Huskies Face RedHawks in St. Cloud this Weekend

(Photo Prout)

(Photo Prout)

SCSU HUSKIES vs MIAMI REDHAWKS

The St. Cloud State University Huskies (13-14-1 | 7-10-1 NCHC) host the Miami University RedHawks (9-11-6 | 5-7-4 NCHC ) in another key NCHC series this weekend at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.  Friday’s game is scheduled for a 7:37 PM CT puck drop and Saturday’s start at 7:07 PM CT.

TV: (Fri) CBS Sports Network | (Sat) Fox Sports North

Video Stream: Both games will be streamed on NCHC.TV

Audio Stream: Both games can be heard on REV 96.7 FM and online here and on KVSC 88.1 FM and online here 

SCSU Weekly Release (PDF) is here

HEAD TO HEAD

This is the second meeting between the two squads this season.  SCSU is 8-14-2 all-time vs Miami since 1987. SCSU is 1-4 in the  last five games between the teams and are 5-5 in the last 10. Coach Motzko is 9-12-1 all-time vs Miami. The two squads last met on January 6/7 in Oxford, OH with Miami defeating the Huskies 3-2 in overtime on Friday and 4-1 in the rematch on Saturday. The Huskies are currently 6th in the NCHC standings with 22 points and Miami one-point behind in seventh place.

LAST SERIES

The RedHawks had a bye last weekend. The previous weekend they split with Western Michigan on home ice losing on Friday 2-1 and rebounding for a 4-3 win on Saturday. On Friday the RedHawks were outshot 32-21 and WMU’s Hugh McGinn scored the GWG at 11:44 of the second period. In the Saturday rematch, MIami scored four goals in the first two periods including two by Josh Melnick in the 4-3 win. The game-winner was scored by Willie Knierin in the second period. Ryan Larkin picked up his 8th win in goal.

The Huskies traveled to Grand Forks, ND last weekend and true to form won Friday’s game by a 3-1 score and then were defeated in overtime the next night 2-1 for a split of the series. On Friday, Jacob Benson and Jimmy Schuldt gave the Huskies a two-goal lead and after North Dakota narrowed the score to a goal in the third period Ryan Poehling had a Robby Jackson shot deflect off his face mask to seal the 3-1 win. Jeff Smith had another solid night in goal stopping 28 of 29 UND shots on goal. In the Saturday rematch, the Huskies Mikey Eyssimont gave SCSU a first period lead on a power play goal but UND tied it up late in the second on a goal by Mike Gornall. After a scoreless third period the Huskies were victimized  again in overtime on another goal by Mike Gornall forty-one seconds into the session in a disappointing loss and split of the series. SCSU goaltender Jeff Smith was named #1 star on Friday and #2 star 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 were 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 been rebuilding time for the RedHawk offense. They have a few players that have responded such as senior, Anthony Louis (13-18-31), Kieffer Sherwood (10-18-28) and Carson Meyer (7-14-21) but as a collective the team has some work to do. Sophomore, Josh Melnick (8-14-22) 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 2.58 goals per game the RedHawks simply are not getting the offense they need to be successful. On the blue line, junior Louie Belpedio (6-9-15) 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. Defensively, Miami is allowing 2.73 GPG which is a +.15 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 (8-9-6) took a year off after labrum surgery and has returned as a workhorse for the team playing in 23 games and posting a .916 SV% and 2.53 GAA. He’s certainly been a bright spot for the team.

Special teams play has been mixed with a power play needing improvement at 17.6% but a solid penalty kill currently 11th in the country at 85.5%.

Currently, 7th in the NCHC standings, they finished the month of January with a 4-3-1 record but have only one win in the last five games. Unranked and currently #23 in the Pairwise, the RedHawks have a lot of work ahead of them if they are to have any possibility of post-season play. They’ve had the 6th toughest schedule in college hockey and a difficult road ahead with SCSU, Denver, UMD and North Dakota to finish the conference schedule.

ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY HUSKIES

The sixth-place Huskies have been playing well as of late and despite having a record of 4-6-0 since January 1 this does includes wins over top Pairwise teams #1 UMD, #2 Denver, #9 North Dakota  and the WCHA’s league leading Bemidji State Beavers. It also includes two overtime losses to UMD and one OT loss to North Dakota. One of the main reasons for their success is the play of sophomore goaltender Jeff Smith. Suddenly he has hit his groove and in the last eight games has a .935 SV% stopping 219 of 234 SOG and only allowed an average of 1.87 goals per game. These are outstanding numbers considering the opponents in those eight games.

At forward, the most consistent forwards have been Mikey Eyssimont 11-13-24 (3 GWG; 5 PPG) and Blake Winiecki (11-11-22). Patrick Newell has been consistent and a good distributor leading the team with 18 assists and is +6. First year defenseman, Jack Ahcan has been outstanding with 5 goals and 14 assists for 19 points including 2 PPG and 3 GWG. The Huskies need more production out of the balance of their lineup. Judd Peterson has hit a scoring drought without a point in the last 12 games and no points in calendar year 2017. The Huskies are scoring 26% of their goals on the power play and need to improve their five on five scoring. Sophomore forward Jacob Benson has been productive on the man-advantage with 4 goals, 4 assists and 8 points. Robby Jackson leads the team with 2 short-handed goals.

The coaching staff has used 35 plus different forward line combinations this season and 16 different defensive pairings. The most productive forward line combination has been the Eyssimont, Winiecki and Newell  combination with 39 points and the most productive defensive pairing has been Ahcan and Borgen who are a +6 with 22 points. Jimmy Schuldt has been steady at 4-9-13 and +3.

Statistically, the Huskies have been allowing as many goals per game (2.86) as they’ve been scoring (2.86). That’s the root of their problem and indicative of their .500 record. Nationally, they are 32nd in offense, 31st in defense, 19th on the power play (19.81%) and 19th on the penalty kill (84.7%). They are the least penalized team in college hockey averaging 8.86 minutes per game.

Probably the biggest issue for the Huskies right now is finding some scoring to support the improved goaltending and defensive play they have been getting. Over 25% of the Huskies scoring has come on the man-advantage. They need to improve their 5 X 5 offense.

THE GAME 

This should be a very competitive series between two squads separated by a point in the league standings. The Huskies have struggled on home ice  since November 1st with a record of 2-6-0. LIkewise, the RedHawks are 2-6-2 on the road during that same time period. Statistically, there is little difference between the two teams and both are struggling to put up much offense. As was the case during the earlier meeting in Oxford, OH late game mistakes and special teams could play a key role. With the RedHawks penalty kill at 85.5% the pressure will be on the Huskies to produce some 5 X 5 scoring. Josh Melnick has been productive vs the Huskies scoring 4 goals and 1 assist in six games. SCSU best keep an eye on him this weekend. With both teams fairly solid on the penalty kill this weekend looks to be two low-scoring games punctuated by a goaltender duel.    

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

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