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Western Michigan and Miami to battle this weekend for first place in CCHA

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Dan DeKeyser from Monday's press conference
Dan DeKeyser from Monday's press conference

Kalamazoo, MI (WKZO) – During Monday’s weekly media press conference, Head Coach Andy Murray said he doesn’t look at the standings and says his players don’t either. He’ll let other people worry about that. He’s more worried about winning the next game against whoever is next on the schedule. With Miami (OH) next on the schedule, winning two games verse the Redhawks, could be a determining factor for the Broncos in winning the CCHA regular season title.  

The Broncos remain ranked sixth nationally, after gaining four out of a possible six points this past weekend with a win over Ferris State 3-1 on Friday night, then tying the Bulldogs on Saturday 2-2, but they no longer lead the CCHA, a spot that was taken over by their next opponent.

Miami comes to Kalamazoo this weekend ranked third in the most recent national rankings and are on a five game winning streak, including a weekend sweep of Alaska (4-1 on Friday and 6-2 on Saturday), and find themselves atop the CCHA standings, a point ahead of WMU.

“We’re excited to have Miami here in our building this weekend”, Murray said. “They have come out really strong from the beginning of the season and have been very consistent. They have a lot of speed, energy and they possess the puck very well.”

If a chance to regain the top spot in the CCHA wasn’t enough motivation heading into the weekend series, losing twice at Miami last year, including a 4-0 shutout, isn’t something the Broncos have forgotten either.  

“We went to their building last year and we played two of our weaker games of the season and part of that reason was because they played us really really well, they took it to us pretty good”, Murray added.

But for Broncos defenseman Danny DeKeyser, it’s the opportunity to beat a top ranked team that he looks forward too.

“Anytime you play a team in top five in the country it’s exciting. It makes it easy to come to the rink and be ready to play. But like coach says, come 7:05 on Friday and Saturday, we have to be ready to play or we could run out of the building, but we’re ready for it.”

The Redhawks are led by Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber, the top two scoring leaders in the CCHA. Both are smaller forwards with lots of skill and speed and will present a challenge for the Broncos defense.

“They are really tough to contain, especially in their own zone when their skill really takes over”, said DeKeyser. “They like to take the puck to the net and like to use their speed to beat you wide.  I remember playing against Czarnik in Juniors and he was always a tough guy to play against. But they are both smart guys. It’ll be tough but we’ll just have to D up against them and keep them on the outside.”

But it won’t be just Czarnik and Barber the Broncos will have to worry about, as the Redhawks are one of the deepest teams in college hockey according to DeKeyser.

“They are always very skilled. Lines one through four, any of those players can score.  If we turn the puck over it’s going to kill us.  They just have a lot of skill.”

The Broncos could be without one of their better defensemen as well as Dennis Brown was involved in an altercation against Ferris, and Coach Murray believes he’ll be without the junior defenseman for Friday night.

“Brown was giving a disqualification on Saturday and I fully expect him to miss the game Friday night, but everything else that went on, there is no reason that any of our players miss any games and the league I think will see that.” 

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