Nov. 21, 2008

Courtesy of Miami (Ohio)

OXFORD, Ohio - Miami returns to Steve Cady Arena this week to take on the Michigan Wolverines in a rematch of the 2008 CCHA Tournament Championship game. The game on Friday will start at 7:35 p.m. and will be televised on the Ohio News Network and the NHL Network. The game on Saturday will be televised on Comcast Local and shown live on the NHL Network in Canada as well as on a tape-delay basis on the NHL Network in the United States. The first showing of Saturday’s game on the NHL Network in the U.S. will be at noon Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, Nov. 23.            
Miami takes on Michigan this week as the RedHawks continue action within their cluster. Michigan leads the all-time overall series with a record 66-18-3. The RedHawks hold a record of 15-21-1 against the Wolverines in Oxford. Despite Michigan’s lead in the overall series, the two teams have played even over the last seven games (3-3-1).

The matchup between the RedHawks and the Wolverines will be the first time the two teams have met since Michigan defeated the RedHawks 2-1 a season ago in the championship game of the CCHA tournament. Michigan slipped by the RedHawks at the end of last season and also claimed the regular-season CCHA title.

Miami took both games against Michigan State a weekend ago in East Lansing and extended its winning ways against the Spartans. The four-game winning streak against Michigan State is the first for Miami since Feb. 11, 1995, when the RedHawks picked up their fourth consecutive win at Munn Ice Arena. The RedHawks’ 5-1 win on Nov. 14 against Michigan State is the biggest win by a Miami team in East Lansing.  The sweep of Michigan State gives Miami a four-game road winning streak against ranked foes. Heading into their series with the Maize and Blue, the RedHawks hold a record of 4-1-1 on the season against ranked opponents.
Pat Cannone (Bayport, N.Y.) (6-10-16) and Carter Camper (Rocky River, Ohio) (6-8-14) are currently first and second on the team in points, respectively. Camper has been hot on the power play as he leads the conference in overall power-play points. With his assist on Oct. 31, Camper became the fourth-fastest RedHawk to 50 points in the CCHA era. Cannone has emerged as the leading scorer for the RedHawks thru the first 12 games of the season. The sophomore has 16 points (6-10-16) thru 12 games after tallying 30 points (6-24-30) all of last season. The native of Bayport, N.Y., has already equaled his goal total from a season ago and is only 14 points away from equaling his point total from 2007-08.

Connor Knapp (York, New York) picked up the second Rookie of the Week Award of the season for Miami University and his first conference weekly award of his career. Knapp earned the award with his Perani Cup first-star performance against then-No.17 Michigan State on Nov. 15 at Munn Ice Arena. Knapp posted 23 saves and only allowed one goal en route to his fourth win of the season, all against CCHA foes. The freshman lowered his goals against average for the fourth-consecutive game and has only allowed three goals in his last four outings including a shutout span of 85:26. His biggest stop against the Spartans was a kick save in the second period that preserved a 1-0 lead.

The RedHawks are not just a one man operation in the net. Fellow freshman goalie Cody Reichard (Celina, Ohio) is also one of the conferences’ top net-minders. Both Knapp and Reichard hold goals-against averages below two, and both have save percentages above 92-percent. Together they have helped Miami to a 1.88 goals-against average on the season. The two have played so evenly that they are tied for 12th in the Perani Cup standings. Both have a first star and a second star to their credit. On the campaign, Miami has split time evenly between the two as Reichard has handled all the Friday starts and Knapp all the games on Saturday.

The RedHawk special team units continued their excellence against Michigan State. The Miami penalty kill had a perfect weekend and is now ranked first in the country (73-76, 96.1). Miami killed off all 14 Spartan power plays last weekend. The Miami power play also enjoyed success going 3-of-10 and has moved up to second in the country (16-70, 22.9).

Miami and Michigan have both rotated goalies this season and both have seen the system work. Connor Knapp (York, N.Y.) and Cody Reichard (Celina, Ohio) have been one of the top rotations in the country and have combined to post a 1.88 goals-against average for the RedHawks this season. Billy Sauer and Bryan Hogan have been splitting time and have combined to post a 2.67 goals-against average for the Wolverines. Both goalie tandems have worked for each team as Miami and Michigan enter the weekend with the RedHawks in first place and the Wolverines tied second place in the CCHA.    

Chris Wideman (St. Louis, Mo.) has been the top offensive threat for the RedHawks from the defensive pairings. Wideman has racked up eight points this season, all on assists. With these numbers Wideman is ranked third in the CCHA in freshman overall scoring, and is the top defenseman on the list. Wideman is also tied for fifth in the conference in overall scoring by a defenseman.

The RedHawks picked up their fourth consecutive win, 3-1, against Michigan State in East Lansing on Nov. 15.

Miami was forced to put its penalty kill to work early when Raymond Eichenlaub (Wilmette, Ill) was called for interference at 4:20 of the first period. Michigan State earned a two-man advantage when Will Weber (Gaylord, Mich.) was called for cross checking at 5:41.  The RedHawk penalty kill, ranked second in the country coming into the game, continued to impress and stopped the early 5-on-3 Spartan advantage for the second consecutive night.

Both teams battled hard in the first period and came away even with each team unable to capitalize on the power play. Connor Knapp (York, N.Y.) came up big in the first frame by making seven saves.

