Q&A with Miami’s Nick Petraglia, Part II

On Monday the Blog of Brotherhood published Part I of an interview with Miami assistant coach Nick Petraglia, which ran here:

Here is the conclusion of that conversation.

2BoB: Another forward coming in is Ryan Siroky (Sir-OH-key). BoB saw him a couple of seasons ago with Green Bay and he looked like he had some talent but was 17 and raw at that point. He went 14-19-33 last year, including 1-7-8 in the playoffs after being traded to Muskegon.

PETRAGLIA: High-character kid, power forward, responsible. In the last year, year and a half, he has become very versatile in terms of being able to play different positions up front. He was recruited as a winger but was moved around in different teams’ lineups and learned how to play center, so that versatility is very important for us to be able to use him in different spots. He’s a kid that works hard, he has the ability to score goals – he has a little bit of offense to him, has a scoring touch in tight. He’s a complete player that is responsible and can contribute meaningful minutes to our team.

BoB: Next would be Zach LaValle (la-VAL). LaValle had a big year in the NAHL, going 20-41-61 for Janesville.

PETRAGLIA: He was a very successful three-sport, all-state athlete in Minnesota. I would say his strengths are his hockey sense and his playmaking. He had a really good year leading the team in scoring, and (Janesville) set a league record for wins and points and they ran away with the league, and he kind of league the way offensively. He’s a smart, playmaking forward, and he’s a guy that can probably play center and wing for us as well.

BoB: Another player who was a big points producer in juniors is Josh Melnick. At 5-feet-7 and with a line of 14-48-62 with Youngstown of the USHL, that looks like the scoring line of a playmaking center.

PETRAGLIA: Yes, that’s exactly what he is. He is one of the best passers that we could’ve found. He knows how to set the table, he knows how to run a power play, and again, hockey sense. Really, really smart, really smart and reliable, he can fly, he can make plays at high speed. He could probably shoot the puck a little bit more, but he really knows how to step guys up and make plays and produce offense, and he’ll be a guy that we think will transition very nicely into college hockey and make an immediate impact.

BoB: Kiefer Sherwood. Here’s a guy that absolutely blew up last season. He scored 29 goals and set up 27 more in his third season with Youngstown. What is your impression of him?

PETRAGLIA: He did (score a lot) in midgets and that’s where we recruited him from. Again, looking at what we’re replacing and what we’re bringing in, you lose a shot like Riley Barber – and by no means am I expecting Kiefer to come in and score 20 goals, it could happen but you don’t want to put that kind of pressure on a kid – this is a kid that can just shoot the puck and score goals. His one-timer is incredible. He’s got a really quick release, a hard and heavy shot, he can really skate. So when you look at the list of guys we’re bringing in, we’ve mentioned a few playmakers, this would be a goal scorer, a guy that can score and get up and down the ice and make a difference.

BoB: The final forward is a University of Maine transfer, Ryan Lomberg. He played two seasons with the Black Bears, going 18-14-32 in 66 games and sat out last season, joining Youngstown where he went 24-19-43. He will be a junior this year, and he did have an off-ice incident that led to his departure from Maine. Can you talk about bringing in a player with two years of collegiate experience on a team that lost a lot of forward talent?

NOTE: Lomberg pled guilty to a disorderly conduct charge last summer stemming from a fight several months prior, for which he was originally charged with assault.  

PETRAGLIA: He’s a kid very similar to Blake Coleman. Difficult to play against, can play in all situations. Very, very gritty and hard-nosed, can score, can make plays, but he’s a player that the other team notices and they don’t want him on the ice. And he’s an outstanding kid. Had a situation at Maine that was obviously tough for him to deal with but we can definitely speak to his character and say that he’s a really good person that’s learned from his mistakes and deserves a second chance. Still some eligibility issues with the NCAA in regards to his transfer, so we’re not quite sure if he’s going to be ready for us in the first half or if we’re going to have to wait until January. If we have to wait until January, we’ll get through it and he’ll be a big part of our team whenever the NCAA says that it’s OK.

