THE GAME
In the first two of three straight games against Ohio State, No. 5 Miami heads up the road to Columbus, closing out the first half of the season with a two-game CCHA series against the rival Buckeyes on Friday and Saturday at Value City Arena. Friday's game, which airs on the Big Ten Network, is set for at 7:05 p.m. start while Saturday's contest is at 8:05 p.m. The series is also part of the Ohio Cup, which rotates between the three in-state CCHA schools and is given to the team with the best record against the other in-state foes. The RedHawks and Buckeyes play again in the Three Rivers Classic Dec. 28 in Pittsburgh and face each other in Oxford as part of CCHA play March 1-2 to close the regular season.

Miami (10-3-3, 7-3-2-2 CCHA), which sits in second place in the CCHA, is coming off a split at home against Lake Superior State last weekend. On Friday, the RedHawks fell behind early but received three straight goals from freshmen, including the game-winner by Riley Barber in the third period, to earn a 3-2 win, extending Miami's unbeaten streak to eight games. The streak was snapped Saturday however, as the Lakers made an early power play goal stand up in a 1-0 shutout of the 'Hawks, despite Miami holding a 46-29 edge in shots. All three LSSU goals last weekend came on the power play while Miami outshot the visitors a combined 91-54 in the series. Freshman goaltender Jay Williams earned the win Friday, remaining unbeaten in his last seven starts, while classmate Ryan McKay suffered the loss Saturday despite still not having allowed an even-strength goal this year in 250 minutes in net.

Ohio State (7-5-4, 6-2-2-1 CCHA), which is in fourth place in the CCHA, lost and tied a home-and-home non-conference series against Robert Morris last weekend, falling, 3-2, in Columbus Friday, before rallying for a 2-2 overtime tie in Pittsburgh Saturday.  On Friday, OSU led twice but RMU rallied each time and scored the game-winner midway through the third period. On Saturday, OSU twice rallied from a goal down with freshman Craig Dalrymple scoring the game-tying goal with less than four minutes left in regulation. Senior goaltender Brady Hjelle ranks in the top three nationally with both a 1.46 GAA and .950 save percentage while as a team the Buckeyes are giving up just 1.40 gpg in league play, which is first in the CCHA. Sophomore Ryan Dzingel leads OSU with six goals and 14 points while classmate Tanner Fritz is second with 13 points, including a team-best 10 assists.

THE SERIES
The RedHawks hold a slight, 66-60-12 edge in the all-time series with Ohio State, however the Buckeyes lead in Columbus, 35-20-7. Miami won three of four games against Ohio State last year, including both contests in Columbus. Over the last two seasons, the teams have split six games, winning three each, including splitting the last four at Value City Arena. Head coach Enrico Blasi is 30-22-6 against OSU.

THE COACHES
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 296-187-51 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.

Mark Osiecki (Wisconsin '94) is in his third season at Ohio State, where he has posted a record of 37-38-13. OSU has finished ninth and eighth, respectively, in the CCHA in his first two years. He came to Columbus after serving as an assistant at his alma mater for six years. While with the Badgers he was their recruiting coordinator, helping lead Wisconsin to a national title in 2006 and the 2010 championship game. Osiecki will be an assistant coach for the U.S. National Junior Team this year, as well.

QUICK HITS
  • Miami ranks third in the country defensively, allowing just 1.75 goals per game. The RedHawks have not allowed more than two goals in any of their last nine games.
  • Sophomore forward Austin Czarnik and freshman forward Riley Barber share the CCHA lead with both 19 points and 12 assists. Barber is also first nationally among rookies with 1.19 ppg.
  • Sophomore forwards Jimmy Mullin and Austin Czarnik had great success against the Buckeyes as freshmen. Mullin totaled eight points (2g, 6a) in four games against OSU last year while Czarnik tallied five points (3g, 2a) in those contests.
  • Miami is 9-0-0 this season when scoring at least three goals and 1-3-3 when scoring less.

