The road to the Frozen Four – “The Skate” rather than The Dance – starts in about 45 minutes. 4 Regions, 4 teams each. 5 Conference Champions, 11 at-large berths. 1 Championship.
Miami begins in the Midwest Regional in Toledo, OH tomorrow, as we’ve already previewed. And previewed again… But what about those other teams in the Midwest? And who else is in this thing anyways? Let’s break it down and give you our 2013 Frozen Four predictions in the process.
Toledo, Ohio; Saturday/Sunday
Teams: Notre Dame, Miami, Minnesota State, St. Cloud State
Congratulations for winning the CCHA Tournament Championship, Notre Dame! You now get to face the WCHA Regular Season co-champion St. Cloud State Huskies! St. Cloud isn’t exactly on fire, however, having gone 8-5 since February. Notre Dame comes in having won 6 in a row, and is unbeaten in their last 9, with the two non-victories being a split of shootouts against Western Michigan.
Everyone has said it already, and we’ll repeat it here. This regional is wide open. There is so much parity in college hockey, and these two CCHA vs WCHA matchups could provide some of the best drama in the first 2 rounds of the tournament.
Alex, Doug: Notre Dame
Mike: St. Cloud
Providence, Rhode Island; Friday/Saturday
Teams: Quinnipiac, Boston College, Union, Canisius
The Quinnipiac Bobcats went ballistic in the middle of the season. They ran off 21 straight games without a loss. However, to finish, they only went 6-3-1, unlike last year’s Boston College team that won 74 games in a row and rolled to the championship. After their 3-2 loss to Cornell in the ECAC tournament, they came back and won 10-0 the next night. The Cats can score, that’s for certain and they should have no problem with Canisius.
The other matchup is the intriguing one, as 2 of last year’s Frozen Four teams face off. Union is another team that is firing on all cylinders lately. They are 8-2 in their last 10 and won the ECAC Tournament. BC is… well… BC. They just win. All the time. And it gets old. One of these days Jerry York will retire and they’ll go away for a bit. However, he hasn’t retired yet.
Alex, Mike, Doug: Boston College
Manchester, New Hampshire; Friday/Saturday
Teams: UMass-Lowell, New Hampshire, Denver, Wisconsin
UNH and Denver will square off, but it won’t matter here. It might be an interesting game, but the real draw is the UM-L and Wisconsin matchup. We may be overlooking this one, but UNH backed in to the tournament and brought Denver with them. Sure, they had nice seasons, but really didn’t impress throughout the second half of each’s season and both lost in the first round of their conference tournaments.
On the other hand, Wisconsin is doing what teams like Miami, Quinnipiac and Minnesota wish they had been doing: fighting like hell to get into the tournament. Now, they’ve won the WCHA tournament and are another team that is playing great at the right time.
Lowell is playing like crazy and earned their first ever #1 seed in the tournament. They started the season 2-5-1, but then in their last 30 games went a measly 24-5-1. They are also 12-1 in their last 13 games. They remind me a lot of Boston College last year: big, fast, determined. Their hurdle here should be beating Wisconsin. Someone’s got to win this clash of the titans.
Alex, Doug: UMass-Lowell
Grand Rapids, Michigan; Saturday/Sunday
Teams: Minnesota, North Dakota, Niagara, Yale
Okay…so the committee wanted to see a Minnesota vs North Dakota Regional Final. Can you blame them? I certainly cannot. Their games are always slug fests and we could be set up for another titanic struggle on Sunday. While they shouldn’t look past their opponents on Saturday, I think we can bank on a WCHA entrant to the Frozen Four from this region.
Yale comes in having been shut out in each of their last 2 games – to Union in the Semifinals and then Quinnipiac in the consolation game of the ECAC tournament. Yale could pose a threat, but Minnesota’s depth, size and speed will over power them. Much of the same should be expected for North Dakota.
We won’t take anything away from Niagara’s fantastic season. They are the first ever Atlantic Hockey team to make the tournament as an at-large bid, but are just 2-2 in their last 4. North Dakota is worse, having gone 2-3 in their last 5. However, North Dakota has the firepower that should get them at least to the regional final.
