Stealing Miami’s thunder

Leave it to the Big Ten to steal the attention away from the Miami RedHawks and their first CCHA playoff championship. Well, I’m not going to talk about that today. That can wait until midweek.

There’s hockey being played now. There was hockey in Detroit just two days ago. There are four CCHA teams in the NCAA tournament.

The Big Ten can wait.

They need to send the Spartans a muffin basket

I knew heading into Detroit that Miami would win, but I wasn’t sure why. I mean, I knew that the RedHawks had solidified every aspect of their game, that they had added amazing team defense to a powerful offense. I knew that they’d allowed just five goals in five games – while scoring 23 – but I wasn’t sure how it had all come together.

And then I remembered Miami’s 7-4 loss to Michigan State Jan. 21. And then head coach Enrico Blasi and several players mentioned “the loss to Michigan State” as a pivotal point in the team’s season.

And then I remembered what Blasi said post-game Jan. 21, to me directly, the only reporter to ask him anything outside the visitor’s locker room in Munn Ice Arena.

Me: What was the difference in tonight’s game?

Blasi: They scored seven, we scored four.

Me: And the reason for switching goalies?

Blasi: At that point, they scored four, we only scored two.

Me: And – other than not allowing more goals than you score tomorrow – what does your team need to do tomorrow night?

Blasi: We’ve got to play a lot better defense than we did tonight. They outworked us to pucks tonight, got their chances, and scored – and we didn’t.

And that was the entirety of that interview. What’s impossible to convey is the tone.

Until midseason, Miami was consistently good with the puck. The RedHawks’ junior goaltenders, Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard, didn’t have numbers to match those of their first two seasons, but those statistics only told a partial story. What Miami needed to do was play better – and smarter – without the puck, play better team defense.

That is exactly what the RedHawks did in the closing weeks of the CCHA season and in the tournament last weekend. Miami was the complete package, and when Western Michigan tied up the title game, 2-2, early in the third period, the RedHawks did what every good team does: they elevated their play and their big players made sure that the Broncos couldn’t do the same. It’s no accident that Andy Miele scored the game-winning goal less than five minutes after Dane Walters netted perhaps the biggest goal of his career for the Broncos.

The RedHawks are also very, very loose – as in, relaxed – a good thing for a team playing great hockey come NCAA tournament time. After Friday’s 6-2 win over Notre Dame, reporters asked sophomore Reilly Smith about setting up Miele for two goals. For the record, Miele leads the nation with 71 total points but trails Smith (28-26-54) by four goals.

“He’s always giving me open nets,” said Smith, “so finally I got to give back to him. Whatever helps our team, you know?”

Miele responded with, “I liked it.”

Then Miele was asked about a goal he scored crashing the net and crashing to the ice, having lost his footing in the slot.

“That’s just one of those lucky goals,” said Miele. “I just wanted to get the puck on net like it did. It went under his [ND goaltender Mike Johnson’s] arm and we were happy for it.”

“It was the pass,” said Smith, immediately and definitively.

In their two games, Miami outscored the Fighting Irish and the Broncos 11-4. Now, the Irish looked off their game, but the Broncos were not; they were just beaten by the better team that night.

I was thinking of Steve Cady

Saturday night, I was happiest for Steve Cady, the great man who began the Miami hockey program.

I was thinking of Dan Boyle and Andy Greene – and his mother, Lynda, and she knows why – and Ryan Jones and a host of other players whom no one outside of Miami hockey circles has ever heard of, like Ernie Hartlieb (1997-2000), the forward from Warren, Mich., whose hockey career almost didn’t happen because of a serious head injury the summer before his freshman year. Hartlieb just retired from professional hockey last October.

I thought of Charlie Effinger (2004-08), the goaltender from Belleville, Ill., who always “played like a rock star” against Ohio State, as someone close to the Buckeye program lamented when he was in net against OSU.

I thought of Jake Ortmeyer (1998-2002), Nino Musitelli (2004-08 – that kid is funny), and Barry Schutte (1993-97) and Chris Bergeron (1990-93), now coaching together at Bowling Green, and a lot of other Miami alumni.

I started covering CCHA hockey in 1995-96 when I lived in Columbus, Ohio. A little newspaper in Michigan needed a reporter to cover the three Ohio CCHA teams, and I became a semi-regular in Goggin. A year later, I started writing for USCHO a month after its inception and I still went to Goggin often because of the geography of the CCHA.

