Riding a season-long five-game winning streak, the No. 3/3 Miami hockey team heads to Kalamazoo, Mich. for a two-game CCHA series against No. 6/6 Western Michigan Friday and Saturday, Feb. 8-9 at Lawson Arena. Puck drops at 7:05 p.m. both nights in a showdown for first place in the CCHA. The RedHawks lead the CCHA with 44 points while the Broncos are right behind in second place with 43 points.
Miami (17-6-5, 12-4-4-4 CCHA) is coming off its second straight CCHA sweep as the RedHawks downed then No. 20 Alaska, 4-1, last Friday, before completing the sweep, 6-2, on Saturday. The weekend before, Miami swept Bowling Green in Oxford a combined 5-2. In the 4-1 win over the Nanooks, the 'Hawks scored twice in the first period for a 2-0 lead and added two empty-netters by sophomore forward Austin Czarnik in the final minute to break open a 2-1 contest. The next night, Miami again jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on a pair of goals by freshman forward Riley Barber with Czarnik assisting on each, but Alaska pulled even with two power play goals. Freshman forward Kevin Morris scored the first of his two goals to break the 2-2 tie in the second stanza and Miami added three more goals in the third period, including one from sophomore forward Cody Murphy, who had a goal in both games. Redshirt senior forward Marc Hagel totaled five assists in the series with Alaska and earned CCHA Postgame® Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
Czarnik leads the CCHA with 30 points on the year, including a team-best 19 assists, while he and Barber share the team lead with 11 goals. Barber is second among all NCAA freshmen with 28 points and is second on the team. Freshman goaltenders Jay Williams and Ryan McKay have split time in net much of the year and both rank in the top eight nationally in GAA with McKay leading the country with both a 1.08 GAA and a .960 save percentage while Williams is eighth with a 1.76 GAA.
Western Michigan (17-6-5, 13-4-3-1 CCHA) enters the series on a five-game unbeaten streak of its own, going 4-0-1 during that stretch, which includes a sweep of Michigan. Last weekend the Broncos won at Ferris State, 3-1, on Friday, before playing to a 2-2 overtime tie Saturday with the Bulldogs winning the extra point in the shootout. Senior forward Dane Walters leads WMU with 11 goals and 20 points while junior forward Chase Balisy is second with 18 points. Sophomore goaltender Frank Slubowski has started every game in net and carries a 1.75 GAA, which is third in the league and seventh nationally, while his .922 save percentage is seventh in the CCHA.
Miami holds a slim lead in the all-time series against Western Michigan at 56-51-10 in 117 meetings. Miami is just 22-29-6 in Kalamazoo, however, but is 4-1-1 in its last six games at WMU, last playing in Kalamazoo Nov. 26-27, 2010 when the teams split. The RedHawks have won 12 of the last 16 meetings with WMU overall dating back to 2008 and won four of the last five, however the Broncos won the last meeting in the semifinals of the 2012 CCHA Tournament.
Enrico Blasi (Miami '94) is in his 14th season at Miami. He is a four-time CCHA Coach of the Year and was named National Coach of the Year in 2005-06. He stands 303-190-53 in 14 seasons at his alma mater, where he has led Miami to eight NCAA Tournaments, including two Frozen Four berths, a National Championship game appearance, a pair of CCHA regular-season titles and the school's first ever Mason Cup in 2011. Blasi is the the winningest coach in school history.
Andy Murray (Brandon University '72) is in his second season in charge of the Broncos, leading WMU to the CCHA Tournament title in his first year. He carries a record of 38-20-11 in two seasons at the helm. Murray has 10 years of head coaching experience in the NHL, posting a career record of 333-278-58-71. He is the L.A. Kings' all-time winningest coach, also spending four years coaching the St. Louis Blues. Murray coached Canada to three gold medals at the World Hockey Championship, as well.
- Miami has held its opponent to one goal in five of its last six games while limiting the opposition to two goals or less in 20 of its last 21 games. Miami ranks first nationally, giving up just 1.54 goals per game.
- Sophomore forward Cody Murphy has four goals in his last four games after scoring four goals in his first 24 games of the season. His eight goals are third on the team. Miami's five sophomores who have a goal this year have scored 34 of Miami's 72 goals, which is 47.2 percent.
- In each of Miami's last three games, the RedHawks have scored first, as Miami is 14-2-1 when doing so this year. All three games Miami scored at least three goals as well, as the RedHawks are 13-0-1 when scoring three or more goals on the year.
