Back to Work: #1 Ranked SCSU Faces Miami This Weekend

 

St. Cloud, MN – It’s back to work for the #1 ranked Huskies as they take their unblemished NCHC conference record on the road to face the Miami RedHawks on November 30 | December 1 in Oxford, OH.  With one-third of the season already behind them, the Huskies find themselves #2 in the Pairwise rankings as they approach an abbreviated schedule in December and then the crucial month of January with a heavy conference schedule. The Huskies have excelled both on the road and at home but can’t overlook the RedHawks who despite some eratic results thus far, have had an ambitious non-conference schedule and currently sit tied for third in the conference. Miami’s been pretty successful on their home rink with a 6-2-0 record including wins over North Dakota and UMass-Lowell and a sweep of Colgate and Huntsville. Success can be fleeting in the tough NCHC and the Huskies only need to look back on the conference playoffs last season and the very tough series with the RedHawks. The Huskies prevailed but it took an overtime win in the deciding third game to advance the Huskies to the Frozen Faceoff. The RedHawks would like nothing better than to derail the Huskies momentum and prove that they will be a contender in the NCHC this season.

#1 St. Cloud State University Huskies (11-1-0 | 4-0-0 NCHC) vs #NR Miami University  RedHawks (9-6-1 | 3-3-0 NCHC) 

TV: none
Live Stats: Miami RedHawks
Live Stream: NCHC.tv ($) | Stream can also be found on: Apple TV and Roku,
Live Audio Stream: TUNEIN RADIO
Radio: 96.7 FM (St. Cloud)
Tickets: Miami RedHawks
Where: Goggin Ice Center – Oxford, OH
When: Friday, November 30 – 6:35 PM CT | Saturday, November 17 – 6:05 PM CT

Series notes – Miami | Series notes – SCSU

Last Time Out:

The Huskies swept in-state rival Bemidji State in a non-conference series at home but it wasn’t easy. In a highly defensive game and goaltender battle on Friday, November 16, Jeff Smith earned a shutout after stopping 32 shots on goal including several big saves down the stretch as the Huskies squeezed by a very tough Bemidji State squad by a 2-0 score.Easton Brodzinski scored the game-winner and Kevin Fitzgerald added an empty net goal. In the Saturday rematch, the Huskies drilled former SCSU goaltender Zach Drsicoll with four even strength goals in the first twenty-seven minutes to force an early exit of Driscoll en route to a 7-4 win and sweep of their WCHA rival. As opposed to Friday, offense took center stage as the see-saw game ultimately went to the Huskies. Jimmy Schuldt and sophomore forward Kevin Fitzgerald scored twice to lead the Huskies in this weekend sweep and push their overall record to 11-1-0.

The RedHawks faced the University of New Hampshire in a non-conference series on the road on November 23/24 and salvaged an overtime tie and loss. On Friday, they earned a 3-3 tie behind goals by Josh Melnick, Karch Bachman and Ben Lown and a 34 save effort by Ryan Larkin. On Saturday, a three-goal third period by the Wildcats dispatched the RedHawks by a 4-1 final. Jordan Uhelski took the loss in goal and Josh Melnick scored the lone goal for Miami.

Head to Head:

Miami leads the all-time series going back to 1987 by a one-game margin – 16-17-2. SCSU is 5-7 all-time at the Goggin Ice Center. In the last 5 games the Huskies are 4-1 vs the RedHawks and 6-4 in the last 10 games.

Scouting the Miami University RedHawks :

