March 17, 2004
Eddy's RedHawks Ready

By Mike Eidelbes


Miami's Derek Edwardson was honored as CCHA Player of the Year Wednesday, shortly after he was named one of 10 finalists for the 2004 Hobey Baker Award.

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Life is pretty sweet for Miami's Derek Edwardson. The junior forward is less than 24 hours removed from a day in which he was named CCHA Player of the Year and selected as one of 10 finalists for college hockey's top individual honor, the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. The RedHawks are a lock to earn their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1997. And he enjoys all the advantages that come with living in beautiful Oxford, Ohio.

Of course, things would be much sweeter if Edwardson and his RedHawk teammates can emerge from Joe Louis Arena – site of the CCHA Super Six – as conference playoff champions. And if that's to happen, the senior from Morton Grove, Ill., who leads Miami with 47 points, will have to be the catalyst.

INCH caught up with Edwardson in Oxford prior to the team's departure to Detroit for the CCHA tournament.

Inside College Hockey: Your team had the opportunity to win the CCHA regular season championship on the last day of the season, but a loss to Ohio State prevented that from happening. Does being so close and just missing out on that opportunity offer a greater incentive for the upcoming weekend?

Derek Edwardson: Definitely. We aren’t satisfied yet. We want to come away with the tournament championship, and then move on and do well in the national championships.

Super Six Capsules
No. 1 Michigan
Record: 25-12-2 (18-8-2 CCHA)

Wolverine note:
Michigan is attempting to become the first team to win three straight CCHA playoff championships since Lake Superior State accomplished the feat from 1991-93.

How Michigan wins: The Wolverines are kind of like golfer John Daly. Will they play like a guy who won the PGA and British Open, or will they shoot an 86 through 16 holes before chucking a putter into a lake and calling it a day? It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: Michigan is the most talented team in the league. But the Wolverines’ collective mindset varies anywhere from intensely focused to barely interested. The hunch here is that they’ll have their eyes on the prize this weekend, but don’t bet the mortgage on it.

No. 2 Miami
22-12-4 (17-8-3 CCHA)

RedHawk note: Believe it or not, Miami is making its first CCHA playoff appearance at Joe Louis Arena since 1997. The RedHawks also made their last visit to the NCAA Tournament that season.

How Miami wins: By winning the special teams battle. The RedHawks – who lead the CCHA and rank fourth nationally with a 21.3% power play success rate – are 12-2-1 in games in which they outscore their opponents with the man advantage. Miami has also shown a knack for winning tight games, as evidenced by its 7-2-0 record in one-goal games and a third-period goal differential of +19 against foes this season. If Thursday’s games hold true to form, the RedHawks would get Michigan State – whose fans will convert Joe Louis Arena into Munn on creatine – in the semis. A strong start by goaltender Brandon Crawford-West is a must should that scenario develop.

No. 3 Michigan State
23-15-2 (17-9-2 CCHA)

Spartan note: Michigan State has won 10 CCHA playoff championships, more than any team in the league, but none since 2001. Only once in school history (an eight-year drought from 1990-98) have the Spartans gone more than two years without capturing the conference’s postseason crown.

How MSU wins: The Spartans conquered Ferris State in a first-round sweep by spreading the wealth. Eight skaters scored goals for Michigan State last weekend and a dozen players registered at least one point. Still, the top line of Jim Slater, Mike Lalonde and Tom Goebel was outstanding against the Bulldogs, and they must continue to drive the Spartans offensively in order for the team to succeed. Another encouraging note for MSU fans – their team scored enough to overcome a pair of pedestrian performances by goalie Dominic Vicari, something Spartan teams of the very recent past couldn’t accomplish.

No. 4 Ohio State
Record: 23-15-2 (16-12-0 CCHA)

Buckeye note: Ohio State won the first CCHA playoff championship back in 1972 and advanced to the league finals in 1979 and 1981, but have appeared in the conference title game once (1998) in the ensuing 23 years.

How OSU wins: In all likelihood, the Buckeyes can lose their quarterfinal game to Notre Dame and still earn an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, need two wins – and no upsets in the other conference tournaments – to get in. OSU is steady, if unspectacular, both offensively and defensively, but its goaltending has been inconsistent all season. The Buckeyes will be in good shape if they play as if they’ve got nothing to lose and get a restaurant-quality performance out of senior netminder Mike Betz.

