Preview: Miami at Western Michigan
The two hottest teams in college hockey are Providence and Western Michigan.
Miami played PC last week, and this weekend the RedHawks face the Broncos.
WMU, riding an eight-game unbeaten streak that includes a 3-0-1 record vs. North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth, has vaulted into second place in the NCHC. However, the Broncos are only two points ahead of Miami, which is tied for fourth.
These teams meet again in Oxford to wrap up the regular season on March 8-9, so WMU will have a major hand in determining where the RedHawks finish in the conference standings.
BoB takes a look at the upcoming series between these teams:
WHO: No. 20 Miami RedHawks (9-7-4) at No. 14 Western Michigan Broncos (11-6-1).
WHERE: Lawson Arena (3,667), Kalamazoo, Mich.
WHEN: Friday – 7:05 p.m.; Saturday – 7:05 p.m.
MIAMI RADIO: WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.
WESTERN MICHIGAN RADIO: WZOX-FM (96.5), Kalamazoo, Mich.
TV: Friday – CBS College Sports.
NOTES: Over the past three seasons, Western Michigan has taken major strides offensively, an area in which the Broncos had previously struggled since the formation of the NCHC.
WMU has scored 67 times in 18 games for a 3.72-goal clip, the sixth-best rate in Division I.
Josh Passolt has been a breakout sophomore season for the Broncos, leading the team in goals (11) and plus-minus (plus-15) and is tied for the WMU points lead with 19. Four of his markers have been game winners.
Colton Conrad is tied with Passolt atop the team points leaderboard, as Conrad is pacing Western Michigan in assists with 13. He is also exceptional in the faceoff circle, having won 57.0 percent of his draws this season.
Like Passolt, Hugh McGing has also enjoying a statistical blow-up with 10 goals, including five on the power play. He has 18 points and 35 penalty minutes.
Ethen Frank has already eclipsed his rookie season goal mark, posting eight this season after notching seven freshman year, and Austin Rueschoff is another significant offensive threat with six goals and eight helpers.
Philadelphia Flyers second-round pick Wade Allison, one of the NCAA’s scoring leaders last season before he tore his ACL, is back on the ice for Western Michigan and could bolster its offense even more.
Allison has played eight games and is 2-2-4 after posting a 15-15-30 line in just 22 games in 2017-18.
Other regulars up front for WMU are Dawson DiPietro, Cole Gallant, Drew Worrad, Paul Washe, Jaden McMullen and Lawton Courtnall – son of former NHLer Russ Courtnall.
Cam Lee leads Broncos blueliners in goals (5), assists (10) and points (15) while notching a plus-10 rating.
Defenseman Corey Schueneman has recorded eight assists and nine points, and Buffalo Sabres second-rounder and Team USA product Matthias Samuelsson, who just returned from winning silver in the World Juniors, has scored three times and picked up five helpers.
Luke Bafia, Kale Bennett and Jared Kucharek are the other key cogs of WMU’s back end, and Michael Joyaux – younger brother of former RedHawks Chris and Matt Joyaux – has dressed for 10 games.
During their current eight-game unbeaten streak, the Broncos have allowed just 12 goals, and they have held their last three opponents to one goal apiece.
Goaltender Trevor Gorsuch is having a stellar senior season, going 9-2-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. He had six career wins and was sub-.900 entering this year.
Ben Blacker, who was dominant his freshman season, took a step back in 2017-18 and has made just two starts this year, posting just an .870 save percentage. He’s actually third on the team in goaltender minutes played behind Austin Cain.
Miami has started games slowly at times this season, and if that happens this weekend Western Michigan will make the RedHawks pay. The Broncos are tops in the NCHC in first-period goals with 27 – that’s 1.50 per game.
WMU has been best at even strength, as just 14 of its goals have come on the power play and another pair shorthanded.
The RedHawks are winless in their last six – they actually haven’t won since Nov. 17 – but they have four ties in that span, including one at now-No. 7 Providence and two at home against No. 1 St. Cloud State.
Miami’s Josh Melnick is riding a seven-game point streak, with three goals and five assists in that span, and Ryan Siroky has four points in his last three contests.
The RedHawks are 16th in college hockey in defense, giving up 2.30 goals per game. Goalie Ryan Larkin is seventh in D-I save percentage at .931 and is tied for sixth in shutouts with three.
With 142 meetings, Miami has played Western Michigan more than any other foe except Ohio State and is 68-63-11 vs. the Broncos, but WMU holds a 35-25-7 edge in Kalamazoo.
The RedHawks have played OSU 151 times, and with that series currently dormant, Western Michigan will soon move into first place on MU’s most-played opponents list.
The Broncos have always played well at home and are 6-2-1 at Lawson Arena this season.