#5 Miami at #7 Denver

The jewel of the west, Denver, awaits #5 Miami this weekend.

Fresh off a thrilling come-from-behind victory on Saturday night to gain a valuable series split against Minnesota-Duluth, fifth-ranked Miami heads west for their final road trip of the 2014-15 regular season to take on #7 Denver at Magness Arena.

Last Time We Met

This will be the third and fourth meetings of the season between the two rivals after splitting a series in Oxford just a month ago. That series saw Miami (19-10-1, 12-7-1-1 2nd NCHC) play both Jay Williams and Ryan McKay with Williams getting out-dueled by Denver (18-10-2, 11-8-1-1 t3rd NCHC) freshman netminder Tanner Jaillet when he surrendered just two goals before Miami picked up a dominating 4-1 victory on in front of McKay on Saturday night. These will be the 16th and 17th all-time meetings (8-7 DU) and the 8th and 9th in just the past two seasons as the teams played five times last year including the NCHC championship game where the Pioneers defeated the RedHawks to advance to the NCAA tournament.

The Pioneers

Offensively, the Pioneers are led by high scoring forwards Danton Heinen (12-23-35), Trevor Moore (16-15-31) and defenseman Joey Laleggia (11-20-31) who actually leads the NCHC conference scoring race. That is

Freshman forward Danton Heinen leads DU in scoring this season.

interesting because only one defenseman in the last 10 years has won a conference scoring title — Torey Krug at Michigan State in 2011-12 (he actually shared the title with Michigan’s T.J. Tynan). Notable is that Denver senior forward Zac Larraza (11-7-18) is suspended for Friday night’s game due to an illegal hit delivered in the Pioneers sweep of Colorado College last weekend. Larraza notched 1-1-2 in the series last month so his absence could be beneficial to the RedHawks. He will be eligible to return to the lineup on Saturday night.

The RedHawks

Last weekend, Miami gutted out a split of their series against UMD dropping Friday night’s game 3-1 and climbing out of another 3-1 hole to win 4-3 in overtime on Blake Coleman’s 12th goal of the season on a pretty 2-on-1 feed from sophomore Anthony Louis. The two of them also finished a rush on Friday that netted the team’s only goal. Overall, Miami is still looking inconsistent offensively as they’ve now tallied 3, 2, 1 and 4 goals over their past four games despite playing two of those against the league’s worst in Colorado College. Friday night was so bad, at least in head coach Rico Blasi’s estimation, that he benched Conor Lemirande, Chris Joyaux, and yes, Riley Barber for Saturday’s finale. Sooner or later Barber is going to have to determine if he wants to be a competitor. For as much as I praised him for his efforts two Friday’s ago at Colorado College, that’s been the exception. He just doesn’t look like he cares all the time, which is too bad because guys like Czarnik, Coleman and Murphy deserve better in their senior seasons to say nothing of guys like Dornbrock, Paulides and Kuraly who consistently give a full 60-minute effort each night. Hopefully the message has been received and we’ll see a rejuvenated and committed Barber down the stretch. If he plays to his talent, Miami could be in for a terrific run in March and April.

Senior captain Austin Czarnik continues to lead the RedHawks on the ice and in the scorebook.

Senior captain Austin Czarnik continues to pace Miami with 2-28-30 and leads all active players in career points (154 — tied with Minnesota’s Kyle Rau). Czarnik is trailed on the Miami team by Barber (13-14-27), Louis (6-18-24), Coleman (12-12-24) and Sean Kuraly (15-6-21) who leads the squad in goals. Defensively, Miami has been fairly strong and has gotten respectable goaltending from Williams, and on Saturday, McKay. I suspect we’ll see Williams on Friday and Blasi will take it from there pending the outcome and his play. I’d also like to see more Colin Sullivan now that’s he’s recovered from an injury that cost him most of the first half of the season. Getting an opportunity last Saturday, he looked smooth and fleet of foot — something Miami can use more of against the top tier teams they’ll face from this point forward.

The Prediction

This is a huge weekend for both teams as just three points separates the two teams. NCHC seeding. PairWise implications. Playoff home ice…a lot on the line! And, as with two weekends ago in Colorado Springs, Miami will be battling the dry, snowy altitude here in Colorado and will have to dig deep to compete for 120 minutes. It was no secret that Miami looked gassed at 6,000 feet on the big ice late in the game Saturday night at Colorado College. It’s encouraging however that they were just here and their bodies should be more acclimated to the altitude and they’ll also get to skate on a regulation ice surface this time out. As with most of these elite league series, I’ll call a split but Miami will have to work hard on the road to get it.