- Miami associate head coach Brent Brekke will be coaching against his alma mater this weekend, as he was a four-year letterwinner and captain for the Broncos from 1990-94.
The RedHawks host No. 11/12 Notre Dame on Friday, Feb. 15 at 7:35 p.m. at Steve Cady Arena. The two teams then head to Chicago for the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic when Miami and Notre Dame will play an outdoor game at Soldier Field on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 1 p.m. ET/noon CT.
Neither game this weekend is televised, however both games will be on radio. Friday's game will be on WKBV-AM 1490 out of Richmond, Ind. with the "Voice of Miami Hockey" Greg Waddell calling the action while Saturday's contest is on both WKBV-AM 1490 and WMOH-AM 1450 out of Hamilton, Ohio. The games will also be streamed live on MURedHawks.com through the Miami All-Access subscription package, courtesy of WMUBroncos.com, while Miami's audio will also be available on Miami All-Access.
HAGEL'S HELPERS: Redshirt senior forward Marc Hagel was named CCHA Postgame® Offensive Player of the Week Feb. 4 after a five-assist outing against Alaska Feb. 1-2. He is the third RedHawk to win the award this year along with sophomore forwards Blake Coleman and Austin Czarnik while it is Hagel's first CCHA honor. Prior to the five-assist weekend, Hagel had just three assists and five points all season and none since Dec. 7. He had two assists Feb. 1 and three assists, which also marked a career high for points, Feb. 2. They were his first multi-assist games as a RedHawk.
FIRST-PERIOD RESURGENCE: Miami has scored two first-period goals in each of its last three games, including both times vs. Alaska Feb. 1-2. Prior to that three-game stretch, Miami had just two first-period goals total in 12 games from Dec. 1 to Jan. 25 until scoring twice in the first period Jan. 26 vs. Bowling Green, the first time the 'Hawks had done so since Nov. 30 at Alaska. Defensively, the RedHawks have not allowed more than one goal in the first period in any of their last 18 games and has conceded more than one first-period goal just once all year (Nov. 10 vs. NMU). On the year, Miami has scored 25 goals in the second and third periods, but just 21 in the first.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Miami's strength this year has been its defense, as the RedHawks rank first nationally, allowing just 1.54 goals per game. The RedHawks have given up only one goal in five of their last six games and one goal or less in 12 of their last 17 contests. Miami has limited the opposition to two goals or less in 20 of its last 21 contests (Northern Michigan scored three goals Jan. 12), including three shutouts, and 23 of 28 games on the year. Miami has a total of four shutouts on the year, also blanking Colgate Oct. 12 to open the season.
PK A-OK: Miami had killed 26 straight opponent power plays dating back to Jan. 11 and 44 of its last 45 opponent power plays going back to Dec. 8 against Lake Superior until giving up two power play goals to Alaska Feb. 2. Miami leads the CCHA and ranks seventh nationally with an 89.1 percent penalty kill. The 114 kills (in 128 chances) are second-most in the country. Miami has been perfect on the penalty kill in 17 of the team's 28 games this year.
SUPER SOPHOMORES: Miami's sophomore class has picked up where they left off as freshmen as five of the team's top eight scorers are sophomores. After scoring half of Miami's 10 goals against Alaska Feb. 1-2, the six second years have accounted for 34 of Miami's 72 goals (47.2 percent) and 77 of the squad's 192 points (40.1 percent) this year. Austin Czarnik shares the team lead with 11 goals and is first with 19 assists while Cody Murphy is third with eight goals and has six assists, including a career-high three assists Oct. 13. Blake Coleman has six goals and 11 points on the year, Jimmy Mullin has four goals and 11 points and Alex Wideman has five goals and 10 points. Defenseman Ben Paulides has one helper, as well. Last year as freshmen they scored 40.2 percent of the team's goals (49 of 122) while at least one freshman scored a goal in 27 of Miami's 41 games in 2011-12. A sophomore has scored a goal in 19 of 28 games this year. Last year's newcomers also accounted for 122 of Miami's 323 points, or 37.8 percent. The entire class returns except for forward Tyler Biggs, who had nine goals and 17 points before deciding to turn pro after last year. The seven returners on the team who aren't sophomores combined for just 15 goals and 52 points in 2011-12.
NEW IN NET, NOT A PROBLEM: Miami has used both of its freshman goaltenders this season. Jay Williams has started 17 games, including eight straight from Oct. 27 to Nov. 30, while Ryan McKay has started 11 games after suffering an injury earlier this season. Both have already earned awards for their play, as well, and both rank in the top 10 nationally in GAA.
