Photo Courtesy: Eamon Queeney, Dispatch
NOTE: Blue Jackets TV analyst Bill Davidge is one of the most plugged-in sources for information on college hockey, and he breaks down the action from Ohio's CCHA teams in this blog.
Friday night: No. 5 Miami gets shootout win over host Buckeyes
As I entered the Schottenstein Center Friday night, it was apparent there was going to be a solid crowd to cheer on the Ohio teams. A crowd of 4,400 watched two teams battle to a 1-1 tie with Miami winning the shootout, as sophomore Austin Czarnik scored to give the No. 5 RedHawks the extra CCHA point.
Strong defense and goaltending led the way for both teams as freshman goaltender Jay Williams stopped 22 shots for Miami and all three shootout attempts. Ohio State goalie Brady Hjelle made 28 saves while the RedHawks finished with a 29-23 edge in shots.
“Coaches hate shootouts because it is a false sense if you win and if you lose, it is a false sense,” Ohio State coach Mark Oseicki said. “Would you like to gain that point? Yes, but it was a well-played hockey game. There were chances both ways and some great scoring opportunities. Both teams competed hard. It had to be fun to watch.”
“It’s tough, we tried to find 40 minutes (during the week) where we could go on the ice and just get our legs and we didn’t do any video, we didn’t do any meetings, we just got out on the ice and practiced for 40-45 minutes and let them go study,” Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said.
Devon Krogh opened the scoring for the Buckeyes with an unassisted goal at 3:52 of the third period and it forced the RedHawks to respond accordingly.
Special teams played a huge factor in this in-state battle. Ohio State was scoreless in four power-play opportunities while Miami converted one of its two chances. Curtis McKenzie’s goal at 12:43 of the third period pulled the RedHawks into a 1-1 tie and put some life into a Miami power play that had been struggling.
“When we went down (1-0), we had to score on our power play and that has not been doing a great job for us,” Blasi said. “For them to bear down and make some plays and Curtis to bury it was huge for us.”
“It is emotionally more straining than a normal game week,” McKenzie said. “Especially throughout the year, you have exams on Fridays, so it happens, but the whole finals week take a toll on the body.”
It was a well-played contest despite poor ice conditions and both teams work hard at both ends of the rink. Being a player at The Ohio State University and a head coach at Miami during my career, I couldn’t have asked for much more!
Saturday night: Special teams boost RedHawks in 3-1 victory
The Miami penalty kill once again blanked the Buckeyes in five opportunities. The power play was solid, with plenty of in-zone time and success on the scoreboard, going 1-for-3 on the night. This proved to be a key stat in the RedHawks’ 3-1 win on Saturday night at The Schott. Like in any other league in the game of hockey, teams live and die with the special teams success and/or failure.
Sophomore forward Blake Coleman and freshman forward Riley Barber each recorded a goal and an assist, with Coleman's goal the game-winner, and sophomore forward Austin Czarnik added a pair of assists. Alex Gacek scored the opening goal of the night to start the scoring for the RedHawks.
Freshman goaltender Ryan McKay made 22 saves to earn the win, and he still is yet to allow more than one goal in any of his six starts as a RedHawk. The young stars were shining all night as Barber and Czarnik killed penalties and dominated puck possession. A solid foundation of young players dotted the lineups of both hockey teams, possessing the speed and stick skills of mature collegiate players.
"Last week, we had some guys that weren't very good at our penalty kill, but I thought this week they were much more determined," Blasi said. "We did a good job of keeping them to the outside (and) we blocked a lot of shots. When we didn't block it, there was a big save by Ryan, especially at the end.
“It's one of those things that when guys are out there, they just have to get the job done."
Osiecki said the RedHawks came out playing determined hockey, and he did not like his team’s execution on the power play, either.
“They are a good hockey team and I do not want to take that away from them,” Osiecki said. “We are not where we want to be…it takes time. We have had a difficult first half of the year with injuries and tough travel. We are not scoring a lot of goals.
“We can’t continue to go the way we are going on the power play.”
Hjelle is third in the NCAA with a 1.46 goals-against average and ranks second nationally with a .951 save percentage. Ohio State is sixth in the NCAA in team defense, but the Buckeyes problem is simple: they have been held to two goals or less in six of the last seven games.
The weekend series was dominated by Miami fans, and the culture and attitude of the Brotherhood prevailed. Having Buckeye blood (captain ’76-’77) and Miami connections, there is one difference that helps in the development of a program and that is a facility that constitutes a feeling of home ice advantage. Twenty thousand seats are nice, but imagine a building like Goggin Ice Center in Oxford, where 4,000 screaming educated cheerleaders make a distinct difference.
9,500 fans watched some solid collegiate hockey in Columbus this weekend. Could you imagine what it would be like in a homey structure that would produce a true feeling of college hockey in the state capital? Today there are only wishes for those of us who care!