I thought of Andy Geshan, the team’s equipment manager and Mike Harris, who worked closely with hockey in the athletic department there forever and who’s now a senior associate director of athletics at Towson University.

And as I watched Miami and Western play for the Mason Cup, I thought of how important it was for teams not in East Lansing and Ann Arbor to do so.

Playing against type

The RedHawks flew out to a 4-0 lead after one in Friday’s semifinal game against the Irish, prompting at least a couple of reporters in the press box to remark that Notre Dame could never overcome such a lead because they “aren’t an offensive team.”


While it was clear that ND wasn’t going to come back, it wasn’t because the Irish aren’t offensive-minded. Notre Dame entered the weekend averaging 3.54 goals per game, the tenth most-productive offense in the country. True, the Irish scored two goals per game this weekend to drop their average to 3.46 GPG, but they’re still tenth in that category.

The only team in the league that scores more goals per game than Notre Dame is Miami.

Strangely, the Irish are considered a defensive team, yet ND entered the weekend with the nation’s No. 22 defense and left Detroit at No. 25, allowing 2.76 goals per game. In this case, statistics don’t lie; the Irish need to play better without the puck.

Irish head coach Jeff Jackson has talked in recent weeks about the youth of his team and how tightly wound the whole squad is. When asked if that was what happened in the first period Friday, when ND allowed four goals, he said, “It’s hard to tell. I think a lot of it had to do with Miami.”

Both Jackson and freshman T.J. Tynan (who is small, with red hair and a baby face) said that turnovers were key to both Notre Dame losses at JLA.

“[Miami] put a lot of pressure on us,” said Jackson. “Their skill and speed forced us to turn a lot of pucks over and you can’t do that against a team like that because they transition so well offensively and they have so many great weapons. It was a lot about them, in my opinion.”

After Friday’s 4-2 loss to Michigan in the third-place game, Tynan said, “I think the first game we were a little nervous in the first period but I think tonight we weren’t as nervous. Couple of turnovers cost us some goals, including my turnovers, so, uh, eh.”

If you can imagine a shrug, that’s the tone of the last two syllables.

And the reason why the press hasn’t quoted Tynan his classmate Anders Lee – both of whom have 22 goals on the season – or any of the other 10 freshman who have seen at least a minute of game time this season is because Jackson wouldn’t let us. Wise, I think. Now, of course, the press can’t get enough of these kids.

Disappointment is relative

Both of Friday’s games were disappointing. As I said in my blog Saturday, I was really excited about this field and the possibility of four terrific, close, hotly contested hockey games.

What I got instead were two semifinal blowouts, a pretty good third-place game, and a an exciting title match.

The other blowout on Friday, of course, was Western Michigan’s 5-2 win over Michigan, a game in which the Broncos exploded for four second-period goals. As a game goes, blowouts are boring. As the match went – with half the arena occupied by Western Michigan fans and an underdog dominating a perennial favorite – it was hockey magic.

“We’re certainly excited with the outcome,” said WMU head coach Jeff Blashill. “We knew that Michigan was a great hockey team. Our focus was on us playing our best hockey and I think our guys played pretty close to what we would call an elite game. They stuck to Bronco hockey. They hunted a lot of pucks, came up with turnovers and were able to be strong around their nets.”

What impressed me the most about the Broncos after that win was how composed they were. They were happy, certainly, but a bit reserved; they had more work to do. Like the RedHawks, they were relaxed but they were also very focused. They were well prepared by their coaching staff, which also includes Rob Facca – the man with the most interesting shoes in the league – and Pat Ferschweiler.

And if you want a study in intensity, check out Broncos’ senior goaltender Jerry Kuhn, perhaps one of the most intense hockey players I’ve ever met. He played a fierce game against Miami Saturday, coming out of the net often to challenge the RedHawks’ scorers – and that sometimes cost him – but it did take extra skaters to beat him four times, including Bryon Paulazzo’s first goal for Miami, which was scored the second a WMU penalty kill ended.

Those Wolverines

Just as I admire Kuhn for his intensity, I love watching Michigan’s Shawn Hunwick play in net for his animation and passion. (That his personality is clear both on and off the ice is a bonus – he’s fun to talk to.)

