SCSU Faces Miami in Key Road Conference Series

(Photo Prout)

St. Cloud, MN  – After a one-week respite, the unranked Huskies hit the road for a conference series with the Miami RedHawks on December 6/7. After this series, the Huskies will have played 6 of their last 8 games on the road including a trip to Northern Michigan and a very competitive series in Grand Forks against the UND Fighting Hawks.  The Huskies will have one remaining conference series with Omaha on home ice before the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis on December 28/29. Then they will be on break until until January 10th when they face Denver on the road. Winless in the conference thus far, they will have four games to get in the win column before they enter the second half of the season. However, it won’t be easy as the Huskies have had difficulty in Oxford with a 4-7-2 record vs the RedHawks at the Goggin Ice Center.

SCSU Huskies (2-6-4 | 0-4-0 NCHC) vs  Miami RedHawks ( 4-8-3 | 2-3-1 NCHC) 

TV: None
Live Stats: SCSU Athletics
Live Stream: ($) | Stream can also be found on: Apple TV and Roku,
Live Audio Stream: TUNEIN RADIO
Radio: 96.7 FM (St. Cloud)
Tickets: Miami Athletics
Where: Goggin Ice Center (Steve Cady Rink) – Oxford, OH
When: Friday, Dec 6  – 6:07 PM CT | Saturday, December 7 – 6:07 PM CT



Last Time Out:

The Huskies were in two very close contests with the #3 Pairwise and USCHO ranked Fighting Hawks in Grand Forks on November 22/23. Down by a goal entering the final period in the series opener, they hung in there despite being outshot 15 to 4 in the period but simply couldn’t generate enough offense to steal the Friday night contest from UND. The end result was the Huskies third straight conference loss by a 4-2 score. Luke Jaycox and Nick Poehling scored for the Huskies while David turned aside 30 of 33 shots on goal. In the Saturday rematch, David Hrenak had an excellent outing as did Jack Ahcan who logged lots of ice time and scored the lone SCSU goal. But, in the end, it was North Dakota that scored the deciding goal with 1:19 left in the overtime for the 2-1 win.

The RedHawks traveled to Hartford, CT for a weekend non-conference series with the UConn Huskies and were swept by 6-4 and 4-3 scores. Miami bolted to a 3-1 first period lead in game one only to yield two goals in period two and three more in period three in the 6-4 loss. In the rematch, Miami lost 4-3 despite a two-goal game by first-year forward John Sladic. Ben Kraws stopped 31 of 35 shots in the loss for Miami.

Head to Head:

SCSU leads the all-time series going back to 1987 by a three-game margin – 20-17-4. SCSU is 4-7-2 all-time vs Miami at the Goggin Ice Center. In the last 5 games the Huskies are 4-0-1, 7-1-2 in the last 10 games and 13-5-2 in the last 20. They last met on March 15/16, 2019 with SCSU winning 5-2 and 6-3.

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 27-63-14 in conference and 51-89-22 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 long-term coach Rico Blasi being released along with his staff. He was replaced by alum and former Bowling Green Mentor Chris Bergeron who added Miami alum Barry Schutte and former SCSU men’s assistant and women’s head coach Eric Rud to his staff. MORE HERE

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. However, the new coaching staff has injected excitement and energy into the program..

I spoke with Miami associate head coach Eric Rud this week about their team, the progress they’ve been making since the transition and the matchup with the Huskies this weekend. First off he stated the move to Oxford, OH has gone very well. “Oxford is the perfect college town and I’ve been very impressed with how the University operates. The coaching staff is a great fit and we’re trying to simplify things while we build the program. But, it takes a while as the team is transitioning to a new way of doing things, a new system with new words and language and where they are supposed to be” Rud said. “We don’t have a ton of top-end skill and maybe we’ve overachieved a bit with our win against Duluth. Our goal is to have more consistency and play by committee.  We are young and inexperienced so we have flashes of good and then fall asleep at times.” An example was the recent loss to UConn allowing a three-goal burst in the third period in a 6-4 loss.