BoB: So, worst-case scenario, he can come in this January as a junior and still play his entire senior season in 2016-17?

PETRAGLIA: That’s correct. Worst-case scenario…he can play (vs.) RPI, Jan. 2.

BoB: With all of the forward spots that are open from last season (7 – Czarik, Coleman, Murphy, Wideman, Mullin, Barber, Doherty), the spots are there for these incoming players to win starting jobs right away. Is that accurate?

PETRAGLIA: Yeah, and that’s how we’ve always recruited. We want to bring in guys to fill roles and we bring them in when they’re ready to contribute. No different than when Austin Czarnik came in, Austin Czarnik replaced Carter Camper…and Austin Czarnik was our leading scorer and No. 1 center for four years. And now Austin’s gone.

(At center), Sean (Kuraly) coming back, and what he brings to our team and the impact he’s going to have on the ice is huge. I don’t want to say who our No. 1 center is going to be, who knows? You could argue whomever. But Sean’s going to be a huge piece of our puzzle, and Jack replaces Austin and kind of fills that role. So you can see the different skill sets and the different elements that the (incoming) guys bring to the table. They’re brought here for a reason and hopefully they’re ready.

BoB: You mentioned Sean Kuraly a couple of times. He takes over the captaincy from Czarnik. Fans can see how hard he works and much of a force he’s become since coming to Oxford, but can you talk about the type of leader he is, which is something many people don’t see?

PETRAGLIA: He just gets it. First of all, he is the poster child of how to carry yourself, the perfect example of a human being in terms of humility, caring for other people, caring for his teammates, his selflessness. He’s so passionate and he works so hard. I think that’s one thing that people who don’t know Sean Kuraly that come to watch us play – I’m sure that if you’re watching that, oh, look at Sean Kuraly. Look how hard that kid works. He brings his best every single shift, and it’s not just on the ice. He brings his best in the classroom, he brings his best in terms of his attention span in a meeting, when he’s talking to his friends and his teammates. More than anything, he is respected by every single person in our program. If you were to take a poll, I’ll bet every single person in our program would vote him as our captain. It would probably be unanimous.

BoB: You have one defenseman coming in, who is Grant Hutton. He has bounced between the NAHL and the USHL and had an excellent playoff year with that tremendous Janesville team. He’s 6-feet-3, so can you talk about how he fits in to this team?

PETRAGLIA: Grant is a kid that’s built off of work ethic. He’s very strong, very well conditioned, great athlete. Obviously he has some size, and one thing about him – he can shoot the puck and he has a little bit of offense – but more than anything he takes great pride in playing D and shutting down the other team and keeping the puck out of his own net. He’s a player that hates to get scored on more than anybody I’ve ever met. It really bugs him, and obviously that’s a very important attribute to have on your team is a guy that really takes pride in taking care of his own end and defending, and that’s what Grant Hutton does. Another kid (with) great character from Indy, just down the road, so a semi-local kid that grew up loving Miami. (He’s) excited to be here and we’re excited to have him.

BoB: With Ben Paulides graduating and Colin Sullivan, who played very well when he was healthy last season, in the mix, it looks like there are going to be battles for those final couple of defenseman spots in the lineup each night.

PETRAGLIA: So with Mooney, you mentioned having a roster of 25, it gives us comfort knowing we have a guy like him that can play both positions as necessary based on the way things are going. But you mentioned the competition and that’s absolutely true, competition makes everybody better, it makes our team better, and we’re really happy with the makeup of our D-corps and the different elements and the competition that’s back there. We thought the guys did a real good job last year, playing both ends and taking care of the D-corps, so to have the majority of them back, and losing Ben Paulides, who did a good job for us. Grant comes in and has a similar skill set, defends in the same way that Benny did in terms of being a defensive defenseman, so we’re hoping for our D-corps to once again have a solid year, be a big part of our team.