How to Watch/Listen

The Blog of Brotherhood will be in attendance for both games, but we’ll be a fan in the stands this weekend. We’ll do our best to keep you updated via Twitter but you can catch both games at MURedHawks.com with Drew Davis at the mic, not Greg Waddell. A rare conflict in schedules will prohibit Waddell from traveling west with the team this weekend. The games can be heard over the airwaves on both WMOH (1450 AM) and WKBV (1490 AM) this weekend. Friday’s game will be covered by Root Sports (DirecTV Ch. 683 & 684; Dish Ch. 414 & 5414). Saturday’s game will be streamed on NCHC.tv. (source: MURedHawks.com)

The road toughens here – #7 UMD at #6 Miami

Miami looks to strengthen its grip on home ice and a NCAA tournament berth this weekend vs. UMD.

Starting with this weekend, things are about to get real for the 6th ranked Miami RedHawks over the course of the regular season’s final three weekends.

This weekend, Miami (18-9-1, 11-6-1-1 t1st NCHC) faces #7 Minnesota-Duluth (18-11-1, 10-7-1-0 4th NCHC) in Oxford. Earlier this season, the schools split a series in Duluth playing two tight one-goal games with Miami winning the first night 3-2 and dropping the finale 4-3.

Last Time We Met

The series over Halloween weekend was a fright-fest for special teams.

On Friday, Miami netted two powerplay goals getting the game-winner from Sean Kuraly in the third period, who has nine such tallies this year, good enough for second nationally (Austin Ortega of Omaha has 10). While on Saturday, Miami erased a 3-1 deficit but came up short as UMD got the game-winner on their second powerplay tally of the night in the third period.

Blake Coleman was huge the last time Miami faced UMD. (photo: Cathy Lachmann, WCPO)

Blake Coleman had three goals that weekend (including a penalty shot tally) and was clearly the best player on the ice. He’ll have to be again if Miami is to get a win or two this weekend.

The Bulldogs

Offensively, the Bulldogs are led by forwards Alex Iafallo (7-16-23) and Dominic Toninato (14-8-22). While not as dynamic as Miami’s top forwards, they get the job done. Both UMD and Miami have four players with 21 points or more, but Miami can run out more top end goal scorers. UMD has just one player with 10 or more goals (Toninato) while Miami has four who have notched at least 10 showing the scoring depth the RedHawks possess.

Defensive, UMD is a rugged group led by hard-hitting Carson Soucy and Andy Wellinski who adds a scoring touch from the blueline with seven goals on the year. In net, freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo has played 83% of the minutes in the blue paint compiling a 15-9-1 record with a solid 2.31 and .911 slash line.

The RedHawks

For Miami, I’d expect both Crash Cousins to be in the lineup to counter UMD’s physicality and I suspect we’ll see Jay Williams tonight for certain. Because he played both games in Colorado Springs last weekend, it’s reasonable to believe Miami head coach Enrico Blasi has selected Williams as the #1 ‘tender for the reminder of the season. Unless Williams plays poorly or is injured, I’m willing to bet he’ll be in there on Saturday as well.

The Prediction

This will be the just the sixth and seventh all-time meetings between the schools (UMD leads 3-2). Expect a low scoring weekend with Miami netting just five goals last weekend at Colorado College and the defensive responsibility with which UMD plays. If Miami could make the weekend an up-and-down track meet, it would favor the RedHawks with their team speed and skill up front.

As with many of these high-profile NCHC weekends this year, I’ll pick a split.

Tonight’s contest starts at 7:35 PM and Saturday’s finale at 7:05 PM. Greg Waddell will have the call for both games which be heard at MURedHawks.com and over the air on 1450 AM and 1490 AM. Additionally, both contests are televised on Time Warner Cable (Ch. 311 & 1311) and Saturday’s game will also air on Fox College Sports (DirecTV Ch. 608, Time Warner Ch. 319).

Around the League

#1 North Dakota at Western Michigan – The Broncos can help Miami with a victory or two this weekend over the nation’s top ranked team.