On facing the Huskies this weekend it’ll be different but he’s gone through it before when he was an assistant at Colorado College from 2011 to 2014. “We need to focus on being as good as we can be.” he said. “It should be a good, competitive weekend of hockey. As we prepare, we’ll look at matchups and special teams because in the end it’s special teams that will probably decide both games. In a series like this our good players have to be good. Our guys are excited for the weekend”.

Eric Rud (Courtesy Miami University)

With Josh Melnick finally graduated, obvious leaders at forward are seniors Gordie Green (7-10-17) and Karch Bachman (6-7-13). Green is scoring over a point a game and has two power play goals and two game-winning goals. He’s 5’8″ and 170 pounds but plays much bigger. He’s four points shy of the career 100 point plateau and could reach it with a strong showing this weekend. Bachman, a Florida Panthers draft choice was miserable on the Huskies last season with three goals and two assists. Coach Rud calls him a “Strong, dynamic skater with a good release.” Junior Casey Gilling (3-9-12) is probably “the most improved forward since the start of the year” said Rud.

Miami will bolster their depth at forward with the addition of Holy Cross transfer Matt Barry. He had eleven points in thirteen games before transferring after one semester. Fortunately for the Huskies, he’s not eligible until January.

They are also getting some mileage out of first-year players John Sladic (4-4-8), Ryan Savage (3-5-8) and Chase Pletzke (3-3-6). Sladic had a two-goal game in the last outing vs UConn.

The team lost an excellent offensive defensemen in Grant Hutton to graduation and he’ll be tough to replace. Hutton was deadly on the power play and posted seven goals and fourteen assists last season.

Coach Rud says sophomore Derek Dashke has been a bright spot. “He has a lot of talent, is defending harder and has been good on the power play.” He has one game-winning goal, one power play goal and is plus 7.  6’4″ 200 pound first-year defender Jack Clement has been a welcome surprise adding some offensive punch with three goals and four assists and is plus 7. Others being counted on to solidify this unit are senior, Grant Frederic, junior, Rourke Russell and sophomores Bray Crowder and Andrew Sinard. As a whole the unit is -10.

Ryan Larkin is one of those players that seems to have been around forever and is finally in his senior season. He’s had a career 109 games and is the clear starter in goal. He was shelved for two weeks due to injury but returned in goal for the UConn series last weekend. His numbers aren’t good with a 4.16 GAA and .884 SV% but they are skewed somewhat by a poor performance in the North Dakota series allowing 10 goals on 36 shots (.720 SV%).

Larkin is backed up by freshman Ben Kraws ( 2.92 GAA, 893 SV%) and junior Grant Valentine (3.02 GAA, .868 SV%).

National Statistics

Team Offense: 2.93 GPG (24th)
Team Defense: 3.73 GAPG (55th)
Power Play: 20.37% 11/54 (23rd)
Penalty Kill: 73.02% 46/63 (55th)
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 10.80 70/162 (34th)

Scouting the SCSU Huskies:

A group of seniors will lead the Huskies into the 2019-20 season. All-American and All-NCHC player Jack Ahcan was named captain and brothers Jack and Nick Poehling and Clark Kuster, a fifth-year senior are assistant captains. The team has added ten new faces after the departure of seniors Jimmy Schuldt, Jon Lizotte, Patrick Newell, Robby Jackson, Jacob Benson and David Zevnik. They also saw the departure of two top-notch centers in Blake Lizotte and Ryan Poehling who signed NHL contracts.

They continue to strive for weekly progress and the coaching staff was encouraged with the Huskies play on the road in their last series with North Dakota despite being swept.  However, with a current 1% probably of making the NCAA tournament things can only improve and unless they start earning some W’s they’ll be unable to recover in the conference standings and the Pairwise. As it is, they are already 17 points behind league leader UND and 11 points back of third place Western Michigan.