BoB: Miami is bringing in another goalie in Evan McCarthy. He has been decent in the NAHL the past two seasons, so can you talk about him coming in with two other established goalies already with the RedHawks?

PETRAGLIA: So Evan’s coming into a situation where we obviously have two seniors who have played every minute for the last three years, and we’re going to expect a lot out of them, so he’s going to have an opportunity to compete and learn and be a part of that for a year. A year from now we’re going to expect Evan to step up and compete for a spot. We have a kid coming in who I’m not allowed to talk about until he signs his (Letter of Intent), but just having the competition that position, Evan’s going to have the opportunity to compete for playing time for four years. This year will be a little tougher for him because he’s got two seniors (in front of him), but after that it should be a good opportunity for him to battle it out. He’s a good that is extremely bright, very, very good student – he was valedictorian of his high school in Colorado – has a great work ethic. He has good size, he fills the net well, has a good skill set, so it will be a really good opportunity for him to learn the college game and adapt to this level of play and just get used to it before Ryan (McKay) and Jay (Williams) both graduate.

I’ve got one other thing to say, because it’s really important: Anthony Louis and Louie Belpedio. I would expect both of them to take huge steps this year. They were both great for us last year, but in terms of developing into elite college players, I think both of those guys are ready to take that step. When you talk about the guys that are leaving and trying to fill voids, both of those guys are totally capable of stepping up, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Anthony Louis light it up.

John Lachmann writes for WCPO.com, the Northern Kentucky Tribune, Tristatefootball.com and GetSportsInfo.com. You can follow him at @rednblackhawks.

Q&A with Miami’s Nick Petraglia, Part I

Nick Petraglia is entering his sixth season as an assistant coach at Miami, but he has been around the program since he was 18.

PetragliaHe was a goalie for the RedHawks in 2000-01 and 2001-02 under current head coach Enrico Blasi, and was a volunteer assistant coach for three seasons before becoming the director of hockey operations at Miami.

Two of his main current responsibilities for the RedHawks are working with the goalies and serving as a recruiting co-coordinator.

Because he watches the incoming players extensively before they come to Oxford, the Blog of Brotherhood talked to him about how the newest crops of RedHawks and the state of the roster, as well as other off-season topics.

BoB: So what is the coaching staff doing at this point to prepare for this fall?

PETRAGLIA: Preparation started probably a couple of weeks after the Frozen Four last year. Really, just recapping last season, seeing what the makeup of our team was going to look like, establishing a new identity, leadership, addressing areas that we needed to improve. That all occurred at the end of last season, and then when the guys were around for summer session, they put in a lot of hard work, just getting off on the right foot in terms of training and their summer preparation. Right now, we’re just kind of recapping those topics that we covered in the spring, and then the next two weeks we’ll spend a lot of time meeting and planning our preseason in terms of what our practice is going to look like, what our schedule is going to look like, making sure we’re making the most of our time because we have to be pretty efficient with the NCAA restrictions that are in place in the preseason in terms of hours. So really at this point it’s just putting the plan in place and making sure we’re ready to go and we’re prepared to we can execute that plan when the guys are here.

BoB: Miami lost a lot of really good forwards from last season (Austin Czarnik, Blake Coleman, Riley Barber, Cody Murphy, Alex Wideman). Is the biggest concern heading into 2015-16 this team’s ability to put the puck in the net?

PETRAGLIA: I wouldn’t call it a concern, just part of our job in recruiting is to know what we’re losing and to replace it. So while obviously a few players that have those abilities have left, we feel like we’ve replaced it with guys who can fill those roles. Obviously with freshmen, there’s going to be a natural learning curve, but we’re really excited about what we have coming in with some of the new guys to carry to load. And then on top of that, as guys get older and new opportunities are available, you always look for some returning players to step up and take up their role and fill some of that void left by graduating seniors or in this case even Riley Barber, who left a year early. I think we have a lot of firepower, we have good balance – skill and speed – and hopefully that will translate to production. I wouldn’t say we’re concerned but it’s definitely something we’re going to have to find the right chemistry and work at, make sure we’re living up to the standards that we’ve set.

