Coming off its final bye weekend of the regular season, No. 6/6 Miami returns to action Friday and Saturday, Jan. 11-12, at CCHA foe Northern Michigan. Puck drop is set for 7:35 p.m. both nights at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, Mich. The RedHawks and Wildcats met in Oxford Nov. 9-10 with Miami winning, 5-2, on Friday before playing to a 2-2 overtime draw Saturday. Miami won the shootout to take five of six points on the weekend. In the first game, the 'Hawks used three power play goals and a short-handed goal to earn the win, as Miami scored four straight goals after a 1-1 tie led by a goal and two assists from both sophomore forward Austin Czarnik and freshman forward Riley Barber. The next night, NMU led 2-1 after two periods but sophomore forward Alex Wideman scored with less than three minutes remaining to tie the game and tallied the shootout winner for the extra point.
The RedHawks (12-4-4, 8-3-3-3 CCHA), who sit in a first-place tie in the CCHA at the midway point, last played Dec. 28-29 at the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh, where Miami finished second. The 'Hawks battled Ohio State in the opening game in a non-conference contest and topped the Buckeyes, 1-0, as senior forward Curtis McKenzie scored early in the third period. Freshman goaltender Jay Williams, who played both games against NMU earlier this year, earned his second shutout with a 29-save effort. In the championship game, Miami played host Robert Morris and fell, 1-0, despite outshooting RMU, 51-21. The Colonials scored midway through the third period to hand fellow freshman goaltender Ryan McKay the tough-luck loss. Czarnik and Barber share both the team and CCHA lead with 22 points while Barber has a team-high eight goals and Czarnik is tied for the league lead with 15 assists.
Northern Michigan (8-10-3, 2-9-3-1 CCHA), which is in 11th place in the CCHA, has struggled in league play but the Wildcats have had success in non-conference competition, going 6-1-0 against the WCHA. NMU swept St. Cloud State on the road last weekend, winning 6-2 on Friday before pulling out a 2-1 win Saturday. On Friday, sophomore Ryan Daugherty broke a 2-2 tie late in the second period and the Wildcats cruised the rest of the way behind three points each from senior Matt Thurber and junior Erik Higby. On Saturday, sophomore Reed Seckel scored for the second straight night, breaking a 1-1 tie in the third period. Junior netminder Jared Coreau, who carries a 2.66 GAA and .918 save percentage, combined for 58 saves to earn both wins. Thurber paces NMU with 16 points, including 15 assists to tie Czarnik for the CCHA lead, while Seckel is second with 15 points, including a team-best eight goals.
Miami is just 21-34-4 all-time against Northern Michigan, including the win and tie earlier this year. The RedHawks were just 1-3-0 against the Wildcats last year however, including getting swept in Marquette a combined, 7-2. At Northern Michigan, Miami has not had much success, going just 7-18-1 in the Wildcats' den. Head coach Enrico Blasi is 18-19-2 against the Wildcats as Miami's head coach.
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 298-188-52 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.
Walt Kyle (Northern Michigan '81) is in his 11th season at the helm of the Wildcats where he has compiled a 201-177-48 record at his alma mater. He led Northern Michigan to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2010, its first under Kyle and the program's first since 1999, and has guided the Wildcats to the CCHA Tournament's Final Four in Detroit, Mich. in seven of his 10 years.
- Freshman forwards Riley Barber and Sean Kuraly rejoin the team this weekend after becoming the first RedHawks to capture gold at the IIHF World Junior Championship, as the duo helped Team USA win the tournament in Ufa, Russia, held Dec. 26-Jan. 5.
- Head coach Enrico Blasi boasts a career record of 298-188-52, all at Miami. With two wins this weekend, he would become the first hockey coach to earn 300 wins at Miami.
- The RedHawks lead the country allowing just 1.55 goals per game. Miami has not allowed more than two goals in any of its last 13 games, during which Miami has gone 8-2-3. The 'Hawks have conceded just one goal or less in each of their last five contests.
- Miami's freshman goaltenders have led the way defensively. Jay Williams is unbeaten in his last nine starts (6-0-3) and has not allowed more than two goals in any of those games. Ryan McKay, who was named HCA National Rookie of the Month and CCHA Goaltender of the Month for December, boasts a 0.65 GAA and .975 save percentage, both first in the NCAA, in seven starts.
- Miami went 7-for-7 on the penalty kill at the Three Rivers Classic, including two 5-on-3 kills, as the RedHawks have now killed 18 straight opponent power plays dating back to Dec. 8 vs. Lake Superior State. Miami's 88.5 kill percentage is eighth nationally and second in the CCHA.
