Thursday, March 25, 2010

Midwest #1: Miami

Miami University RedHawks*

1 seed vs. Alabama-Huntsville, Midwest Regional (Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, IN)
At-large bid from CCHA
CCHA Regular Season Champion
Record: 27-7-7
Coach: Enrico Blasi

I want to give full credit to Miami. In just three short years, they have gone from "random occasional opponent in the CCHA best known as where Bo went to school" to "The Dynasty** (and I dislike them intensely.)" How do you do that? Well, you play like a house on fire. You earn 70 points in the CCHA this season. You have the best goalie in the league, arguably in the country. You have what seem like dozens of guys who can score at will, who play assignment hockey on the defensive end, and who look like they're giving everything they have every shift. You dislike them intensely because, dammit, they're good. I think it's the ultimate compliment, to be elevated to unlikable, because it means you're perceived as a threat. Miami can no longer be seen as a quick 4 point weekend (well, six now, but see, that is moot now, because they're not.) They're now a raging beast worthy of their campus being blown up by Hockey Bear coming to destroy us all.

(Like Brian and his fantastic Midwest Regional Preview, I tread lightly in the next section for fear of incurring the wrath of any of the Angry Blank Michigan Hating Gods)

If you're looking for Miami to get back to the Frozen Four this season, your one worry has to be the fact that right when they need to be peaking, they are not. They're giving up more goals than usual, the CCHA Player of the Year Cody Reichard has not looked as good in the net of late, and while it would be untoward to speculate on the factors that have causes this slight derailment of the machine, the question has to be if Miami will find the form that made them look like a behemoth of a steamroller earlier this year, or is the team that has shown up lately, the team of a 4-3-1 record in their last eight games is who they are now. Just compare them across the bracket in the last eight games to Michigan, which is 7-1-0 in their last eight. Is Michigan the better team than Miami? Probably not, but based on recent performance, that gap has likely closed where it comes down to, if they were to face each other again, it probably wouldn't be a surprise if Michigan were to win again, but it also wouldn't be if Miami were to win again. A month and a half ago, I am not sure you could have said that.

If Miami is going to win, the balanced scoring that they have employed all season will be critical as will Reichard returning to form, or Connor Knapp, the 77 inches of goaltender (as opposed to the 67 inches of goaltender that is Michigan walk-on wunderkind Shawn Hunwick.) can stop all that faces them. If Miami can regain some momentum against Alabama-Huntsville, they could be an angry and dangerous team in the Regional Final, difficult for any team to knock out.

* - Because it's always fun: "When referring to Miami, please only use Miami University or Miami. Please do not use Miami of Ohio, University of Miami of Ohio, etc. The latter are not proper names for our institution. Thank you." (HT: Brian at MGoBlog)

** - Because we're not above this: The origin of the "The Dynasty" nickname for Miami (HT: Tim at YostBuilt)

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