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Miami hockey’s plans for bye week and final stretch of the 2023-24 season

<p>After losing the series against St. Cloud State, Miami will use the bye week to rest and prepare for the remainder of the season</p>

After losing the series against St. Cloud State, Miami will use the bye week to rest and prepare for the remainder of the season

The Miami University hockey team's schedule ramped up significantly after the new year. The team has played five straight National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) series, including four against ranked teams, two of which were in the top 10 in the nation at the time. Two of their five series were back-to-back road trips. 

Now, the RedHawks finally get a break.

While the team’s bye week will have impacts from a practice and player recovery standpoint, the rest of the schedule is important to remember going in.

What the rest of the season will look like

First, on Feb. 23 and Feb. 24, they take on the Denver University Pioneers, who are currently ranked fifth in the nation. The Pioneers will be coming back home from an away series against the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs.

Then, to start the month of March, the No. 18 University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks will come to Oxford for the last home series of the 2023-24 season. The Mavericks are the last team in the NCHC that Miami has yet to face this season.

Finally, the RedHawks will head back on the road for their final regular season series of the year, and their second series against the Western Michigan University Broncos, who are currently ranked 13 and could end up higher by game day on March 8 and March 9.

After finishing the final series, the RedHawks will participate in the NCHC postseason, with their first matchup being in the quarterfinals in a best-of-three series, likely against the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks. 

As of now, the focus is on the bye week, primarily regarding getting rest and potentially getting a couple of players back.

How the RedHawks are making the most of their bye week

For head coach Chris Bergeron, getting rest is essential over the early part of this bye week, but when it comes to the on-ice work, the focus will be on the defensive zone and conditioning.

“We need to work on our d-zone coverage,” Bergeron said. “I think we need to work on our conditioning a little bit for one more stretch … We’ll get some rest mentally and physically over the first few days of this week, and we’ll go back to work and prepare for Denver, which we know is a very long trip and difficult team to play against in their rink.”

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The name of the game at this point is using the week off to buy time for players to come back from injury and the others to get rest, as Bergeron said.

Two names came off the rather extensive RedHawk injury list: senior forward Matthew Barbolini and junior forward Raimonds Vitolins returned and immediately contributed in the most recent series against St. Cloud State University. 

Goaltender Logan Neaton and sophomore forward William Hallén are waiting to re-enter the lineup, as Bergeron classified their injuries as a “week-to-week” issue.

If the RedHawks were to add those two at full health, it would be another energy boost for a locker room that wants to win as many games as possible down this stretch, especially given the results they had for three series straight despite their excellent efforts. 

Miami’s place in the NCHC standings is likely decided. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t use this bye week as a huge advantage to regain some reinforcements, find the right energy, create a strong mindset and focus on fixing the issues that were exploited against St. Cloud State. Their game is good enough to beat anyone, and this final stretch will be about testing their character as well as their on-ice ability.