CCHA: Miami rises, Michigan falls

Posted by: Avash Kalra

The Miami RedHawks swept the CCHA’s monthly awards for November — an exclamation point after a series of performances that have allowed Enrico Blasi’s team to silence the early season whispers. The RedHawks, who didn’t lose a game in the month of November have slowly climbed up the standings, from last place to their current position of sixth — ahead of Michigan (more on that in a moment).

Just days after we published an article here on CHN about the young freshmen who have sparked Miami’s turnaround, the RedHawks went on the road to defeat Providence (6-2) and host Denver (4-2) last weekend to capture the Denver Cup Classic title. It was Miami’s second time winning the tournament after also claiming the crown in 1997.

Junior Reilly Smith was named the CCHA’s Player of the Month — and after scoring a league-leading seven goals, it’s difficult to argue with that selection. Two of Smith’s tallies were game-winners, and perhaps most impressively, the Dallas Stars draft pick didn’t commit a single penalty during November. He capped off the month with a tournament MVP performance at the aforementioned Denver Cup, scoring the game-winning goal against Denver on Saturday night.

Freshman Austin Czarnik was named the league’s Rookie of the Month after scoring 10 points in seven games, while senior netminder Cody Reichard took home the Goaltender of the Month honor after posting a 5-0-2 mark, a 1.68 goals-against average, and a .932 save percentage during November.

Paralleling Miami’s ascension over the last several weeks has been a somewhat surprising poor stretch for Michigan. The Wolverines, who head to Alaska this weekend (a road trip that began Miami’s turnaround, incidentally), went just 1-7-1 in November and remarkably lost five games at Yost Ice Arena. Goaltending has been particularly poor, with Shawn Hunwick allowing 16 goals over the last three games. He’ll have to play well this weekend when facing an Alaska team that posted back-to-back shutouts a week ago.

We’ll have a feature article on CHN early next week detailing the latest drama in Ann Arbor, so keep an eye out for that. Miami, meanwhile, heads to Northern Michigan this weekend in an intriguing matchup between Reichard and NMU netminder Reid Ellingson, whose 3-5-2 record is not at all indicative of how well the senior has played overall. The Wildcats have just lost one of eight home games this season.

Some other items to note around the CCHA:

  • The Ohio State Buckeyes are unbeaten in their last nine games (8-0-1), the third-longest active streak in the nation. Currently, OSU ranks second in the nation in the latest Pairwise rankings and will host Lake Superior this weekend in Columbus. The Lakers played well against a recently successful team last weekend — ending Notre Dame’s 11-game unbeaten streak with a 5-2 victory on Saturday at the Taffy Abel Arena.
  • Michigan State was extremely impressive last weekend against future Big 10 conference foe Minnesota. With a win and tie against the Gophers, the Spartans are 6-1-1 in their last eight games and will host struggling Bowling Green in East Lansing this weekend. The Falcons are still trying to find their identity under coach Chris Bergeron.
  • Ferris State and Western Michigan will play a home-and-home series this weekend. WMU coach Andy Murray is hoping to have the services (if not this weekend, then soon at least) of junior forward junior forward Ben Warda, who had surgery in mid-November to repair ACL/MCL damage in his knee. “We’re holding out hope,” Murray told the Kalamazoo Gazette. “He works real hard in his therapy and off-ice training. It’s a possibility, but we wouldn’t bring him back at the end of this season and jeopardize him for the fall.”

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