By John Lachmann
I would like to comment on the major lag regarding the posting of stories from the past weekend. WCPO had a catastrophic failure during its recent attempt at a system upgrade, and although stories would appear published (after one hit the “publish” button) they did not show up on their respective pages.
Especially coming off a month in which we were unable to provide the quantity of content we have in past years and in a timely manner, this did not exactly help the cause.
So I apologize for this latest issue, which hopefully has been resolved. Like the Miami hockey team, we strive to improve as the season progresses and hope readers will write off our sluggish start to early-season jitters.
And now back to your regularly-scheduled team analysis…
PERSPECTIVE – As tough as the ending of Saturday’s game was to swallow, Miami is still eighth in the country and 7-4-1 through 12 games, essentially a third of the RedHawks’ regular season schedule.
Miami is tied for fifth in the NCHC with a 2-2 record and six points, but the RedHawks have played just four conference games. Five teams have played four NCHC games, Denver and Colorado College have logged six each and North Dakota has eight under its belt.
But 20 of Miami’s final 22 regular season games will be against in-conference foes (the exception is Bemidji State, which the RedHawks visit in eight days).
It’s still very early in the season but games are going to become more important in the upcoming weeks.
DEFENSEMEN – I was skeptical about such a small blueline corps being able to compete at a high Division I level, but the defensemen seem to be handling the task.
It’s a tougher task for sophomore Matthew Caito to play on the top pairing and therefore face opponents’ top lines more frequently, but not surprisingly he’s done a great job thus far.
He doesn’t seem to jump into the play offensively as much as last year, which is probably smart at this point, and Coach Enrico Blasi is playing him less at the point on the power play, but Blasi’s blueliners are expected to emphasize defense first, which Caito does very well.
Sophomore Taylor Richart has really stepped up this season in his defensive defenseman role. Again, a guy who looks too small to be effectively against bigger, skilled forwards has more than held his own.
He looks more confident this season with the exception of a pretty egregious turnover in the first period on Saturday rarely makes mistakes, especially in his own zone.
Freshman Trevor Hamilton has been a bit inconsistent (good Friday but not as strong on Saturday, for example), but he’s still definitely gotten a lot better since Game 1. Same with junior Ben Paulides, who provides size Miami lacks on defense and is playing regularly for the first time in his career.
Chris Joyaux’s injury – it looked like it was his knee – didn’t look good, and if serious could open the door for either freshman Johnny Wingels or sophomore Michael Mooney.
DEFENSE IN GENERAL – Miami has allowed just seven goals in its last six games. Part of that is due to improvements by defensemen, part of that is it the forwards are coming back more on D and a big part has been Ryan McKay.
The sophomore goalie has a 1.01 goals-against average and a .965 save percentage in his last five games, including three shutouts.
SCORING IS DOWN – Opponents’ goal totals have been down recently, but so has Miami’s offensive numbers.
The RedHawks scored 4.50 goals per game the first three weekends, but the last three they are averaging just 2.50.
The first thought is: Well, Miami fattened up on a bad Ohio State team the first weekend. That’s true, but Canisius was here three weeks ago and the RedHawks didn’t pad their stats against that team.
Also, Miami has just seven goals in its last four games (1.75 per), with one fired into an empty net.
Some key players are slumping as well. Sophomore Sean Kuraly, who scored twice in the first three games, has not found the net since. Believe it or not, sophomore Riley Barber has just one goal in six games. Junior Jimmy Mullin has one on the season. Fourth-line sophomores Alex Gacek and Kevin Morris have not recorded a marker.
Which leads to…
POWER OUTAGE – Miami is 1-for-12 in its last four games on the power play. The RedHawks have allowed opponents 19 opportunities on the man-advantage in that span, surrendering four PPGs (although junior center Austin Czarnik’s empty netter Friday was shorthanded).
Miami had 12 power play goals in the first eight games.
LOUIS WATCH – After being drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks, freshman left wing Anthony Louis was highly touted coming into Oxford.
He’s scored four goals and set up three others in 10 games and seem to be adjusting to the college game well.
With a murderer’s row of offense, Miami isn’t dependent on Louis being a stud right away, so he can develop without a ton of pressure on him, which he seems to be doing.
HITTING THE ROAD – Miami starts a stretch of four road games
in a nine-day span on Friday. The RedHawks have held their own away from Cady Arena, going 2-2-1 including the screw job of the century in Providence.
Nebraska-Omaha brings in good crowds, and the Mavericks took down then No. 2 Michigan last weekend at home. Bemidji State, which is in second in the WCHA despite a 4-6-2 overall record, is always a tough place to play.