Miami Hosts Wisconsin for Weekend Set
There are a lot of similarities between Miami and Wisconsin this weekend: Red and White as team colors; “Jump Around” as the unofficial team songs (for Bucky Football, anyway); size, speed and strength as their defining characteristics on the ice. But after that, Miami and Wisconsin are 2 very different teams. This weekend, the two teams face off in non-conference action in Oxford.
Wisconsin comes in as the number 12 team in the nation, just itching to break into the top ten. While the conference schedule hasn’t started yet, the Badgers play in the newly formed Big Ten Conference. Miami comes in having played the 8th toughest schedule in the country this weekend. After last weekend’s games at St. Cloud, the RedHawks have now played against 3 then-top 10 teams (current #3 St. Cloud, #5 Providence and now #13 North Dakota). Head Coach Enrico Blasi had these words of praise for the visiting Badgers:
“Another tough weekend for our team. We’ve grown accustomed to that right now. Wisconsin is very deep up front with some high-end forwards. They are very well coached. We need to focus and continue to get better and be ready on Friday night. I know our team got better last weekend and that’s really our goal every time we step on the ice.”
Blasi will have his hands full as the Badgers come in scoring 3.83 goals per game – just a touch ahead of Miami’s 3.70 goals per game, and 9th in the country in scoring. On the other hand, Wisconsin does allow the same 3.83 goals per game and is currently 52nd in the country in scoring defense, while Miami comes in at number 11, allowing just 2.2 goals per game.
Another point of emphasis will be the special teams this weekend. Miami is currently killing 84.3% of power plays, including killing all 10 chances in St. Cloud last weekend. Wisconsin is 6 for 24 (24%) on their power play, so limiting the man advantage situations will be key for Miami. On the other hand, Miami’s power play, currently 7th in the nation at 27.3% will look to continue it’s torrid streak against Wisconsin’s 40th ranked penalty kill, stopping just 79.3% of their opponents’ power play chances.
Who’s in Net?
Wisconsin’s Goalie situation is one to be wary of. Over the last 2+ seasons, Joel Rumpel is 29-21-6 in net for the Badgers, but was injured during the second game of the season and will not play tonight. Backup Landon Peterson has stepped in nicely and sports a 2-2-1 record. He will likely start in Rumpel’s place for both games this weekend.
On the Miami end of the ice, you can’t say that Ryan McKay has been anything short of fantastic so far this season. When called upon, he has been stellar and sports a 4-1-1 record including a split last weekend at St. Cloud State. We have to guess on the rotation or non-rotation status every week, so we’ll see who Coach Blasi sends out for the weekend series.
“Jay and Ryan play extremely well,” he said at this week’s press conference. “It’s really tough to make a decision who to play in net. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them split again. How do you go against Ryan when he pitches 2 shutouts back to back? Just a gut feeling more than anything, but we’ll re-evalutate from day to day.” Lately, Blasi has been going with McKay on Friday nights, but who plays on Saturday is anyone’s guess. With another solid performance Friday, it very well could be McKay for his 4th start in a row on Saturday.
Shaking Off the Rust
Wisconsin comes in to the series having played just 6 games overall, and has had off weeks every other week it seems. They played October 18-19 at Boston College and at Boston University (2 losses and 16 goals against on the weekend), had a week off, and then hosted Lake Superior State (3-3 tie and 8-1 win). After another week off, they come to Oxford still trying to get on a roll, and will have another off week next weekend before playing their first Big Ten games the last weekend of November.
Head Coach Enrico Blasi likes to get his team moving and keep them rolling. I’m guessing Wisconsin’s Mike Eaves wants to get his team rolling as well. Shaking off the rust over the first 6 weeks of the season isn’t exactly the way to do it, so this weekend, the Badgers will certainly be looking for blood.
Miami won’t have it easy this weekend, but if the Badgers cannot stay out of the penalty box, they’re going to be in trouble. According to tonight’s play-by-play man Dave Starman, Wisconsin likes to pack it in on the penalty kill and this will leave the 5-forward line including Czarnik, Barber and Wideman wide open on the blueline during power plays. Look for several power play goals on the weekend from the specialty units.
I can’t help myself. Miami 4-1 and 3-1.
Where to Watch
Friday’s game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network with Dave Starman, Ben Holden and Shireen Saski calling the action. Saturday’s game can be caught on Miami All-Access.
Enjoy the action and GO REDHAWKS!