It’s been a tough several seasons for the RedHawks who have not had a winning conference or overall record since the 2014-15 season. Since finishing second in the conference in 2014-15, the RedHawks have gone 20-41-11 in conference and 36-58-15 overall and have advanced to the NCAA tourney just once in the past five years. This resulted in a major overhaul of the coaching staff with Brent Brekke and Nick Petraglia released and Peter Mannino (UNO) and Joel Beal (Sacred Heart) added.  It hasn’t been easy for the RedHawks since joining the NCHC and the glory years of 8 straight NCAA appearances and 2 consecutive years in the Frozen Four in 2009 and 2010 are a thing of the past when they were members of the Central Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Two major departures from the 2017-18 squad were defenseman and team leader Louie Belpidio (10-20-30) to graduation and junior Kiefer Sherwood (9-21-30) who signed early with Anaheim of the NHL. Otherwise, the squad is essentially intact and will rely heavily on seniors Josh Melnick and Grant Hutton  and juniors Gordie Green and Karch Bachman to support the offense. Melnick is a talented collegiate player and leads the team with 6-9-15 and Gordie Green is not far behind at 6-7-13. Hutton is a defenseman but still finds away to pile up the points and is currently 4-6-10. The RedHawks have been waiting for Bachman to reach his offensive potential and he’s had a solid start to the season with 6 goals. Sophomores Casey Gilling and Phil Knies need to support the offense and they’ve combined for 5 goals and 11 points. Rookie Jonathan Gruden is a highly touted first-year player and will be relied on the second half of the year as he acclimates to the league.

Defense is a wait and see and really needs to improve from last season. So far it has, currently ranked 8th in the country allowing 2.06 goals per game. The aforementioned Grant Hutton is a team leader and graduate transfer from Dartmouth, River Rymsha is a welcome addition if only for one season. First-year player Derek Daschke has been an impact player already with 3-9-12 and +12.

Miami has eight newcomers on the squad this season and for them to have success, the’ll need some production out of the rookies.

Goaltending did take a step backwards last season. However, the finger has to be pointed in the direction of the defensive unit as contributors as well to the lack of results. Ryan Larkin is back for his third season and they’d like him to put last season behind him and return to his freshman form when he compiled a .910 SV% and 2.77 GAA. He’s off to a great start this season with a 8-4-1 record, .939 SV% and a 1.76 GAA. He’s backed up by Alabama-Huntsville graduate transfer Jordan Uheliski currently 1-2-0 with a .895 SV% and 2.37 GAA.

Miami’s national statistics are as follows:

Team Offense: 2.69 GPG (395th)
Team Defense: 2.06 GAPG (8th)
Power Play: 16.18% (44th)
Penalty Kill: 81.82% (28th)
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 10.00 (47th)

Scouting the SCSU Huskies:

The #1 ranked Huskies have had a highly successful start to the 2018-19 season. With a 11-1-0 record and with quality wins both on the road and at home there is little to complain about. They are excelling on both ends of the ice and ranked second in the nation both in offense and defense. Special teams have been strong –  second nationally  on the penalty kill and 10th on the power play. Seniors are providing tremendous leadership, there is balanced scoring, the first-year class is contributing and both goaltenders are getting the job done. They are undeniably one of the top collegiate teams in the country right now.

Currently, the Huskies are the second-ranked defense in the nation allowing only 1.83 goals per game.  Led by All-American, Hobey Baker finalist, pre-season All-NCHC pick and captain, Jimmy Schuldt (4-8-12 +5), alternate captain and senior Jon Lizotte (1-2-3 +6), and talented puck mover Jack Ahcan (1-11-12 +12), this diverse unit of defenders is one of the top threesome in college hockey. Add to the group, sophomore, Luke Jaycox (1-1-2 +7) and a talented group of newcomers – Brendan Bushy (+3) , NHL draft choice Nick Perbix (+10) and local native Spencer Meier (+1) and you have one of the most talent-laden defensive units in college hockey. Unfortunately, sophomore, Tyler Anderson, another solid contributor sustained an upper body injury vs Mount Royal and may be out for another three weeks. This is a deep, deep unit and the envy of coaches around the league. The entire unit is plus 44 and not a single regular is in the minus.

The Huskies are currently ranked second in the nation on offense with a lot of depth at forward and seniors Robby Jackson, Patrick Newell and Jacob Benson have experienced loads of success during their time at SCSU. They’ve experienced a Frozen Faceoff Championship, a Penrose Cup and have been a part of two NCAA tournament squads. Pre-season all-league NCHC pick Robby Jackson, a 21 year-old senior led the Huskies in scoring in 2017-18 and currently is second in team points with 13. Not just an offensive player, Jackson has a solid work ethic and his defensive game has blossomed as well and he’s +8. Jackson will join the 100 point club this season. Senior Patrick Newell is an experienced forward being counted on to be a leader this season. Skilled and tough along the boards for his size he’s finally filling out physically which has helped his game this season. He currently leads the forwards with 8 goals and 15 points. Senior Jacob Benson was named alternate captain and he has 2 goals and four points in 12 games.

