Ben Blanchard, Sports Editor
Looking to maintain momentum from a 5-0 blowout win over Maine, the Miami University hockey team takes on Bowling Green State University in a home doubleheader this weekend.
MU is now 2-1-2 after tying and beating Maine last weekend, and the young RedHawks received the second most votes of any unranked program in the latest NCAA rankings. For a 26-man team with 14 freshmen and six sophomores, this early success has been surprising to many.
Freshman goaltender Ryan Larkin has been a key contributor to Miami's solid start, as he has allowed one goal or less in three of his last four starts, including his first career shutout against Maine. Larkin's .931 save percentage ranks him 12th in the nation.
"Larkin had a great summer, and he was recruited for a reason," head coach Enrico Blasi said. "He's a very focused young man and he's executing in games, and we hope that continues."
BGSU enters the weekend series 0-5-1 following a 6-1 loss to Ohio State, a team that Miami tied 3-3 two weekends ago. The Falcons' winless start has been surprising and disappointing, as many expected more considering last season's 22-14-6 record.
The RedHawks are 49-59-8 all-time against the Falcons, though Miami is 18-1-1 in its last 20 meetings with Bowling Green, winning both games last year.
The last time BGSU travelled to Oxford, then-junior and now senior forward Anthony Louis scored with two seconds remaining in the game to defeat the No. 14 Falcons 2-1. This season, Louis, a Chicago Blackhawks prospect, has five points through five games, including two goals in the 5-0 victory over Maine.
"Bowling Green's an in-state rival, and they're going to come out like they always do, trying to beat us in the first 10 minutes," Louis said. "We're going to be ready, and it'll be a battle from Friday through Saturday night. We'll be ready for it."
Junior defenseman and captain Louie Belpedio has been critical for MU on both ends of the ice, as the Minnesota Wild prospect has six points so far while also anchoring the RedHawks' defense efforts.
Offensively, Miami's top forward line of Louis, sophomore Josh Melnick and freshman Carson Meyer has sparked a unit that struggled to generate even-strength offense during the first few games of the season.
"The win over Maine was a great confidence booster, everyone's contributing and that's huge," Melnick said. "We've watched film on Bowling Green the past few days, and they're a good team. They play the game the right way, so we'll have to bear down and focus on our own play and habits to be successful."
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Special teams have been a strength for MU all season. After allowing one early power play goal in its Oct. 7 season opener at No. 14 Providence, the Miami penalty kill has successfully killed off 29-straight power plays and is tied for the national lead at 96.7 percent. MU's 90.9 percent kill rate last season was the second best in the country.
"Our special teams have been outstanding," Blasi said. "Coach Brekke does a great job with the penalty killers, and our schemes and system are very aggressive. I think if you're a hockey player, you want to play that style, and guys have bought into our system. We've been able to get to pucks and make life difficult for opposing power plays, and that's a direct result of buying in and sacrificing for each other."
The puck drops in Steve "Coach" Cady Arena 7:35 p.m. Friday and 7:05 p.m. Saturday. Fans are encouraged to wear costumes in celebration of Halloween weekend. Friday's game will be broadcast live on Fox College Sports, and Saturday's tilt can be streamed at NCHC.tv.