RedHawks set to face red-hot Wisconsin

The eighth-ranked RedHawks haven’t played at Steve Cady Arena since Dec. 8 and will complete an eight-game road swing with a two-game series at Wisconsin that starts tonight.

The Badgers, representing the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, are only 8-7-5, but they are 7-0-3 over their last 10 games.

“They had some guys missing early in the year,” MU coach Enrico Blasi said. “I think the last 10 games are probably more indicative of what their team is supposed to be like.”

Junior forward Michael Mersch (12 goals, five assists), senior forward Derek Lee (three goals, 13 assists) and junior forward Mark Zengerle (three goals, eight assists) are the top point men for Wisconsin.

The goaltenders are sophomores Joel Rumpel (12 starts, 1.97 goals-allowed average, .927 save percentage) and Landon Peterson (eight starts, 1.93, .932).

“They play well defensively, they’re a patient team, and they’ve got a lot of skill,” Blasi said. “If you’re not up for the task of playing that kind of game of patience and making sure that you make strong plays, they’ll frustrate you, and that’s when they expose you.”

Ironically, the Badgers are just 2-4-2 at home. They’re 6-1-3 on the road and 0-2 on neutral ice.

“Life experience as a coach has told us there’s no need to panic,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “We believe in the things we’re doing. We believe in the abilities of these kids who just got off to a bad start with some storms that happened. We said we were just biking into the wind. Now the wind’s at our back a little bit.

“We’re trying to earn some respect and climb ladders here and getting back in the RPI, and we have that opportunity this weekend if we can come in our home and take care of business.”

Miami is 12-5-5 and coming off a trying weekend at Northern Michigan, where the RedHawks lost 2-1 on Friday and played to a 3-3 tie (with a shootout win) on Saturday.

Blasi said it’s a significant weekend, even though it’s nonconference play.

“This is crunch time now,” he said. “It’s the dog days of January, and these games are really important. You’re going into a hostile environment. You’re talking about 13,000 knowledgeable hockey fans, and they support their Badgers through thick and thin. If you’re not excited for that, then you’ve got to check to see if you’ve got a heartbeat.”

MU will return home next weekend to face Bowling Green.

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