The No. 10 Miami University men’s ice hockey team (14-8-4 overall, 12-5-3-1 CCHA) returns to Steve Cady Arena this weekend to play its fourth conference series of the new year against Bowling Green State University (9-14-3, 6-11-1-0).
The contest could aid the RedHawks in solidifying a return to their winning ways, as the Falcons hold a road ledger of 2-6-1 this season and the Red and White have not lost to BGSU at home in the regular season since Feb. 12, 2000.
Bowling Green currently ranks 11th out of 12 CCHA teams, while Miami is second. The Orange and Brown enter the weekend eighth in the conference in team offense and with a bottom ranked defense, as the Falcons have allowed an astonishing CCHA-topping 86 goals in 2008-09.
That said, Bowling Green does pack an offensive punch that is not to be taken lightly. The Falcons’ top line, consisting of alternate captain senior Brandon Svendsen and sophomores Dan Sexton and David Solway, has combined for 60 percent of the points scored in the 16 conference games they’ve played together in this season. Additionally, the trio boasts a combined plus 7, while the rest of the team is a collective minus 92. Svendsen is tied for sixth in the CCHA in scoring with 21 points to his name, while Sexton ranks eighth with 20. Additionally, Svendsen leads the CCHA in shorthanded goals and is tied for third in the NCAA with three.
Miami’s talented offense is no secret, and sophomore Hobey Baker Award nominee Carter Camper is leading the charge. The forward from Rocky River, Ohio, is in contention for some of the top categories in the NCAA. Camper is tied for 6th in overall scoring with 32 points and 3rd in goals with 16. Additionally, nine of those goals were scored on the power play which ranks 9th in the nation.
“There are a number of things that contribute to our team’s success: our tenacity, the way we go get it, if you will,” head coach Enrico Blasi said. “We don’t sit back and wait for things to come to us. We’re a hard working team with a lot of talent, but we don’t rely on talent alone. At this point, our focus is key.”
In conference play, the brotherhood’s offensive depth is on display, as the Red and White occupies over a third of the top 15 overall scoring slots. Sophomore Pat Cannone is in a three-way tie for first with 24 points, Camper sits in fourth with 23 points, and senior Justin Mercier, freshman Chris Wideman, sophomore Andy Miele and junior Jarod Palmer round out the top 15 with 18, 17, 17 and 16 points, respectively.
The Falcons’ defensive line has also upped its involvement in offensive play, contributing nine goals and 11 assists over the last 13 games.
Miami’s scoring defense is ranked eighth nationally, but the brotherhood’s rearguard also packs a powerful penalty kill that ranks second in the NCAA. Additionally, one half of the RedHawks’ last line of defense, rookie goaltender Connor Knapp, currently ranks 10th nationally overall with a .912 save percentage and 1.95 goals against average.
“(Miami’s) defense will have to be very active and help out the forwards because BG tends to clog up the front of the net,” Cannone said. “They’re also very good in transition, so we’ll have to watch for that.”
Following this weekend’s series, the Red and White have three more CCHA series remaining in the regular season.
“We expect to give 100 percent this weekend and to follow our game plan,” Knapp said. “We know that the regular season is almost over and that we have the ability to win the rest of the games on our schedule, and that’s what we’re setting out to do.”
The team has experienced particular difficulty clinching a W on the opening night of contests in 2009. The ‘Hawks have failed to win the first game in any of the past four series-a rut they will need to escape in order to finish the regular season with any hope of playing in the NCAA post-season tournament.
“Everyone needs to figure out what they need to do individually to contribute,” Knapp said. “Our performance on Friday nights hasn’t been for lack of effort or hard work – we just need to execute.”
The RedHawks will face off against the Falcons at 7:35 p.m. tonight and 7:05 p.m. Saturday night. The Ohio News Network and the NHL Network will provide television coverage, and fans can also tune into WMSR’s live broadcast at www.redhawkradio.com.