#5 Omaha at St. Cloud State – Ditto for the Huskies. Wins over the Mavericks will help Miami’s cause in the NCHC standings.

#9 Denver at/vs. Colorado College – The Front Range rivals conclude the season’s battle for the Gold Pan with a home-and-home. Should the Tigers find a way to get a win in this rivalry series, it would help Miami dramatically in their effort to secure home ice in the NCHC playoffs.

From the League Office

Omaha sophomore forward Austin Ortega scored his 10th game-winning goal of the season last Saturday, which leads the NCAA and ties the NCAA single-season record, last set in 2002 by New Hampshire’s Colin Hemingway. Ortega is one of eight players to tally 10 game-winners in a season. Miami junior forward Sean Kuraly is second

Sean Kuraly is second nationally with 9 game-winning goals.

in the country with nine game-winners this season, just one away from tying the record also.

In a battle of top-seven teams, No. 7/7 Minnesota Duluth travels to face No. 6/6 Miami. Expect a lot of shots to be fired as Miami and UMD rank first and second, respectively, among NCHC schools in shots for (34.46 /33.53), shots against (25.14/25.93) and shot margin (+9.32/+7.60). The two teams are third and fourth nationally in terms of shot margin as well.

NCHC teams scored two short-handed goals last weekend and now have three of the top 12 teams nationally in short-handed goals. No. 1/1 North Dakota leads the NCAA with nine short-handed tallies, while UMD is tied for second with seven shorties and Miami is tied for seventh with five. The NCHC has six players with two short-handed goals this season, which is among 27 players nationally tied for the NCAA lead with two short-handed goals. Four of the six play for UND while Miami and UMD have one each.

#7 Miami 3, Colorado College 1

Miami takes game one in Colorado Springs tonight by a final score of 3-1. Three different RedHawks scored with sophomore Justin Greenberg getting his first of the season.

With the win, Miami (17-9-1, 10-6-1-1 t2nd NCHC) moves into a tie for second place with Omaha in the ultra-competitive NCHC and creates more distance between itself and 5th place Denver, who lost 4-2 at North Dakota. Miami is now a full five points clear of the Pioneers in the race for home ice in the NCHC playoffs.

Overall, tonight was an impressive effort by Miami against an opponent that did not quit. Despite falling behind early, Miami really took over the game after about the 10 minute mark of the 1st period, and while they only tallied three goals, the game never felt in doubt. In other words, it never seemed like Colorado College would pose a real threat.

CC opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal. Luc Gerdes picked up the garbage in front of Miami netminder Jay Williams and found twine at 6:19. But, Miami would get it back immediately when Cody Murphy tallied his 11th goal of the season, a powerplay marker for the RedHawks just 26 seconds later. Murphy, who was camped in front and redirected a wrist shot from Anthony Louis, has now scored 11 goals in his past 14 games. And, he would have had another, but it was waved off after a lengthy video review.

In the second, Miami absolutely dominated possession but could muster just one goal, albeit a beauty, from Riley Barber who dangled around a defender before roofing a perfect wrister over the shoulder of CC goaltender Tyler Marble at 16:22.

In the third period, it was more of the same as Miami largely dictated play. After a shaky first period, Jay Williams was stellar in net and Justin Greenberg scored his first goal of the season off a ridiculous backhand saucer pass from Kevin Morris on a 2-on-1 rush at 9:09.

With the victory, and the completion of the night’s other league contests, the current NCHC standings look like this.

1. North Dakota – 34 points

2. MIAMI – 32 points

2. Omaha – 32 points (Miami has tiebreaker)

4. Minnesota-Duluth – 31 points

5. Denver – 27 points

6. St. Cloud – 22 points

6. Western Michigan – 22 points (SCSU has tiebreaker)

8. Colorado College – 4 points

Miami and Colorado College go at it again tomorrow night at 9 PM EST. The game can be seen on NCHC.TV and of course Greg Waddell will have the call, well, maybe via Miami All-Access.

 

Random thoughts and stats:

– Miami outshot the Tigers 34-23.

– Jay Williams is now 15-4 on the season.

– Riley Barber really turned it up tonight. His compete level was high from the drop of the puck. That’s extremely encouraging.

– Three stars of the night: 1. Jay Williams (22 saves), 2. Riley Barber (1-0-1, 4 shots), 3. Tyler Marble (31 saves)

– Miami blocked 16 CC shots (Caito 4, Richart 3)

– Miami was dominant in the faceoff circle winning 44 to CC’s 23. Coleman (13-4) and Kuraly (11-2) led the way.