Miami and Michigan State continued to be physical in the second period and the Red and White finally broke through when Justin Mercier (Erie, Pa.) picked off a puck near the blue line. Mercier took the puck the length of the ice and slipped it between the pads of Spartan goalie Jeff Lerg to give the RedHawks the 1-0 advantage.

For the period Miami killed off all three Michigan State power plays and Knapp posted nine more saves to push his two-period total to16.

Michigan State came out hard in the third and Corey Tropp looked like he had a great opportunity to even the score but Knapp made a solid kick save and preserved the lead for Miami. The RedHawk offense would reward their goalie when Brandon Smith (Pepper Pike, Ohio) scored his first career goal at 9:40 of the third period. Andy Miele (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.) passed the puck up ice to Gary Steffes (Grand Blanc, Mich.) who fired a shot on Lerg and the Spartan goalie made the save and pushed in wide of the net. Smith was there and fired the puck toward the center of the ice, it hit Lerg in the back and went into the net.  

The Spartans would not go quietly and Tropp fired a shot on Knapp and it slipped through and pulled Michigan State within one. Tim Crowder would pick up the only assist on the goal. Michigan State was unable to even the score and pulled Lerg in the final minute. Carter Camper (Rocky River, Ohio) would make them pay as he picked up the puck behind the Miami net and fired a shot the length of the ice and scored on the open net.

Game Notes
Saturday night's game against Michigan State was the 30th career game for Andy Miele (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.). Raymond Eichenlaub (Wilmette, Ill) and Kevin Roeder (Glenview, Ill) each played in their 125th career game on Saturday. The Miami record for games played is held by Ryan Jones, who played in 161 consecutive games.

Miami has now won four consecutive games in Munn Arena and four consecutive road games against ranked opponents.

The empty net goal by Carter Camper (Rocky River, Ohio) was the first by a RedHawk since Tommy Wingels (Wilmette, Ill) found an open net Jan. 12 at Nebraska-Omaha.

With six wins in 2008-09, head coach Enrico Blasi has drawn closer to the 200-win mark. Blasi is in his tenth season and has 193 wins at Miami, including one regular-season CCHA title. Blasi has the most wins by a head coach in school history as well as the highest winning percentage.

In a hard-fought battle from the opening puck drop all the way to the final horn, the RedHawks were unable to overcome a two-goal deficit and travel back to Oxford with the Mason Cup.

Junior goaltender Jeff Zatkoff kept the RedHawks in the Championship contest, stopping 24 of the 26 shots Michigan put on net, including two saves on breakaways.  Zatkoff was named to the all-tournament team for his efforts.

Showing his offensive prowess from the blue line once again was junior defenseman, Alec Martinez.  With only 39 seconds remaining in the game, Martinez was able to blast a shot past Michigan's Billy Sauer, giving him his second goal of the tournament.  Martinez was honored as one of the two defensemen on the all-tournament team.

Also earning all-tournament accolades was senior captain Ryan Jones.  Though he registered just one assist in the two games, Jones' gritty play and leadership kept the Red and White poised during the weekend.

Michigan opened the game's scoring nearly half way through the second period, as freshman Aaron Palushaj one-timed a pass from Matt Rust behind Jeff Zatkoff.  The goal was Palushaj's 38th point of the year, tying him with Northern Michigan's Mark Olver for the CCHA rookie scoring lead.

At the 10-minute mark of the third period, Michigan pushed its lead to two goals, as the Wolverines' Brandon Naurato slid a puck into the back of Miami's net after the Maize and Blue won an offensive zone faceoff.  The score was only Naurato's seventh of the season.

As Miami had done the night before, the RedHawks scored within the last minute of the game with an extra attacker on the ice.  Scoring for MU was Alec Martinez, netting his second goal in as many nights.  The RedHawks worked feverishly over the last 40 seconds of the game, but when the contest ended, Michigan still held the 2-1 edge, winning its eighth league title and first since the 2004-05 season.

Miami is currently ranked seventh in the USCHO and CBS College Sports division I men’s hockey poll. The RedHawks have moved up and down in the Top 10 this season but have been ranked within the nation’s Top 10 for 32 consecutive weeks. During this run the RedHawks have been ranked as the Nation’s No. 1 team for ten weeks. This season, Miami has played six games against ranked opponents and holds a record of 4-1-1 in those games.

Freshmen Trent Vogelhuber (Dublin, Ohio) and Will Weber (Gaylord, Mich.) are both draft choices of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Weber was chosen in the second-round of the 2007 NHL draft by the Jacket. Vogelhuber, a native of Dublin, Ohio, was taken in the same draft, in the seventh-round. Vogelhuber called being drafted by his favorite team “a dream come true.” Weber and Vogelhuber join three other RedHawks, who have been picked in the NHL draft. Justin Mercier (Erie, Pa.) was picked by the Colorado Avalanche in 2005. Justin Vaive (Toronto, Ontario) was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 and just this past offseason Tommy Wingels (Wilmette, Ill) was picked by the San Jose Sharks.   
Miami will have next weekend off before traveling to take on Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, Mich., Dec. 6-7. The game on Sunday, Dec. 7, will be televised live on ESPNU.