BoB: Is off-season at Miami easier for you and the other hockey coaches because you’ve been together so long? Coach Enrico Blasi is entering his 17th season, Coach Brekke has been there for almost a decade and you’ve been with the program since you were a teenager and are in your sixth season in your current role as an assistant.

PETRAGLIA: I think as a the years go on we become more and more cohesive as a staff, and I would also say that as a program, that includes our relationships between the staff and the players as well. Just having everybody on the same page, knowing what our standards are and buying in and working toward the same goal. So our summer discussions as a staff and the planning that’s in place: I think there’s a lot of chemistry in that area. We definitely have discussions where we’re trying to figure things out and think of new ways to do things, and we’re always trying to get better, but I would say that the quality of our relationships and where we’re all at personally really helps with that because we really are one big family, and it’s fun to show up every day and work with people that you care about and that you love and that you can really get along with and not only have a great relationship but a productive one where you can talk things out even when things are tough, and talk things out and come to an agreement as one.

BoB: In looking at your roster, last year at this time you had 28 players. Right now there are 25 listed, which is the smallest roster I can remember this team having. A couple of guys aren’t coming back that you probably expected to see here this fall, but how do you feel about having list 25 players on the roster right now?

PETRAGLIA: We feel OK with it. We were a little surprised about Jimmy Mullin moving on. Obviously he graduated, but (he) has an opportunity at Minnesota State…so that would’ve been 26. But 25, we feel good about. We feel really good about our senior class. Outstanding group of people that have been through a bunch of good times but some tough times as well, so they’ve seen both sides of it, and the leadership starting with Sean Kuraly, who’s going to be a tremendous captain for every reason you can list. Not only that but his support group is really, really good. The character that’s in that senior class is really going to lead the way for our team and sets the bar high for us. So we really couldn’t be more excited about that senior class taking charge of this team.

BoB: Two defensemen that were on the roster last year at this time, Matt Joyaux and Trevor Hamilton,  decided mid-season to pursue opportunities with other teams. Nothing against them, they did what they had to do to further their hockey careers, but a player like Garrett Kennedy a few years ago was willing to not dress for two years before getting his shot on the ice and ended up being a solid contributor his final two seasons. With college hockey becoming more competitive and more of a business than ever, do you envision this current scenario is going to become more of a reality or do you feel last season was an aberration?

PETRAGLIA: I really hope that’s not the reality – that’s a really tough question to answer because everything is a case-by-case basis. In those situations, it was a tough situation for both players, they found themselves out of the lineup more than they would like and felt that they would have better opportunities to play more elsewhere, and that was the reason for leaving. I think they both really did love Miami and enjoyed the overall experience, but it came down to playing opportunity. It’s disappointing to see that happen because there are other examples where players find themselves in that situation and they work hard and they work themselves out of it and find themselves in the lineup every single game, and that’s what you would like to see because unfortunately someone’s got to sit out each night, not everybody can play. So I hope that’s not the reality, but it is the nature of the business when you’re trying to put yourself in a position to succeed and play as much as possible. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out for whatever reason and people move on. That was tough, in the middle of the season, for that to happen, but both kids handled it well, left on good terms in terms of not having any animosity, it was handled rather professionally, and we all got through it.

BoB: Overall, looking at the dynamic of the team, you lost a 5-feet-6 and a 5-feet-7 guy and are only bringing in one smaller player. The lone incoming defenseman is 6-feet-3. So it looks like you’re going to have a little more size this season.

PETRAGLIA: I know going back a year ago, after 2013-14, we felt like we needed to get bigger. We added Lemirande, Dornbrook, Sullivan. We felt like we needed that size and strength. And at this point we feel like we’ve got a pretty balanced lineup where I don’t think size is an issue. Naturally, we’re going to have some smaller players that bring certain skill sets to the table. The size of this year’s class is probably average to normal.