Alex, Mike, Doug: Minnesota
And to recap, here’s our overall Frozen Four picks (we’ll preview the actual 4 teams in 2 weeks) and championship predictions:
Alex: BC, Notre Dame, UM-L, Minnesota; BC over Minnesota for the title (BC apologist)
Mike: BC, SCSU, Wisconsin, Minnesota; BC over Minnesota for the title (BC apologist)
Doug: BC, Notre Dame, UM-L, Minnesota; Lowell over ND for the title
As you can see, I am the only sane person of the 3 Warriors that didn’t pick BC to win it all.
In any event, enjoy the games, everyone. They start RIGHT NOW!
This Saturday, Miami’s NCAA tournament run takes a trip through Toledo, Ohio, as the RedHawks take on the Minnesota State Mavericks. There are some interesting storylines that my co-blogger redhawk95 laid out for you: Miami can’t win the big games and a “one and done” is forthcoming. Well fear not, RedHawks. I think Rico Blasi and the youngest Miami team in decades have more going for them this weekend than previously expressed.
Let’s start with Minnesota State. When I sat down to write this piece (admittedly for the last 3 days), I couldn’t help but let thoughts run through my head like “they only went 16-11 in WCHA play” “they allowed 95 goals this year” and “they just lost 7-2 to Wisconsin!” But then I look at their season and they did win some considerable games. Minnesota twice, North Dakota, at Wisconsin twice. However, my clinching statistic is this. MSU was only 13-13-1 against TUCs this year and went 5-9 against tournament teams in 2013. Against the better teams, they haven’t produced the results.
Consider that Minnesota State hasn’t been to “the skate” (my hockey version of “the dance”) since 2003. 10 years. The student athletes playing on this team almost assuredly didn’t know they were even going to attend Minnesota State when that happened. Can they score goals? Sure. They certainly can, and are 10th in the country in scoring at 3.17 goals per game. That’s a lot of scoring, but as I look back to the games I saw (on TV) featuring WCHA teams, they all allowed a lot of goals over the course of the season. 6 of the top 11 schools in the country in scoring margin hail from the WCHA. What does that tell me? Goaltending in the WCHA is suspect. With Miami’s snipers like Riley Barber, Austin Czarnik, Alex Wideman, Curtis McKenzie and Cody Murphy, I think we can get some pucks past Mavericks Freshman Goalie Stephon Williams.
Speaking of Williams, much like Miami freshman netminder Ryan McKay, he was also pulled in Minnesota State’s 7-2 loss to Wisconsin to finish their conference tournament run. Both goalies got wake up calls. It will be interesting to see how they come back this weekend. That is, if McKay gets the start instead of Williams. If he does, and MSU’s Williams gets the nod as well, we might just see a 1-0 3OT thriller in Toledo if they both decide to stand on their heads for the night.
Alright, now to present the case for the RedHawks. I will admit, it’s not an open and shut case. Miami just lost 6-2 to Michigan, are just 7-5 in their last dozen games including losses to 2 bottom feeders this year (Michigan State, Michigan) and sometimes forget to show up to games (7 shutouts). However, this Warrior hasn’t given up hope entirely. Here are some points to consider.
First, Miami has been here before. This is the 8th year in a row Miami has been in the tournament. In the last 8 years, MSU (1st appearance in last 8), St. Cloud (4th) and Notre Dame (5th) have been in the tournament 10 times total. None of these teams were in the tournament last year when Miami was bounced by UMass-Lowell.
Next, let’s look back at that scoring stat. Sure, MSU is 10th in the country in scoring. But if you look at scoring margin, they’ve only outscored their opponents by 0.8 goals a game. Hmm. Interesting. That number sounds familiar … Oh look. Miami’s scoring margin is … 0.8 goals per game. Sure Miami has scored just 101 goals to Minnesota State’s 127, but on the defensive side of the puck, Miami has only allowed 69 goals against all season. The defense is there. The goaltending is there (I could write an entire other article on McKay vs. Williams for this weekend’s start, but either will be fine with me).
Finally, you might say that Miami hasn’t exactly had the best of runs in previous tournaments, but in the last 8 seasons, Rico Blasi and company are 7-7 in the tournament. Find me a team that hasn’t won the whole thing, but has won 7 NCAA tournament games in the last 7 years. I’m not sure there is another one out there. Miami can and has won big games on this stage in the past. In this stretch, Miami has won the CCHA tournament, and has made 2 Frozen Fours. That is impressive and in this supposed year of “rebuiding,” don’t be surprised if Miami puts it together and wins a few games.
