'Hawks head to Alaska
After a two week hiatus, the Miami University hockey team returns to action this weekend against the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The RedHawks (7-2-3) are ranked in the top five nationally for the seventh straight week, moving up one spot in the USCHO.com poll and the USA Today poll to No. 4 despite being inactive this past weekend.
Alaska (6-5-3) is the third Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) team t he Brotherhood will face away from home this year, and Miami looks to improve upon its 2-2 road record.
The Red and White enter the game sitting alone in first place in CCHA with a 4-2-2 conference record. Alaska comes in with a 4-4-2 record, good for fifth place in the league.
The Nanooks play at the Carlson Center, a 4,595 seat arena located in downtown Fairbanks that claims to be as hostile as any other in the CCHA. Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said that though the trip is a long one, his team will be ready to take on a worthy opponent.
"It's just a matter of getting up there and taking care of our bodies during the week," Blasi said. "We'll have a full day to recover and get acclimated ... They're playing really well. It's a tough building to play in and their crowd is really supportive of their team. It's a bigger ice surface so you really have to be mindful of that, and obviously they know how to play on it."
Alaska is 4-2 at home this year and boasts wins over the University of North Dakota and Western Michigan University, which are ranked No. 7 and No. 10 in the country, respectively. The RedHawk offense will have to be in prime form if they want to come out of the series with two wins.
Sophomore forward Austin Czarnik has scored 14 points so far this season, good enough to tie for second in the CCHA.
However, the biggest standout has been freshman linemate Riley Barber, who maintains a league-leading 16 points.
"I've always wanted this to happen," Barber said. "To get a chance to play with 'Z' (Czarnik), and to get a chance like the coaches are giving me, it's awesome and it's a dream - but we've just got to focus on this weekend. It's good that we're on top of the league, but we like our team winning, so we've got to keep it going."
If Miami wants to keep the top spot, they'll likely need to sweep this weekend's series to fend off the University of Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are hot on their heels with 15 points, just a single point behind the RedHawks in the CCHA standings.
With Miami far from home this weekend, the team will be looking to senior captain Steven Spinell to lead the team. Spinell was recently named one of the 20 candidates for the prestigious senior CLASS award, given to the Division I hockey player that most exemplifies achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.
"It's a great honor," Spinell said. "But I try not to pay attention to all of that stuff. I've got a job to do here in this locker room so I focus on that. It's an honor to be nominated, but I've got a team to worry about."
Miami faces off against Alaska Friday and Saturday at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks. The puck drops 11:05 p.m. both nights.
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