Ben Blanchard, Sports Editor
Two weeks removed from consecutive ties at then No. 1 and current No. 2 Denver, the Miami University hockey team returns to action this weekend with a non-conference road series at Cornell University.
The RedHawks (3-6-4 overall, 0-4-2 conference) were without junior captain Louie Belpedio (lower-body injury) for their last three series, but expect their starting defenseman back in the line-up this weekend.
“I’m excited, it’s been a long month,” Belpedio said. “Sitting out was tough, but it opened my eyes to notice a lot of the little things that go on out there that I normally don’t see from my perspective on the ice or bench.”
Without Belpedio, who never missed a game in his first two seasons, MU struggled, losing five straight before picking up two draws at DU. During the skid, the ‘Hawks were outscored 27-12.
“We’ve been pretty decimated with injuries and sickness,” head coach Enrico Blasi said. “But if you’re not going through adversity, you’re probably not growing as a person or team.”
Entering Denver, Miami was 0-4 in National Collegiate Hockey Conference play, so snapping the losing spell was critical to avoiding digging too deep of a hole early in the season.
“We took a really big step at Denver, ending the losing streak and tying that team is not an easy thing to do,” Belpedio said. “We just need to pick up where we left off.”
Freshman goaltender Ryan Larkin was critical to keeping both games close, as he made 87 saves while only allowing three goals on the weekend.
“Our defense did a really good job keeping the shots to the outside, and we blocked a lot of those shots as well,” Larkin said. “We needed to focus on everyday stuff like practice and the process rather than the weekend and games, and that has helped us turn things around and get our confidence back.”
Cornell (5-3-1, 4-2-1 ECAC), coming off a 3-2 Tuesday win at Colgate, has won four games in a row. This streak includes a third-straight Frozen Apple tournament title, which included a championship win over New Hampshire in Madison Square Garden last Saturday.
Senior goaltender Mitch Gillam has performed all season for the Big Red, and his first-star, 29-save performance in goal Saturday was key to his team’s victory.
“Cornell is a well-coached and real solid team,” Blasi said. “They play heavy, and they can beat you in a lot of different ways. Their goaltender is one of the best in the country, so we’ve got our work cut out for us, no different than playing in our conference. You’ve got to come to play and play your best.”
The puck drops in Lynah Rink in Ithaca, N.Y. at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Both games will be aired on the Ivy League Digital Network and Friday’s tilt will also be simulcast on ESPN3.