RedHawks looking to snap recent cold streak
It was 14 weeks ago that the Miami University hockey team entered the fall with a No. 2 preseason rank. The RedHawks stormed out to an early sweep of rival Ohio State University, simultaneously claiming the top spot in the NCAA. Now, they're on the outside looking in with just nine weeks to go until the national tournament.
In the past few weeks, the 'Hawks have hit a serious skid and have dropped out of the Top 20 picture entirely. Miami sports a 5-8-1 record since a Nov. 17-18 series split with the University of Wisconsin, and it currently sits second to last in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) standings with a 4-9-1-1 league record. The last time the RedHawks hit a skid like this was 2004-05, when they yielded seven straight games in October and November. More recently, in the 2008-09 campaign, the RedHawks lost five straight contests in Jan., only to fight their way into the school's first-ever national championship berth.
"I think we've got to get better in a lot of areas right now, but we've got to work our plan and see what happens," head coach Enrico Blasi said. "We can't get caught up on outcomes right now, we've got to work our process and really not cheat the process. We've been focusing on that in practice and the guys seem to be in good spirits. They're working hard in practice and doing what we ask them to do."
That's not coach-speak, either. The mood in the locker room seems cautiously optimistic, and the highly-touted RedHawk roster knows any game now could be the start of a long string of victories that could put them right back in tournament contention. Though a weekend series split with NCHC bottom dweller Colorado College wasn't the spark the 'Hawks might have had in mind, the 6-1 Saturday contest provided what sophomore goalie Jay Williams described as a "shot in the arm."
"It wasn't how we planned it out," Williams said of his team's recent performance. "We had a tough weekend at Western [Michigan University], not a great weekend against UNO [University of Nebraska-Omaha], and Friday night against CC [Colorado College] we struggled, but every game is something else we do well, another piece of the puzzle.
"What it comes down to for us is we've got to be playing our best hockey at the right time of the year, to try and string together some wins and build that confidence up. It's something that every team goes through and when you get through it, you're closer as a team and you have more confidence ... you know what it takes to pull out of it."
The "shot in the arm" Williams spoke of came specifically in the form of a 4-for-5 power play performance Saturday, as the team's struggling special teams finally broke through after converting just one of its previous 26 chances, dating back to Jan. 10. Williams also put in a solid effort, turning in a career-high 38 saves.
Miami gets a breather heading into the weekend, and will be back in action Feb. 7-8 versus old Central Collegiate Hockey Conference foe Western Michigan.
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