Well there you have it. The case for Miami to win a couple games. I’m not going to come out and say they will make it to Pittsburgh with 2 wins this weekend. They have to get through MSU first, and then either the CCHA Tournament Champion or the WCHA Regular Season Champion to get there. But in a wide open tournament, the Midwest regional in Toledo is possibly the most wide open foursome of teams and any of them can make it to Pittsburgh. Why not Miami?
After Friday night, there was some panic around Oxford in regards to the Miami Hockey program after being shut out by the 11th seeded Spartans in game 1. “Was the whole season a waste?” “Was the regular season a fluke?” “Why did a team with such firepower get shutout 7 times this year?”
Well, I think Enrico Blasi and the RedHawks turned all of those doubts into more hope for this young team with a 4-1 victory that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated last night. Let’s take a look at the two nights’ work.
On Friday, Michigan State came out firing with their first goal at 8:04 of the night. Miami couldn’t counter punch at all. A usually stout Austin Czarnik was just 5 for 21 in the faceoff circle, and Miami’s scoring chances were minimal. Ryan McKay stopped 21 of 24 shots on the night, but on the other end, Freshman Jake Hildebrand blocked all 34 shots Miami fired at him and MSU skated away with the shutout win.
Turn the page to Saturday night, and we saw the team that has been in the top 10 for the entire season, currently stands as the #3 team in the land and the team that is second in the country in scoring defense at 1.63 Goals per game.
To start the game, Miami wasn’t messing around. Senior Captain Steven Spinell, having not played entirely up to his potential over the last several weeks, decided to set the tone. The very first time MSU tried to cross the red line at center ice, Spinell laid out MSU’s Kevin Walrod. In the post-game press conference, Spinell said he “saw the opportunity and took it to send a message and set the tone for our team. We’re here to battle, and that was our focus.” (courtesy: Rick Cassano, Hamilton Journal-News) Spinell took a 2 minute penalty for and Indirect contact to the head – elbowing infraction, but the tone was set.
Last night, Miami held Michigan State to just 4 shots in the first period, 5 in the second and 8 in the third. Unfortunately, scoring chances isn’t an official stat, but I’d venture a guess that Miami had around 17 scoring chances compared to those 17 actual shots by Michigan State. In the second period alone, Miami outshot MSU 20-5 and really made the game look like it was theirs without question.
Once again, Blasi pulled the right strings and added some extra strokes to his masterpiece of a season. Blasi took Blake Coleman out of the game as a healthy scratch and inserted Bryon Paulazzo seemingly on a whim. To make the lines fit, he also dropped Cody Murphy down to the fourth line. Murphy was centered by Max Cook and also had Jimmy Mullin on his line for the night. Murphy had a goal and an assist, and Mullin scored the first Miami goal of the series that really turned the momentum in favor of the Hawks.
Miami was clearly the better team, and after Mullin opened the scoring, the rout was on. Austin Czarnik scored the game winning goal – his NCAA leading 4th shorthanded goal – off of a fantastic effort from Riley Barber, and Miami never looked back. In all, 4 RedHawks had multi-point nights: Czarnik would add a second goal in the 3rd period, Matthew Caito (team high 6 shots) and Barber had 2 helpers each, and Murphy had his spectacular goal and added an assist to go along with his 4 shots on the night.
Tonight, we find out if the momentum gained in the first period of Saturday’s game will carry into Sunday’s deciding game 3. If Miami can win, they will head to The Joe and will face the hottest team in the NCAA in Michigan (7-0-1 in their last 8). If MSU wins, Miami still likely has a #1 seed wrapped up, but will not have the opportunity to win the final CCHA Tournament Championship in Detroit next weekend.
Tickets are still available for tonight’s game. Tickets are $3 for students and $18-23 otherwise. Puck drop is at 7:05 once again, and the game can be seen in HD on Miami All-Access.
Miami faces OSU with the final CCHA
Championship just 2 points away.
