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February 8, 2013

#3 Miami heads to Lawson to take on #6 Western Michigan

Miami RedHawks

Location: Oxford, OH
Home Arena: Goggin Ice Arena (Capacity: 3,200)
Head Coach: Enrico Blasi (14th year, 303-190-53)
2011-12 Record: 24-15-2 (15-11-2-1, 4th in CCHA)
2012-13 Record: 17-6-5
2012-13 CCHA Record: 12-4-4-4 (44 pts, 1st place)

This season: After ending last season on a tear, the RedHawks came out blazing this season and have been a top 10 team all year. After a 3-0-1 start, Enrico Blasi's club stumbled briefly on the road against Michigan and Ferris State, going 1-2 over a 3 game span, but quickly rebounded to go on a 6-0-2-2 in their next 8 CCHA games. They would struggle a bit over the winter break, dropping 3 games out of 4, but have won their last 5 heading into this weekend.

Forwards: Miami has probably the best 2 forwards in the CCHA in Austin Czarnik (11-19-30) and Riley Barber (11-17-28). Both have been wildly successful in their young careers, and Barber was part of the Gold Medal-winning U.S. National Junior Team. Curtis McKenzie (7-10-17) and Cody Murphy (8-6-14) also provide some depth at forward. The Miami offense, which is averaging 2.80 goals/game in conference games, has been somewhat shaky at times on the road, averaging 2.25 goals/game outside of a series at Alaska. They'll have to be on their A-game, however, as they face the 3rd best defense in the nation.

Defense: The best defensive team in the country, the RedHawks are outstanding. Allowing a mere 1.54 goals/game, the Miami defense is surprisingly young. Still, Steven Spinell (0-7-7, +12) captains this team which has suddenly shored up their defense from last season's disaster in the CCHA Semi-finals. Freshman Matthew Caito (3-11-14, +12) provides scoring from the blue-line, and has been a great option on the power-play

Goaltending: When Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp both graduated last spring, there was much speculation over if the RedHawks could find another good goaltender to replace them. Blasi hit the jackpot in Jay Williams (11-4-3, 1:76 GAA, .930 save %) and Ryan McKay (6-2-2, 1.08, .960). The fantastic freshmen duo has been spectacular in net, and McKay is leading most of the nation in goals against and save percentage. Look for Blasi to use Williams on Friday and McKay on Saturday, as that has been the rotation since the Alaska series at the end of November.

Prediction: Outside of last season's CCHA Semi-Final, the Broncos have not had much luck against the RedHawks. WMU is a mere 2-17-2 in their last 21 games against Miami, with a 2-5-1 mark at Lawson. The Broncos will be without Justin Kovacs and Dennis Brown on Friday due to suspensions, and Garrett Haar is still out from an injury prior to the Great Lakes Invitational. With a depleted staff on Friday, Miami could very easily take game 1 and then send McKay out in game 2 with a great chance at a sweep. First place will be on the line, and Miami should continue their regular season dominance over the Broncos due to the depleted Bronco defense. Miami 4-1, 2-1

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