– Miami was 1 for 4 on the powerplay but did allow a shorthanded goal.

– I loved how Rico used Schmit and Lemirande tonight. Putting the Crash Cousins together for extended periods of time combined with altitude was effective at wearing down CC in the 2nd period. There were times that the Tigers could not get the puck out of their zone.

– Austin Czarnik registered his 26th assist on Barber’s goal.

– Miami has a season’s-best four game unbeaten streak (3-0-1).

2-1 Miami after two…

Riley Barber notched his 13th goal of the season while shorthanded to give Miami a 2-1 lead heading to the third period. Miami completely owned about 18 minutes of the period and at times had possession in the CC end for minutes at a time. I’d like to see more finish out of this team, but the effort has been outstanding tonight.

The line of Schmit, Lemirande, Coleman/Murphy was huge (no pun intended) in the period. Rico rewarded the Crash Cousins with more ice time throughout the period. Wearing a team down at altitude with that size is an excellent coaching maneuver.

Other thoughts…

  • We said earlier that Riley Barber looked sharp tonight. And, as usual, we were right. Barber’s sick wrister from between the circles after a toe drag/dangle was criminal. Keep it up big fella.
  • Crash Cousins are big. We haven’t seen a ton of the two of them together this year, but tonight, they are dominating the Tigers in the offensive zone digging out pucks and showing more offensive prowess than I can recall seeing from them this year. Well done.
  • Jay Williams has found his game. After not being tested for what seemed to be the entire second period, Williams came up big as CC mounted several good chances late in the period. He looks much sharper.

2-1 Miami after two. Let’s finish this and get ready for tomorrow night!

First period thoughts…1-1

After one period of play in Colorado Springs, #7 Miami and Colorado College are tied at 1.

Miami allowed its 3rd shorthanded goal early in the period at CC’s Scott Wamsganz converted a mess out front of Jay Williams off a rush.

Miami would answer right back on the same powerplay as Cody Murphy recorded his 11th goal of the season off a tip in front of an Anthony Louis wrist shot from between the circles. Matt Caito notched the other assist.

Other thoughts…

  • Dornbrock. A huge hit along the boards to break up a CC rush. He has also blocked shots and looks physical tonight.
  • Czarnik’s back checking effort on the play that ended up being the CC goal was impressive. His effort is the type of thing you want to see out of your senior captain.
  • Riley Barber’s compete level is up tonight. He made a couple outstanding stretch passes taking advantage of the big ice.
  • Jay Williams rebound control is “off” at best. He looks a bit lost on the big ice and doesn’t seem to be playing the angles nor seeing the puck very well.
  • Taylor Richart continues to do the little things. He made a big block of a CC shot on their last powerplay to end the first period.

So far, so good. Miami looks smooth and in control. Hopefully they are well hydrated to compete for 60 minutes at 6,000 feet.

More to come from Colorado Springs.

#7 Miami at Colorado College

With Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak as a backdrop, #7 Miami comes west to face Colorado College in the Springs.

Welcome to Colorful Colorado!

Well Miami fans, we’ve reached the final month of the regular season. And, I have to admit, I’ve been waiting for this point in the year for quite some time because I’ll have the opportunity to see Miami in person four times in a three week span.

In the NCHC, this will be the month that will determine who hoists the Penrose Cup as the regular season champion and identify three other teams who will claim home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

Miami’s stretch run includes six games against (current USCHO rankings) #9 Denver, #6 Minnesota-Duluth and #2 North Dakota meaning Miami will have its league destiny in its hands facing teams it is chasing in the standings and realistically battling each one for home ice.

But first, Miami (16-9-1, 9-6-1-1 3rd NCHC) has a potential trap series in front of it facing lowly Colorado College (5-19-1, 1-14-1 8th NCHC) in Colorado Springs.

The RedHawks are coming off an interesting two weekends that saw them play just twice as they picked up a tie and win over 7th place Western Michigan. The tie came during an exciting game in Kalamazoo that went back and forth before the Broncos tied the game late with an extra attacker goal, but Miami came away with an important extra league point when Cody Murphy scored a classic shootout goal in sudden death. Then last Saturday, the RedHawks jumped out to a four-goal lead after two periods but had to hang on as Western Michigan scored three unanswered goals in the third period to turn a laugher into a close game at the Hockey City Classic in Chicago.

