By Jordan Rinard, Senior Staff Writer
After opening the season with eight consecutive wins, the Miami University women's hockey team leaves the friendly confines of the Goggin Ice Center as it heads to Colorado for its first road test of the season to take on the University of Minnesota, the University of Massachusetts and the University of Denver. The RedHawks (8-0) have spent 50 weeks as the No. 1 team in the polls and sit atop of the CCWHA standings with a four-point lead over Davenport University.
"This week in practice, we're getting in better shape and improving our lungs for the altitude in Colorado," freshman forward Carly Noble, who has six goals and six assists this season, said. "Something that we can take from our past few games is our good chemistry as well as our scoring. There'll be more competition; they're pretty good."
During the past two games against Davenport, junior forward Haley Williams was productive on offense, posting four goals and an assist. Sophomore forward Rachael Booth had two goals and two assists in the games. The goaltenders have been putting in work during the three-game shutout stretch, as sophomore Emalee Wills and freshman Carly VanOrden have registered 58 saves.
The offense has not been a problem for the 'Hawks as of late, as they were able to outshoot the Panthers 98-3. The RedHawks are 12 for 12 on the penalty kill in their last three games. Miami needs to stay out of the penalty box, as it has been assessed 39 penalty minutes in the last three games as well.
No. 11 Minnesota (4-0), a national title winner in the 2012-2013 season, has swept Lindenwood University and the University of Wisconsin to begin its 2014-2015 campaign. Offense has been a group effort for the Gophers as 14 players have registered a point so far this season. Freshman forward Melissa Drown leads the way with eight. The goalies have allowed a combined seven goals this season.
Massachusetts (8-3) has won five of its last six games after suffering consecutive defeats at the hands of Liberty University. The Minutemen have five players with double-digit points on the season, including sophomore forward Brittani Lazilli and senior forward Ally Perdios, who have 13 points each. Senior netminder Kasel Zegel started all 11 games and has three shutouts, plus a .944 save percentage.
Denver (0-2) fell 6-0 to Colorado State University and 3-0 to the University of Colorado to open the season. In those two games, senior goaltender Sydney Firmin made 82 saves and posted a .901 save percentage.
"We faced UMass in the national title game last year and are returning a lot of players, so it'll be a good battle," head coach Scott Hicks said. "Minnesota is No. 11 in the country and a solid team, so they'll be a battle too. We don't know much about Denver. We're focusing on staying consistent and not getting ahead of ourselves and focusing in on the little things. It'll be a challenge with the altitude but our depth and having four lines will be huge for us. It's exciting for us to play against national title-quality teams."
The RedHawks take on Minnesota 5:15 p.m. Friday, Massachusetts 3 p.m. Saturday and Denver 9:30 a.m. Sunday.