RedHawks and Badgers face off for weekend tilts
Keep calm, RedHawk fans.
Miami hockey is back and better than ever!
Miami is in Madison, WI for a set of 2 games against the WCHA’s Wisconsin Badgers this weekend. It will be the last out-of-conference series on the season and afterwards, the story of the standings will be a lot clearer. With all of the other 10 CCHA schools facing off against each other, Miami will come back to the pack a bit in terms of games played. Miami can only fall to 3rd in the CCHA standings, but Notre Dame, Western Michigan and Ohio State – all within striking distance – will have the same amount (16) of games played after having 2 games in hand for much of the season. The Irish(1st place and +1 point on Miami) hosts Alaska and Western Michigan (3rd, -2 points) heads to Bowling Green.
Wisconsin comes in as the second hottest team in college hockey, riding a 10 game unbeaten streak where they have gone an impressive 7-0-3. Take this streak with a rather large grain of salt, however. Wisconsin’s opponents in that streak have been less than stellar. They started with a tie and win at Denver (13-6-4), which I will grant them is a solid road series. But then they tied Michigan Tech (6-12- 3) twice in Madison, disposed of Alabama-Huntsville (3-17-1) 5-0 and 4-1, swept Alaska Anchorage (3-13- 4) in Alaska, and needed overtime in both victories at Minnesota State (14- 8- 2). Add it all up and that’s a combined record of 39-56-14 for their opponents. 3 of those teams are below the Mendoza line and just 2 are above .500 and in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament.
Miami, on the other hand, is struggling mightily, having lost to Robert Morris, and then losing and equaling a Northern Michigan squad in Marquette. In their last 7 games, Miami has netted just 9 goals, having been blanked twice and scoring 3 goals each in a win against OSU and the tie at NMU.
Against teams who will be in the new Big Ten Hockey Conference next year, Miami is 4-1-2, with 2 shootout wins (over Michigan State and Ohio State). Miami’s lone loss came against Michigan when everyone thought the Wolverines were a
top team in the country good team (including themselves). Thus far in the season, the future NCHC is 9-7-6 against the future B1G conference (2 more against Ohio State in March), with Miami having 4 of those wins.
What does this mean for tonight and tomorrow’s matchups against Wisconsin? Well, nothing really. Wisconsin is on at least a perceived high and Miami is struggling to score. Miami’s top scorers Austin Czarnik (8-17–25) and Riley Barber (9-15–24) must show up to play. It’s not that they haven’t before now, but they need to put pressure on Wisconsin’s defense. Those two, along with Senior Curtis McKenzie (who is the 3rd leading scorer on the team with 6-8–14) are going to be keyed upon the rest of the way. If they don’t set the tone, the other 3 forward lines are going to have that much more difficulty scoring.
Don’t be distracted by the NHL coming back this weekend… Both games are on that shiny old thing they call a television – something we haven’t been able to say much this year. Big Ten Network will carry tonight’s game starting at 9PM Eastern, and you might need a special package to see it, but FSN+ Wisconsin will carry Saturday night’s game at 8PM Eastern. Head Coach Rico Blasi can reach the 300 win mark with 2 victories, but I’m not holding my breath. I predict we’ll be celebrating in Oxford next weekend after a split in the land of the cheese Madison.
Enjoy the games and GO REDHAWKS!