Miami remains on the road but steps out of CCHA play to take on Wisconsin of the WCHA Friday and Saturday, Jan. 18-19, in the RedHawks' final non-conference games of the regular season. The puck drops at 9 p.m. ET Friday and 8 p.m. ET Saturday at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.
The games this weekend will not be televised or air on radio but live audio will be available through the Miami All-Access subscription package on MURedHawks.com. The "Voice of Miami Hockey" Greg Waddell will have the call both nights. A live stream of the games is available at www.nmu.edu/sportsathletics.
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.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Miami's strength this year has been its defense, as the RedHawks rank first nationally, allowing just 1.55 goals per game. The RedHawks have not allowed more than two goals in any of their last 13 games, going 8-2-3 during that stretch, including three shutouts (Nov. 17 vs. Michigan State, Dec. 1 at Alaska and Dec. 28 vs. Ohio State), last giving up more than two goals Nov. 2 in a 3-0 loss at Ferris State. The 'Hawks have allowed just one goal or less in their last five games. Miami has a total of four 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 16 of 20 games this year. Freshmen goaltender Jay Williams earned his first shutout against MSU and picked up another vs. OSU 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 A-OK: Since going 4-for-7 on the penalty kill against Lake Superior State Dec. 7-8, Miami has been nearly flawless on the penalty kill, killing 18 straight opponent power plays dating back to the Dec. 8 game vs. LSSU. Against Ohio State, Dec. 14-15, Miami killed all nine OSU power plays while going 7-for-7 on the PK at the Three Rivers Classic Dec. 28-29, including a pair of 5-on-3 kills against Robert Morris. Miami has been perfect on the penalty kill in 11 of the team's 20 games this year. The 'Hawks rank eighth nationally and second in the CCHA on the PK, killing 88.5 percent of their penalties, while their 85 kills (out of 96 power plays) are tied for the second-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 13 games, including eight straight from Oct. 27 to Nov. 30, while Ryan McKay has started seven games, including his first game back from injury Dec. 1 at Alaska. Both have already earned awards for their play, as well.
- 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.
- McKay has allowed just four goals all year in seven games (368 minutes), including just two even-strength goals. His first two goals allowed came on the power play (one 5-on-3). He boasts a 0.65 goals-against average and a .975 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 9-2-3 record, going unbeaten in his last nine decisions (6-0-3), with his .750 win percentage ties for seventh nationally while his 1.91 GAA is fifth in the CCHA and 14th nationally. He has not allowed more than two goals in a game during his unbeaten streak.
- Williams pitched his second career shutout Dec. 28 against Ohio State in the opening round of the Three Rivers Classic, making 29 saves, including two breakaways. His strong play kept Miami in the game and allowed the RedHawks to win, 1-0.
- 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.
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 tie for the CCHA lead with sophomore teammate Austin Czarnik and are first nationally among rookies, while his 1.22 ppg are 15th in the NCAA. His 14 assists are third in the CCHA while he has a team-high eight goals.
- He has a point in 14 of his 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.
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 22 points are tied for the CCHA lead with freshman teammate Riley Barber, while his 15 assists are also tied for the CCHA lead. His seven goals are second on the team behind Barber and tie for 12th in the CCHA.
- Czarnik, who had a four-game point streak from Oct. 19-27, has a point in 12 of 20 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.
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 23 of Miami's 51 goals (45.1 percent) and 57 of the squad's 131 points (43.5 percent) this year. Austin Czarnik is second on the team with seven goals and leads the team with 15 assists while Alex Wideman has five goals and eight points and Cody Murphy has six assists, including a career-high three assists Oct. 13, and 10 points. Blake Coleman has five goals and nine points on the year, Jimmy Mullin has two goals and five assists and defenseman 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 a goal in 13 of 20 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.
CLOSE CONTESTS: Both games at the Three Rivers Classic Dec. 28-29 were one-goal contests, splitting a pair of 1-0 decisions, as Miami has now played six one-goal contests this year, going 4-2. The RedHawks played back-to-back one-goal games Dec. 7-8 against Lake Superior State, as well. 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 12 of 20 games this year, going 10-1-1 in such contests.
A VARIETY OF COMPETITION: By playing Robert Morris in the Three Rivers Classic championship game Dec. 29, Miami is assured of playing one team from each of the other four conferences in Division I during the regular season. The RedHawks opened the season with home series' against Colgate of the ECAC and Providence of Hockey East. Miami then faced RMU of Atlantic Hockey and will face Wisconsin of the WCHA Jan. 18-19 in Madison. Miami is 4-1-1 in non-conference action this year with the lone loss coming to RMU.
POLLING AROUND: Coming off a bye week, the RedHawks stayed put at No. 6 in both the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll and the USCHO.com Poll for week 13 after also being sixth last week. 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 88 career wins, which ties for 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.