Huskies Return to NCHC Play vs Miami Redhawks

(Photo Prout)

(Photo Prout)

#20 SCSU HUSKIES vs MIAMI REDHAWKS

The #20 ranked St. Cloud State University Huskies (9-8-1 | 4-5-1 NCHC) travel to Oxford, OH for a key NCHC series vs the Miami University RedHawks (5-8-5 | 1-4-3 NCHC ) this weekend at the Goggin Ice Center.  Friday’s game is scheduled for a 6:37 PM CT puck drop and Saturday’s start at 6:07 PM CT.

TV: None

Both games will be streamed on NCHC.TV

The audio  broadcast of both games can be heard on REV 96.7 FM and online here

SCSU Weekly Release (PDF) is here

HEAD TO HEAD

This is the first meeting between the two squads this season.  SCSU is 8-12-2 all-time vs Miami since 1987. SCSU is 3-2 in the  last five games between the squads and are 7-3 in the last 10. Coach Motzko is 9-10-1 all-time vs MIami. Last season, the Huskies defeated the RedHawks 5-1 in Oxford on February 5 and Miami rebounded for a 3-2 win in the rematch on February 6.

LAST SERIES

The RedHawks played a single game vs in-state rival Ohio State University on December 31 in Columbus, OH. After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, the RedHawks rallied with goals by Josh Melnick and Carson Meyer to tie the game at 2-2 early in the second period. Miami added four more goals in period three including an empty net goal to capture a 6-3 win over their BIG 10 opponent. Kieffer Sherwood added two third period goals and goaltender Ryan Larkin stopped 12 of 15 OSU shots on goal in the win.

The Huskies participated in the ASU Desert Classic Holiday Tournament in Prescott Valley, AZ getting upended by unranked UCONN 4-3 on December 30th and following that up with a 4-2 win over Arizona State University in the third place game. SCSU fell behind 2-0 to UCONN in the tournament opener  but rallied to tie the game at 2-2 on goals by Mikey Eyssimont and Blake Winiecki. But, UCONN scored twice to regain the two-goal lead until Jacob Benson added a late power play goal for SCSU in the 4-3 final. In the third place game, the Huskies were cruising along with a 3-0 lead until ASU rallied for two goals in less than two minutes in the third period to suddenly make it a one-goal game. The Huskies shut down an ASU man-advantage for the last 1:39 of the contest and Robby Jackson added a short-handed goal at the expiration of the period in the 4-2 win. Jackson scored three times in the game including two short-handed goals as the Huskies picked up their third all-time win over ASU. Jeff Smith started both games for SCSU taking the loss to UCONN on Friday and the win vs ASU on Saturday.

MIAMI UNIVERSITY REDHAWKS

With the departure of nine seniors from the 2015-16 squad and the defection of blue chip forward Jack Roslovic to the NHL the expectations for the 2016-17 season are pretty guarded. Having seen the team weaned of offensive players Blake Coleman, Austin Czarnik, Sean Kuraly and Riley Barber over the past few seasons it’s rebuilding time for the RedHawk offense. They have a few players that have responded such as senior, Anthony Louis (10-11-21) and Kieffer Sherwood (9-11-20) but as a collective the team has some work to do. Sophomore, Josh Melnick (3-11-14) is a quality, skilled forward that can contribute more goals and youngsters Karch Bachman and Willie Knierim have potential. Ranked #42 in the country in offense at 2.50 goals per game the RedHawks simply are not getting the offense they need to be successful. On the blue line, junior Louie Belpedio is one of the top defenseman in the NCHC  and a stabilizing force on the back side. Scott Dornbrick is another junior defenseman who has been contributing offensively but again, beyond those two they are quite young. And, with only one defenseman in the plus of +/- it’s another work in progress. Defensively, Miami is allowing 2.89 GPG which is a -.39 differential per game with their offense. It’s tough to win when you are allowing more goals on average than you are producing.

In goal, Ryan Larkin (4-6-5) took a year off after labrum surgery and has returned as a workhorse for the team playing in 15 games and posting a .910 SV% and 2.60 GAA. He’s certainly been a bright spot for the team.