Miami’s long road to the last-ever CCHA Championship didn’t come without struggles, growing pains and scoring droughts. However, this group of 26 student-athletes is on the brink of the 4th ever CCHA Regular Season Championship in Miami Ice Hockey History. We haven’t been huge on weekend previews this season, so why start now? Take a look at Rick Cassano’s preview, as well as the Official Miami Hockey preview for those. Here’s a recap of an action packed last week of February as we look forward to a possible celebration in Oxford. Read the rest of this entry
The march to Pittsburgh is nearly upon us.
When we were looking at the PairWise back in December, it didn’t really make sense. Now, however, it’s very meaningful. Let’s take a look at what’s happening keeping travel in mind. First, there are 2 regionals that Miami would love to be at: Toledo and Grand Rapids. Light travel, meaning no big trips out east to play eastern teams that are hosting, even when Miami is a #1 seed (UNH, 2011). And secondly, Miami could end up staying within 302 miles of Oxford (Grand Rapids: 298 mile drive, Pittsburgh, 302 mile drive) from the CCHA tournament through the Frozen Four if things happen to fall correctly. It’s certainly not a lock, and there’s a long way to go, but let’s take a deeper look at the current PairWise.
Before we recap the week, we remember Brendan Burke. Burkie died 3 years ago today (February 5, 2010). Each and every RedHawk, including those freshmen who didn’t know him miss him like a brother. His legacy will live on in Oxford and throughout hockey and sports through the You Can Play project. We encourage you to support You Can Play at http://www.youcanplayproject.org, and always remember Brendan as an important part of The Brotherhood.
For the second week in a row, Miami has swept their opponent out of Oxford, this time sending the Alaska Nanooks back to Fairbanks significantly cooler than they were coming in. The 2 wins snapped a 6 game win streak for the Nanooks, who fell back out of the polls, but still remain as a TUC in the PairWise – a good thing for Enrico Blasi’s talented young squad. Here’s what you missed so far this week.
“Red hot” just wouldn’t be fitting for the fighting polar bears from Alaska at the moment. The Nanooks come to town on a 6-game win streak with each of the 6 wins coming at a critical time in the race to the CCHA playoffs. Behind the
EZAC’s ECAC’s Quinnipiac (15-0-2) and Hockey East’s UMass-Lowell (10-0-1), they are one of the hottest teams in the country. Looking at those team’s opponents, it’s safe to say that Alaska is truly that hottest team.
Coming off of a weekend sweep in Oxford, the RedHawks look ahead to another (!?!?!) home series against Alaska to start off what looks to be a rugged February schedule. Miami hadn’t been at home for a game in 48 days before Friday night, and after the upcoming weekend will have played 4 home games in 9 days. Follow that up with the Western Michigan Broncos in Kalamazoo and Notre Dame on Friday 2/15 and Sunday in Chicago on 2/17, and Miami’s strength of schedule and RPI should be rising quickly. Here’s what you missed over the last week.
The RedHawks lit the lantern and earned
5 points against OSU this weekend.
This past weekend’s game had me singing “takin’ care of business” after the RedHawks took 5 points from Ohio State in their own barn in 2 hard-fought contests. We expected some gritty hockey with lots of big hits and a whole lot of energy, and what we received for the weekend was well worth the admission price. Both games were very intense, with Friday night’s game going all the way to a shootout, and Saturday’s coming down to some staunch defense in the third period for an exciting 3-1 victory. Here are some game notes and our weekend recap.
- Miami had only 5 shots in the entire first period. Ohio State had 10 for the first, but didn’t register their first shot until 6:45 into the game. After the slow start and subsequent slow second period, the Hawks had us thinking that we were headed for a “Rico Swoon.” We’re also happy it didn’t end up that way.
- It wasn’t until the third period until any scoring happened, with OSU’s Devin Krogh scoring 3:52 in to put Ohio State up 1-0. Jay Williams made a big save, but kicked out a rebound to the right side, and on an awkward angle, Krogh snuck the puck through his legs for the first tally of the season
- At 11:25 of the third, Krogh then took what would turn out to be a very costly penalty. At 12:43 of the period, Riley Barber made a slick pass into the slot area and Curtis McKenzie drilled a 1-timer that found twine, and the game was tied. The power play goal was McKenzie’s 3rd goal of the season, and it earned him the #1 star of the game. It was nice to see Curtis was flying around the ice throwing body blows all night. He ended the night with a team-high 5 shots and also recorded 2 blocked shots.