BoB: The incoming player who has commanded the most hype is forward Jack Roslovic. He was picked in the first round, 25th overall by the Winnipeg Jets this summer. In 25 games for the U.S. National Development Team, he had 11 goals and 27 assists, plus he went 6-5-11 in seven games for the U.S. Under-18 Team in its gold medal effort. He played in an exhibition at Cady Arena last season, and BoB saw him again in Ann Arbor last winter and his talent level looks off the charts. Especially with all of the key forward losses, the RedHawks are going to need someone who can jump in and contribute right away. Can you talk about him and what he brings to Miami?

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PETRAGLIA: Jack is a special player. Obviously there’s going to be a lot of expectation and a lot of pressure just because of where he was drafted, where he’s coming from. He’s very highly touted. But the one thing I will say about Jack is he’s very, very grounded. For all that’s been through and what he experienced this summer, he’s got a really good head on his shoulders. He can do everything. He’s got decent size, he’s strong on his skates, his playmaking and offensive instincts are incredible. Very, very good hockey sense. He can do it all, and he’s one of those guys that we’re going to expect to be ready right away. Obviously there will be a little bit of a transition, but he’s already played in some college games (in exhibitions), he’s played in big-time environments, and we’re going to lean on him pretty heavily to produce right away, and we don’t see him having any big issues other than normal growing pains.

Check back on Wednesday for Part II and the conclusion of our conversation, as Petraglia dissects the rest of the incoming recruits and talks about the players he expects to take major steps forward this fall.

John Lachmann writes for WCPO.com, the Northern Kentucky Tribune, Tristatefootball.com and GetSportsInfo.com. You can follow him at @rednblackhawks.

 

The All-Cady Arena First-Decade Team

It’s hard to believe the 2015-16 season will be Miami’s 10th at Cady Arena.

From opening night in 2006, a 5-2 win over Denver in the Ice Breaker, to the RedHawks’ series-clinching 4-0 win over Western Michigan in the best-of-3 series in the NCHC Tournament in March, much of the RedHawks’ rich history has been made in recent years at the picturesque rink on the south side of Oxford.

And many outstanding players have laced up their skates there, some of which are currently in the NHL, and many more just one step below in the AHL.

The Blog of Brotherhood takes a look at some of the top players that have taken the ice for Miami in recent years in its All-Cady Arena First-Decade Team.

These are players that were the best during their time in Oxford, not necessarily the most successful in their college hockey afterlives.

(NOTE: To qualify, players had to play the majority of their seasons at Cady Arena. I originally put two years but my senility must’ve gotten the better of me because I had forgotten Ryan Jones played two years at Cady. My apologies. Also, yes it is technically Cady Arena at the Goggin Ice Center, but the rinks will be referred to as Goggin – 1976-2006 – and Cady – 2006-present – in this piece)

GOALIE – Jeff Zatkoff.

Zatkoff save

Miami has produced several excellent goaltenders since opening the doors at Cady Arena, but Zatkoff stands alone at the top. He played one season at Goggin Arena and his final two at Cady, where he posted a 1.94 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. Zatkoff’s 1.96 GAA is the second-best all-time at Miami, and he is tops in career save percentage at .927 (he went 2.02 and .928 in 2005-06, the final season at Goggin). He finished his three-year career with seven shutouts, and he left for the pros after his junior season.

Miami did not have the defensive depth it has boasted for the past several seasons when Zatkoff was between the pipes, making his numbers even more impressive. The RedHawks were not NCAA Tournament regulars when this rink opened, but by the time Zatkoff left Oxford, they were. Boston College ended all three seasons Zatkoff played for the RedHawks, but he picked up Miami’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win in 2007, holding New Hampshire to one goal in a 2-1 win. He also beat Air Force the next season to open the NCAAs and played a remarkable game in the RedHawks’ 4-3 overtime loss to BC in the regional final.

