Riding a three-game winning streak, No. 3/4 Miami wraps up its four-game homestand by hosting No. 20 Alaska Friday and Saturday, Feb. 1-2, at Steve Cady Arena. Puck drop Friday is set for 7:35 p.m. while Saturday's contest begins at 7:05 p.m. and will be followed by Skate with the 'Hawks Night. The RedHawks, who are 8-1-3 at home this year, swept the Nanooks in Fairbanks earlier this season, winning 5-2 on Nov. 30 before blanking Alaska, 4-0, the next night. In the first meeting, Miami jumped out to a 4-0 lead behind sophomore forward Cody Murphy's two goals while classmate Austin Czarnik totaled three points in the contest. The following night, freshman goaltender Ryan McKay shut out the Nanooks in his first game back from injury while Czarnik added two more assists and senior forward Marc Hagel tallied his first multi-goal game as a RedHawk.
Last weekend, Miami (15-6-5, 10-4-4-4 CCHA) earned its second CCHA sweep of the season with two victories over Bowling Green. The RedHawks, who sit in second place in the CCHA, one point behind Western Michigan, rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the first game as Murphy scored two goals in the second period to lead Miami to the 2-1 victory. The 'Hawks then capped the sweep by jumping out to a 2-0 lead and getting two goals from sophomore forward Jimmy Mullin en route to a 3-1 win. Freshman defenseman Matthew Caito totaled three assists on the weekend. Freshman goaltender Jay Williams, whose 1.81 GAA is 10th nationally, was in net Friday while McKay, who leads the nation with his 0.98 GAA and .963 save percentage, earned the win Saturday. Czarnik and freshman forward Riley Barber share the CCHA lead with 26 points as both have team highs of nine goals and 17 assists, as well.
Alaska (12-8-4, 10-7-3-1 CCHA), which is in a fourth-place tie in the CCHA, four points back of Miami, comes to Oxford riding a six-game winning streak and seven-game unbeaten streak. Since the start of the 2013 calendar year, the Nanooks have swept Michigan and then-No. 4/5 Notre Dame on the road before sweeping Northern Michigan at home last weekend. UAF won, 2-1, last Friday, scoring the first two goals of the game, before topping the Wildcats, 4-2, the next night behind junior forward Colton Beck's two goals. He finished with three goals on the weekend to earn CCHA Postgame® Offensive Player of the Week. Senior forward Jarret Granberg leads Alaska with 17 points (5g, 12a) while freshman forward Tyler Morley has a team-high nine goals. Freshman John Keeney has a 2.30 GAA and .914 save percentage in 15 starts in goal this year with an 8-4-3 record.
The RedHawks lead the all-time series, 38-14-5, and have beaten Alaska six straight games and nine of the last 11 meetings, including the sweep earlier this year. Miami is 20-7-2 against the Nanooks in Oxford, though the teams have split each of the last four regular-season series in Oxford. The RedHawks did sweep Alaska in the 2011 CCHA playoffs in Oxford, however.
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 301-190-53 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.
Dallas Ferguson (Alaska '96) is in his fifth season at the helm of the Nanooks where he has compiled a record of 75-73-28. He was named CCHA Coach of the Year in his first season in charge of UAF (2008-09) and led his alma mater to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history in 2009-10. Prior to taking over the reins at Alaska, he was an assistant at UAF for four years.
- Miami has held opponents to one goal in each of its last four games while giving up a goal or less in 11 of its last 15 contests. The RedHawks have limited the opposition to two goals or less in 18 of their last 19 games. Miami ranks first nationally giving up just 1.54 goals per game.
- The RedHawks have killed 20 straight opponent power plays dating back to Jan. 11 and 38 of their last 39 opponent man advantages going back to Dec. 8. Miami leads the CCHA and ranks sixth nationally on the penalty kill at 89.7 percent. The 105 kills are second-most in the country.
- Freshman goaltender Jay Williams has limited opponents to two goals or less in each of his last 12 starts. He has given up just 17 goals during that span and nine goals in his last eight starts.
- Freshman defenseman Matthew Caito earned his second CCHA Gladiator® Defenseman of the Week award on Monday. He is the lone player to win the award twice this year. Caito is riding a career-long three-game point streak and has six points in his last five games. His 13 points (3g, 10a) on the year equal the point production from the rest of Miami's blueliners combined.
- Miami scored twice in the first period Saturday vs. Bowling Green, the first time the 'Hawks had done so since Nov. 30 at Alaska. Prior to Saturday, Miami had just two first-period goals in its last 12 games. With the 3-1 win, Miami is now 11-0-1 this year when scoring three or more goals.
Miami hits the road for a key series at No. 6/6 Western Michigan, which sits in first place in the CCHA, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 8-9. Puck drop both nights is set for 7:05 p.m. at Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo.