- McKay leads the country with a 1.08 goals-against average and a .960 save percentage while no other netminder in the NCAA has a GAA lower than 1.44. He allowed three goals Jan. 12 at Northern Michigan and two vs. Alaska Feb. 2, the only two times in 11 starts he has allowed more than one goal in a game, however he stopped all five shootout attempts in the tie at NMU. In 11 starts this year, he has allowed just 11 goals, including four on the power play (two 5-on-3).
- After posting a 0.76 GAA and .970 save percentage in four starts in December, McKay was named both CCHA Goaltender of the Month and Hockey Commissioners' Association National Rookie of the Month, his first awards at Miami. He allowed just three goals while pitching a shutout during the month.
- In his first game back in net after being injured Oct. 26 at Michigan, McKay showed no signs of rust, stopping all 26 shots at Alaska Dec. 1 for his second career shutout in four games.
- McKay got the nod on opening night vs. Colgate Oct. 12 and pitched his first shutout, making 24 saves to become the first Miami goalie to record a whitewash in his first career game. The shutout was Miami's first season-opening shutout in program history.
- McKay made a career-high 37 saves Oct. 19 in a tie vs. Providence, matching Miami's season high for saves from last year.
- Williams boasts an 11-4-3 record, while his nine-game unbeaten streak (6-0-3) was snapped with a 2-1 loss at Northern Michigan Jan. 11. However, he still has not allowed more than two goals in any of his last 13 starts and just one goal in his last three starts. His 1.76 GAA is fourth in the CCHA and eighth nationally while his .930 save percentage is fourth in the CCHA and 11th nationally.
- Williams stopped all three shootout attempts by Ohio State Dec. 14 after a 1-1 tie and is 7-for-7 on the year in CCHA shootout attempts, as he is yet to concede a goal in three shootouts.
- Williams was named CCHA Rookie of the Week following the Michigan State series Nov. 16-17. He allowed just two goals all weekend, pitching his first career shutout in the 2-0 win Nov. 17. He also stopped both shootout attempts by MSU Nov. 16 as Miami won the shootout. Williams stopped 32 of 34 shots for a .941 save percentage and 0.96 GAA.
- Williams earned his second career shutout Dec. 28 against Ohio State in the opening round of the Three Rivers Classic, making 29 saves, including two breakaways, as Miami won, 1-0.
- Williams had played in 10 straight games after he was forced into action Oct. 26 when McKay was injured early in the game before giving way to McKay's return Dec. 1. Williams made a career-high 37 saves in a 4-3 win at Michigan Oct. 27, matching Miami's season high for saves from last year.
- Williams made his first start Oct. 13 vs. Colgate and earned his first career win, giving up just one goal while making 20 saves.
The freshman duo replaces Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard, who shared the starting goaltender position the last four years and both finished in Miami's career top four in goals-against average, save percentage, wins and shutouts with Knapp setting the career GAA and shutouts records.
THE BARBER SHOP: Freshman forward Riley Barber has had a stellar start to his collegiate career, already picking up a national award and five awards from the CCHA.
- Barber's 28 points are second in the CCHA behind sophomore teammate Austin Czarnik and tie for second nationally among rookies. His 17 assists tie for third in the CCHA and lead all NCAA freshmen while his 11 goals tie Czarnik for the team lead.
- He has a point in 18 of his 26 games this year and had a five-game point streak from Oct. 13 to Oct. 27. He has eight multi-point games this year, including three multi-assist games and his first multi-goal game Feb. 2 vs. Alaska.
- Barber earned his third CCHA Gongshow® Rookie of the Week honor Dec. 17 after tallying three points at Ohio State Dec. 14-15. He earned two primary assists, one each night, and added an empty-net goal Dec. 15 to seal the win.
- On Dec. 4, Barber was named CCHA Gongshow® Rookie of the Month for November, his second straight month winning the award. He tallied nine points, including seven assists, in seven games during November. He notched his first career game-winning goal Nov. 30 at Alaska, as well.
- Barber was named CCHA Rookie of the Week for the second time this year on Nov. 12 after a four-point weekend against Northern Michigan Nov. 9-10 with a goal and three assists.
- He was named Hockey Commissioners' Association (HCA) National Rookie of the Month and CCHA Rookie of the Month for October after posting a 4-4-8 line in six games during the month.
- On Oct. 20 Barber recorded a career-high three points, his first multi-point game, including his first two career assists. He tallied another three-point game Nov. 9 vs. NMU (one goal, two assists).