In Friday’s game, though, Hunwick was clearly rattled by Western Michigan’s aggressive play in front of the net. After Matt Tennyson made it a 3-0 game at 13:53 in the second – the goal that held up to be the game-winner – Hunwick was so frustrated that he pushed the net off its moorings. Hunwick was the goalie of record for all five WMU goals; Bryan Hogan played well in relief in the third period.

After the game, Broncos’ senior Max Campbell said that getting to Hunwick was part of WMU’s game plan (even though he mistakenly said “Hogan” in a video interview). That the Broncos suspected that they could exploit Hunwick’s passion is very interesting.

That Hunwick came back with a 42-save performance in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Notre Dame was equally interesting.

“Any time you give up five goals in a game and get pulled after the second, you should be pretty motivated to come back the next day,” said Hunwick. “I lost my composure a little bit [Friday]. I was frustrated by how things were going. I wasn’t really mad at anybody but myself, and I probably took it out in the worst way possible.

“That’s the good thing about hockey. You’ve got another game ahead of you.”

And there’s at least one game ahead next weekend for each of these teams

I’ll blog midweek about the tournament, too, and we’ll have regional previews just as we do every year.

Candace Horgan and I are covering the West Regional in St. Louis and I can’t believe my luck. It isn’t often that we western reporters get a chance to cover Boston College in regional action.

And the Mavs!

  • ned

    Thank you for writing this up and thank you for caring about your readers enough to apologize. I really appreciate it.

    • UnionFan

      You know it would be nice to see your friday morning predictions. I know you didn’t do well last week but until then you seemed please with your work. Turn the clock back to friday and let us know what you were going to post.

  • Righty

    Did anyone see the mighty Yale lose to another EZAC power. That makes if 4 losses this year to teams with a losing record. Just wanted to point that out.

    • It’s a tough league! As SLU’s own Joe Marsh said a few years back: “It’s tough to end another team’s season.” Winning is hard this time of year, for everybody.

      • Righty

        Tough league compared to which? Atlantic? I know you aren’t trying to compare the ECAC to Hockey East or WCHA.

        • How about NU beating BU in Game 1? Upsets happen.

        • EliBlue

          interesting to see another North Dakota troll post on the ECAC blog without ever seeing an ECAC game or catching St Lawrence’s goalie. Shows their paranoia and the fact that they spend more time worrying about everyone else than their own team. Comes from the anger they feel about losing to Yale. I mean, anyone without a psychology degree sees that the bullies are just enraged about that and try to redirect. Hey righty, I know you won’t see a therapist because, ummm, you’re typical North Dakota, which means you have the most bottled anger (think Ralph Engelstad on a bad day) of any hockey fan. Get over the fact that you lost fair and square. Also get over the fact that you guys say you won seven titles, but last any of us looked, even your overage stoners weren’t older than third grade last time it happened. Also, get over yourself for the fact that Matt Frattin is back on the team after TWO incidents because he’s valuable. Not like you guys have any team discipline or any sort of code or honor. Hakstool is a real gem. Oh by the way, nice win last night by Yale in a physical, tough game. Not like you’d pay any attention

        • Jennaway

          hey let me smack Frattin’s nuts out of your mouth long enough for you to focus on the fact that of the top four teams in the country, two are from the ECAC.

  • Siwanoy

    No excuse can avoid the hard question….just what were your intended predictions???? (Be honest now.)

    • To you and UnionFan: Ok, ok, I’ll post what would have been my honest predictions tonight or tomorrow. I’ll try not to let the actual outcomes taint what would have been my perspectives!

  • Bartman

    Hard to ignore Daniel Carr of Union as Rookie of the Year Candidate, don’t you think??

    • ecacfan

      Clarkson Freshman Allan McPherson led the Golden Knights in scoring in ECAC play. Hard to believe he didn’t get nominated…

  • #1 Ranked

    Union gets a big loss… Yale gets a big loss….. watch the bias and next week they won’t even move on the PWR, keeping their seeding for the regional tourney too.

    And to think, they lost to UNRANKED teams!

  • Guest

    Andy Greene not Green and WMU coach Jeff Blashill (not Jackson).

    • Paula Weston

      Thought I got that one, too. Thanks.

