The Nanooks find themselves heading to Oxford, Ohio to take on the 3rd seeded Miami RedHawks after Bowling Green emerged from the shadows for a first round upset that nobody ever predicted, nor has anyone ever seen before. No last-place seeded team in CCHA history has won the first round of the playoffs before last weekend, and I'm fairly certain nobody predicted it to happen this year, either. But Bowling Green's good fortune redirects the Nanooks' fate to Ohio and MU.
Miami enters the weekend on a 9 game unbeaten streak (6-0-3) which includes a series sweep of Michigan just a few weeks ago. They ride on the success of their top forward line, which all 3 sit in the top 10 in scoring in the nation, combining for 155 points thus far.
The Nanooks are coming off what I would call their most consistent series of the season, full of energy and pace against the Michigan State Spartans in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. And in order to take the RedHawks down, pace is key. Earlier this season, in a trip to Oxford, the Nanooks split the series with a 4-0 loss and a 3-2 come-from-behind win on Friday and Saturday, respectively. When you look back at that first game, the first thing you notice is the style. Miami plays an aggressive, fast-paced game and they like to dictate the flow by getting the puck in to open space and skating with speed.
Defensively, the Nanooks have to key in on those open spaces and shut them down. But not playing back and staying aggressive, especially on the forecheck and not allowing Miami to transition to offense is a big deal. I don't think I have to say it, but its hard for Miami to score when they don't have the puck.
When Miami has the puck, they don't really do anything fancy. They use their speed and drive the net, take shots and line up for rebounds. I wouldn't expect that to change much this weekend either. Expect Miami to take a lot of shots, and hope for Greenham to limit the rebound opportunities and keep everything in front of him.
Miami has played just 2 games in the past 30 days, so expect them to be rested, too. With last weekends' extended games, I would hope that the Nanooks would have a slight edge in conditioning, but we'll see.
The Nanooks have a real shot here this weekend to advance. Neither team has swept the other in nearly a decade, and if history continues to repeat itself, it should come down to which team plays with a greater sense of urgency. Should be a fun weekend.