Special teams play has been mixed with a power play needing improvement at 16.33% but a fairly solid penalty kill currently 18th in the country at 84.9%.

Currently, 7th in the NCHC standings, they had a rough November going 0-4-2 but finished the month with two overtime ties with Denver – not a bad accomplishment. December showed improvement with a 2-2-1 record finishing the month with a win and tie over last place Colorado College and the win over #11 Ohio State. Unranked and currently #34 in the Pairwise, the RedHawks have a lot of work ahead of them if they are to have any possibility of post-season play.

ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY HUSKIES

The Huskies have been an enigma all season. They’ve struggled to win at home with a 4-5 record and were on the verge of losing six straight on home ice before capturing a game vs Omaha in their last NCHC series. They’ve actually had more success on the road with a 5-3-1 record including a nice weekend at Western Michigan in early December. The team struggled in November with a 2-4 record but have rebounded to go 3-2-1 in December. However, a not so impressive showing in the ASU Desert Classic still has one wondering which direction this team is heading into the second half of the season.

Offensively, again, it’s been an inconsistent effort although it was expected after the loss of scorers and senior leadership from the 2015-16 season. Mikey Eyssimont leads the squad with 8-6-14 including three game-winning goals and four power play goals. With only four 5 x 5 goals this season it was expected his 5 x 5 goal scoring would be more productive. Judd Peterson leads the team with nine goals but he’s been streaky with only two goals in the last nine games.More goal scoring was expected out of Patrick Newell who has only netted two goals in 17 games. And, Robby Jackson had only three goals prior to the ASU Desert Classic where he doubled his output. Quietly, the Poehling brothers are showing improvement game by game and now have a combined 7-12-19. They’ve become one of the top overall lines for the Huskies.

Defensively, there have probably been more lapses than expected and better overall unit performance is needed in the second half of the season. First-year defenseman, Jack Ahcan has been a gem tied for second in points and even in plus/minus. Sophomores Schuldt and Borgen have been good leaders back at the point with a combined 19 points and +12. First-year defenseman, Dennis Cholowski shows flashes of his huge upside but still struggles at times with the strength and speed of the NCHC.The entire unit needs to tighten up the second half of the season.

Goaltending continues to have its issues with no clear starter stepping forward. Zach Driscoll and Jeff Smith have shown some flashes of improvement but with a combined 3.12 GAA and .887 SV% are not putting up the numbers necessary to keep the Huskies a contender.

Statistically, it’s been a mixed bag. SCSU is currently #13 in offense at 3.39 goals per game but #40 defensively allowing 3.17 goals per game. The power play is a credible 20.27% (17th) and the penalty kill has been superb as of late at 86.4% good for #12 in college hockey. The PK unit has not allowed a man-advantage goal in the last six games and 22 opportunities. SCSU is the least penalized team in college hockey.

 

THE GAME 

There’s no reason to believe based on recent results that the Huskies won’t have their hands full with seventh place Miami this weekend. SCSU is coming off a marginal effort in Arizona while Miami played an outstanding game in Columbus vs #11 Ohio State.  With conference games in the near future looming against UMD, Denver and North Dakota the Huskies need to have success vs those beneath them in the standings and that includes Miami this weekend. Currently at #16 in the Pairwise, the Huskies can improve their position with the competitive schedule ahead of them. On the other hand, they can’t stumble vs five-win Miami and expect to make up ground with the aforementioned NCHC teams. Goaltending continues to be the wild card and they need a solid effort this weekend.

The Huskies will need a good start to this weekends games as they are currently 5-2-0 when they score first. They are also 4-1-1 outside the state of Minnesota.

SCSU has used 27 different offensive line combinations this season.The most successful has been the Eyssimont | Winiecki | Newell line which as produced 33 points.

Both coach Bob Motzko and defenseman, Jack Ahcan will return from a successful run in the 2017 World Junior Tournament and that will be a boost to the team. As it sits right now Ahcan will be in the lineup on Saturday.

As always, all the pertinent links for this weekends games with Miami are HERE

Enjoy the games!

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