A battle awaits the Goggin Ice Center this weekend as the No. 12 Wisconsin men’s hockey team travels to Oxford, Ohio to take on a impressive No. 8 Miami team.The Badgers (3-2-1) enter the game coming off their second bye week of the season, having played just two games in the past three weeks. While using the time off to improve on skills both as individuals and their all–around team performance, keeping focused with no game in sight was a challenge of its own heading into the upcoming series against the RedHawks (6-3-1).“It’s definitely different and not how we would have wanted it to be. You want to start the season playing games, get your feet under you and get some experience,” senior defenseman Joe Faust said. “But we’re not going to use that as an excuse either and I think it’s a good thing that coaches preached to us not to make excuses … just because we’ve had weekends off doesn’t mean we’re not ready to go.”While UW may be lacking in game-time experience this season heading into Friday night’s matchup, Miami has not had a weekend off in its schedule since its opening night back on Oct. 11. With one of the toughest early-season schedules, Miami fared well, splitting its series against No. 13 North Dakota and most recently splitting games with No. 3 St. Cloud State on the road.A young team, with just 10 upperclassmen on the roster and two seniors, the RedHawks have not dropped a game this season by a score differential more than two. The well-rounded squad ranks 11th in the nation on offense, 10th on defense and eighth on the power play with 12 goals on the man-advantage.Leading the way offensively for Miami are top-line skaters junior Austin Czarnik and sophomore Riley Barber, who have each recorded 15 points thus far into the season.“They are very good one-on-one,” head coach Mike Eaves said. “They have that combination of speed, vision and ability to do what they want to do with the puck.”Coming out early will be key for the Badgers, who have been outscored 8-4 in the first period of their last four games, including giving up the first goal in three of the four matchups.“We are definitely emphasizing that we need to start the game like we did the Saturday against Lake Superior State. We can’t take a period off in college hockey,” junior forward Joseph LaBate said, referring to UW’s 2-0 lead to end the first period after beginning game one of the series down 3-0 in the first four minutes. “Again against a good team like Miami we are going to have to be ready.”Beyond wanting to come away with a pair of wins, Eaves would like to see his team take strides at improving in this area.“It would be nice to get some consistency in our play,” Eaves said. “Right now our first task, and our primary task is to get through that first 20 minutes on Friday night.”Last season the Badgers faced off against the RedHawks at home, winning game one in a 1-0 shutout and falling 2-1 in game two to snap UW’s 11-game win-less streak. Prior to last season, the teams had met just two previous times, once at the Dane County Coliseum in 1979 and in the NCAA tournament of 1993, both wins for the Badgers by scores of 3-2 and 3-1, respectively.“The games are going to be very similar to last year, it was a fight for every inch of the ice last year. The tempo was very good,” Eaves said. “ I think it is going to be, when you talk about big games… goaltending, specialty teams and maybe a bounce of the puck.”With another year of experience and plenty of time to prepare, the veteran Badgers will be a tough opponent for this Miami team. All but two of Wisconsin’s skaters have recorded points with no single player dominating the scoreboard. Sophomore forward Nic Kerdiles leads the pack with eight points, split between goals and assists and is riding an 18-game point streak.Senior forward Michael Mersch is tied with Kerdiles with a team-high four goals and Faust leads the team with six assists after recording eight total points in his previous three seasons.“The majority of our team has had experience playing at the collegiate level and we don’t have a whole roster of freshman like other teams do so I think that helps,” Faust said. “It will be a challenge this week playing a good team after a bye week but I think we are up to it.”Junior goaltender Joel Rumpel will make the trip to Ohio with the team, after missing the last two series due to an ankle injury sustained in practice Oct. 15. It is unclear whether or not Rumpel will see ice time during the series. Junior goaltender Landon Peterson will get the start Friday, and Eaves said the decision to start Rumpel on Saturday — as the duo have customarily split series — has not yet been made.The puck will drop at 6:30 p.m. in Oxford (5:30 p.m. CDT) Friday and Saturday’s game will begin at 7 p.m. (6 p.m. CDT).