- Barber earned his first CCHA honor Oct. 22 as he was named CCHA Rookie of the Week after a four-point weekend against Providence Oct. 19-20 with two goals and two assists.
MAC ATTACK: Senior forward Curtis McKenzie scored the game-winning goal in Miami's 2-1 win over Wisconsin Jan. 19, breaking a 1-1 tie in the second period. It was his fourth game-winning goal of the year, which ties for the CCHA lead with LSSU's Domenic Monardo, but McKenzie has done so in five fewer games. The four game-winners also tie for fourth nationally. McKenzie had just three career game-winners entering the season, including none last year.
UNDERCLASSMAN ON TOP: After a stellar freshman campaign, sophomore forward Austin Czarnik has picked up where he left off. He was named to the Preseason All-CCHA Second Team and has certainly played up to that billing thus far.
- Czarnik's 30 points lead the CCHA, while his 19 assists are second in the CCHA. His 11 goals tie for the team lead with freshman Riley Barber and tie for sixth in the CCHA.
- Czarnik, who had a four-game point streak from Oct. 19-27, has a point in 17 of 28 games this year, including a team-high 10 multi-point games. He already has three multi-goal games this year after recording just one last year as a freshman.
- Czarnik was named CCHA Postgame® Offensive Player of the Week Dec. 3 after totaling five points on a goal and four assists in a sweep of Alaska Nov. 30-Dec. 1. It was his first time winning the award.
- He earned CCHA Player of the Month for October on Nov. 1 after posting a 3-5-8 scoring line in six games. It was his first such honor though he was named CCHA Rookie of the Month last year in November.
CAITO HONORED: Freshman defenseman Matthew Caito earned his second CCHA Gladiator® Defenseman of the Week award Jan. 28 after a three-assist weekend vs. BGSU when he also posted a +2 rating with six blocked shots. He is one of just two CCHA players to win the award twice this year. He has played a big role for the RedHawks, playing on Miami's top D pair and both special teams units. He picked up his first award on Dec. 3 as he dished out a pair of assists, posted a +2 rating and helped Miami go 15-for-15 on the penalty kill at Alaska (Nov. 30-Dec. 1). He also blocked six shots in that series. For the year, Caito has 14 points (3g, 11a), which leads all Miami blueliners, and a team-high 56 blocked shots.
CLOSE CONTESTS: After only two of Miami's first 14 games were decided by one goal, eight of the RedHawks' next 11 contests (Dec. 7 to Jan. 25) were one-goal games while two others were ties. Miami is 6-4 in one-goal contests this year, winning each of the last two one-goal games (Jan. 19 at Wisconsin and Jan. 25 vs. BGSU) by 2-1 scores. The RedHawks won their first three one-goal contests before suffering their first one-goal loss, 1-0, to Lake Superior Dec. 8. Three of the four one-goal losses on the year have been 1-0 scores. A key to close games has been scoring first, which Miami has done in 17 of 28 games this year, going 14-2-1 in such contests.
GOLDEN BOYS: Freshman forwards Riley Barber and Sean Kuraly became the first RedHawks to win a gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship (WJC) as the duo helped the U.S. National Junior Team win the under-20 tournament in Ufa, Russia, held Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. The freshmen became the sixth and seventh RedHawks to compete at the WJC and the first RedHawks to win any medal at the WJC since goaltender Jeff Zatkoff won a bronze with the U.S. in 2007. Barber finished with six points in seven games on three goals and assists each while Kuraly tallied three points on a goal and two assists while posting a +4 rating. The gold medal for the U.S. was just the country's third in the nearly 40-year history of the tournament.
POLLING AROUND: Miami is No. 3 in both the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll and the USCHO.com Poll for week 17 after ranking fourth in the USCHO Poll and third in the USA Today Poll last week. The RedHawks started the year No. 9 in both the USCHO and USA Today Preseason Polls. The RedHawks' No. 3 ranking matches their season high, achieving it three other times this year. It is Miami's highest ranking since being preseason No. 1 in the USA Today Poll to start last year and its highest ranking during the season since being No. 1 Nov. 1, 2010. The complete polls are on page 4.
CLASSY SENIORS: Miami's senior class has compiled 93 career wins, which ranks sixth in program history. The class has been a part of a Frozen Four team as freshmen when they also won a CCHA regular-season title and helped the RedHawks win their first ever Mason Cup (CCHA Tournament title) as sophomores. The class of Joe Hartman, Garrett Kennedy, Steve Mason, Curtis McKenzie and Steven Spinell has been to the NCAA Tournament all three years, as well.