  • Lawson Lunatic

    Ouch, calling Western’s coach Jeff Jackson. As ESPN would say, “C’MON MA’AM!!!”

    • Srthomas09

      its been fixed.

    • my brain hurts

      ARGHHHH!!!!!!! Mistakes! MIstakes everywhere, everytime!!!!!!

  • KAW


    Interesting that you chose to call out WMU’s students for their classlessness twice on your blog, and yet when your golden boy Hunwick throws a temper tantrum (you forgot to mention that he came out of the crease to pick a fight) you praise him for his “animation and passion.”

    • Paula Weston

      I also praised them for their passion, their enthusiasm, their creativity, their energy. They were great most of the time. They’re smart and creative enough not to be vulgar or to boo the opposing band (which is classless, imo, no matter who does it). On the whole, I loved them.

      • KAW

        That’s fair.

        I also agree that it wasn’t the classiest of the Big Ten to make their announcement in a way that was deliberately designed to draw attention away from the CCHA and WCHA, which saw exactly zero big ten teams in their championships, and only one that made it to the NCAA tourney.

        • Paula Weston

          My comment was tongue-in-cheek; I wasn’t implying that the Big Ten deliberately scheduled their announcement to detract from Miami. Instead, I see their timing as unfortunate and perhaps an indication of the Big Ten’s lack of awareness about the college hockey community. I’m not sure they “get” college hockey yet. I mean, would they make such an announcement regarding basketball the Monday after the Sweet 16 was determined?

          That having been said, I’m pretty certain that they’re announcing now in an attempt to allay the fears of the college hockey community, even if their timing is off. There’s a lot of uneasiness about this and I think the BT is aware of this. Announcing this week prevents even more panicky speculation at the hockey regionals.

          I just think Monday was a poor choice of days.

          • HockeyFan

            whats one good decision the Big10 has made in the last 10 years? Leaders and Legends?

  • David

    There is a reason that Shawn Hunwick was a walk-on. Michigan will get bounced by UNO in the first round.

  • Kuhn&Friends

    Dear Paula, I hate to beat a dead horse, but you called out Broncos captain Ian Slater for using adversity. I would like you to watch the following video, I think he recognizes adversity. This is a great story about a great bunch of guys, Fight on Broncos, Fight on Gideon!

  • Kuhn&Friends

    Dear Paula, I hate to beat a dead horse, but you called out Broncos captain Ian Slater for using adversity. I would like you to watch the following video, I think he recognizes adversity. This is a great story about a great bunch of guys, Fight on Broncos, Fight on Gideon!

  • Bklein09

    Hey David, hunwick has been one of the best goalies in the CCHA this year. He led us to the regular season title. Hes probably better than the goalie of whatever team you root for. So suck it.

    Anyone can get bounced in the first round. But a huge part of the reason Michigan is even in the tournament and a 2 seed, is because of hunwick. Pound for pound he may be the beat goalie in the nation. Reminds me of jeff lerg. If only he was 3 inches taller he would be unstoppable.

  • WMUevartian

    I was thinking the same thing when I was watching the video K and H

  • Lordoftherink9

    Well written article, aside from the typos. I appreciate you naming a few Miami Alum, who set the stage for bigger and better things that have happened to “The Brotherhood” in that last five years.

    Having played with some of the guys you mentioned, I know that every Hockey Alum is very proud of what has been accomplished in Oxford.

    Congrats to the 4 CCHA teams who made the big dance. We as College Hockey fans, and supporters of the CCHA, should all be cheering for the teams representing the CCHA to make a statement in this tournament to regain the title of best conference in the nation.

  • Anonymous

    I know the Gophers stink on Friday nights… But there’s no way they don’t sweep this series.

    • Anonymous

      No way? As the article points out, they haven’t won against the Mavericks at Mariuchi in 3 years. Split, Friday to the Mavs.

      • Anonymous

        Ha.. When did you start having this dream Icelund? The article also points out that the Mavericks stink and that the Gophers are doing pretty good so far.

        • Guest

          Define “stink”. At least minn. fans know what stink means the last few years.

        • Fan Man

          Goldy, it appears as tho your other partner in crime stopped commenting with you as soon as the goofers started going down hill.  Now, what kind of fan is that?  Smart, Cowardly or just …….