UP NEXT
Miami has a week off before playing in the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Dec. 28-29. Miami will open against the Buckeyes on Dec. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Penguins' CONSOL Energy Center before facing Penn State or host Robert Morris on Dec. 29. PSU and RMU face off in the first game Dec. 28 at 4:30 p.m. The consolation game Dec. 29 is at 4:30 p.m. while the final is at 7:30 p.m.

MEDIA COVERAGE
Friday's contest will air on the Big Ten Network with Dan Kelly handling play-by-play and Rob Andringa providing color commentary. Lisa Byington will serve as the rink-side reporter. Saturday's game will not be on televsion though Ohio State will be streaming the game for a fee. Both games will have live audio on MURedHawks.com via Miami All-Access with the "Voice of Miami Hockey" Greg Waddell on the call. Saturday's game will also be on radio on both WMOH-AM 1450 out of Hamilton, Ohio and WKBV-AM 1490 out of Richmond, Ind.

OHIO CUP UP FOR GRABS: This weekend's series with Ohio State is part of the Ohio Cup, the traveling trophy sponsored by Buckeye Sports Bulletin that has been awarded each of the last 30 years to the Ohio-based program with the best record against its in-state opponents. Miami won it last year while Bowling Green leads all-time with 12 titles, followed by the RedHawks with 11 and Ohio State with seven. OSU beat and tied BGSU Oct. 26-27 in the first Ohio Cup games this year while Miami hosts the Falcons Jan. 25-26 to close out Ohio Cup contests.

RED AND WHITE (AND BLUE): Two RedHawks will be trading in their Miami jerseys for Team USA ones in late December as freshmen forwards Riley Barber and Sean Kuraly were both selected to the U.S. National Junior Team preliminary roster, which was announced Dec. 4. Following this weekend's series with OSU, the two will take part in two training camps in New York and Finland, where the final roster will be announced Dec. 23. The duo is two of just 27 players named to the under-20 roster and two of only four CCHA players to be selected. Should Barber and/or Kuraly make the final Team USA roster, they would compete in the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships, which will be held from Dec. 26, 2012 to Jan. 5, 2013 in Ufa, Russia. They would also be coached by the man they're playing against this weekend, as Ohio State head coach Mark Osiecki will serve as an assistant coach for the U.S. National Junior Team.

TOP TRIO: Miami's top forward line of senior Curtis McKenzie, sophomore Austin Czarnik and freshman Riley Barber have been on fire of late with all three recording at least three points at Alaska Nov. 30-Dec. 1. The trio has combined for 18 of Miami's 46 goals on the year (39.1 percent) and 48 of the team's 116 points (41.4 percent). Czarnik (7 goals, 19 points) and Barber (7 goals, 19 points) are tied for the team lead in goals, assists and points while McKenzie's 10 points and six assists are third on the team behind Barber and Czarnik.

GETTING DEFENSIVE: Miami has been strong on defense as of late, pitching shutouts in two of its last five games, doing so Nov. 17 against Michigan State and Dec. 1 at Alaska. In their last nine games, the RedHawks have not allowed more than two goals in any game. Miami ranks third in the country and second in the CCHA, giving up just 1.75 goals per game on the year. The 'Hawks have three shutouts on the season, also blanking Colgate Oct. 12 to open the season, while Miami has limited the opposition to two goals or less in 12 of 16 games this year. Freshmen goaltender Jay Williams earned his first shutout against MSU while classmate Ryan McKay blanked Alaska in his first game back from injury and also pitched the shutout against Colgate for his first career shutout.

THE BARBER SHOP: Freshman forward Riley Barber has had a stellar start to his collegiate career, already picking up a national award and four awards from the CCHA.

