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Hockey opens NCHC play at WMU

Ben Blanchard, Sports Editor

After a tough 4-1 loss to instate rival Bowling Green last weekend, the Miami University hockey team looks to bounce back on the road against another rival, Western Michigan University, in its first National Collegiate Hockey Conference series of the season.

Miami enters the weekend 3-2-2 overall and has yet to play an NCHC game. WMU is 3-2-1 overall, with both losses coming at NCHC opponent and No. 2 Denver last weekend.

Last Saturday's loss to BGSU broke the fledgling RedHawks' five-game unbeaten streak. That stretch included wins over nationally ranked Providence and Maine, as well as a 2-1 overtime victory over the Falcons the night before.

Miami is one of the youngest teams in the nation this season, having played 11 freshmen and five sophomores so far. One of these first-years, goaltender Ryan Larkin, has been a big reason that MU holds a winning record despite its inexperience.

Larkin's .927 save percentage ranks 15th in the nation, while Miami's 2.0 goals against average is tied for seventh.

"Everyone comes in early in the summer, so our defense has been working together for a while now," junior defenseman Scott Dornbrock said. "A lot of practice goes into it, and we set a high standard for ourselves."

Lofty goals extend from Miami's defensive core to its' special teams unit, as MU's penalty kill has killed off 38-of-40 penalties this season. That success rate, 95 percent, ranks the RedHawks third in the nation.

"Coach Brekke has been on us hard this, we need to stick to our system and our success rate will take care of itself," Dornbrock said.

Last weekend, Bowling Green's physical presence bogged down the flow of play and the RedHawks' offense, limiting MU to only 16 shots in Friday's victory and 15 shots in Saturday's loss.

According to the scouting report, Miami expects a similar series from the Broncos.

"The coaches have been saying that (Western Michigan) plays similar to BG," sophomore forward Zach LaValle said. "They're physical and they get in your face, except they're bigger, faster and stronger. We're a fast team, so we have to use our speed to get around them and create chances."

This series is critical for both unranked programs, as each received votes in the most recent NCAA rankings but remained off the top-20 following losses last weekend.

Wins will rarely come easy throughout this NCHC season, as the conference boasts the current top three teams in the nation. No.1 Minnesota-Duluth, No. 2 Denver and the defending NCAA champion, current No. 3 North Dakota have dominated their early non-conference schedules.

The puck drops in Lawson Ice Arena 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Friday's game will air live on the American Sports Network, while Saturday's game can be streamed at