Looking ahead to the weekend, this will be the final regular season meetings between the Tigers and RedHawks. Earlier in the year, Miami swept Colorado College in Oxford by a combined 8-1 score as Miami dominated the Tigers behind Jay Williams’ stellar goaltending and big offensive weekends from Riley Barber, Sean Kuraly and Alex Wideman.

The Series

Miami and Colorado College have met just six times with each squad having earned three wins. However, Miami has won the last three in the series by a combined score of 14-2. Clearly, Miami has the upper-hand against this former national powerhouse.

The Coach

Mike Haviland is behind the bench for his first season in Colorado Springs after replacing longtime CC head man Scott Owens over the

Mike Haviland is hoping to turn the Colorado College program around.

summer. A former Chicago Blackhawks assistant from 2008 through 2012, Haviland is a native of New Jersey, played a season of college hockey at Elmira and was a 1990 supplemental draft pick of the Devils, but never played in the NHL.

Haviland has his hands full attempting to rebuild a proud Colorado College program that hasn’t had much success over the past few seasons.

The Team

Unfortunately for the Tigers, there simply isn’t a lot of talent on this team. Owens did not leave Haviland with much to work with and aside from sophomore defenseman Jaccob Slavin, there aren’t many Tigers that have that eye-popping look. I have seen the Tigers once in person this season, and though it was very early, they looked ordinary in narrowly defeating Alabama-Huntsville 4-3. While that victory sealed a series sweep, the Tigers weren’t very impressive in earning two one-goal victories over the Chargers.

Offensively, the Tigers are led by juniors Cody Bradley (8-13-21) and Hunter Fejes (5-9-14) and are two of only four Tigers with at least five goals on the season. Simply put, CC cannot score.

Jaccob Slavin is a star on the Colorado College blueline.

Defensively, there is more talent as four of the Tigers six NHL draft picks are on the blueline. Led by the aforementioned Jaccob Slavin (3-9-12) and senior Peter Stoykewych (2-5-7), the Tigers have some size and puck-moving ability that Miami will have to be aware of in case the defense activates. And, on the big ice at altitude, Miami will have to be mindful not to chase too much and lose their legs in the third period.

Entering the weekend, CC has lost six in a row and is averaging just 2.04 goals per game this year. In net, goaltenders Tyler Marble and Chase Perry have largely split time and sport a combined 3.87 GAA and .880 save percentage. Rather dismal goaltending numbers for certain. (source: MURedHawks.com)

The Prediction

With the final three series of the year looming, Miami needs six points this weekend to give themselves a shot at winning the Penrose Cup. Perhaps more importantly, the points can help secure a spot in the league’s top four earning home ice.

Despite the 5,000 foot difference in altitude, Miami is far too talented and these games are far too important to the RedHawks.

Miami sweeps.

#9 Miami at Western Michigan

WMU’s Lawson Ice Arena is a great old barn.

In an odd “home” series, Western Michigan (11-10-3, 4-7-3-3 7th NCHC) will host #9 Miami (15-9, 8-6 T4th NCHC) in Kalamazoo tonight and again next Saturday in Chicago as Miami once again will go outside to play at the Hockey City Classic for the second time in three years.

Earlier this season, Miami swept a home NCHC series in Oxford by 1-0 and 5-2 scores while the Broncos were really struggling. But, Andy Murray’s squad has faired much better over the past several weeks going 8-2-2 over its past 12 games including a demolition of defending national champion Union in the Shillelagh Tournament in South Bend, Ind.

For Miami, these are two incredibly important games.

I suppose every game down the stretch for the RedHawks is important as they struggle to maintain a top four league finish and secure home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

What’s clear is Miami has a very difficult schedule down the stretch and they’ll have to perform much better if they want to challenge for a regular season title — or at this point — a top four finish in the very competitive NCHC.

The Broncos are a big, physical team. Most fans, coaches and pundits call WMU an “awful team to play against.” As they have gotten more confident in themselves, and head coach Andy Murray’s system, the wins have come.

