By Harrison Schwarz, Staff Writer
The Miami University hockey team (10-12-3) takes on one of the country’s top offenses when it hosts No.3 St. Cloud State University (22-5-1) this weekend.
St. Cloud has scored more goals (71) than any team in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. University of North Dakota – the team with the second-most goals in the conference and the No. 2 team in the country – is far behind SCSU’s mark with 59 goals.
Miami is second-to-last in the NCHC in total goals with 37.
SCSU ranks second nationally in goals per game (4.39), while Miami ranks 46th (2.40).
Despite an underwhelming first half of the season, MU as seen recent success, including two wins against then-No.7 University of Nebraska-Omaha two weeks ago and split with No. 13 University of Denver last weekend.
“We switched our focus from being results-based to just playing our game and playing every shift as hard as we can,” senior forward and team captain Sean Kuraly said. “And sticking to our game plan. I think even though they’re a great team, it has to about us executing our game plan this weekend.”
If the offense can’t pick up the slack, the RedHawks’ defense might be the answer. The Red and White have allowed one goal per game in four of their last seven games.
Senior defenseman Taylor Richart believes the defense has taken a more unselfish approach in the second half of the season.
“Coach has talked a lot about sacrificing for one another and being able to come to the locker room after the games just knowing that you gave it your all,” Richart said. “With that, it comes down to sacrificing by blocking shots, getting in lanes and getting tough on guys. Really, anything to help Willy [goaltender Jay Williams].”
The last time MU and St. Cloud met was in a two-game series on Oct. 30 and 31 in St. Cloud, Minn. Miami lost 3-0 and 3-1.
Head coach Enrico Blasi said both teams are much different animals since the last time they faced each other.
“They are a much better team now, a little bit later in the season,” Blasi said. “I think we are a different team as well. So I think you take all the information you can and you try to devise a game plan that is best suited to the strengths of your team. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
The games this weekend are the final of MU’s two-week home stand. The RedHawks don’t play in Oxford again until Feb. 26 against Colorado College.
The puck drops at 7:35 p.m. Friday and at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in Oxford, Ohio.