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Miami hockey braces for red-hot Alaska

Miami University is hitting a key stretch of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association season.

The RedHawks, ranked third by USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine and fourth by, has Alaska, Western Michigan and Notre Dame the next three weekends, starting with Alaska Friday night at Steve Cady Arena.

“Right now, we’re just thinking about Alaska,” MU coach Enrico Blasi said. “To be at optimal performance, you have to be in the present and make sure that you’re doing that every day. When you focus on things like the past or the future, you create a lot of anxiety and a lot of situations you don’t want to put yourself in, especially if you’re thinking about the future.”

Miami (15-6-5, 10-4-4 CCHA) and the Nanooks (12-8-4, 10-7-3) met two months ago in Fairbanks, with the RedHawks taking 5-2 and 4-0 victories.

But Alaska comes to Oxford as one of the country’s hottest teams, riding a six-game winning streak that included sweeps of Michigan, Notre Dame and Northern Michigan.

“I think you’ll see a team from Alaska that is very confident right now,” Blasi said. “Watching them on tape, they’re playing a smart, honest game where they’re not making any mistakes and capitalizing on a lot of situations that they’re putting their opponents in.”

The MU coach said the first two meetings with Alaska weren’t as lopsided as the final scores might indicate. Nanooks coach Dallas Ferguson’s take: “They came up here and did a number on us.”

Freshman Riley Barber and sophomore Austin Czarnik lead the RedHawks with 26 points apiece on nine goals and 17 assists. Alaska has nine players with double-digit points, paced by senior forward Jarret Granberg (five goals, 12 assists) and senior wing Andy Taranto (seven goals, nine assists).

“Everybody’s got to add value to our lineup,” Ferguson said. “We’re kind of a blue-collar group. We need to work hard and compete hard in order to have any kind of success. That’s been our main M.O. as a program. Everybody’s got to be pulling the rope the same way.”

These squads have some of the best special teams in the nation and are relying on freshman goaltenders: Jay Williams (1.81 goals-allowed average, .929 save percentage) and Ryan McKay (0.98, .963) for Miami, and John Keeney (2.30, .914) for Alaska.

MU is one point behind first-place Western Michigan in the CCHA standings.

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