The first-ever meeting between Niagara and Miami was nearly postponed.
But following a deadly winter storm in the Buffalo area, the Purple Eagles — who already had a November game vs. St. Lawrence canceled due to a major snowstorm — made it to Oxford and are set to take on the RedHawks in the inaugural head-to-head series in the teams’ histories.
Earlier this week it was looking unlikely Niagara would be able travel because of the blizzard that killed nearly 40 in western New York. With Buffalo’s main airport closed, players struggled to return to campus in Lewiston, about a half hour north of the city.
A look at this weekend’s matchup:
WHO: Niagara Purple Eagles (9-5-2) at Miami RedHawks (6-10-2).
WHERE: Cady Arena (3,642), Oxford, Ohio.
WHEN: Friday – 7:05 p.m.; Saturday – 4:05 p.m.
ALL-TIME SERIES: First meeting.
STREAMING: NCHC.tv ($).
MIAMI RADIO: Friday — WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.; Saturday — WMOH-AM (1450), Hamilton, Ohio.
NOTES: The goaltending of senior Chad Veltri is a key reason Niagara is four games over .500, as he owns a 2.30 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage, posting a pair of shutouts.
The fourth-year starter has played in 13 of the Purple Eagles’ 16 games, and both backups have save percentages below .860, so it’s likely Veltri will start both nights.
Graduate senior Ryan Cox leads the team in points with 15, coming off a career-best 11-goal, 19-point season in 2021-22. Shane Ott and Boston College transfer Casey Carreau have also been major offensive contributors with 12 points apiece.
Carter Randklev, Jason Pineo and Lars-Christian Rodne have all chipped in five goals.
The Purple Eagles are young on defense, as four of their top six are freshmen or sophomores, and the other two are juniors. One junior, Josef Mysak, the younger brother of Montreal second-rounder Jan Mysak, has six assists in 16 games. The other — Lucas Bahn — transferred from Alabama-Birmingham after that team went dormant.
Niagara was undefeated in November but is 1-2-1 in December, having scored just six goals this month. The Purple Eagles managed just one goal in their last series at America International.
NU is currently ranked No. 29 in the PairWise — Miami is 38th. The Purple Eagles are 2-0 vs. NCHC opponents, as they swept Omaha at Baxter Arena in October.
That means that like Michigan State and UMass Lowell, this is going to be a big non-conference test for the RedHawks, who will be without Red Savage. Savage is playing for Team USA in the Under-20 World Juniors in the Canadian Maratimes.
MU coach Chris Bergeron said in a Thursday interview that Joey Cassetti — a key offensive contributor with six goals and three assists who was hit in the head with a puck in the St. Cloud State series — is OK, and Miami has a few injuries up front but mostly to non-core skaters.
Bergeron also mentioned that the RedHawks need to fare better in series openers. MU is 2-5-2 in the first game of two-game sets this season and has been outscored, 31-9. In Game 2, the RedHawks are 4-5 and have just a minus-1 goal differential.
Miami was off the last two weekends, and hopefully for the RedHawks, John Waldron retains his energy, as he went 4-1-5 against St. Cloud State. Matthew Barbolini picked up four points in that series.