- The defense and goaltending were the stories of the night on both sides.
- Miami was limited to 5 first period shots and just 7 in the third.
- Ohio State had more shots in overtime (4) than they did in the third (3), and had just 23 total on the night.
- Somehow, Ohio State goalie Brady Hjelle was named the #2 star of the game ahead of Jay Williams, who won his 8th game in Oxford and stopped all 3 shootout attempts. For the season, Miami has now faced off with 4 different opponents in shootouts and has not allowed even one attempt to find the back of the net (3 wins for Williams and 1 win for Ryan McKay).
- In a somewhat troubling statistic, Miami’s record in the faceoff circle was a paltry 22-41. Austin Czarnik had a rough night all around, and won just 2 of the 19 faceoffs he fought for. Ohio State’s Tanner Fritz was 19-3 on the night, and this was likely a big contributing factor to the sloppy looking play for the first half of the game.
- Czarnik made up for his rough night on faceoffs with yet another sweet move in the shootout. He beat Hjelle with a forehander that had it all: speed, deception and creativity… AND he roofed it over the goalie’s shoulder. We’ve got the video of the goal (and the game winning save from Williams) below.
- Blasi put a somewhat strange lineup on the ice for the night. Bryon Paulazzo, Jimmy Mullin and Taylor Richart got the night off, possibly because of finals week. There were no indications of injuries, and only Paulazzo did not play on Saturday.
Here’s Czarnik’s shootout winner:
And here’s the save and celebration from Jay Williams:
- Ryan McKay was the story on Saturday and almost came away with his 3rd shutout in just his 5th career start. Unfortunately, after spotting OSU a 2-0 lead, he did allow a goal 6:20 into the third, but he stood tall and stopped the flurry of shots Ohio State threw at him the rest of the way, stopping 22 of 23 on the night.
- McKay allowed just 1 goal on the night, the third ever of his young 5-game career, and it was the first even strength goal he has allowed.
- Alex Gacek scored his 3rd goal of the season in the first period, and from there Miami settled into their shell and just stifled Ohio State the rest of the way.
- Blake Coleman returned to the scoring sheet, as he assisted on Gacek’s 1st period goal and scored the eventual game winner in the second.
- Miami was 5 for 5 on the penalty kill, and did not allow any shots on the power play until the 5th and final kill, which started with 12:39 left in the third period.
- Once again, no mention of a Miami goalie in the 3 stars of the game, where Coleman, Hjelle (!?!?!?!?!) and Riley Barber took those honors. There is no explanation other than being a home game for Ohio State that Hjelle got the 2nd star of the game nod each night. It’s clear once again that Ohio State can’t seem to get over themselves when they were outclassed on the ice on Saturday night.
For his efforts this weekend, Riley Barber once again earned the CCHA Rookie of the week award. Barber is the 2-time reigning CCHA Rookie of the Month, and this is his 3rd rookie of the week honor. On Friday night, he had an assist on McKenzie’s goal. He had the OSU goalie beat on his shootout attempt, but his shot hit the knob of the goalie’s stick and didn’t trickle in. He also tallied a goal (the empty net clincher that sent Ohio State fans to the exits) and an assist on Saturday night in Miami’s 3-1 win. Barber now has 8 points and 14 assists on the season, and leads the CCHA in scoring. He has left Oxford and is now in New York in hopes of playing for Team USA with teammate Sean Kuraly in the World Junior Championships.
Speaking of the WJC, tryouts will start in Finland tomorrow the 19th, and you can keep an eye on Team USA during the tournament on the NHL Network. The 2013 World Junior Championships will be held in Ufa, Russia Dec. 26, 2012 to Jan. 5, 2013. (We’ll post any roster updates and the upcoming schedule when we know more.) The only other CCHA players headed overseas are Michigan freshman Jacob Trouba and Notre Dame freshman Mario Lucia.
