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Hockey to play No. 3 Denver in NCHC playoffs

Junior forward Joe Cassetti wins a faceoff against a Minnesota-Duluth player during the team's weekend series against the Bulldogs.
Junior forward Joe Cassetti wins a faceoff against a Minnesota-Duluth player during the team's weekend series against the Bulldogs.

The best part of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (at least for the teams toward the bottom of the standings) is that everyone dances. 

That’s good news for the Miami RedHawks (7-25-2, 4-19-1 NCHC), who finished last out of eight teams in the conference. The bad news is the team has to play the No. 3 Denver Pioneers (25-8-1, 18-6 NCHC) this weekend in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

The regular season ended unceremoniously last weekend with a couple of not-that-close losses to No. 8 Western Michigan. Miami took a 2-1 lead early in the second period on Friday, but WMU made it 3-2 by the end of the frame and never looked back. Saturday, Miami lost 3-0 despite outshooting the Broncos 32-31. 

The RedHawks are going to have their hands full with Denver. The Pioneers have scored more goals per game this season than anyone else in the country. Their powerplay converts 26.5% of the time, good for third in the nation. 

One thing is certain: sophomore goalie Ludvig Persson will have to have an incredible performance if the ‘Hawks want to have any chance of upsetting the explosive Pioneers.

Miami has played Denver pretty tough this year, especially at home. A little over a month ago, the Pioneers visited Oxford and almost got swept. Miami led Friday’s game for almost the entire third period until Denver tied the game with 11 seconds remaining, eventually winning in overtime. The next night the game was tied going into the third, but Denver came out on top again. 

Miami is going to have to try to slow down Bobby Brink, a Denver forward and the nation’s leading scorer. In addition to Brink, who’s recorded 53 points in 34 games this season, Denver has four more skaters scoring a point per game or better. 

Scouting Report

GAME 1

Miami RedHawks vs. Denver Pioneers

Faceoff: 9 p.m. ET Friday, March 11, at Magness Arena in Denver, Colo.

MIAMI REDHAWKS

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Record: 7-25-2 (4-19-1 NCHC)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Player (position, class, key stats)

PJ Fletcher (forward, sophomore, 34 gp, 8 g, 15 a)

Derek Daschke (defenseman, senior, 34 gp, 3 g, 24 a)

Chase Gresock (center, senior, 19 gp, 8 g, 9 a)

Matt Barbolini (forward, freshman, 33 gp, 10 g, 12 a)

Matt Barry (forward, senior, 34 gp, 8 g, 14 a)

Ludvig Persson (goaltender, sophomore, 31 gp, 6-21-2, .894 save percentage)

NO. 8 DENVER PIONEERS

Record: 25-8-1 (18-6-0 NCHC)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Player (position, class, key stats)

Bobby Brink (forward, junior, 34 gp, 14 g, 39 a)

Carter Savoie (forward, sophomore, 32 gp, 20 g, 20 a)

Cole Guttman (forward, freshman, 34 gp, 15 g, 23 a)

Brett Stapely (defenseman, senior, 34 gp, 14 g, 24 a

Magnus Chrona (goaltender, junior, 30 gp, 22-7-1, .903 save percentage)

GAME 2

Miami RedHawks vs. Denver Pioneers

Faceoff: 8 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday, March 12, at Magness Arena

GAME 3 (if necessary)

Miami RedHawks vs. Denver Pioneers

Faceoff: 8 p.m. Eastern Time Sunday, March 13, at Magness Arena

@jackschmelzinger

schmelj2@miamioh.edu

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