Zatkoff, a third-round draft pick of the Kings, is one of just five former Miami goalies to play in the NHL, and he is second on that list in games played with 21, logging a 2.58 GAA and .913 save percentage. He played most of 2014-15 with the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, where he went 18-18-2.45-.910.

DEFENSEMAN – Chris Wideman.

CWideman3

Wideman recorded 12 goals and 83 assists for 95 points in 2007-12, the most points of any Miami defenseman since Mitch Ganzak. Wideman came to Oxford as a true freshman at 18 and went 0-26-26 his rookie campaign, earning him First-Team, All-CCHA Rookie honors. He found his scoring touch as a sophomore, netting five goals to complement 17 assists for 22 points. Wideman went 3-20-23 his junior season and 4-20-24 his final year. He was at least plus-8 each season and finished his career plus-58.

At Miami, Wideman was an excellent quarterback on the power play, and it was nearly impossible to get the puck away from him or clear it past him on the man advantage. His defensive play improved greatly in his four years with the RedHawks, and despite being just 5-feet-10, he was more than able to hold his own in the defensive zone.

Wideman was drafted by Ottawa in the fourth round in 2009 and is still in the Senators’ system. He was called up once by Ottawa but has yet to get into an NHL game. However, he earned the AHL’s Eddie Shore Award for the league’s top defenseman this season, as he scored 19 goals and dished for 42 assists, tallying 61 points. The latter two led all league blueliners. Wideman has played three full seasons with AHL Binghamton, where he has 30 goals and 100 assists for 130 points. He just re-signed with the Senators and should get into his first NHL games in 2015-16.

DEFENSEMAN – Vincent LoVerde.

LoVerde

The perfect complement to Wideman, LoVerde was the textbook definition of a shutdown defenseman. He had just six goals and 30 assists in four seasons at Miami, but he finished plus-67 and blocked 237 shots in 2007-11.

LoVerde was a physical blueliner and a force on the penalty kill who almost never made a mistake in his own zone. While his role was mostly limited to defense with the RedHawks, he made crisp outlet passes to get the puck out of the D-Zone. And for the grinding role he played, LoVerde was highly discipline and had relatively low penalty minute totals, never reaching the 50 mark. He also overcame a heart virus that shut him down at the end of his junior season.

The six-feet, 205-pounder was not drafted, and like Wideman, came to Miami as a true freshman, playing his first game at 18½. He signed with the Kings and began his pro career in the ECHL in the fall of 2011. He played a season and a half for Ontario, scoring 12 goals and picking up 29 assists in 91 games at that level, and he has played for AHL Manchester since. LoVerde has logged 184 AHL games, scoring 13 goals and dishing for 40 helpers. He was named captain this past season, and his team won the Calder Cup, with LoVerde going 2-8-10 in 19 games during Manchester’s playoff run.

FORWARD – Reilly Smith.

Smith

Smith had a decent freshman season but was off the charts his next two campaigns before turning pro. Smith scored eight goals and set up 12 as a rookie, but he blew up with 28 goals his sophomore season and 30 more his final year, during which he earned First-Team All-West honors. Despite skipping his senior season, Smith is still 29th on Miami’s all-time points list with 122, and he is tied for ninth in goals on the RedHawks’ career leaderboard (66). Rick Kuraly’s career goal record of 101 set in 1983 seems unbreakable, but Smith might’ve topped him had he stayed for a fourth season, as he needed 35 to tie it after lighting the lamp 30 times as a junior.

Smith improved in every aspect of his game from the first day he set foot on the ice at Cady Arena. Obviously the goal totals are eye-popping, and he got better at finding the net in his three years, but he bulked up and became markedly better defensively.