After this weekend, Miami is in a tie with Notre Dame for the top spot in the CCHA. Looks can be deceiving, however, as the Irish have 3 games in hand on Miami. In fact, the RedHawks have played the most games in the CCHA, and 3rd place Western Michigan has 2 games in hand on them and sit just 4 points behind. Meanwhile, Michigan, selected #1 by the media and #2 by the coaches of the CCHA in the preseason polls, sits in a tie for 7th with Alaska and behind teams like Ohio State, Lake Superior State and Ferris State. It should be an interesting second half, that’s for sure. Miami will need to keep taking 5 and 6 points a weekend and also play well in their non-conference games to be well positioned in the PairWise rankings, which will lead to a berth in the NCAA tournament.
And finally, let’s take a quick look at the polls. Miami now sits in the #5 spot in both polls, staying exactly where they were last week. Seeing as though it’s the half way point of the season, now is a good time to take a good look at the PairWise, and Miami is currently 9th there. Not a bad place to be, especially considering the recent opponents. Teams like Dartmouth, Yale and Quinnipiac should drop a smidge, and Miami should be able to move up with upcoming opponents like Wisconsin (in Madison January 18-19), Western Michigan (in Kalamazoo February 8-9) and Notre Dame (home and in Chicago on February 15th and 17th).
The Hawks will be off for 2 weeks, adn return to action December 28th in the Three Rivers Classic. Miami plays the same Ohio State squad on Friday night, and Saturday’s games will be determined by Friday’s results. It will be Robert Morris or Penn State on Saturday night.
Wait what? 3 games against Ohio State?
Well, let’s lump them all in together. Miami plays this weekend at Ohio State in what could be the last games in Columbus in a good while, and follows that up with a game in between Christmas and New Years in the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh against the same team. That makes 3 in a row. And I want to throw up now.
In the effort of having our lunches remain inside of us for now, I’ll spare you the gruesome pictures of Ohio State’s uniform choices in the past, but remind you that they are hideous. We’ll see enough of that on the ice in the next 35 hours or so. Let’s jump in with some comparisons, shall we?
Brady Hjelle will be in net for Ohio State, most likely for both games this weekend. He is 5-3-3 on the season with a 1.46 GAA. Not to shabby until you look at Miami’s Fab Freshmen Ryan McKay and Jay Williams. McKay has still only allowed 2 goals in his 4 starts (2-1-1) and Williams is a stellar 8-2-2 on the season, having filled in for McKay for a stretch. On the other hand, Hjelle has started 40 games already in his career, while Miami’s duo is still at only 16 combined games. There will be rubber flying around the rink the next 2 nights, but it may not tickle the twine too often for either side.
Where Miami MUST be strong this weekend is on special teams. Last weekend against Lake Superior State, all three goals the Lakers scored were on the power play, and LSSU was 3 for 7 overall. On the season, Miami’s scoring pretty well on their own power play at 15%, but are operating at just 86.2% efficience on the kill. That’s quite the low number compared to years past from the RedHawks under Head Coach Enrico Blasi. On paper, Miami shouldn’t have to deal with too much on the Ohio State side of special teams. OSU is scoring just 11.4% of the time on the power play and is a paltry 85.7% on the kill. Austin Czarnik will look to cheat the penalty kill and get another SHG – he currently leads the NCAA with 3 shorties so far this season.
Ohio State is also in the midst of possibly playing the same team three times in a short span. They had a home and home series against Robert Morris last weekend, and came away 0-1-1.
Everyone A team like Ohio State should be able to roll over RMU easily. Instead, OSU lost at home to them 3-2, and then tied them 2-2 in Pittsburgh.
As we know, Miami’s young core of talent leads the way, and only 2 returning upperclassmen are in the team’s top 10 in scoring (Curtis McKenzie is 4-6–10 and Bryon Paulazzo is 2-2–4, Senior Marc Hagel has 2-3–5 in his first season in Oxford). Ohio State is led by Ryan Dzingel
berry, who has 6 goals and 8 assists on the season. He is undoubtedly the Ohio State leader and is often seen skating all out and hustling on every play. Stopping him will be another key to the extended series.
Tonight’s game will will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network. They are also the first games of the Ohio Cup series for Miami among the 3 Ohio teams (Ohio State won and BGSU won a shootout in their series earlier this year). Wouldn’t it be nice to deal a crushing blow to Ohio State on their network? I think so too. Hawks tonight. Other guys tomorrow for the split.
If you are travelling to Columbus or are attending with the Miami group, be sure to say hi and drive safely! Enjoy the games, and Happy Holidays everyone!