  • Just A Thought

    Is the “annual Sioux second half surge” still inevitable if there are no Sioux in the second half of the year?

    • Fan Man

      It will be when they are wearing their old jerseys under neith the new Nodak ones.  It wont change a thing.  UND will always play SIOUX hockey!!!!! ;)

  • Jagroh

    Ummm, might want to rethink those UAH UNO predictions…lol

  • Anonymous

    Haha! I’m on here every week supporting my team so i’m not sure what you mean about partner in crime.. And down hill? We are in first in WCHA and 5th in the nation..The Gophers have a record of 70-63-24 from 07/08 season to the 10/11 season. That is a complete disgrace for our program but a record many teams would be very content with.. Including the Mavericks. Is that what you mean by stink?

  • Philipvanschepen

    You’re supposed to schedule cupcakes for holiday tourney. Early speculation had Princeton as the tough opponent. Northeastern looks for real. Last year Gophers stunk up their own tournament. this year looks brighter.

  • Spanky

    Just as I predicted, whch USCHO ran those rediculus columns about how MTU is changed with thier new coach and everything….well MTU will colapse and be a bottom feeder team as usual in the WCHA. The bright side is that in 2 years, they should be able to compete in the new WCHA after all the good teams leave and the CCHA bottom feeders are brought in.

    • Superspanky

      Bottom feeders like Ferris State, Lake Superior State, and Northern Michigan?  Teams currently ranked nationally in the 9th, 15th and 22nd positions? 

  • Bulldog

    bulldogs should be number one now not the gophers. we have had a much tougher schedule than the gophers have had

    • Guest

      I’m OK with the Bulldogs #1 right now and I would normally agree with your logic, but to me the 2-0 Gopher advantage in head-to-head play should tip the scales.

      • But,but,but….the Bullpuppies outshot the Gophers,so those wins don’t count.

        • Guest

          lol you lost to vermont, wisconsin, st cloud state, and michigan state

      • Guest

        the bruins lost to the coyotes at the beginning of last season that must mean the coyotes are better!

        • Guest

          But the Coyotes don’t have more wins than the Bruins to go along with a better offense and defense…

    • Mr Hockey

      You mean it got tougher now that Huntsville beat Omaha….lol…I suppose you’re going to hang your dog leash on the fact that Providence swept Merrimack also? Gophers haven’t yet and won’t get swept all year.

      • Guest

        They won’t get swept all year? That’s kind of a big statement and totally pointless. What if they do get swept, then does that mean they aren’t any good.

        They have some difficult road games coming up right? 2 in Denver, 2 at UND (given the act that UND is now seeming to play better) and at Omaha and I fully expect UNO to play better the second half with Blais as their coach they have to get better than they were this weekend. Most teams in the WCHA are going to have an off week and Minny will not be any different. maybe they don’t get swept, maybe they do. I don’t like them but that won’t change my opinion of them as one of the better teams in the nation (unless of course it happens against a really bad team).

        Just seems like such a bad statement and one that doesn’t matter. Good luck with that. 

        • Mr Hockey

          Good teams find ways to avoid sweeps.

    • Wilma Dickfit

      The Gophers are 4-0 against Frozen 4 teams from last spring, including a 2 game SWEEP of the defending National Champions on the road. Yep, cupcake schedule alright.

    • Wilma Dickfit

      UMD fans shouldn’t even bring up the subject of schedule toughness, they have the easiest schedule in the WCHA this year. The 3 teams UMD plays twice are: Alaska Anchorage, MSU-Mankato and Michigan Tech. All 3 of which will be in the bottom 4 teams at the end of the year. Minnesota meanwhile has to play North Dakota, Wisconsin and St. Cloud twice. It’s pretty clear who has the easier schedule – UMD by far.

  • The Wooger

    UMD can think they’re #1 for now, that’s fine. We all know they’ll be peeing their pants when they have to face the Gophers again.

  • NJ2NU

    I think NU should be 0-15 by the brain trust’s estimate.

  • Anonymous

    Oooh, the “writers” are testy all of the sudden….

  • Hank

    I predict that Colgate will blow out Merrimack, and Northeastern will beat ML in overtime.

  • K-Dub

    Dissapointed in your Beaver research.  You put the Beavers second game scores with wider margins.  Go back and look at their record on night number two for the season.

