After suffering two heartbreaking losses to the No. 2 ranked University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks last weekend, the Miami University RedHawks hockey team is thrust right back into National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) action against another ranked opponent, the No. 16 St. Cloud State University Huskies.
The RedHawks enter the weekend with an overall record of 7-17-2 and a conference record of 1-14-1, the only win coming against the formerly ranked No. 10 Western Michigan University Broncos.
On the other side of the table, the Huskies come into this matchup with 30 points, the second-highest number in the conference, and a record of 8-4-4. Their overall record is 12-9-5, and the Huskies have the third-lowest number of wins in the NCHC.
For Head Coach Chris Bergeron, the reason for St. Cloud’s notoriety is their ability to win consistently.
“I think where St. Cloud’s success starts is their winning pedigree,” Bergeron said. “You look at the last five years, it’s nothing but winning, whether it’s regular season or playoffs, so that’s where it starts.”
The Huskies aren’t as lethal a team on offense as the Fighting Hawks, scoring 28 fewer goals this season, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any weapons the RedHawks need to watch out for.
The main catalyst of St. Cloud’s offense is the team’s leading scorer, defenseman Dylan Anhorn, who epitomizes mobility and an active defense core.
“I do think a lot starts with their backend,” Bergeron said. “Anhorn was a transfer who we saw here last year, but we didn’t see him [at St. Cloud]. He got injured, so he didn’t finish the season, but then we saw him at the beginning of this year. Their d-core is really active whether it be on the rush or the offensive blueline.”
The Huskies, however, are coming into this series having lost three of their last four, all coming beyond regulation, including a 7-6 overtime loss and a shootout loss to the University of Omaha Nebraska Mavericks. After an overtime victory last Friday, they lost once more in overtime to the Colorado College Tigers.
Not only can the RedHawks use their momentum from keeping up with one of the best teams in the nation, but they can also use their rink to their advantage.
St. Cloud State is one of the few teams that play on a larger sheet of ice. Instead of playing on “NHL size,” which is 200 feet in length and 85 feet horizontally, the Huskies play on a sheet that is 15 feet wider.
Sophomore defenseman Axel Kumlin says that they can use the rink to their advantage, as the Huskies will have to adjust to playing in a smaller rink at game speed.
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“Our biggest strength is that we can use the smaller ice sheet,” Kumlin said. “They’re used to playing on the bigger one, so we can try to get [the puck] to their net as much as possible.”
The most important piece of information for the RedHawks comes out of the training room. They’re currently missing six players headed into this weekend’s matchup, and according to Bergeron, there are only two players that have a realistic shot of coming back soon.
Forwards Matthew Barbolini and Raimonds Vitolins are in the conversation to return. Goalie Logan Neaton and forward William Hallen also have a chance to return before the end of the season. Unfortunately, defenseman Michael Feenstra and forward Frankie Carogioiello are unlikely to return and are expected to sit out the rest of the season.
The RedHawks have a bye week after this series, so it may be possible to see Barbolini and Vitolins held out of the lineup to try and get them as close to full health as possible.
No matter who is in the lineup for the RedHawks, they want to make sure that the fans are in for a good game, win or lose.
The showings for last weekend’s games against North Dakota were some of the best crowds seen in a while, and the hope is that not only were fans entertained, but that they will want to come back, regardless of results.
“All we can do is say thank you for coming, and hopefully you had fun, and if you didn’t, tell us why,” Bergeron said. “If it’s based on results, well, I understand. But we’re in the entertainment business. I hope the people who came to watch this past weekend were entertained.”
The upcoming weekend will hopefully be as entertaining as the last, and the RedHawks will look to add to their conference win total against a rival school. Both games against the St. Cloud State Huskies will see the puck drop at Steve “Coach” Cady Arena at 7:05 p.m.