The team lost its top five scorers from last season – Newell, Lizotte, Jackson, Poehling and Schuldt. This group contributed 213 points (77 goals and 136 assists) and dominated minutes on the power play. All three – Lizotte, Poehling and Schuldt have been in an NHL lineup this season. It’s been a challenge replacing that scoring and replacing two elite centermen.

The offense is struggling with over a third of the goals scored by Sam Hentges (6) and Easton Brodzinski (5). Even Hentges, who was off to a torrid start and was named NCHC Forward of the Month in October has been in a drought and is scoreless in the past four games and has one goal in the last six games. With a scoring deficit of almost a goal, and only producing 2.67 goals per game it’s not surprising that half of their games have gone to overtime. The positive spin is if the Huskies can begin to generate some offense – and it’ll have to come from their depth players, success in these close games can swing their way.

Defense was assumed to be the strongest position on the team entering the season. It hasn’t been the case thus far with the team yielding 3.58 goals per game placing them 53rd out of 60 teams. The Huskies returned five starters from last season in Jack Ahcan, Nick Perbix, Luke Jaycox, Spencer Meier and Brendan Bushy. However, it’s become quite obvious the importance of seniors Jimmy Schuldt and Jon Lizotte were to a defense that finished 11th in the country and allowed almost a goal and a half less than the teams current numbers. Granted, last years offense, which finished 2nd in the country controlled play and kept the puck out of the defensive zone but clearly there’s room for much improvement this season.

As a unit, the defense is a concerning minus 18. Jack Ahcan continues to be the leader back on the blue line and is third in points with 3-7-10. He is on the ice in every conceivable situation and unfortunately, his defensive statistics this season are a reflection of the amount of responsibility he is shouldering. More support for Ahcan is needed as they approach the second half of the season.

Junior David Hrenak has been the starter in every game so far this season. The LA Kings draft choice finished the 2018-19 season with a 23-5-2 record, a 2.18 GAA and .906 SV%. He was a NCHC second team All-Star last season and the expectations are high for Hrenak who has played 68 career games for the Huskies. However, it’s been a struggle for Hrenak statistically so far with a 3.22 GAA and .881 SV% after eleven plus games. However, it’s not all on Hrenak’s shoulders as there’s been some surprisingly sketchy and inconsistent play from the defenders in front of him in the early season. He had a good outing vs North Dakota on the road stopping nearly 90% of the shots he faced.

Backups Joey Lamoreaux and Jaxon Castor, both first-year players have had essentially no ice time thus far. Lamoureaux had 30 minutes of playing time vs Colorado College and stopped 14 of 15 SOG. Castor has been bothered by a practice injury but the coaching staff likes what they see out of him. The question is whether either of these two will be given an opportunity as we enter the new year?

National Statistics:

Offense: 2.67 GPG (32nd)
Defense: 3.58 GAPG (53rd)
Power Play:  21.74% 10/46 (18th)
Penalty Kill: 69.77% 30/43 (57th)
Penalties (Average Min. Per Game): 13.67 49/163 (14th)

Game Prospectus:

On paper, there are a lot of similarities between these two teams. Both are struggling to score goals and both are near the bottom of the country defending on the penalty kill and five on five. Experience is a factor and where Green and Bachman lead the offense for Miami, Hentges and Brodzinski do so for the Huskies. Scoring from depth players is paramount for SCSU’s offense and they need more scoring from players like Kevin Fitzgerald, Nolan Walker and Micah Miller who have the ability to do so. Discipline has been an issue for the Huskies who are currently in the penalty box three minutes more per game on the average than last season. Obviously it’s key for this team to skate five on five. Once again, goaltending needs to be north of 90%.

Karch Bachman seems to play well against the Huskies. They’ll need to put a string on him and keep him in the corner of their eye. He has explosive speed on the outside and can make defenders look silly at times.

It’s never easy to win on the road in the NCHC.  In particular, the Goggin Ice Center has been a tough venue for the Huskies over the years with Miami holding a 7-4-2 edge over the Huskies. You hate to start using the term urgency but after four straight conference losses, the Huskies need to start filling the win column.

All the links for this weekends games can be found HERE

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