shouting for the past year. With multiple breakaway chances, Miami’s speed and size were simply too much for Western to handle as they’ve proven they do not possess the kind of elite talent to match a group of forwards as skilled as Miami’s. But, they play a great team game and will be a difficult out for anyone at full strength.

For the RedHawks, it was business as usual. And, Miami needs to continue to play well and make up ground in the national standings. If they continue to ride the superior goaltending of Connor Knapp and if the second and third lines continue to contribute scoring, the RedHawks will be fine as the year begins to wind down. It goes without saying that Miami has dialed up the team defense and is becoming very difficult to play against. Expected to be a strength at the start of the year, the RedHawks are now flexing their defensive muscles as they have absolutely shut teams down since a 2-6 start to the season. And, unbelievably, there are just ten regular season contests remaining in the 2011-12 season.

With tonight’s victory, Miami has moved into a tie for second in the CCHA and has moved into a tie for 14th in the Pairwise and 10th in KRACH.

Next weekend, Miami continues a four-game homestand as they welcome Northern Michigan to the Goggin for another important CCHA series.

Notes

– Connor Knapp has now won six consecutive starts and for the second time in three weeks, played both games. He again allowed just one goal on the weekend equaling his effort at Michigan State January 6-7.

– Knapp lowered his goals against average this weekend to a ridiculous 1.77 and improved his save percentage to an inhuman .932 after stopping 48 of 49 shots in the two wins

– The Broncos again played without leading scorers Dane Walters and Shane Berschbach

– Tampa Bay Lightning GM and former Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman was in the house tonight, presumably to check in on his fourth round selection from 2010, Miami’s Jimmy Mullin (nice time to score a goal, Jimmy).

– By playing Connor Knapp in both games this weekend, head coach Enrico Blasi redeemed himself after going against his gut last weekend. Knapp has to play until he proves he can’t handle the workload.

– Here’s the MURedHawks.com recap

– An interesting, if not whiny take, from MLive.com with whiny quotes from Bronco head coach Andy Murray. I have to admit, I didn’t expect this from him.

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Biggs Suspended for Lake Superior Series

Today the CCHA announced that Miami freshman forward Tyler Biggs has been suspended for two games for “delivering an illegal hit directly to the head of a Michigan State player.”

Though Biggs was not penalized on the play, I can only infer from the league’s cryptic statement that it most likely was an elbow to the head of Michigan State junior defenseman Matt Grassi that knocked him out of most of the third period on Friday and all of Saturday night’s game. It’s strange, however, that very little was made of this in the postgame on Friday or the postmortem delivered by MSU head coach Tom Anastos after Saturday’s 4-0 Miami victory. From TheStateNews.com:

Grassi took an apparent elbow to the face in the third period of Friday’s game, leading to a concussion that required “8-10 stitches.” Anastos said Grassi demonstrated concussion-like symptoms and is out indefinitely until he is cleared to play.

However, Anastos was not prepared to dismiss injuries as the reason why his team struggled this weekend.

“We don’t want to have any excuses for any reason,” Anastos said. “We have to play the game. Every team has injuries. Certainly our team is not a team that’s loaded with depth, you know. But you have to play over that. Like I said before, you have injuries, and it creates opportunities for others.”

So, it is what it is, I guess, but two games feels a little harsh. It’s certainly too bad that Grassi is injured, but it’s also surprising that no penalty was called on the play.

Regardless, Biggs is out of the lineup for Miami’s big series against Lake Superior State in the SOO. Currently, Miami is just one point behind the Lakers in the CCHA standings and the RedHawks would like nothing more than to sweep them in their barn and turn the tables on the Laker sweep of the October series in Oxford. And, a Miami sweep would give them sole possession of fourth place and notch a couple more big Pairwise wins since the Lakers are currently tied for 16th in the all important rankings.

Biggs will be eligible to return to the lineup on January 20 when the RedHawks finally return home to face Western Michigan.

Biggs, Czarnik Claim Back-to-Back CCHA Rookie Awards

                                         

Tyler Biggs                                                          Austin Czarnik

Miami freshmen forwards Tyler Biggs and Austin Czarnik have been honored with the first weekly CCHA awards of their respective careers in back-to-back weeks.

For his efforts against Alaska, Biggs was named the Gongshow CCHA Rookie of the Week. In Miami’s two game sweep in Fairbanks, the forward from Loveland, Ohio had an assist in both games, blocked a shot and finished +1 for the weekend.

Coming off a game DQ, Czarnik (Washington, Mich.) did not play in Friday’s 2-1 win over Michigan. However, he suited up for Saturday’s game and had a goal and two assists for a career-high three points in Miami’s 3-3 tie with the Wolverines to earn the Gongshow CCHA Rookie of the Week award. He also blocked a shot and finished +1 on the night.

Congratulations to both players and best of luck the rest of the way.