Offensively, the Broncos are led by senior forward Justin Kovacs (4-16-20) and junior forwards Colton Hargrove (10-9-19) and Nolan LaPorte (9-10-19). Junior defenseman Kenny Morrison (5-8-13) and junior goaltender Lukas Hafner (10-7-3, 2.13, .922) form the backbone of a Bronco team that has surrendered just 28 goals in the past 12

Junior Lukas Hafner has had an outstanding year for Western Michigan.

games. Of note is that WMU was blown out 7-0 by SCSU a few weeks ago. If you remove that game, it’s just 21 goals in 11 games. Needless to say, the WMU defense has been playing well which is a bad sign given Miami’s almost incredible inability to manufacture goals. Over the past nine games, Miami has netted only 21 goals which is a dismal 46th in the country during that stretch. (source: MURedHawks.com)

As stated, this brutal run to the finish began last weekend. Miami stands 1-1 in the series of games that will largely determine their post-season fate. Miami has had difficulty winning important games and with Western Michigan perhaps in an even more desperate mode, I do not see Miami winning tonight but I do see a bounce-back in Chicago next weekend. Still, Miami really needs a sweep here. Will they have enough to rise to the occasion?

#11 Denver at #9 Miami

Joey LaLeggia leads a tough Denver team against Miami in Oxford.

After a week spent licking its wounds following an embarrassing sweep at the hands of then seventh place St. Cloud State, 9th ranked Miami (14-8, 7-5 4th NCHC) jumps into the final stretch of the regular season with a challenge from #11 Denver (13-7-1, 6-5 5th NCHC) in Oxford. For Miami, these are the first home games since December 5-6 when they split a league series against Omaha.

After five meetings last year, these are the first of the 2014-15 campaign and first since Miami’s 4-3 loss to Denver in the NCHC championship game in Minneapolis last March. Last season, Miami and the Pioneers split four regular season meetings before Denver prevailed in the title game propelling DU to the NCAA tournament where they were routed by Boston College in the first round of the Dance.

This weekend’s NCHC series against DU is the start of a brutal final month-plus of the regular season as Miami will next face Western Michigan (@Kalamazoo, @Chicago/Hockey City Classic) followed by Colorado College (road), Minnesota-Duluth (home) and Denver again (road) before finishing the regular season with a home series against North Dakota on March 6-7.

The Series

Miami trails the all-time series with the Pioneers 7-6 including a 1-1 mark against Denver in NCAA tournament games.

The Coach

Maine alum Jim Montgomery is in his second season behind the DU bench after replacing legendary head coach George Gwozdecky before the start of last season. Overall, Montgomery is a modest 33-23-7 in his season and a half with the Pioneers and the program is still really looking for the spark I feel they lost in making a mistake by firing Gwozdecky.

The Team

Having seen Denver twice in person, they are a smooth skating, puck-moving team with decent size and goaltending. In a 4-1 victory over outmanned RPI, Denver was dominant. However, in a humbling 3-1 loss to North Dakota, the Pioneers were exposed by speed and stretch passes as UND dominated from start to finish.

Denver was soundly defeated by North Dakota last month. Miami should attempt to replicate UND’s formula for success this weekend.

So, a mixed bag, perhaps. What I will say is that Miami needs to get out in space and challenge the DU forwards to backcheck. It was either an off-night or the Pioneers don’t care much for defensive play so perhaps Miami can use that to its advantage.

Offensively, the Pioneers are led by freshman Danton Heinen (9-16-25) and last year’s leading scorer, sophomore Trevor Moore (9-11-20). On the blueline, junior Joey LaLeggia (8-12-20) leads a stellar group of puck movers and is a player Miami must keep tabs on, particularly on the powerplay.

In net, the Pioneers have split minutes between sophomore Evan Cowley (2.09 GAA, .924 SV, 14 GP) and freshman Tanner Jaillet (2.01 GAA, .920 SV, 12 GP) to almost identical results. Cowley was thought to have been on the short list to make this year’s US WJC team, but was one of the final cuts before the team skidded to a 5th place finish. Frankly, I thought Cowley should have gotten the nod before Brian Halverson who saw little action backing up Boston College’s Thatcher Demko.

Overall, this is a big, fast Pioneer team and Miami will have its hands full. Expect to see both Crash Cousins in the lineup this weekend as Enrico Blasi attempts to get favorable line matchups with the final change.

The Prediction

This is a series Miami needs to sweep. The first two home games in well over a month. Coming off that embarrassing sweep. Despite the fact the students are still on break, I say Miami shows its heart and finds a way to get a tough NCHC series sweep over the Pioneers.

