Unbeaten in their last 11 games and coming off a sweep of the University of Alaska Fairbanks in the second round of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Tournament, the Miami University ice hockey team heads to Detroit, Mich. for CCHA Championship Weekend at Joe Louis Arena. The semifinal games will be held Friday, March 18, with the championship and consolation games on Saturday, March 19.
The ‘Hawks will face-off against second-seeded University of Notre Dame in their semifinal battle. The teams split their first series of the year in Oxford, with the Irish taking Friday’s game by a score of 5-4 and the RedHawks rallying for a 5-2 victory on Saturday. When the Red and White traveled to South Bend, Ind. in January, both games ended in ties (5-5 Friday, 2-2 Saturday), with the ‘Hawks notching a shootout win Friday and the Irish winning the shootout Saturday.
Head Coach Enrico Blasi is excited for his team to be headed to Detroit and looks forward to a challenging game against Notre Dame.
“We have had some real good battles this year,” Blasi said. “I think both teams are real evenly matched. They have a tremendous amount of skill up front. The games we have played against each other have gone down to the wire, all four of them.”
Notre Dame Head Coach Jeff Jackson shared similar expectations for Friday’s game, noting the intensity of the previous contests between the two teams. He said the deciding factors will be the same as they have been all season.
“It’s probably going to boil down to special teams and goaltending,” Jackson said. “I always think when you get into one-game situations in this environment, goaltending always seems to be the difference, especially when the game is on the line.”
Blasi is confident in his team’s goaltending and overall defensive play after allowing only one goal in each of their last five contests.
“I think it starts with our goaltenders,” Blasi said. “Both Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard have been playing extremely well. With our team defense, there’s been a little more of a purpose to what we do.”
On the other side of the bracket, top-seeded University of Michigan takes on Western Michigan University. The winners of both Friday games will play Saturday for the CCHA Championship. Even though the Red and White won the regular-season championship in the 2009-2010 CCHA season, the team has never won a Mason Cup, awarded to this weekend’s winner.
Seniors Andy Miele and Carter Camper have been recognized for individual accomplishments throughout the season, but both players express that victories as a team are a different experience.
“As an individual you can win awards, but you’re going to share that with yourself,” Miele said. “But when you can win a Mason Cup … it’s something you can share with 24 other guys.”
“That’s said perfectly,” Camper said. “When you win a regular season championship or playoff championship, you can celebrate with the people you’re with every day and that lasts a little bit longer.”
Thursday night in Detroit, prior to the weekend games, the CCHA Awards ceremony was held. Miami had three players selected to the All-CCHA First Team, including Camper, Miele and sophomore Reilly Smith. Junior Chris Wideman was selected to the Second Team.
In regards to the awards, Camper noted the depth of the Miami roster and described the sentiment of the recognition.
“It was definitely special,” Camper said. “We were fortunate enough to play on a line together at the beginning of the year and we were able to put up some pretty good numbers.”
The puck drops at 4:30 p.m. Friday. Saturday’s game-time will be determined by Friday’s outcome.