Joe Gieringer, Staff Writer

Sophomore forward Austin Czarnik fights for the puck. Czarnik has a team-leading five goals and tied for the team lead with 10 points for the fifth ranked Miami University hockey team. (Lauren Olson | The Miami Student)

The No. 5 Miami University men’s hockey team (5-2-1) will skate in front of a home crowd for the first time since Oct. 20, as it faces off against Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) foe Northern Michigan this weekend. The No. 16 ranked Wildcats (4-3-1) are coming off a weekend with against No. 12 rival Michigan, whom they tied and beat in a two game series.

After splitting their series against a very capable Ferris State opponent, the RedHawks have no plans to look past their in-conference opponent as they refocus in the days leading up to Friday.

“Northern is a great team and they’ve got an extremely talented goaltender,” senior captain Steven Spinell said. “They’re a really good team and we just have to be ready for them. We’re just going to push ourselves every day in practice and get better each day and hopefully that caries into the weekend.”

Indeed Northern Michigan’s junior goaltender Jared Coreau might be a problem between the pipes. Boasting a .920 career save percentage and averaging almost 27 saves a game, the net minder went 2-1 last year versus the Red and White while recording a .934 save percentage in those three games.

“We’ve got to get traffic in front of him and try to find a way to score,” Head Coach Enrico Blasi said. “He’s played well against us in the past and he’s a good goaltender.”

Freshman goalie Ryan McKay has missed the past few games with an injury, and it is unclear when he will return to the ice.

“He’s day to day, so we’re just going to keep honoring it and if he has to play, he can play,” Blasi said of McKay. “But we’re going to probably take it slow.”

Fellow freshman Jay Williams has gotten the starts with McKay out, and has performed admirably. He has allowed 2.70 goals per game and has a .910 save percentage.

On the other end of the ice, senior forward Matt Thurber is leading the CCHA in points (11) and assists (10) as he looks to extend those numbers this weekend.

Right up there with Thurber are Miami’s own sophomore Austin Czarnik, who has notched five goals and five assists this season, and freshman linemate Riley Barber with four goals and six assists. Barber was named Hockey Commissioners Association’s National Rookie of the Month on Saturday, after his 8-point October performance put him in the top five CCHA scorers.

“It’s a great accomplishment, but I can’t thank my teammates enough,” Barber said. “But I’m just focusing on the games this weekend.” Blasi agreed that though it’s an honor, Barber and the team’s focus is on the task at hand.

“His play obviously warranted that,” Blasi said. “It’s nice, but at the same time if the team’s not doing well then the individual’s not going to look good, so it’s still a team game and everyone’s got to do their part moving forward.”

The RedHawks will look to extend their home unbeaten streak to five games on Friday at the Goggin Ice Center. The puck drops at 7:35 p.m. and again at 7:05 p.m. Saturday to close out the two-game series against the Wildcats.