    • Arlan Marttila

      K-Dub, In which case, you’d be really disappointed to know that I don’t do much research for the weekly picks, because by the end of the week, I’ve looked at enough box scores, statistics and other minutia that I start to lose the forest for the trees. The approach I’ve adopted to predicting the games is more art than science, and in my case, it is likely akin to a preschooler’s scribbles.

      Firsthand, I’ve seen Bemidji play better on the second night this season. A year ago, they demonstrated the opposite in my inaugural visit to the Sanford Center. Coming off a bye, BSU should come out flying in game one, score first, and lead for much of the game. Will they be able to hold off UW and get a win or tie? Not sure. I’d put the odds at about 45% the Badgers win the first game, 30% it is a tie, and 25% that the Beavers hold on, based mainly on the statistics that suggest Wisconsin almost never loses. If the first game puts a scare into the visitors, then I expect them to start faster in the second.

      So my problem here is not that I’m totally ignorant of the history of the teams, but rather that at times I know enough about both that I can concoct all sorts of wild scenarios in my head. Guess is piled on top of guess, and when one hunch flies wide of the mark, the whole pyramid topples over. I could instead choose a highly scientific method, and use something like the Rutter rankings to predict the favored team to win, and certainly be correct more often than I have been to date. Then I consider an outcome like BC at Quinnipiac and decide that in the end, no amount of analysis can save me from the hockey gods, and I go back to scribbling.

      Thanks for your sharing your opinion.

      • K-Dub

        Fair enough. We’re pretty proud and excited of our Lady Beavers success.  Sertich has done a heckuva job building this program and it’s nice to see them getting some much deserved recognition.  We’ll be at the Sanford this afternoon cheering for a Beaver victory.

        I enjoy your blog.  Keep up the great work.

        Go Green, Go Beavers!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    NU just whipped up on the 2nd ranked team in the country last weekend- 2 games and outscored ND 11-3. i am in the same camp that hopes you guys keep betting against the forever underdog NU Huskies! you guys don’t get paid for doing this column do you? God I hope not. A couple of real chowderheads in my opinion

  • Rich from Lowell

    Lowell will upend BC tonight. Other than last year, for several years before that BC struggled in Lowell. That will continue tonight as me and 6,500 other fans will be telling BC what we think about them and their diva diving team

  • Northender78

    these guys only pick and write about top ranked programs like bc,bu,unh,umaine,etc. never do they write about small programs like nu,pc,mc. MC was the top ranked team in the nation and these guys at USCHO rather write about BU Charlie Coyle or BC’s Chris Kreider. Come on!! Give some recognition to whom deserves it. NU crushed UND 2/3 in the country at UND and these guys (Jim & Dave) did not even write a decent recap of the games, rather write about the will be hockey east team in 2013… Very dissapointed about their columns and their writing. they should have real fans pick and write their columns

  • Ghostbusted

    Keep up the good work picking against UML. Lowell has a lot more talent than people realize. Hope they realize it now…

  • Anonymous

    Another puff piece..nothign here that anyone who follows the league doesn’t already know..good grief how about a hard-hitting piece on some real topics…

    • Jim Connelly

      This, in general, is a recap of what happened this weekend. I would say the average fan doesn’t know all of what was in here. If you have ideas for topics, please send them along. Would love to hear them. You can always email me directly at

  • Spidermonkey86

    Was at the UML/NU game; Bazin blew it. He didn’t even wait until he has possession to pull his goalie…Lowell lost the faceoff and lost the game. There is a difference between being gutsy and being stupid.

    I understand if Lowell had nothing to play for but being right in the thick of things I found the move silly. 

    They didn’t even need to pull the goalie they had no problems moving the pucj on the pp in that game.

  • blackbearfan

    Can you explain to me what embellishment is ? Did anybody watch Maine/BU game on Saturday night ? Is coach Whitehead for Maine teaching acting lessons ? Don’t think so. Did Brian Flynn really deserve a game misconduct ? Don think so. The officiating in Hockey East is brutal !!! If the officials have a beef with a coach or a school so be it, but don’t take it out on the kids.

  • Leggs2

    Nice handle “Jack”.  Do YOU have time to study college hockey?  Or busy doing other things?  Go Skating Dutchmen!!