Miami defeats #4 Michigan 2-1

In their most complete game of the season, the Miami RedHawks (5-6, 3-4 CCHA) received goals from freshmen Jimmy Mullin and Tyler Biggs and senior goaltender Cody Reichard made 20 saves as the RedHawks knocked off #4 Michigan (7-3-1, 3-3-1-1 CCHA) 2-1 at Steve Cady Arena.

It was an all-around effort for Miami as not only did the defense deny the Wolverines time and space, but chipped in with three of the four assists on the two Miami goals. Sophomore Garrett Kennedy and junior Joe Hartman assisted on the Mullin goal while senior co-captain Will Weber and junior forward Curtis McKenzie offered helpers on Biggs’ game winner. And, when the defense did breakdown, Cody Reichard was there to make key saves with none bigger than a lunging stop on Wolverine senior David Wohlberg, who found a loose puck on his stick in front of the Miami net with just over a minute left in regulation.

If last night is to be a harbinger of what’s to come, things are looking up for this team. Miami played with the sort of intensity that toed the line between out of control and physical. Unlike many of the season’s first 11 games that have been a parade to the penalty box, Miami managed to physically dominate the Wolverines but took only three minor penalties for six minutes before a few unpleasantries were exchanged between Michigan’s Alex Guptill and Miami’s Curtis McKenzie at the game’s final buzzer. If Miami can limit their time shorthanded and play their brand of tough, physical hockey, that will help them as the young forwards continue to find their game.

Tonight, Miami goes for their fourth straight win as they conclude this early season matchup with #4 Michigan. With three league points already secured, the RedHawks have an opportunity to play their game and improve upon their 8-3 record against the Wolverines over the past several years. In order to do so, they’ll need to play a game very similar to last night — tough defense, timely scoring and good goaltending. If they can, they’ll erase their early 2-6 start and climb back to .500 overall.

Notes

– Senior Trent Vogelhuber was assessed a 10 minute misconduct for leaving the bench to get involved in the scuffle at the final buzzer. It’s unclear if Vogelhuber was assessed a DQ or if it was just a misconduct. If he received the DQ, he’ll miss tonight’s finale against the Wolverines.

– Miami’s freshman forward Austin Czarnik will return to the lineup tonight after serving his mandatory one-game suspension for receiving a DQ in last Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Alaska.

– After a slow start, senior netminder Cody Reichard is on a roll. His overall record is now 4-3 and he has been in net for the past three Miami victories allowing just three goals while watching his season stats improve dramatically. Reichard now sports a 2.27 goals-against average and .908 save percentage as he begins to round into form. In fact, as of October 30, Reichard’s numbers were an un-Cody-like 3.11 and .870 after the weekend sweep at the hands of Lake Superior State.

– In addition to having a chance to even its overall record at 6-6, a win tonight would even the RedHawks record at home as well as in the CCHA as Miami has moved into 7th place in the league, just two points behind Michigan. A regulation or OT victory would catapult the RedHawks past the Wolverines in the CCHA.

INCH Recruiting Rankings: Miami #1

Inside College Hockey has ranked Miami’s 2011 recruiting class #1 in its annual rankings.

The RedHawks feature four of the top 20 forwards (Biggs, Mullin, Coleman, Czarnik) in the nation, and while there are no defensemen or goaltenders listed for Miami, it’s certain this class would have been even higher if He Who Must Not Be Named Connor Murphy had honored his word and actually suited up on the blueline for the Red and White.

Next season, you can expect to see Pat Sieloff’s name listed at defense, and possibly, both Ryan McKay and Jay Williams at the goaltender position as Miami works to replace four-year starters Will Weber, Cameron Schilling, Chris Wideman, Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy watching all the freshmen grow and mature as student-athletes and young men.

Biggs, Smith Top NHL Prospect List

NHL Scouting has released its list of top collegiate prospects for the 2011-12 season and two RedHawks rank among the top 13 in the nation. Freshman Tyler Biggs (Loveland, Ohio) and junior Reilly Smith (Mimico, Ont.) were ranked the 5th and 10th best collegiate prospects, respectively, in the nation.

Biggs, the son of longtime Cincinnati Cyclone great Don Biggs, will be joining the RedHawks for his first season of play after being selected in the first round of June’s NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Smith, who was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2009 Entry Draft by the Dallas Stars, is Miami’s leading returning goal scorer after notching 28 in a breakout sophomore season helping Miami claim it’s first ever Mason Cup as CCHA tournament champions and a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Here’s a link to the story at Bleacher Report.

2011-2012 Roster Released

On the weekend of the NHL Draft in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Miami Athletic Department has released the 2011-2012 roster. Here’s a quick look at the newest RedHawks and the jersey number they’ll be wearing. Stay tuned for an NHL Draft recap as well!

Austin Czarnik- 7

Alex Wideman- 10

Cody Murphy- 14

Jimmy Mullin- 20

Tyler Biggs- 22

Blake Coleman- 25

Ben Paulides- 28

Connor Murphy- 55 Um, yeah…