Weekend Preview: Northern Michigan
nice HUGE weekend sweep of Western Michigan, where 3 RedHawks made the CCHA Player of the Week roll, Miami welcomes the Northern Michigan Wildcats to Oxford. The ‘Cats swept Miami on December 2-3, 2011 with a 2-1 victory on Friday night and a dominating 5-1 victory the following night.
The standings look a little different for this week’s matchup than they did just 1 week ago, but let’s take a look back where things stood on December 2. On that date, Northern Michigan stood 2-5-1 plus an additional 2 shootout wins. NMU was reeling, having come off of a pair of 4-1 losses at Ohio State, as well as a split at home against Michigan State. The Wildcats were getting pushed around, and Walt Kyle’s team was heading towards the bottom of the league.
Rico Blasi’s squad was also having an interesting go of it. After the 2-6 start of the season, Miami had turned things around, having won 2 games with a score of 2-1 in Alaska, then took 5 of 6 possible points against #4 Michigan, 4 of 6 against BGSU (both in Oxford), and then went to Denver to win the Denver Cup over Providence (6-2) and #9 Denver (4-2). The ‘Hawks had just finished November 6-0-2 and had swept the CCHA Monthly Awards for November. The first weekend in December was certainly one to forget for the Miami faithful, and after the holiday break, Miami sat in NMU’s position – 9th in the CCHA.
Flash forward almost 2 months, and you have the #17 ranked RedHawks on a tear. Miami comes off of a sweep of then #8 Western Michigan, a team previously on fire, and is 5-1 in 2012. Miami sits in a tie for 2nd, just 2 points behind Ohio State in the ever-crowded CCHA standings. #19 ranked Northern Michigan comes to Oxford stuttering, having gone 2-1-2-0 in the new year, with both ties being shootout losses. Having won last weekend at Michigan Tech in a non-conference matchup, the Wildcats have some catching up to do in the conference standings. Currently 9th, the Cats are sitting with 25 CCHA points, putting them just 6 points out of a tie for 5th and a first-round CCHA Playoff bye. Having played 2 less games than many of the top teams will help the Cats gain ground, but they will be need to be willing to throw all 9 lives out on the ice this weekend to gain those precious CCHA points.
With 16 underclassmen on the roster, NMU’s season has been successful thus far. Senior Captain Tyler Gron leads the way as expected with 11 goals and 16 assists on the year. He is the reigning RBC Player of the Month for the CCHA. The ‘Cats only current draft pick is Senior Justin Florek (Boston). He leads the team with 13 goals on the season and 21 points overall, and also has 8 career points in 11 games against Miami. Stopping this duo will certainly be a focus point for Rico’s boys this week in practice.
NMU Head Coach Walt Kyle is is 187-161-43 all time in his current post. Kyle has been doing his best Rico Blasi impersonation this season, rotating games between Senior Reid Ellingson and Sophomore Jared Coreau in between the pipes. Both have played 14 games, with Ellingson going 4-5-3 and Coreau sporting a 7-3-2 record. If ever there was a goaltending conundrum, this would be the game.
You’ve seen our take on the Miami goaltending situation, and Walt Kyle has a similar difficult choice ahead of him this weekend. Ellingson has started most Friday nights for Kyle, and Coreau most Saturday nights including last Saturday’s 5-2 non-conference victory at Michigan Tech. Ellingson last played on January 13th against Michigan State, where he allowed 4 goals before being pulled in favor of Coreau under 8 minutes into the second period. Don’t be surprised if Kyle goes with a hot hand in Jared Coreau, December’s Gongshow CCHA Goaltender of the Month, to try and take a few points out of Oxford.
Will Miami come off of the WMU weekend and slip up and lose focus with another big weekend ahead? Will Northern Michigan be able to show they belong in the CCHA playoffs discussion?
I don’t think so. I look for Connor Knapp to start both games again, and Miami has a weekend similar to the last time the Cats came to Oxford. Last year, Miami swept NMU back to Marquette by a combined 13-1 score.
Miami 4-1 and 5-1 and pulls to an even 12-12-2 against NMU all-time in Oxford.
– Here is Pete Conrad’s take on the weekend’s series at the Dayton Daily News