You can bet that Miami University players have not forgotten about their last trip to Ralph Engelstad Arena.
It’s hard to forget a 9-2 beating — the program’s worst in 15 years. But that lopsided loss also marked the start of a turnaround for Miami.
The REA series ended a stretch where the RedHawks went 4-17-2.
The next weekend, standout forward Blake Coleman returned to the lineup and Miami’s fortunes started to turn. Coleman has scored a remarkable 15 goals in 18 game since returning. Team success has followed.
Miami ran to the NCHC title game last season and is now off to a 7-3 start this season.
Clearly, it’s not all Coleman, but he does help. And good news for Miami: After Coleman had to sit out last weekend with an undisclosed injury, he is available for this weekend’s series against UND.
The top three things to watch for Miami this weekend:
1. The high-end forwards. I don’t know if any team in the country can match Miami’s top six forwards. Austin Czarnik, Riley Barber, Blake Coleman, Sean Kuraly, Anthony Louis and Alex Wideman are all big-time players. Minnesota Duluth, you could argue, may have the deepest group of forwards in the league, but I don’t think anyone can match Miami’s top six.
I thought that Miami could lose as many as three of them in the offseason, but they all came back to write a different ending to their careers. Don’t be surprised if one or two of them are in the Hobey mix by the end of the season. These guys can really put up the points when they have…..
2. Puck possession, puck possession, puck possession. That’s the name of the game in hockey these days and nobody is doing it better than Miami right now. The RedHawks rank No. 1 nationally in shot margin (+15.2 per game).
When this team gets the puck in the offensive zone, they can do special things and generate a ton of offense. That’s Miami’s biggest strength.
On the flip side, Miami’s biggest weakness last season was defending. The RedHawks, at times, had a lot of difficultly playing in their own end. So, if you forced Miami to play in its own end, you exposed its weakness and didn’t allow the RedHawks to play to their strength.
UND did that very well in Grand Forks last season and it will be a key once again.
3. The new D. One reason why Miami’s defensive corps has been better so far this season is because they are simply a year older. The RedHawks had no seniors and only one junior on D last season.
Another reason is freshman Louie Belpedio. The standout recruit from the NTDP adds some offense to the back end, an element the RedHawks lacked last season.
Overall, it should be a showdown between two teams that like to possess the puck and two teams that like to transition. In the past, we’ve seen some very exciting-to-watch games because of that. I’d expect more of that this weekend.
Some reading for today:
Friday notebook – Rico Blasi talks about Miami’s turnaround; Josh Fenton touches on Arizona State
Thursday feature – While many try to peg the next stars at age 15, there are still the Tucker Poolman stories out there
Q&A – Troy Stecher tells us why his nickname used to be ‘The Human Zamboni’
Injury update – Nick Schmaltz out; MacMillan and LaDue questionable
Familiar faces – Jim Scanlan and Leah Jensen to see each other on opposite benches
UAA beatings – After Anchorage lost to Ferris State 10-2 on Thursday night, Doyle Woody recalled epic UAA beatings, including one issued by ‘a dude named Zach Parise,’ and an great quote from Justin Bourne asking, “This only counts as one loss, right?”
Minnesota Duluth vs. Minnesota: The only nonconference series of the weekend for the NCHC will be a home-and-home series. The Gophers are unbeaten in 17 straight at Mariucci Arena (15-0-2). The last home loss was to… Minnesota Duluth on Nov. 24. I’m going to go against conventional wisdom and say that each team gets one on the road. Duluth 4-3; Minnesota 4-1.
St. Cloud State at Western Michigan: After going a year and a half without getting swept at home, the Huskies have now been swept in two of three series there and are 2-5 in their last seven games at NHC. But they hit the road this weekend and I think they get back on track. St. Cloud State 3-2, 3-2.
Colorado College at Denver: Just a single game will be played tonight. Things are not going well in Tigerland, where they’ve lost six straight, and I don’t anticipate them getting any better against the Pios. Denver 4-2.
Miami at UND: I think we’ll see an exciting brand of hockey at The Ralph this weekend. One night, UND contains the RedHawks’ top players, the other night, it does not. Miami 4-1, UND 3-2.
The UND women’s hockey team has gone through the heart of their schedule, facing off against Duluth, Minnesota and Wisconsin in back-to-back-to-back weekends.
Coach Brian Idalski said he was happy to get a breather after that with 13 days off to prepare for the next series. The players seemed to say that the time off was much-needed as well.
With a full roster, we’ll see how they regroup against Jim Scanlan’s group that just took five of six points against Minnesota. Bemidji State became the first team to win a series against Minnesota since the Badgers got a win and a tie in January 2011. They were the first team to win a series in Ridder since UND swept there in October 2010.
Both Bemidji State and UND have been getting outstanding goaltending this season, so this could be a low-scoring series.
That’s all for now.