Tiana Mangakahia put on a grim face and took a breath before she was inbounded the ball following a Towson 3-point make. It wasn’t out of defeat. After all, Syracuse led by three points with just under halfway to go in the first quarter. But it appeared something struck her, as if SU wasn’t supposed to be there, that close.“We didn’t schedule any morale-boosting games,” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “I thought it would be a little more of a dogfight.”No. 12 Syracuse (7-2) dominated Towson (3-4), 98-55, in a battle between two teams on the opposite ends of the country’s powers. In a game filled with offensive rebounds and second-chances, Syracuse dominated both categories and cruised to its first performance in a year that five players contributed double-digit scoring numbers.Prior to the season, Hillsman said that his team can go 29-0. No, he corrected, 35-0. Can’t forget the tournament. There would be challenges along the way: First, the Orange got a then-No. 3 ranked Oregon following a cross-country road trip just a few days after the season opener. Then, a three-game stint in the Cancun Challenge capped by a meeting with then-No. 16 DePaul. They’d sandwich that between two matchups with top-25 teams. And for the most part, Syracuse was up for whatever came its way: a two-point loss to the Ducks was followed by a five-game win streak before a loss to then-No. 20 Minnesota.But this wasn’t one of them. Towson ranks 253rd in Rating Percentage Index. Syracuse ranks 8th. SU forward Miranda Drummond said the Tigers were predictable, too. In the game before against the Golden Gophers, Syracuse was crushed inside. Many times, lost rebounds led to easy fouls and trips to the line, Hillsman said. But Drummond said that Towson played a similar way, and the Orange weren’t looking for a repeat.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“We knew that the previous game we didn’t show the best effort,” Syracuse forward Digna Strautmane said. “It was a tough loss. We were not mentally ready.”Following the early-game back-and-forth, Syracuse gained full control. Though at times it seemed as if their shots wouldn’t fall, the opportunities were seemingly endless. On one possession late in the first quarter, SU racked up four offensive rebounds. Later in the game, Syracuse got a bucket following three-straight. When the rebounds fell the way of the Tigers — by the end of the game Syracuse led the rebounding battle by just one — turnovers provided SU added opportunities. The Orange forced 30, the most it has against any team this season.Much of the game was just going through the motions for the Orange. At the end of the first and third quarters, Syracuse found Gabrielle Cooper on the elbow for a 3-pointer. Both times, she drained it and walked forward as the seconds ticked off the clock, slapping the hand of her nearest teammate and slowly entering the SU huddle. At the end of the first half, Drummond was fouled on a 3-point attempt and was awarded three shots at the line. Dealing with lower back pain from earlier in the season, Drummond hasn’t participated in one-on-one drills in practice lately. “That was painful,” she laughed of the Towson defender landing on top of her. It hurts most when she lands on her stomach, she said, and that’s what she did. But when she stepped to the line, she drained all three.Roaring plays in the first half like a Cooper 3-pointer, plus the foul sent the SU bench into a frenzy as Cooper slapped three fingers to the back of her head. But the game settled down and the Orange offered a level of nonchalance. Strautmane smiled as a ball slipped from her hands on the Towson baseline. Even as Towson’s Janeen Camp tried to take advantage of the energy, screaming “and-1” after a foul under the hoop. She clanked the shot. Her ensuing free throw hardly grazed the side-rim.Towson had overthrows, mishandles and deflections. Many left players with discouraged looks. This time, defeat loomed, and the misfires put the game further out of reach. When Syracuse made a mistake, seemingly nothing changed.“We kind of settled down a little bit,” Hillsman said. As Syracuse continued its dominance, Mangakahia dropped a Towson defender with a behind-the-back move and fired a no-look pass underneath to Kiara Lewis who finished easily. The possession prior she drained a 3-pointer that rolled around every part of the rim before it fell, and she backpedaled casually into her defensive position.Hillsman bent low to the floor as Towson called a timeout. He clapped slow yet powerfully as he waddled into a scrum of SU players and offered low-fives. His team doesn’t have a shot at an undefeated record. They can’t go the season without their fair share of mistakes. But Sunday, the “balance” he’d preached all season was there, and the doubt wasn’t.“Getting offensive rebounds, quick rebounds and outlets help us push the ball and get quick open threes,” Mangakahia said. “It showed in the game how aggressive we were on the boards and how much we practiced that in the two days that we had.” Published on December 2, 2018 at 3:53 pm Contact Michael: email@example.com | @MikeJMcCleary Facebook Twitter Google+ Comments