Meeting for the third straight game, No. 5 Miami opens play at the Three Rivers Classic Friday, Dec. 28 in Pittsburgh, Pa. against CCHA rival Ohio State in a non-conference game. Opening faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Penguins' CONSOL Energy Center and follows the opening game of the tournament between host Robert Morris (7-4-2, 4-3-1 Atlantic Hockey Association) and Division I newcomer Penn State (7-8-0, 5-7-0 DI) at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, the consolation game is slated for 4:30 p.m. while the two winners play in the championship at 7:30 p.m. The RedHawks face OSU again March 1-2 in Oxford to close out the regular season, as the in-state rivals play at least five times this season.
Miami (11-3-4, 8-3-3-3 CCHA), which rests in a first-place tie in the CCHA, had last weekend off but is unbeaten in 10 of its last 11 games, including a tie and win in its last games Dec. 14-15, which came against the Buckeyes. The RedHawks tied Ohio State, 1-1, in overtime on Dec. 14, as senior Curtis McKenzie scored the game-tying goal midway through the third period on the power play. Sophomore Austin Czarnik then scored the lone goal in the 1-0 shootout win. The next night, Miami scored in each of the first two periods, including the game-winner on the power play by sophomore Blake Coleman, and added an empty-netter late to seal the 3-1 win after OSU scored early in the third period to make it a 2-1 contest. Freshman goaltenders Jay Williams and Ryan McKay each allowed only one goal and made 22 saves against Ohio State. Williams stopped all three shootout attempts by OSU Dec. 14, and is now 7-for-7 against shootout attempts this year, to remain unbeaten in his last eight starts. McKay allowed his first even-strength goal as a RedHawk and just his third goal overall in six starts.
Ohio State (7-6-5, 6-3-3-1 CCHA), which is in fourth place in the CCHA, is winless in its last four games, including the games against Miami. Devon Krogh scored OSU's goal Friday and Max McCormick tallied the Buckeyes' goal Saturday vs. Miami, both in the third period. Prior to playing Miami, Ohio State lost and tied a home-and-home series against Robert Morris Dec. 7-8, falling, 3-2, in Columbus, before rallying for a 2-2 overtime tie in Pittsburgh Saturday. Senior goaltender Brady Hjelle ranks in the top three nationally with both a 1.46 GAA and .951 save percentage. As a team the Buckeyes are giving up just 1.94 gpg, which is sixth nationally. Sophomore Ryan Dzingel shares the team lead with six goals and has a team-high 14 points while classmate Tanner Fritz has 13 points, including a team-best 10 assists.
The RedHawks hold a slight, 67-60-13 edge in the all-time series with Ohio State, including the win and tie Dec. 14-15 in Columbus. Miami won three of four games against Ohio State last year but the Buckeyes are 4-3-1 vs. the RedHawks on neutral ice. Head coach Enrico Blasi is 31-22-7 against OSU. Miami has never faced Penn State and is 4-2-0 all-time against Robert Morris, all under Blasi. The RedHawks were swept by RMU the last time they met in a home-and-home series during the 2009-10 season but Miami won the first four meetings starting in 2004-05 and is 1-1 vs. the Colonials in Pittsburgh.
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 297-187-52 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 37-39-14. He will not be coaching at the Three Rivers Classic however, as he is an assistant coach for the U.S. National Junior Team, which is competing at the World Junior Championship right now. Associate head coach Steve Rohlik (Wisconsin '90), who is in his third year at OSU, will serve as head coach of the Buckeyes at the Three Rivers Classic. He played with Osiecki at Wisconsin and won a national title as a player. Rohlik spent 10 years on staff at Minnesota-Duluth before joining the Buckeye program.
- This weekend Miami will be without the services of freshman forwards Riley Barber and Sean Kuraly, who both made the U.S. National Junior Team and are competing at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. Barber leads the CCHA with 22 points and has a team-high eight goals, while his 1.22 ppg are first nationally among NCAA rookies.
- The RedHawks rank third nationally allowing just 1.67 gpg. Miami has not allowed more than two goals in any of its last 11 games, including two shutouts, dating back to a 3-0 loss Nov. 2.
- Miami is 10-0-0 this year when scoring at least three goals, including its last game, the 3-1 win over Ohio State. The RedHawks are 1-3-4 when scoring less than three goals on the year.
- Miami's sophomore class (six players) has accounted for 23 of Miami's 50 goals (46.0 percent) this year and 55 of the squad's 128 points (43.0 percent). Austin Czarnik leads the group. He is second on the team with both seven goals and 21 points, the latter of which is second in the CCHA. His 14 assists tie teammate Riley Barber for the CCHA lead.
Miami is off next week before returning to CCHA action Friday and Saturday, Jan. 11-12 at Northern Michigan. Puck drop is set for 7:35 p.m. both nights at the Berry Events Center. The 'Hawks beat and tied NMU in Oxford Nov. 9-10, winning the shootout in game two's tie.
Friday's game will not be televised, however both of Saturday's games will air on Root Sports Pittsburgh on tape delay. Paul Stegierwald will have the call on television. Both games this weekend will also have live audio on MURedHawks.com through the All-Access subscription package as John Walton will have the call. Saturday's game will be on radio as well on WMOH-AM 1450 out of Hamilton, Ohio.
