Red and White set for CCHA battle against Lake Superior State
The Miami University men's hockey team is preparing to square off against Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) opponent Lake Superior State University Lakers. The Red and White have not lost a game in over a month.
Miami (9-2-3) moved up one spot to No. 3 in both major college hockey polls this week, jumping the fourth-ranked University of Minnesota after the Gophers split their previous series with the Univerisity of Nebraska at Omaha.
The Red and White are currently first place in the CCHA with a 6-2-2 conference record.
Though the Lakers (7-9-0) nurture a losing record, they have split four of the five CCHA series they have played in thus far, including matchups against Ohio State University and Ferris State University.
The Lakers sit in eighth place in the 11 team CCHA, with a 4-6-0 conference record.
Miami Head Coach Enrico Blasi points to their size and physicality as reasons for their ability to stay with conference's best.
"Watching them on video, they're a big, strong, physical team," Blasi said. "They've got some skill up front that is veteran skill. [Dominic] Monardo ... and [Kellan] Lain killed us last year. They'll get after you, they're aggressive, and they're not afraid to play a grinding out style game."
Indeed, senior forward Dominic Monardo is the Lakers' leading scorer this season, netting five goals and seven helpers thus far.
And with seven skaters listed at over 6'0" and 200 pounds, Superior has a lot of size to throw around in the corners.
"We're looking at them as a big, tough team, and we've got to be ready to play," said freshman forward Riley Barber, who along with classmate Sean Kuraly was named to the U.S. National Junior Team preliminary roster.
"We're playing some good hockey right now, so we've got to keep it focused," Barber said. "We don't want to let off the pedal."
Barber, who sits at second place on the CCHA scoring list behind sophomore linemate Austin Czarnik and repeated as CCHA Rookie of the Month, might very well have a chance to add to that total this weekend. The Lakers have the second-worst penalty kill in the league, successfully killing just 75 percent of their man-down situations. In contrast, Miami has been converting 19 percent of their power play opportunities at home, which should give them an advantage during special teams play in a building where they have yet to be beaten this year.
"The obvious answer is that it's really exciting to play in front of a home crowd," sophomore forward Cody Murphy said of the RedHawks' success on familiar ice. "They fuel us a lot. I think we take a lot of pride in playing out there, and we don't want anyone else to come in here and try to push us around."
A pair of RedHawks took home CCHA Player of the Week awards for their performances against the University of Alaska. Czarnik won the Offensive Player of the Week, while freshman defenseman Michael Caito won Defensive Player of the Week.
The RedHawks will likely go back having their freshman goalies split time, as Ryan McKay returned against the University of Alaska. He has yet to allow an even strength goal in the four games he has played in. Jay Williams has been impressive as well, posting a .918 save percentage.
This weekend especially, Miami can't afford a mistake. Though it remains at the top of the CCHA standings, Notre Dame University trails by a single point. If they want to stay in first place, that likely means sweeping the series - which Blasi says starts with feeding off of the home crowd's energy.
"You play anywhere on the road and you get that feeling that you're the enemy, so for us our crowd has been great," Blasi said. "Hopefully we'll be equal to the task on Friday, match the intensity from our fans, and give ourselves the best chance [to win]."
This weekend's series against Lake Superior State will be Miami's last home stand until the weekend of Jan. 26-27. The puck drops 7:35 p.m. Friday and 7:05 Saturday at the Goggin Ice Center.
Fans that are unable to attend can listen to the game at www.redhawkradio.com.
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