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Miami in three-way tie for first in NCHC

By Grace Remington, For The Miami Student

A sweep of Colorado College was enough to launch the Miami University men's hockey team to the top of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The RedHawks are tied with North Dakota University and the University of Nebraska Omaha for first place with 35 points with three weekends left in conference play.

After a 3-1 win Friday night and a 2-1 win Saturday, the RedHawks (18-9-1, 11-6-1-1 NCHC) jump to the No. 6 spot in the poll and USA Today polls. It is the RedHawks' first regular season road sweep since joining the NCHC last year.

Junior forward Sean Kuraly picked up yet another game-winner in Saturday's contest. It was his ninth of the season, a school record.

"I think the record is really cool," Kuraly said. "That's just something that has come along with doing some of the things correctly … but I know there's a lot of area I can improve in my game. I'm just trying to get better every day."

Kuraly is now just one game-winner shy of matching the NCAA single season record.

Freshman defenseman Louis Belpedio and junior goaltender Jay Williams took home NCHC honors for their efforts. Belpedio was named Rookie of the Week and Williams was tabbed Goalie of the Week. William stopped 48 of 50 shots over both nights and improves to 16-4 on the year.

Five different RedHawks scored in both games.

"Any time you go on the road and are able to get a couple of wins, that's a pretty good deal," head coach Enrico Blasi said.

The Tigers (5-21-1, 1-16-1 NCHC) were first to draw blood Friday night, but Miami scored three unanswered goals to skate away with the win. MU outshot Colorado 34-23 and went 1 for 4 on the power play, while killing off all three CC man advantages.

Saturday's game brought much closer play. After a scoreless first period in which each team mustered only five shots, a power play goal from Belpedio put Miami on the board at the 5:01 mark. Kuraly then came through on another power play with his 14th goal of the season.

The 'Hawks outshot the Tigers 33-27 for the night and converted on 2 of 4 power plays, while killing of 1 of 5 Tiger man advantages.

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The sweep extends the 'Hawks season-long unbeaten streak to five games (4-0-1).

"We're getting into the crunch of the season," Blasi said. "It really is important to focus your attention on preparing well and playing your best on the weekend … at this point you don't look at anything but your game and what you're capable of doing. And all the teams are going to do that. So again, our focus is being ready to play on Friday, and we'll go from there."

Miami returns home for the first time since Jan. 24 for a two game series with No. 7 University of Minnesota Duluth. Friday's puck drop is 7:35 p.m. and Saturday's is set for 7:05 p.m.

"Obviously it's really important, first place is on the line," Kuraly said. "The last six games for us will be huge. There's so much that can be determined with these last six games. We're excited for it, it's really important to keep this momentum going."