After moving up one spot to No. 4 in both major college hockey polls, Miami University (6-2-2) is set to square off against Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) foe Michigan State (4-5-1) on home ice.
The RedHawks, who are coming off of a sweep of 19th ranked Northern Michigan, are in sole possession of first place in the CCHA with a 3-2-1 record and boast two of the league’s leading scorers.
Freshman forward Riley Barber sits on top of the scoring chart at 14 points with a team-high nine assits.
Sophomore linemate Austin Czarnik is tied for second in the league with 13 points and a team leading six goals.
But that doesn’t mean that the sometimes-streaky Spartans are not a threat, as they come into Oxford riding a 7-2 blowout win over in-state rival University of Michigan. Sophomore forward Matt Berry, who recorded a hat trick in the blowout victory, is currently fifth among CCHA scorers with 11 points. Berry was named CCHA Offensive Player of the Week following his series against Michigan.
“They’re coming off of a big win, so I would suspect that they’re focused on Friday night,” Head Coach Enrico Blasi said. “Their forwards are pretty dynamic; they’ve scored a boatload of goals. I think their goaltending is pretty good, and their D is very mobile, so we’ve got to continue to be focused on playing well in all three zones, with and without the puck.”
Special teams will be a primary focus for Miami this weekend, as it has been all season. Of the RedHawks’ 30 total goals, a third of those have come on the man advantage, while three have been scored on the penalty kill.
“We’re going to keep on doing the things that we’ve been doing the past two weeks, especially on special teams,” Czarnik said, who coincidentally has accounted for all three of Miami’s man-down strikes. “We’ve got to keep on moving the puck on the power play and keep on getting good shots, and on the penalty kill just work on our habits.”
Freshman defenseman Matthew Caito also stressed the importance of special teams as his team heads into their fourth straight series against a Michigan-based opponent. Caito, who tallied a power play goal on Friday night, leads Miami defensemen in scoring with four points.
“Special teams can win or lose you a game,” Caito said. “We did really well on the PP last week against Northern and we need to continue that to be successful.”
Also a big boost for the ‘Hawks heading into the weekend is the potential return of freshman goaltender Ryan McKay, who was injured in the first period of the Oct. 26 game at Michigan.
McKay has yet to give up an even strength goal this season. He has a .984 save percentage and has allowed only ome goal so far.
Classmate Jay Williams has played well in his absence, achieving a 5-2-1 record. Williams has a .911 save percentage on the season.
“He’s going,” Blasi said. “I don’t know if he’s going to play this weekend or not, but he’s 100 percent and ready to go if called on.”
Miami opens up the series with Michigan State on Friday at the Goggin Ice Center. The puck drops 7:35 p.m. Friday and 7:05 p.m. Saturday. Fans can listen to the game at www.redhawkradio.