Where is Miami heading for the first round of the NCHC Tournament?
Mathematically, the RedHawks – currently seventh in the league – could travel to any one of five conference foes, including Western Michigan, but the most likely scenario is MU ends up in Duluth next week.
The fourth-place Broncos have a lot to play for, as they could move up a seed or drop to fifth and lose home-ice advantage.
A look at this weekend’s games:
WHO: Miami RedHawks (8-19-5) at No. 17 Western Michigan (16-13-5).
WHEN: Friday and Saturday – 7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Lawson Arena (3,667), Kalamazoo, Mich.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Tied, 68-68-12.
WESTERN MICHIGAN RADIO: Friday – WKZO-AM (590) and WKZO-FM (106.9), Kalamazoo, Mich.
MIAMI RADIO: Both nights – WMOH-AM (1450), Hamilton, Ohio.
STREAM: Both nights – NCHC.tv.
NOTES: Since Miami went 0-1-1 vs. Western Michigan in Oxford on Feb. 14-15, the Broncos dropped three of four vs. Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota, including the last three.
WMU has been held to a total of three goals during its current three-game skid, but the Broncos have a plus-17 goal differential overall, averaging 3.29 goals per game.
St. Louis draftee Hugh McGing has reached 30 points for the season, leading the team, and the senior has 112 for his career.
Forwards Dawson DiPietro, Austin Rueschhoff and Paul Washe are all big-time scoring threats with 20 points or more each, as is oft-injured Wade Allison, a Philadelphia selection who has 19 points in 24 games.
An offensive-minded defense corps is led by senior Cam Lee, Michael Joyaux – younger brother of former Miamians Chris and Matt Joyaux – Ronnie Attard (Philadelphia) and Mattias Samuelsson (Buffalo), all of whom have at least 13 points.
Brandon Bussi continues to thrive as Western Michigan’s starter in net, going 16-12-4 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .911 save percentage, and he will likely start both nights in these critical games.
When these teams met three weeks ago, Miami battled back from a 2-0 deficit in the opener to score in the final minute of the second period then tie it early in the third. The final was 2-2 and the RedHawks earned the extra point on the 3-on-3.
In the finale, MU scored 39 seconds in but Western Michigan tied it nine seconds later, as the Broncos ran off the final four tallies in a 4-1 win.
Miami will almost certainly start Ryan Larkin in net in Game 1 of this series, as he is currently riding a 136:21 scoreless streak.
Coach Chris Bergeron has been playing Ben Kraws on Saturdays, but he allowed seven goals on 31 shots at Denver, so it’s unclear if he will get the nod again in the finale with Larkin catching fire.