By Grace Remington, Staff Writer
With three weekends left in conference play, the race for the Penrose Cup is heating up. The Miami University men's hockey team hunts for its first National Collegiate Hockey Conference title as it takes on the University of Minnesota Duluth.
No. 6 Miami (18-9-1, 11-6-1-1 NCHC) is tied at 35 points with No. 1 University of North Dakota and No. 5 University of Nebraska Omaha points for first in the conference. No. 7 Duluth (18-11-1, 10-7-1-1 NCHC) sits at fourth with 31 points and is just two points clear of fifth-place No. 9 Denver University for the final home seed in next month's NCHC playoffs.
"If you look at the results, you see a lot of splits on the weekends and one-goal games," head coach Enrico Blasi said. "A lot of games have gone into overtime. It's a tough league. It's quality opponents every week."
Miami trails UMD 3-2 in the all-time series, though the teams split their first-ever series in Duluth in October. Every game between the two teams has been decided by a single goal.
"I expect the same," Blasi said. "I expect it to be hard-fought. Both teams will bring their best."
Earlier in the week, junior forward Sean Kuraly emphasized the importance of keeping up momentum during the final regular season games.
"First place is on the line," junior forward Sean Kuraly said Monday. "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."
The 'Hawks enter the series riding a five-game unbeaten (4-0-1) streak.
The Bulldogs split their series with St. Cloud State University last weekend. Eight UMD skaters have scored at least seven goals, and four have recorded at least 20 points. Freshman goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo holds a 2.31 goals against average and a .911 save percentage.
As the end of the regular season approaches, Blasi said he is focusing on one game at a time, which means preparing for Friday.
"As we say in the locker room, play tough, play hard and leave it all on the ice," Blasi said.
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Puck drop is 7:35 p.m. Friday and Saturday's puck drop is 7:05 p.m.