No. 5 Notre Dame
20-13-4 (14-11-3 CCHA)

Fighting Irish note:
This year marks Notre Dame’s third straight trip to the Super Six and fourth postseason visit to Joe Louis Arena since 2000. Only Michigan and Michigan State – who’ve advanced to the Joe every year during that span – have been more frequent visitors.

How ND wins:
Outside of Maine’s Jim Howard and Frank Doyle, there’s no better one-two punch in goal than David Brown and Morgan Cey. Both are capable of stealing games for the Fighting Irish and are able to cover up the few crucial mistakes the team makes in front of them. Notre Dame doesn’t score a lot of goals – its 101 markers were fewer than all but three CCHA teams – so it’s important that senior defensemen Tom Galvin, Neil Komadoski and Brett Lebda continue to serve as the offensive catalysts and create scoring opportunities for Rob Globke. If the Irish, who boast the CCHA’s best penalty kill, can score more power play goals than they allow, they’ll be in great shape.
No. 7 Northern Michigan
20-14-4 (13-13-2 CCHA)

Wildcat note: It’s like déjà vu all over again: for the third time in as many years, Northern Michigan and Michigan State will meet at Joe Louis Arena in March. The Spartans knocked the Wildcats out of the 2002 Super Six with a 2-1 semifinal victory, but NMU returned the favor last year, ousting MSU in a quarterfinal match, 7-5.

How NMU wins: The Wildcats are 4-1-2 in their last seven games because they haven’t allowed more than two goals in any game during that stretch. Much of the credit goes to goaltenders Craig Kowalski and Tuomas Tarkki, who stepped in when Kowalski injured his groin in the regular season finale against Ferris State two weeks ago and backstopped the team to a first-round sweep of Alaska-Fairbanks. Expect Kowalski to get the start against Michigan State. He’ll have to be sharp – NMU allows nearly 30 shots a game and, with an offensive attack that ranks 10th in the CCHA at just under 2.7 goals per game, allowing three goals could be fatal.

INCH: Any changes in the way your team is looking at the postseason this year as opposed to years past?

DE: We’ve come in with more confidence this year. The past couple of years we were happy with home ice when we got it, hoping we make it past the first round. I think this year, we expected to [advance] and we expect to keep on winning.

INCH: Against Lake Superior State last weekend, it seemed like you guys approached the series in a business-like manner and kept the emotions at bay

DE: For sure. I think we’ve faltered in years past because we weren’t prepared. We made sure we were ready this year. We came out and played one of our better games in a long time on Friday and Saturday we started out a little slow but we still played pretty well. They played a good game, too, and it came right down to the wire.

INCH: Even before you were a Hobey Baker finalist and winner of various league honors, you’ve spent a lot of the season in the spotlight. Does that attention translate to an added responsibility to lead the team?

DE: In a way. I knew I’d be here at the beginning of the year just by being a captain, but by no means am I the only one [my teammates] look to. Mike Kompon and Greg Hogeboom are right there, too. They score just as much as I do, and they play just as much.

INCH: You’ve spent much of your career playing alongside Kompon and Hogeboom. This season, however, you ended up on a line with freshmen Matt Christie and Marty Guerin. Has it been an easy transition?

DE: It's been great. I think I was put on their line about three weeks into the season, and we’ve stayed together ever since. We jelled really quickly and we just play well together. All three of us bring different things to the table and it seems to be working.

INCH: What is it about you three that allowed you to click right away?

DE: They’re both smart players – if one of us is open, we’ll definitely be found with a good pass. Matt Christie is definitely a pure goal scorer. Marty Guerin is a strong kid. He’s great with the puck. We just fit together well.

INCH: When your coach, Enrico Blasi, first approached you about playing on a line with a couple rookies, did you have any reservations about the plan?

DE: When he first mentioned it before practices even started, I was a little wary because I wasn’t sure what they could do and what they couldn’t do. But from the first day of practice, when we practiced together, it felt like it was going to work.

INCH: Having seen Miami play on a number of occasions this season, your team’s attitude toward the game seems to be very focused and matter-of-fact. Any reason for that?

DE: During the past couple years, we’ve been a really streaky team. We’d go out and lose four or five games in a row, then go on a winning streak. That was one of our focuses from the beginning – just to stay on an even keel all year, not get too high, not get too low and pretty much just focus on the playoffs all year. One of our themes was to get results this year and not just be satisfied with the season.

INCH: You’re making your first trip to Joe Louis Arena as a player. How excited are you?

DE: It’s exciting for everybody, for us as much as the freshmen. We’re all going in there for the first time. But we don’t want it to be a vacation. We want to be playing our best hockey.

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