By Jordan Rinard, For The Miami Student
After sweeping the No. 2 team in the country in Liberty University prior to Thanksgiving break, the No. 1 Miami University women's hockey team returns to the Goggin Ice Center for a conference clash with No. 12 Robert Morris University (IL) in CCWHA play. The RedHawks (14-0-1) are first in the league with 29 points, while the Eagles (10-4-0) are in second place with 20 points.
"We're working to stay sharp this week. After our break, we need to get back into our groove," head coach Scott Hicks said. "Robert Morris is a gritty team and we're going to have to earn it. They're ranked No. 12 and getting a statement win over us would be big for their resume, so we're going to need to fight back."
Miami has faced some stiff competition over the past couple of weeks with one game of the last four being decided by more than a goal. Junior right wing Rachael Booth and junior center Hayley Williams have been huge offensively for the Red and White, as they have 35 and 34 points on the season respectively. Booth leads the team with 20 assists and Williams leads with 18 goals.
The 'Hawks have had tremendous depth this season, as nine players in addition to Booth and Williams have registered double-digit points on the season. Sophomore right wing Kaley Mooney, sophomore center Katie Augustine and sophomore right wing Cassidy Guthrie have recorded 21 or more.
The team has been excellent in special teams, as it has found the back of the net on the power play 14 ties. The RedhHawks also have a strong penalty kill unit with a 95 penalty kill percentage.
Sophomore goaltender Emalee Wills has been playing well for the RedHawks, posting a 8-0-1 record on the season with two shutouts, eight goals against and 115 saves.
"We're trying to be more aggressive and be stronger because that's what we need to do against Robert Morris," Wills said. "We've been coming together, and it's shown with our lines and the improvement in communication. We've been working hard in practice and it's paying off. It'll be a challenge; it was a fight last year when we swept them and they won't take it easy on us."
Robert Morris has won six games in a row following a sweep at the hands of Liberty earlier in the season. Leading the charge for the Eagles is freshman center Makaila Anderson, with 16 goals and six assists. No other player on the team has tallied double-digit goals on the season. The team has been able to convert on the power play this season, as it has 11 goals spread out among six players, including three by senior center Rebecca Geerts.
RMU has had strong goalie play from senior Laura Noble and senior Anna Salvaggio, as they have accounted for eight wins, three shutouts and 242 saves.
"We're expecting a challenge this weekend," Hicks said. "After playing in big series a couple weekends in a row, we have to be able to sustain a high level of play. It'll be more of a mental challenge for us, and we have to push through it."
The RedHawks host the Eagles 10 p.m. Friday and 12:30 p.m. Saturday.