By Grace Remington, Staff Writer
For the second time in three years, the Miami University men’s hockey team returns to Soldier Field for the Hockey City Classic. The game concludes the regular season series between Miami (15-9-1, 8-6-1-1 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) and Western Michigan University (11-10-4, 4-7-4-3 NCHC).
The RedHawks are 59-56-11 all-time against the Broncos, and 2-0-1 this season. The series is Miami’s longest-running conference series.
“When you play teams that many times, it really becomes a rivalry,” head coach Enrico Blasi said in his weekly press conference.
The ’Hawks swept WMU at home in November with 1-0 and 5-2 wins. Their most recent meeting was Saturday at the Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In a game that came down to the last seconds, Miami defeated the Broncos 2-1 in a four-round shootout after a 3-3 tie in regulation.
“Every game we play seems to be a one-goal game, right down to the wire,” Blasi said. “It’s a battle out there for every inch of ice.”
Despite having seen Western Michigan’s play three times this year, the team approaches the game as if it were any other.
“We are going to play it like any other game,” sophomore forward Anthony Louis said in an email. “We have a job to do and we are going in the game to win, not just for the experience.”
Soldier Field brings a tougher outdoor atmosphere that the team has seen only once before. In the 2012-13 season, Miami fell 2-1 to the University of Notre Dame in the Hockey City Classic. Fourteen players who dressed in that game return for this year’s contest. The lone goal scorer for Miami was junior forward Kevin Morris.
Blasi said the main issue playing outdoors is adapting to the differences in surroundings and depth perception.
“The problem is your ice conditions on Friday might not be the same on Saturday,” Blasi said. “Certainly that was the case last time we played there. We had real good ice on the practice day, and then the sun came out and slushed everything up.”
Puck drop is set for 4 p.m. EST Saturday in Chicago, Illinois.