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UW Game Night Preview: at Northern Colorado

Washington visits #8th-ranked University of Northern Colorado in the only ACHA D2 meeting of the season between the two schools.

Washington prepares to battle Northern Colorado on Thursday.
Washington prepares to battle Northern Colorado on Thursday.
University of Northern Colorado Hockey Club & Campus Recreation

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was written on 1/13, but the schmuck editor failed to publish it in time for the game preview portion to be relevant. But The schmuck editor wanted you to see it any way because it is good.

University of Washington Huskies vs. University of Northern Colorado Bears

Game Time:  Tonight 7:15 pm (8:15 pm Mountain Standard Time)

Location:  Greeley (Colorado) Ice Haus

Audio Webcast:  http://mixlr.com/washington-huskies-hockey

Overall Record (UW):  12-7-1-1

Overall Record (UNC):  10-8-0-0 [7-3-0-0 vs. ACHA D2]

Scouting the Bears

Northern Colorado is #8 in the latest American Collegiate Hockey Association Men's Division 2 rankings released on December 23rd.  The independent club, who also have a 2-4 record against ACHA Division 3 schools, recently had a weekend home-and-home series with the University of Wyoming Cowboys cancelled last month due to inclement weather.  This will be UNC's first home game against an ACHA D2 opponent since November 6th when they defeated the University of Denver Pioneers, 6-3.  The Pioneers will host the Huskies on Friday and Saturday nights (both games 7 pm Pacific / 8 pm Mountain).

UNC is led by head coach Kelly Newton.  General manager Ken Fikis and Ryan Kenney serve as Newton's assistants.  Fikis has a long coaching history winning ACHA Coach of the Year honors while helping his University of Colorado Buffaloes club capture the ACHA D2 national title in 2003.

UNC recruited seven players prior to the start of the season.  Those seven players include the brothers of juniors Connor and Ethan Hicks of nearby Golden, Colorado, who played together last season at (North) Dakota College at Bottineau (NJCAA - National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association) with former Seattle Totems forwards Frank Flight (Seattle) and Lucas Walsh (Lake Stevens).  Connor is a forward, while Ethan is a defenseman.

On Monday, the Bears added three players as part of their 'second semester roster' - Corbin Fitzgibbons, Daniel Morrison, and Michael Viera.

Alternate team captain / sophomore forward Mitchell Bailey leads the team in goals (10), assists (14), and scoring (24 points) in 18 games played.  Goaltender Grant Payne, one of the seven new recruits this season, has been getting the majority of the action between the pipes.  Through 12 games, he is 3-8, 3.75 GAA, and a .896 save percentage.  Owen Rauer (3-2, 4.39 GAA, .855 save %) and Conor Chmelka (3-0, 1.19 GAA, .957 save %) back up Payne in goal.

Huskies Hope to Improve Road Record vs. Non-conference Opponents

Washington will seek to break their two-game road losing streak during this three-game / three-night trip in the Rocky Mountain region.  The Huskies were swept at the Bellingham Sportsplex rink on December 4th-5th vs. Western Washington University.  Although Washington swept Portland State on the road back in November, the Huskies have not done well on the road against non-conference opponents going 2-4-0-1 this season.  The last time Washington lost three or more straight non-conference road games was, ironically, in Colorado (December 1st-4th, 2011) where the Huskies lost to the Colorado State University Rams (7-2), University of Nevada Las Vegas - UNLV - Rebels (8-1), Colorado (8-4), and the Arizona State University Sun Devils (5-1) in a game that did not count towards the PAC-8 conference standings.

According to the hockey club's website, their has been no indication as to whether both UW and UNC have played against each other before dating as far as back as the 2008-09 schedules.  Therefore this will count as the first meeting in history between the schools.