REDHAWKS REPRESENTING: Freshman forwards Riley Barber and Sean Kuraly will miss this weekend's Three Rivers Classic as both made the U.S. National Junior Team, which was announced Dec. 23. The duo was named to the 27-man preliminary roster Dec. 4 and after taking part in training camps in New York and Finland, the final roster was trimmed down to 23 players. Barber and Kuraly will represent Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship, Dec. 26, 2012 to Jan. 5, 2013 in Ufa, Russia. The pair was two of just four CCHA players selected to the under-20 roster while Miami was the only NCAA team to have multiple players chosen to wear the Stars and Stripes. They will be coached by Ohio State head coach Mark Osiecki, who is serving as an assistant coach for the U.S. National Junior Team.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Miami has been strong on defense as of late, as the RedHawks have not allowed more than two goals in any of their last 11 games, including two shutouts (Nov. 17 vs. Michigan State and Dec. 1 at Alaska), last giving up more than two goals Nov. 2 in a 3-0 loss at Ferris State. Miami ranks third in the country and second in the CCHA, giving up just 1.67 goals per game on the year. The 'Hawks have a total of 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 14 of 18 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.
PK OKAY: After going just 4-for-7 on the penalty kill against Lake Superior State Dec. 7-8, Miami was much improved against Ohio State, Dec. 14-15, killing all nine OSU power plays. Miami has been perfect on the penalty kill in nine of the team's 18 games this year. The 'Hawks rank 11th nationally and second in the CCHA on the PK, killing 87.6 percent of their penalties, while their 78 kills (out of 89) are the most in the country.
NEW IN NET, NOT A PROBLEM: Miami has used both of its freshman goaltenders so far this season. Jay Williams has started 12 games, including eight straight from Oct. 27 to Nov. 30, while Ryan McKay has started six games, including his first game back from injury Dec. 1 at Alaska.
- McKay has allowed just three goals all year in six games (309 minutes), including just one even-strength goal, which came Dec. 15 in a 3-1 win at Ohio State. His first two goals allowed came on the power play (one 5-on-3). He boasts a 0.58 goals-against average and a .979 save percentage, both of which would be first in the NCAA if he had played enough minutes 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 Alaska 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 8-2-3 record, going unbeaten in his last eight decisions (5-0-3), with his .731 win percentage ranking ninth nationally while his 2.05 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 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 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.
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 21 points rank second in the CCHA and on the team behind freshman teammate Riley Barber, while his 14 assists are tied for the CCHA lead and ninth nationally with Barber. His seven goals are second on the team behind Barber and tie for seventh in the CCHA.
- Czarnik, who had a four-game point streak from Oct. 19-27, has a point in 11 of 18 games this year, including seven multi-point games. He already has two 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.
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 22 points lead the CCHA and are first nationally among rookies, while his 1.22 ppg are 19th nationally. His 14 assists tie for the CCHA lead with sophomore teammate Austin Czarnik while he has a team-high eight goals.
- He has a point in 14 of 18 games this year and had a five-game point streak from Oct. 13 to Oct. 27. He has six multi-point games this year and three multi-assist games, as well.
- 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.
BONUS HOCKEY: Miami has already played in five overtime games this year, going 1-0-4 in those games. The RedHawks played seven overtime games last year and went 1-4-2.
- Miami's lone extra-session game on the road this year came at Ohio State, Dec. 14 in a 1-1 tie. The RedHawks went on to win the shootout, 1-0, on sophomore Austin Czarnik's score. Miami is 3-0 in CCHA shootouts this year and 5-of-9 in CCHA shootout attempts while opponents are 0-for-7.
- The RedHawks played Northern Michigan to a 2-2 overtime tie Nov. 10 and went on to win the shootout with sophomore Alex Wideman scoring the clinching goal. It was Miami's first official shootout this year and first since Nov. 19, 2011 against Bowling Green, which Miami lost. The shootout win was Miami's first since Nov. 12, 2011 against Michigan, its only other shootout last year as Miami went 1-1.
- Miami also won a shootout against Michigan State Nov. 16 this year after a 2-2 overtime tie with Wideman again scoring the clinching goal.
- Miami played its first two overtime games of the season against Providence Oct. 19-20, earning a tie Friday and a win in the extra session Saturday. The last time Miami played back-to-back overtime games in the same weekend was Jan. 28-29, 2011 against Notre Dame, both of which ended in ties. Miami won an unofficial shootout vs. Providence on Oct. 19, 2-0.
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.
POLLING AROUND: Coming off a tie and win, the RedHawks stayed put at No. 5 in both the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll and the USCHO.com Poll for week 11 after also being fifth last week. Miami has now been in the top five each of the last 10 weeks. The RedHawks started the year No. 9 in both the USCHO and USA Today Preseason Polls. The RedHawks have been as high as No. 3 twice, 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 polls are on page 4.
CLASSY SENIORS: Miami's senior class has compiled 87 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.
WINNING WAYS: Miami has the second-best winning percentage among Division I college hockey teams over the last eight years (since 2005-06), compiling a record of 193-80-33 (.685), while Boston College, which is 201-80-23 (.699) during that span, is just ahead of Miami. North Dakota ranks third over the last eight years with a record of 198-96-28 (.658). The RedHawks have had at least 20 wins in each of the last seven seasons, and a school-record 33 wins in 2007-08, while qualifying for the NCAA Tournament each year as well.