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RedHawks Sweep Nanooks, face Michigan this Weekend

After finishing a sweep over the Alaska Nanooks in Fairbanks on Saturday night, the Miami RedHawks (4-6 overall, 2-4 CCHA) come home to face their fiercest rival, the #4 Michigan Wolverines, in a two-game CCHA series at Steve Cady Arena on Friday and Saturday night.

In earning their first two CCHA victories, the RedHawks used a familiar formula of stout defense, solid goaltending and timely scoring. Though this Miami team is still spending way too much time in the penalty box, at least they began to showcase the sort of mettle that’s going to be necessary for this team to win. In short, they aren’t going to win too many pretty games.

On Saturday, junior forward Curtis McKenzie got Miami off and running with a power play goal at 6:25 of the first period, senior Cody Reichard made 24 saves and sophomore forward Max Cook scored the game-winner at 8:32 of the third period as Miami held on to sweep the weekend series. For his weekend efforts, freshman forward Tyler Biggs was named the Gongshow CCHA Rookie of the Week on the merits of his two helpers, +1 rating on the weekend with one blocked shot against the Nanooks. Hopefully, this is but the first of many such awards for the highly regarded first round draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs. For the season, Biggs is 1-4-5 with a -3 rating, good enough for a tie for third in scoring for the RedHawks. And, the aforementioned Reichard played both nights in allowing just two goals all weekend.

Looking ahead to this weekend, the RedHawks have no time to recover, nor revel in the sweep of the Nanooks as Miami will welcome the Michigan Wolverines to Steve Cady Arena. The Wolverines (7-2-1 overall, 3-2-1-1 CCHA) split a two-game series in Ann Arbor with Western Michigan last weekend delivering the first loss of the season to the Broncos on Saturday night. Unlike Miami, the Wolverines have found immediate replacements for lost scorers including Carl “That Miele Guy” Hagelin and Louie Caporusso, and have received major contributions from rather unknown upperclassmen such as Lindsay Sparks (13 points) and A.J. Treais (10 points) who lead the team in scoring. In fact, Michigan is averaging 4.6 goals per game, good enough for third in the nation while Miami is averaging just 2.3 goals per night.

Back in net is the “Baby Goalie” himself, senior Shawn Hunwick. Hunwick is off to another strong start with one shutout, a 1.62 goals-against average and sterling .941 save percentage. But, as we know, the Baby Goalie uses a rattle can be rattled. We need the Miami student section to get all over him and hope he loses his cool and “goes Caruso” like he’s done in the past. This season he’s already punched a player (above) earning a 5 minute major and a game misconduct in a loss against Northern Michigan in Marquette. Let’s be loud and get the Baby Goalie off his game this weekend. Rattles in the crowd would be outstanding!

Unfortunately, this is not a good matchup for Miami. Our undisciplined play this season could really hurt us against another talented Michigan squad that’s playing good hockey. While their power play is only converting at a .196 click, they already have seven skaters with at least 9 points meaning they’re getting contributions from everyone. By contrast, Miami does not have a single scorer with more than 7 points (Alden Hirschfeld) and cannot get into an up and down game with the talented Wolverines. To steal a game, we’ll need to clog the neutral zone, play stout defense and get great goaltending from our two senior leaders in net. If last weekend’s performance against Alaska is a sign of things to come, this series could be close. But, in the end, Miami doesn’t seem to have enough right now to build on it’s 7-3 record against the Wolverines over the last 10 games.

As much as I’d like to see Miami improve it’s 1-3 home record this season, I think Michigan sweeps.