  • 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's 19 points tie for the CCHA lead with teammate Austin Czarnik and are first nationally among rookies while his 1.19 ppg are tied for 20th nationally. His 12 assists tie for both the team and CCHA lead, as well.
  • He has a point in 12 of 16 games this year and had a five-game point streak from Oct. 13 to Oct. 27. He has five multi-point games this year 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.
NEW IN NET, NOT A PROBLEM: Miami has used both of its freshmen goaltenders so far this season. Jay Williams has started 11 games, including eight straight from Oct. 27 to Nov. 30, while Ryan McKay has started five games, including his first game back from injury Dec. 1 at Alaska.
  • McKay has allowed just two goals all year in five games (250 minutes), both of which have come on the power play, as he is yet to concede an even-strength goal. He boasts a 0.48 goals-against average and a .983 save percentage, both of which would be first in the NCAA if he had played enough games to be eligible for NCAA statistics.
  • In his first game back in net after being injured Oct. 26 at Michigan, McKay showed no signs of rust, stopping all 26 shots against the Nanooks for his second career shutout in just 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 8-2-2 record, going unbeaten in his last seven decisions (5-0-2), with his .750 win percentage tying for seventh nationally while his 2.15 GAA is sixth in the CCHA and 18th nationally. He has not allowed more than two goals in a game during his unbeaten streak.
  • 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 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 freshmen 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.

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 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.
  • Czarnik's 19 points and 12 assists are tied for the CCHA lead with teammate Riley Barber. His seven goals are also tops on the team with Barber and tie for fifth in the CCHA.
  • Czarnik, who had a four-game point streak from Oct. 19-27, has a point in 10 of 16 games this year, including six multi-point games. He already has two multi-goal games this year after recording just one last year as a freshman.
  • 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.

Czarnik was a CCHA All-Rookie Team member a year ago when he led all CCHA freshmen with 37 points, which was second on the team, while his 27 assists were first for Miami. Czarnik is the second-leading returning scorer in the CCHA behind Notre Dame's T.J. Tynan, who had 41 points a year ago. He was also named among USCHO.com's 10 forwards to watch in 2012-13.

SUPER SOPHOMORES: Miami's sophomore class has picked up where they left off as freshmen, as the six second years have accounted for 22 of Miami's 46 goals (47.8 percent) and 50 of the squad's 116 points (43.1 percent) this year. Austin Czarnik has a team-high seven goals and 12 assists while Alex Wideman has five goals and eight points and Cody Murphy has five assists, including a career-high three assists Oct. 13, and four goals. Blake Coleman has four goals and seven points on the year, Jimmy Mullin has two goals and four assists and Ben Paulides has one helper. 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 in 12 of 16 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. The seven returners on the team who aren't sophomores combined for just 15 goals and 52 points in 2011-12.

CLOSE CONTESTS: Although Miami has only played four one-goal contests this year, two of them came last weekend, Dec. 7-8, against Lake Superior State. The RedHawks won, 3-2, Friday, before falling, 1-0, on Saturday, which was their first loss in a one-goal game this year. Miami was 3-0 in one-goal games prior, beating Providence, 4-3, in overtime Oct. 20 and knocking off Michigan, 4-3, Oct. 27. A key to close games has been scoring first, which Miami has done in 10 of 16 games this year, going 8-1-1 in such contests.

CAITO HONORED: Freshman defenseman Matthew Caito has played a big role for the RedHawks early in the season, playing on Miami's top D pair and top power play unit while also playing on the penalty kill. He was recognized for his efforts on Dec. 3 when he was named CCHA Gladiator® Defensive Player of the Week, the first RedHawk to earn the honor this year.  In two games against Alaska Nov. 30-Dec. 1, he dished out a pair of assists, posted a +2 rating and helped Miami go 15-for-15 on the penalty kill. He also blocked six shots and aided in Miami's 4-0 shutout Saturday. For the year, Caito has six points, which is tops among Miami defensemen, and a team-high 30 blocked shots.