Montreal Canadiens first-rounder, Ryan Poehling has 13 points in 10 games and a shooting percentage of 15%. The Poehling twins, Jack and Nick are a coaches dream with a work ethic through the roof and preferably matched against the opponents top line. Sophomore Blake Lizotte made the NCHC All-Rookie team last season and is one of the most exciting forwards in college hockey. He’s another player with tons of talent and a motor that won’t quit. He’ll be a scoring leader for the Huskies this season. He currently has 11 points in 12 games. Easton Brodzinski is another member of the 2017-18 NCHC All-Rookie team and it was well-deserved. A natural goal scorer with a wicked wrist shot he netted 14 goals his rookie season and tends to score in bunches. He has 6 goals and three game-winning goals. Sophomore Kevin Fitzgerald was a surprise as a rookie earning 38 games of playing time and skating with the Poehling twins contributes to a relentless forecheck. He has 6 goals including one game-winner and a 23% shooting percentage. 

Minnesota Wild draft choice Sam Hentges and Nolan Walker are already prominent contributors to the lineup. Walker has an outstanding shooting percentage of 38.5% and Hentges 25%. Hentges and Walker have combined for 9 goals and 19 points and both are making a serious case to make the NCHC all-rookie team.  Micah Miller is another talented newcomer that will be battling for ice time and has shown increased confidence and strong puck control in his last two outings. He picked up his first collegiate point vs Bemidji in the last series.

With senior Jeff Smith and sophomore David Hrenak, the Huskies have one of the top one-two punches at goaltender in college hockey. Hrenak has yet to lose a game, is 8-0-0 and has a 2.13 GAA and a .907 SV% and one shutout. Smith has split time with Hrenak and is 3-1-0 with two shutouts and outstanding 1.26 GAA and .948 SV%. Smith has had the stronger outings as of late.

Nationally, the Huskies statistics are as follows:

Offense: 4.25  (2nd)
Defense: 1.83 (2nd)
Power Play:  24.49% (10th) 
Penalty Kill: 89.58 (2nd) 
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 10.83 (42nd) 

Game Prospectus:

On paper, the Huskies are the superior team in every statistical category. The RedHawks  had a tough November thus far with mixed results and a 3-4-1 record. They’ve split all three conference series and haven’t won a weekend conference series since mid January 2017. They are successful when they score first and are 8-2-0 this season when they do so. They’ve also faltered the last two seasons when they’ve hit the nine-win mark. Since the 2016-17 season they’ve gone 3-22-5 after winning nine games.The RedHawks have been doing some line combo changes to find the right mix of forwards and unless they get Josh Melnick and Gordie Green on the score sheet they jeopardize their success. However, a bright spot has their freshman class with 37 points – so the future looks promising. Forward Karch Bachman, a Florida Panthers draft choice also needs a strong weekend for the RedHawks to be successful.

The Huskies have more offensive depth particularly beyond Miami’s first line of Gruden, Melnick and Green. The key for Miami is to score first, stay out of the penalty box and clamp down defensively as they’ve been able to do this season. Ryan Larkin needs to be on the top of his game as he’ll see his fair share of rubber coming his way. Josh Melnick has always been a thorn in the Huskies side and he’s 4 points shy of the 100 point mark. He can be a game-breaker in a close game. For the Huskies, they get a boost with first-year forward Sam Hentges back in the lineup. The Huskies have had issues falling behind early in games and need to correct that this weekend. Getting a quick start and forcing Miami to play catch-up will be to the SCSU’s advantage. It’s assumed the Huskies will rotate their goaltenders once again but that has not been announced as of yet. Hrenak has had some struggles lately making it likely we’ll see Smith back in the lineup for at least one of the games.

All the links for this weekends games can be found HERE

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