Miami looks to lock up CCHA title in final series
If you would have asked anyone what place the Miami University men's hockey team would finish in league play, the common consensus definitely wouldn't have been first. (Editor's note: I had a vote; I picked them to finish 5th) Yet that's just where head coach Enrico Blasi's squad is sitting in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) standings heading into the final weekend of the regular season, with one win separating the RedHawks from adding another banner to the rafters of Steve "Coach" Cady Arena.
"I think we've put ourselves in a good situation to do that," Blasi said of capturing the conference crown, something Miami has achieved only three times in program history, and Blasi himself only twice in his tenure. "We've just got to stay focused for Ohio State, how good they can be. We've just got to make sure we're ready to go."
The No. 3 RedHawks (21-8-5, 16-6-4-4 CCHA) are five points ahead of second place Western Michigan University, and will close out league play at home against the Buckeyes (13-14-7, 12-9-5-1 CCHA), who are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games. Much like Miami, Ohio State is led by a pair of young offensive talents in Ryan Dzingel and Tanner Fritz, who each boast 32 points on the year. The Buckeyes are coming into Oxford losers of a two game series against Michigan, and sophomore forward Austin Czarnik knows that senior leadership will be key to fending off their in-state rivals.
"It's really important - they're going to lead the way and we're going to try to try to help them lead the way on Friday and Saturday," Czarnik said. "Everyone's just got to keep doing what they've been doing past weekends, and just keep on going."
The Miami seniors will play an even bigger role Saturday night, as it is Senior Night for the elder RedHawks. Each will be brought out onto the ice before the game and be recognized for their commitment to the program, and all six of them will likely see ice time in the following game.
"I think the whole team is excited, it's a special weekend when you honor the seniors," Blasi said of Saturday's salute. "They're the group that everybody looks up to and they're the group we look to for leadership. They've been through a lot; they've won one regular season championship, they've won a playoff championship, they've been to a frozen four, they've been in the national tournament all three years, and who knows this year. But that's a pretty good resume if you're a senior and you're graduating."
Captain Steven Spinell is looking forward to the big night for his class. He knows it's an important game for his team to finish the year strong, but it's tough realizing his number of shifts at the Goggin Ice Center is limited.
"It's one of those things where you just have to treat it like another hockey game," Spinell said. "But it's going to be pretty emotional knowing that it will be the last time taking the ice during the regular season."
The RedHawks and Buckeyes will battle it out twice this weekend in the final regular season series. The puck drops 7:35 p.m. Friday, and 7:05 p.m. Saturday. Fans can listen to the game at www.redhawkradio.com.
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