The case for Miami’s dynamic duo

In a recent post I pointed out that Miami’s Andy Miele and Carter Camper are having great seasons, but if the RedHawks don’t make the NCAA tournament, they probably won’t win the award.

Last night, I had a chance to see them play against Michigan on CBS College Sports, and I would like to add a related comment:

If the RedHawks DO make the NCAA tournament, my vote almost certainly goes to one of the two.

One of the things that I noticed watching the game last night is the way that Miami goaltender Cody Reichard seemed to be fighting the puck at times, despite finishing with 30 saves on 32 shots. A look at the RedHawks’ goaltending numbers indicates that it wasn’t just last night, and it’s not just Reichard.

The 2010 Hobey Baker Finalist and reigning CCHA Player of the Year, who posted a .914 save percentage as a freshman and a .921 save percentage last season, has a .902 save percentage this year, 51st in the country, and by far the worst of his career. His partner in Miami’s goaltending tandem, Connor Knapp, had a similarly rough freshman year (.904), but after stopping 92.1 percent of opponents’ shots last season, is back down to .901, 56th in the country.

But here’s where things get interesting.

While Reichard and Knapp are 51st and 56th in the nation, respectively, in save percengtage, they’re 20th and 18th, respectively, in goals-against average (2.27, 2.26).  Overall, Miami ranks 15th in the nation in scoring defense at 2.41 goals per game, which is a drop from last year’s best-in-the-nation 1.95 (or even the 2.17 that had them eighth two seasons ago).

How is that happening? Hard work, a staple of Miami’s success in recent years.

The penalty kill is 6th in the country, stopping 86.9 percent of opposing power plays. The PK is one of my favorite stats for showing you how hard a team is working, especially in front of goalies who aren’t having great seasons. It’s clear that Miami is working as hard as ever, and that’s the sort of thing that starts with the leaders (Camper’s the captain, with Miele as one of his assistants) and spreads throughout the entire locker room.

If Miami can overcome  the less-than-stellar play by their goaltenders this season and make the NCAA tournament – and make no mistake, they’ll need better performances in net down the stretch – it will be a testament to the performance this season by Camper and Miele, both as high-powered point-producers at the offensive end and as leaders of the RedHawks’ all-out defensive effort.

Dave Starman asked on his Twitter page last month (@DaveStarmanCBSC) if the Hobey Baker Award is Carter Camper’s to lose. With Miami in danger of missing the tournament, I’d have to say no…and having Miele as a fellow front-runner doesn’t help, either.  However, the fact that Miele and Camper have been able to keep Miami in the mix despite the RedHawks’ goaltending issues almost makes me think they DON’T need to make the NCAA tournament to win the Hobey.

Of course, knowing Miami, I don’t think the Hobey will be much consolation to either RedHawk if their season ends before the tournament begins.

However, if Miami is still playing at the end of March, I think it’s very likely that some kind of hardware comes back from St. Paul in April.