Both games this weekend will be televised locally and throughout Ohio on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel (channel 311/1311 HD) with Dave Allen handling play-by-play and Josh Fenton providing color commentary. Friday's game will air live on SportsTime Ohio, as well, while Saturday's game will be shown on tape-delay at 9 p.m. Saturday's contest will also be on radio on WKBV-AM 1490 out of Richmond, Ind. with the "Voice of Miami Hockey" Greg Waddell calling the action. As always, the games will also be streamed live on MURedHawks.com in HD through the Miami All-Access subscription package.
BLASI TOPS 300: With Miami's 2-1 win over Bowling Green Jan. 25, head coach Enrico Blasi earned his 300th career win, all at Miami, becoming the first hockey coach in program history to reach the milestone. He boasts a career record of 301-190-53 in 14 seasons at his alma mater. Blasi, who was already the school's all-time winningest coach, ranks 16th for most wins among active NCAA Division I hockey coaches and 43rd all-time among D-I hockey coaches.
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 the only CCHA player 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 13 points (3g, 10a), which equals the point production from the rest of Miami's blueliners combined, and a team-high 50 blocked shots.
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 just one goal in each of their last four games and one goal or less in 11 of their last 15 contests. Miami has limited the opposition to two goals or less in 18 of its last 19 contests (Northern Michigan scored three goals Jan. 12), including three shutouts, and 21 of 26 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 went a perfect 7-for-7 on the penalty kill against Bowling Green Jan. 25-26, including a pair of five-minute majors. The RedHawks have now killed 20 straight opponent power plays dating back to Jan. 11 and 38 of their last 39 opponent power plays (.974) going back to Dec. 8 against Lake Superior, with the lone power play goal allowed at Northern Michigan Jan. 11. Miami leads the CCHA and ranks sixth nationally with an 89.7 percent penalty kill. The 105 kills (in 117 chances) are second-most in the country. Miami has been perfect on the penalty kill in 16 of the team's 26 games this year.
SUPER SOPHOMORES: Miami's sophomore class has picked up where they left off as freshmen. After scoring four of Miami's five goals against Bowling Green Jan. 25-26, the six second years have accounted for 29 of Miami's 62 goals (46.8 percent) and 67 of the squad's 163 points (41.1 percent) this year. Austin Czarnik shares the team lead with nine goals and 17 assists while Cody Murphy has six goals and assists each, including a career-high three assists Oct. 13, and two multi-goal games. Blake Coleman has five goals and 10 points on the year, Jimmy Mullin has four goals and 10 points and Alex Wideman has five goals and eight 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 17 of 26 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 16 games, including eight straight from Oct. 27 to Nov. 30, while Ryan McKay has started 10 games after suffering an injury earlier this season. Both have already earned awards for their play, as well.
- McKay leads the country with a 0.98 goals-against average and a .963 save percentage while no other netminder in the NCAA has a GAA lower than 1.46. He allowed three goals Jan. 12 at Northern Michigan, the only time in 10 starts he has allowed more than one goal in a game, however he stopped all five shootout attempts in the 3-3 tie. In 10 starts this year, he has allowed just nine goals, including two on the power play (one 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 a 10-4-3 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 12 starts. His 1.81 GAA is fifth in the CCHA and 10th nationally while his .927 save percentage is sixth in the CCHA and 17th 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.
FIRST-PERIOD WOES: Miami scored twice in the first period Jan. 26 vs. Bowling Green, the first time the 'Hawks had done so since Nov. 30 at Alaska. Prior to that mini outburst, Miami had just two first-period goals in its last 12 games. Miami has allowed only five first-period goals in that time as the 'Hawks have been outscored, 5-4, in the first period over its last 13 games. The RedHawks have not allowed more than one goal in the first period in those 13 games, however, and has conceded more than one first-period goal just once all year. Six of Miami's last 13 games have been scoreless after the first 20 minutes. On the year, Miami has scored 24 and 20 goals in the second and third periods, respectively, but just 17 in the first.
CLOSE CONTESTS: After only two of Miami's first 14 games were decided by one goal, eight of the RedHawks' last 12 contests have been 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 15 of 26 games this year, going 12-2-1 in such contests.
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 26 points tie for the CCHA lead with sophomore teammate Austin Czarnik and tie for first nationally among rookies. His 17 assists tie for second in the CCHA with Czarnik and lead all NCAA freshmen while his nine goals tie Czarnik for the team lead.
- He has a point in 17 of his 24 games this year and had a five-game point streak from Oct. 13 to Oct. 27. He has seven multi-point games this year, including three multi-assist games.
- 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 third 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 26 points share the CCHA lead with freshman teammate Riley Barber, while his 17 assists tie for second in the CCHA with Barber. His nine goals tie for the team lead with Barber, as well, and tie for ninth in the CCHA.
- Czarnik, who had a four-game point streak from Oct. 19-27, has a point in 15 of 26 games this year, including eight 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.
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 the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll and No. 4 in the USCHO.com Poll for week 16 after ranking sixth last week in both polls. 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 twice earlier this year (Oct. 22 and Dec. 3). 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 91 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.