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’Hawks head to Omaha for NCHC showdown

Senior Staff Writer

Published: Friday, November 22, 2013

Updated: Friday, November 22, 2013 01:11

The Miami University hockey team is on the road again. This time, the RedHawks are traveling 605 miles to square off against National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) opponent, the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

The Mavericks (6-6-0-0, 3-1-0-0 NCHC), who split with No. 5 University of Michigan last weekend, are looking to shake things up in the Top 20 USCHO poll once more against the No. 8 RedHawks (7-4-1, 2-2-0-0). The Mavericks are three spots outside of the top-20.

“Watching them on video, they’re playing really well right now and they’ve got some key forwards that we’re going to have to pay attention to,” head coach Enrico Blasi said. “Their D-core is very mobile and very capable and we’re going to have to, again, make sure like any other week that we’re preparing very well.

“And the one thing I know about Dean Blais’ teams is they’re going to play hard and be in your face. Your gonna have to be ready to compete for 60 minutes, so that will be the focus this week … it’s back to work today, and hopefully we can eliminate some of those sloppy mistakes.”

Miami is 2-2-1 on the road so far this year, and four of those five games were against teams ranked No. 6 or better at the time of competition. The ‘Hawks have been more of a finesse type team the past year, but this squad isn’t afraid to lay the lumber if need be. Their previous series against the University of Wisconsin prepared them well for Nebraska-Omaha’s brutal brand of punishing play.

“There’s no question it will be physical,” Blasi said. “They play a tough game for you to play against because they work hard. Their coaching staff does not allow them to not work hard, so we know we’re going to have to compete and play our best, and that will be the message today.”

Nebraska-Omaha boasts three players with 10 or more points, including leading scorer junior forward Josh Archibald, who leads the team with nine goals and four assists. The Mavs have also outshot their opponents 422 to 324 this year. However, they struggle on the powerplay. They have netted 12 goals in 71 opportunities, good for just a 17 percent conversion rate. The ’Hawks match up favorably, and have killed off 85 percent of their man disadvantages, good for 17th in the country.

Miami’s power play is vastly improved over last season, and they rank sixth in the NCAA with a 25 percent conversion rate. Sophomore forward Riley Barber and junior captain Austin Czarnik are among the top-10 point-getters in college hockey.

Barber looks at the past few weekends as the best possible practice his team could hope to have, which will come in handy, he said, moving forward.

“We’ve been playing some tough teams lately and I think we’ve been playing pretty well, so we’ve just got to keep it going there,” Barber said. “We’re playing away at their barn so it should be a fun weekend.”

The ‘Hawks and Mavs face off Friday, Nov. 22 at the CenturyLink Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:37 p.m.

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