Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Know Thy Enemy: Miami (NTM)

The Michigan State Spartans hit the road once again to face-off against Miami(Not That Miami), better known as Miami(OH) or Miami in hockey circles. The RedHawks are trying to cap the final CCHA season with a regular season title. They are off to a good start as they sit in first place in the CCHA with a 3-2-1-1 league and 6-2-2 overall record. They are a young team as well featuring ten freshman. They are currently ranked 4th in the latest USCHO.com poll.

Miami swept Michigan State last year during the regular season and playoffs. Miami won the pair in Munn (2-1 (ot), 4-0) and the playoff series in Oxford (6-0, 4-1). Michigan State holds the all-time series edge 68-31-5, and that includes a 28-13-2 mark at Miami. The problem is Miami has dominated the series of late winning seven of the last nine games (including the last five games by a combined score of 20-2). Safe to say, Michigan State is trying to reverse the trend this year.

Miami is unbeaten in its last three games (2-0-1) after beating Northern 5-2 and then skating to a 2-2 tie the next night (Miami picked up the extra point in the shoot-out).

The Friday night game starts at 7:35 pm and Saturday's face-off is scheduled for 7:05 pm.

Top Scorers

Riley Barber      5 goals, 14 points
Austin Czarnik  6 goals, 13 points
Blake Coleman  4 goals, 6 points
Cody Murphy    4 goals, 6 points
Alex Wideman  2 goals, 5 points
Curtis McKenzie  2 goals, 5 points


Jay Williams  5-2-1,  2.50 GAA, .911 save %
Ryan McKay  1-0-1, 0.46 GAA, .984 save %   (injured at Michigan)

Miami's power play has converted 20.4% of its chances, and the PK has stopped 86.8%. Miami's opening period has been their worst getting outscored 10-9. Miami though has outscored opponents in the second (9-3) and third (11-8) periods. Miami is averaging 31.5 shots on goal a game and allowing 28.8.

Final Thoughts

Miami has been trying to reach the mountain top under Coach Blasi. They've been close - going to the Frozen Four twice under Coach Blasi (the only two appearances in school history). Their first visit to the Frozen Four ended in heart break. Back in 2009, Miami was up 3-1 on Boston University in the national championship game with one minute to go in the game. Then - this happened:

That finish lead to one of the more unluckiest game ending goals (in the eyes of a Miami fan at least)

If it weren't for bad luck, you'd have no luck at all.....

The fact remains that Coach Blasi has built up an impressive program in Oxford. He was hired back in the 1999 - 2000 season. Prior to his arrival, Miami had won 1 CCHA title (1992-93), 0 tournament titles, made 2 NCAA tournament appearances (1993, 1997), and had zero Frozen Four appearances. Since his hire, Miami has won 2 CCHA titles (2005-06, 2009-10), 1 tournament title (2011), made 8 NCAA tournament appearances (including seven in a row - since 2006), and 2 Frozen Four appearances. It's safe to say that Miami isn't far from the mountain top. With the great mix of youth and seniors they have on this team, they might be able to make a run in the spring time - but the future remains bright as they move to the NCHC next season. 

Michigan State's youth will be tested this game. The Spartans need to figure out this Friday & Saturday thing, so much so Coach Anastos has jokingly said that MSU will be playing doubleheaders on Saturday from now on. I wonder if he still has any pull in the commissioner's office. Seriously though, Michigan State is 1-4-0 on Friday night's this year getting outscored 17-7 in those games. The lone win was a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Niagara on October 19th. On the flip side, MSU is 3-1-1 on Saturday outscoring teams 21-14 on Friday, and if you take away the Minnesota game, that record goes to 3-0-1 with the goal margin 20-7.

Miami has been a tough match-up lately for Michigan State, but the Spartans finally are getting some size on the ice to help negate one of the biggest advantages Miami always has had. I wouldn't expect anything less than an all-out effort from both teams that should lead to a pair of exciting games.

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