Friday, March 12, 2010

CCHA Second Round - Miami v. OSU

Andy Miele and the RedHawks prepare to take on Dustin Carlson,
Chris Reed and the Buckeyes

Oxford, Ohio (March 11) - For the first time since 2004, Miami and Ohio State will face each other in the CCHA playoffs. The RedHawks and Buckeyes will battle in a best-of-three second-round series starting tonight at 7:35pm with game two coming Saturday at 7:05pm, and if necessary, game three at 7:05pm on Sunday evening. Each game will be played at Miami's Steve Cady Arena. With Miami's students returning from spring break, tickets are still available for Friday night, however Saturday is a virtual sell out with possibly a few SRO tickets remaining.

Friday and Saturday will mark the fifth and sixth times the two teams have faced each other this season. The RedHawks lead the season series 3-0-1 with the most recent meeting having occurred at Value City Arena on February 27 when the teams skated to a 0-0 tie. Miami has outscored Ohio State 16-4 this season including two shutouts of the Buckeyes.

While the eighth seeded Buckeyes appear to be heavy underdogs this weekend, history has shown that top-seeded Miami is vulnerable after breaks and bye weeks, including when they have hosted second round series in the past.

For instance in 2006-07, Miami finished third in the CCHA earning a first round playoff bye. The RedHawks completed the year at 24-14-4 and upset #1 seed New Hampshire in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Yet, the RedHawks were swept by Lake Superior in the second round of the CCHA playoffs in Oxford.

Last season, Miami finished 23-14-5, tied for second in the league, and came within a minute of the school's first national title. Yet, after securing a first round CCHA playoff bye, the RedHawks were defeated in three games by Northern Michigan and once again sat on the sidelines instead of playing for the CCHA championship and the Mason Cup.

And, earlier this year, Miami was swept by lowly Robert Morris after a lengthy holiday break.

What's this all mean? It means the RedHawks can be beaten by Ohio State if history is any predictor of future performance. However, that same pattern of struggling in the second round tends to occur every other year. This year? The pattern indicates Miami should win the series and advance to the CCHA semifinals at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Mich. But, certainly Miami's history is worth noting.

But, unlike past seasons where Miami has played a home series to a partially full building (due to spring break) and less than thrilling opponents like Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State, this season, Miami plays their chief in-state rival and the students will be back to fill up the building on Saturday night. Perhaps Miami has fallen victim to a two-week break followed by an opponent that hasn't always been an emotional motivator. Perhaps Miami simply plays down to competition at times. But, that won't be the case with an key rival coming to Oxford. Miami should be sky high for this series and will gain an additional edge if they can get through Friday's game with a less than full student section.

I think Miami sweeps the series and advances to the Joe.

  • Miami has dominated the Buckeyes recently going 11-1-2 in the past 14 games.
  • Miami leads the all-time series with Ohio State 61-56-12 including 38-21-4 in Oxford.
  • Miami is 5-2 against Ohio State in CCHA tournament play with the last meeting coming in the CCHA semifinals in Detroit in 2004. That year the Buckeyes won three overtime games in three days to capture their only Mason Cup when the CCHA still utilized the "Super Six" format.
  • Miami has won 20 or more games for five consecutive seasons and was 21-2-5 in CCHA play this season alone.

Dalpe, Multiple RedHawks Honored
Detroit, Mich. (March 11) - Earlier this week, the CCHA announced its all-league teams and finalists for individual awards. Coming off a dominating regular season, several RedHawks were honored headlined by senior Jarod Palmer and sophomore Cody Reichard joining Ohio State forward Zac Dalpe by being named to the CCHA's first team. Palmer led the RedHawks in goals (16) and points (40) this season while Reichard led the CCHA in nearly every goaltending category as well as being the national leader in goals-against average (1.48), save percentage (93.8) and winning percentage (17-2-3 overall). In addition, junior captain Tommy Wingels and classmate Andy Miele were both named to the league's second team while Carter Camper earned honorable mention. Lastly, freshman defenseman Joe Hartman was named to the CCHA all-rookie team after a year in which he played in 35 of 36 games registering 14 points on six goals including two short-handed. Importantly, Hartman was fourth on the squad in plus-minus with a +20 rating and helped the RedHawks lead the nation in scoring defense at 1.72 goals per game.

Zac Dalpe led Ohio State in goals (20) and points (40) in being named to the CCHA first team and a finalist for Player of the Year. After a stellar freshman year, Dalpe broke out this season and led the Buckeyes from start to finish. He has been the only consistent scoring threat OSU has had this season.

In addition to the team awards, the individual finalists were named.

Cody Reichard was named a finalist for CCHA Player of the Year along with Dalpe and Northern Michigan defenseman Eric Gustafsson.

Tommy Wingels was nominated for Best Defensive Forward and Miami sophomore defenseman Will Weber (CBJ draft pick) was nominated as Best Defensive Defenseman (the league splits this into two honors to give more attention to defenseman who are sometimes overlooked in awards presentations).

Lastly, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi was named a finalist for CCHA Coach of the Year, an honor he has won three times previously.

The CCHA Awards kick off CCHA Championship Weekend on Thursday, March 18. The banquet, an Academy Awards-style event with music videos and video highlights, is held at historic Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit, across from Comerica Park. The banquet begins with a social hour presented by the RBC Financial Group at 6:30 p.m. The Awards Program starts at 7:30 p.m. Banquet tickets are $15 and can be purchased by calling the CCHA at (248) 888-0600 or at the door the day of the event.

Other Second Round Matchups

Michigan at Michigan State - In a rare second round meeting, the Wolverines will invade their arch-rivals in East Lansing. The good news for the CCHA is that at least one of these teams will advance to the Joe next weekend helping boost attendance. Michigan must likely win the CCHA tournament in order to make the NCAA tournament for the 20th consecutive year. I think the Wolverines advance because they are more talented, but MSU has had Michigan's number recently.

Alaska at Northern Michigan - The Nanooks hit the road again to play an interesting series in Marquette, Mich. NMU has played their best hockey historically during the second half of the season and they are doing it again this year. Walt Kyle almost always has the Wildcats in Detroit and I think that happens again.

Nebraska-Omaha at Ferris State - Dean Blais has the Mavericks flying but they'll be in for a stern test traveling to Big Rapids, Mich. to face the Bulldogs. I think this series goes to three games with Omaha moving on to Detroit.

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