Brotherhood looks to end recent struggles against St. Cloud State
With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the Miami University hockey team is beginning to feel the pressure of a possible last-place National Collegiate Hockey Conference finish.
Miami (10-15-3) has been in a downward spiral since late November - they've won just four games in the past three months. For a team that was ranked No. 1 in the USCHO poll just two weeks into the season, it's been quite the fall from grace. Add in Saturday's 9-2 loss at the hands of the University of North Dakota and it's been a volatile second half of the season. Though No. 4 St. Cloud State University presents a huge challenge, the head coach Enrico Blasi said his team won't back down come Friday.
"We need to be ready to go Friday night," Blasi said. "Just like we have to be ready to go every night the past month and a half. This is a good hockey team, it reminds me of the way our teams in the past have played and the way they conduct themselves and the way they compete. It's going to be a heck of a challenge for us ... we've got to start making some strides."
The Huskies (17-6-5) split their first series with the RedHawks this year in early November in Minn., but weekend's series will be hosted by the 'Hawks at the Goggin Ice Center. Miami has been spotty, at best, at home this year, sporting a 6-6-1 record. It should come as some concern, then, that St. Cloud is 10-2 when playing at the opposition's barn this season. They're 5-2-0-1 in the last month of play, and the Huskies are one of the favorites heading into the NCAA tournament to grab a No. 1 seed, let alone the favorite to win the NCHC tournament.
"Well, they're one of the top teams in the country," Blasi said. "They're well coached, and a team that went to the Frozen Four last year so they've got a lot of confidence. They're a team that you can't make mistakes against, because they'll make you pay."
Unfortunately for the RedHawks, there's been an abundance of mistakes the past few months. Blasi said his team is still "searching for their identity and still trying to get better in a lot of areas," which means putting together a full 60 minutes of hockey in the near future is the goal - something, Blasi said, his team hasn't quite done yet this year.
With an at-large bid impossible at this point, Blasi's boys are trying to gain confidence over the next few weekends to make a run at the NCHC tournament championship bid, their only ticket left to gain access to a ninth-straight NCAA tournament appearance.
The players remain focused, composed and ready to play and sophomore forward Kevin Morris understands the urgency. There's just not much hockey left to play, and St. Cloud is first on the ever-dwindling list.
"Right now it's about taking care of us," Morris said. "This is us getting ready for the playoffs, and we have these next six games to gear up for them. From here on out, we need to start building confidence and getting that swagger back that, obviously, we haven't had in a while."
That swagger Morris mentioned should be helped by the home crowd at Miami's back the next two weekends. The RedHawks face off against the Huskies at 7 p.m. evening, and continue the series the following night at 7:05 p.m.
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