POLLING AROUND:
Coming off a weekend split, the RedHawks slipped two spots in the polls to No. 5 in both the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll and the USCHO.com Poll for week 10 after ranking third last week. Miami has now been in the top five each of the last nine weeks. The RedHawks started the year No. 9 in both the USCHO and USA Today Preseason Polls. The RedHawks were also ranked No. 3 in the Oct. 22 poll, which was 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 national polls are on page 4.

CLASSY SENIORS: Miami's senior class has compiled 86 career wins, which already ranks eighth 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.

CZARNIK IS SHORT-HANDED:
Sophomore forward Austin Czarnik has three short-handed goals this year, which is tied for first in the country, with all of them coming in a five-game stretch from Oct. 26 to Nov. 9. Three of Czarnik's seven goals this year have come a man down. He now already has five career short-handed goals, which ties him for fifth in school history. As a team, Miami has five short-handed goals as sophomore Cody Murphy and redshirt senior Marc Hagel each scored one against Alaska Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. The five short-handed goals tie Union for the most in the country.

SPINELL IS ALL CLASS: On Nov. 14 senior defenseman and captain Steven Spinell was named one of 20 candidates for the ice hockey Senior CLASS Award. The award is given annually to one senior student-athlete in several NCAA-sponsored sports and recognizes someone who has had notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition. Spinell was one of five CCHA players named a candidate for the award. Miami has had a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award each of the last two years with goalie Cody Reichard being named a finalist in 2011-12 and forward Carter Camper earning the distinction in 2010-11. The candidates will be narrowed to 10 finalists on Feb. 13 with the winner being announced April 12 at the Frozen Four.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Freshman forward Sean Kuraly scored his first career goal Nov. 3 at Ferris State on the power play. After not scoring his first seven games, he then scored for the second time in three games Nov. 10 vs. NMU with both of his goals coming on the power play. He added his first even-strength goal Dec. 7 vs. Lake Superior. Kuraly needs only 98 more goals to catch his father, Rick Kuraly, who is Miami's all-time leading goal scorer with 101 goals from 1979-83 and ranks third in career points (179). Sean is the first son of a former Miami player to suit up for the RedHawks. The younger Kuraly was taken in the fifth round (133rd overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks.

FRESH FACES:
Of the 11 freshmen on Miami's 2012-13 roster, nine of them saw their first collegiate action Oct. 12-13 against Colgate (forwards Riley Barber, Alex Gacek, Sean Kuraly and Kevin Morris and defensemen Matthew Caito, Chris Joyaux and Taylor Richart) while defenseman Michael Mooney made his debut Oct. 20 vs. Providence and John Doherty played his first game Nov. 16 vs. Michigan State. Goaltenders Ryan McKay and Jay Williams have split time this year and each earned their first win against Colgate. Eight newcomers have notched their first point at Miami so far:

  • Senior Marc Hagel, a transfer from Princeton, notched his first point as a RedHawk with an assist on Miami's first goal of the season Oct. 12 vs. Colgate. He scored his first two goals as a RedHawk in a Dec. 1 win at Alaska, which was also his first multi-point game at Miami.
  • Richart tallied his first point on an assist Nov. 17 vs. Michigan State and added another one in his next game at Alaska.
  • Caito scored his first career goal Nov. 9 vs. NMU and added an assist for his first multi-point game. He picked up his first career point on an assist Oct. 20 vs. Providence.
  • Kuraly logged his first point on a goal Nov. 3 at Ferris State on the power play and notched his first assist Nov. 30 at Alaska, also a man up.
  • Gacek recorded his first career point on the game-tying goal in a 4-3 win at Michigan Oct. 27.
  • Morris dished out his first assist on Gacek's goal and scored his first point on a goal Oct. 13 vs. Colgate in the second period, which turned out to be the game-winner.
  • Barber also scored a goal Oct. 13 vs. Colgate on the power play in the third period for his first point. He totaled three points Oct. 20 vs. Providence, including his first two assists, and has five multi-point games this year.
  • Joyaux had an assist on Miami's final goal Oct. 13 for his first career point.

--MURedHawks.com--