A wasted weekend

In one of the uglier performances in recent memory, #5/6 Miami was swept in St. Cloud by the Huskies this weekend by 3-1 and 3-2 scores.

Offensively, Miami could generate little against a team that came in 7-10-1 and looked listless with the exception of the first period of Friday night’s game when they registered 17 shots on goal and should have buried the Huskies for the weekend. Alas, the RedHawks did not dent the scoreboard and gave SCSU hope and momentum, dangerous living indeed against a desperate team.

In fact, this weekend looked a lot like last year when the travel-weary RedHawks could generate little energy. We said in our preview the weekend would be tough. Miami has now played six consecutive games away from home since December 28. They MUST get back to the winning side of things when they welcome in another road-weary opponent, Denver, who was swept themselves in a road series at Omaha after playing in a holiday tournament in New Hampshire (v. Dartmouth, v. Brown) the weekend prior. Before heading out to play Miami January 23-24 in Oxford, the Pioneers have a home series against SCSU meaning they’ll have flown to New Hampshire, Omaha and back to Denver before again flying to Oxford. Miami should take advantage of that heavy travel schedule and get an important home sweep of a league opponent.

The RedHawks will have a much needed week of rest and need to refocus their game before the Pioneers come to town.

#5/6 Miami at St. Cloud State

St. Cloud won the Penrose Cup, awarded to the NCHC’s regular season champion in 2013-14.

Fresh off a 3-1 holiday road trip that featured two shutouts by junior netminder Jay Williams, Miami is on the road again this weekend in a two-game series at NCHC rival St. Cloud State.

This will be the first and only time the two schools meet this year after playing six times last year culminating in Miami’s two-game NCHC playoff series sweep of the Huskies who finished first in the league’s inaugural regular season.

Though they rode high last year, this year has been very different for the defending Penrose Cup Champions.

The Huskies (7-10-1, 2-5-1 NCHC) find themselves mired in seventh place while Miami (14-6-0, 7-3-0 NCHC) sits in first place in the league standings after finishing a disastrous dead last one year ago.

Both games can be seen via NCHC.tv and heard via Miami All-Access. Tonight’s game will also be shown live on Sports Time Ohio and Fox Sports North Plus (good lord) at 8:37 PM EST and tomorrow the puck drops at 8:07 PM EST.

The Series

Miami has dominated this series though the number of games between the burgeoning rivals is relatively limited. Miami leads the all-time series 12-5-1 including a 4-2 mark last year. After splitting two regular season series on each other’s home ice last season, the RedHawks went to St. Cloud fighting for an opportunity to salvage their season, and salvage they did as they swept the Huskies out of the NCHC playoffs.

The Coach

St. Cloud head coach Bob Motzko is a familiar name to Miami fans as he was an assistant with the program under former Miami head coaches George Gwozdecky and Mark Mazzolini for five seasons. At SCSU, Motzko has taken the program to its only Frozen Four and has gone a respectable 191-146-41 in 10 seasons behind the bench of his alma mater.

The Team

Coming off last season’s first place regular season finish, SCSU was picked to finish third in this year’s preseason poll behind North Dakota and Miami. However, they will have to go on some kind of run in order to fulfill those lofty preseason expectations.

In net, the Huskies run out sophomore Charlie Lindgren who has decent numbers with a 2.63 GAA and .905 save percentage. However, the Huskies simply aren’t scoring like they did a year ago averaging just 2.44 goals

SCSU’s Jonny Brodzinski is a Hobey Baker caliber player.

per game vs. 3.58 a season ago. Leading scorer Jonny Brodzinski paces the Huskies with 11-6-17 after netting 21 goals a year ago. The loss of Hobey Hat Trick Finalist Nic Dowd has been huge because after Brodzinski’s 11 goals, only one player, Joey Benik, has at least 8 goals for SCSU. In fact, the next highest scorers after Benik are Andrew Prochno and David Morley who have just three goals apiece.

The Prediction

Looking at this matchup on paper, Miami should sweep the weekend. SCSU can’t score and when Miami’s right, they can. However, road weariness could take its toll as the RedHawks will be playing their fifth and sixth games away from home since December 28. As much as I want to say Miami will sweep, I think they leave the series with yet another NCHC split.

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