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December 14, 2012 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

The New Dynamic Duo

Miami Freshmen Filling Big Shoes

by Caleb Saunders/CHN Reporter

OXFORD, Ohio — Replacing a goalie tandem like Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp is no easy task, and yet the Miami RedHawks have done just that.

Freshmen Jay Williams and Ryan McKay have led the ‘Hawks to a successful start to the season, with the team currently sitting in second place in the CCHA and in the top 10 team of the Pairwise.

“They’re both great guys and work extremely hard,” said head coach Enrico Blasi of his young netminders.

Williams has played in the majority of the games and boasts an 8-2-2 record thus far alongside a .918 save percentage. His goals-against-average of 2.15 ranks fifth in the CCHA.

McKay, meanwhile, has only appeared in five games for Miami due to an injury he sustained in the first of two games at Michigan back in October, but he has been outstanding in the games he’s played. McKay, who returned from the injury two weeks ago, is 2-1-1 with an ungodly goals-against-average of 0.48 and save percentage of .983, numbers that would rank him at the top if he had enough minutes to qualify.

Given the success of the two netminders thus far, competing for ice time will be a weekly affair — a familiar storyline for anyone who’s followed the proceedings in Oxford over the past several years.

“It’s a competitive atmosphere,” said McKay. “When I was recruited, I knew the situation, but I feel like it’s one that forces you to be better. You have to take it night- by-night and give it your all.”

Said Blasi, “The fact that we have two guys lends itself to a pretty good competition during the week where they’re at their best. I feel like they are really ready to go on the weekends to compete at a high level.”

The competition remains friendly, however, and both netminders know they can learn a lot from one another.

“It’s been great playing with [McKay] thus far, and we’ve been able to learn from each other,” said Williams. “I can definitely take some things from his game and incorporate them into mine.”

The contrasting style of play is evident between the two. Williams plays with more agility and improvisation, while McKay’s strengths include strong positioning and poise.

“[McKay’s] patience is unbelievable,” said Williams. “He’s so composed and solid. I tend to rely a little more on my athleticism. I kind of scramble around and what not.”

What the goalies do share, though, is a strong glove hand — a noticeable strong point throughout the season for each. They also both agree that the Miami coaching staff has been vital in their ongoing development.

“It’s been unbelievable so far,” said Williams. “The work we’ve done with [assistant and goalie coach] Coach Petraglia and the support we’ve gotten has been awesome.”

McKay echoed those sentiments and gave Coach Petraglia praise for assisting him in finding his way back to the ice following injury.

“All the credit goes to Nick Petraglia,” said McKay. ”Taking it day by day trying to push myself to come back from the injury. That, along with off-ice work, has paid off as well.”

Feeling comfortable in the crease isn’t something that can be learned entirely from coaching. Some of it is a result of experience in big-time games, which McKay believes has helped assist him in transitioning to the college game.

Said McKay, “I feel like playing in those kind of games was as pressure-packed as any, and the USHL is such a great league. It definitely gets you ready for college.”

Prior to arriving in Oxford, McKay was a member of two Clark Cup championships with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. McKay finished his career in Green Bay as the franchise’s all-time leader in wins, goals against average and save percentage. He also won the 2011-12 USHL Goaltender of the Year award, sharing it with current North Dakota goalie Zane Gothberg.

Meanwhile, Williams developed in the USHL as well. Before Williams arrived in Oxford, he played for the league’s Waterloo Blackhawks and Sioux Fall Stampede.

Like many of the players in the USHL, though, this is not where the aspirations for Williams’ hockey career truly began.

Recalled Williams, “My best friend had a birthday party, and he took us to a Washington Capitals game. I’d never been to a hockey game before and honestly, I just thought the goalies pads looked cool.”

Now, he – alongside teammate McKay – dons those goalie pads for one of the top teams in college hockey.

And if the success thus far of this undrafted goaltending duo for Miami mirrors that of the RedHawks’ most recent dynamic goaltending duo, there’s plenty to look forward to in Oxford.

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