Smith only needed 45 games in the AHL – where he went 14-21-35 – before sticking for good in the NHL. He came to Boston in the Tyler Seguin deal in 2013, and he only missed one game in two seasons with the Bruins, scoring 33 goals and assisting on 58. He has exactly 100 NHL points (36 goals, 64 assists). Smith was on the move again this summer, and he will suit up for the Florida Panthers this fall.

FORWARD – Andy Miele.

NanooksF3

Miele is the only player in Miami history to win the Hobey Baker, awarded to college hockey’s top player. He was the only player in recent years to join the RedHawks mid-season, as he came in for the final 18 games of 2007-08 and racked up seven goals and seven assists. Miele’s points totals jumped to 31 his sophomore season, 44 his third year and an NCAA-best 71 his final campaign, during which he won the NCAA’s top individual prize. He tied for second in single-season points by a RedHawks that season and his assist total (47) is second all-time. Despite playing 3½ seasons, Miele is seventh on Miami’s all-time points leaderboard with 160, and he is one of only seven RedHawks to record 100 career assists.

For being 5-feet-8, Miele did it all while in Oxford. He was an outstanding penalty killer, a great playmaker and a deadly-accurate finisher. Miele played well above his size and was too elusive to take much physical punishment, and for being a small guy he would lay out the occasional hit. He played on lines with a number of forwards with Miami and his game seemed to mesh with all of them.

Miele played for the Phoenix Coyotes for parts of three seasons, logging a total of 15 games and recording two assists. He is now in the Detroit Red Wings’ system. In four AHL seasons, he has 245 points. Miele was third in that league in points in 2013-14 and second last season.

FORWARD – Jarod Palmer.

Palmer

Picking the third forward was incredibly difficult, but because of Palmer’s all-around game, he earns the nod. He recorded 30 points as a freshman, including 11 goals. Palmer notched 35 points his sophomore season and 27 as a junior, capping his career off with an 18-27-45 campaign. He was 13th on Miami’s all-time career points leaderboard when he left Oxford with 47 goals and 90 assists for 137 points, and he is still 15th overall. Palmer never missed a game with the RedHawks and owns a school record that will be nearly impossible to break: He played in 169 games in his Miami career. With no UAF in the conference and one less playoff round in an eight-team league, the opportunities to play in more than 42 games in a season are much more scarce.

Palmer’s statistics are impressive enough on their own, but the things that didn’t show up on the stats sheet really set him apart. His stickhandling was NHL caliber from Day One with the RedHawks, and he is one of the best penalty killing forwards in recent history. Palmer also won nearly every battle along the boards, even while vying with multiple opponents. His passing and scoring skills were also at an NHL level while he was still in college. And of course his durability – not only did he never miss a game, he seemingly never tired when he was on the ice.

Sadly, Palmer’s pro career came to an end after just six games with his hometown Minnesota Wild, as he suffered another in a string of concussions. He did manage to score one goal while in the NHL. Palmer also logged 117 AHL games with Houston, scoring 16 times and setting up 31 more. He is currently a head coach for Sugar Land of the NA3HL.

EDITS: Note in sixth paragraph. My apologies to Ryan Jones, who was definitely among the top players ever to suit up at either arena Miami hockey has called home.

Catching up with Miami alumni

LoVerde

(Defenseman Vincent LoVerde, photo by Cathy Lachmann)

Between the Stanley Cup playoffs, minor league championships, the NHL draft and its resulting transactions, trades and Wednesday’s free agent madness, numerous Miami alumni have spent the past couple of months winning trophies and moving to different cities.

If all of the activity is giving you a headache, here is the Miami-centric version of recent events involving former RedHawks.

LOVERDE WINS CALDER – Defenseman Vincent LoVerde, the captain of AHL Manchester, led the  Monarchs to a Calder Cup championship in June.

The fourth-year pro who graduated in 2011 tied a career high in the regular season with nine goals, and he went 2-8-10 in 19 playoff games. LoVerde, 26, has already played in 275 professional games, racking up 25 goals and 69 assists for 94 points in the Kings organization.

STEFFES A KELLY CUP WINNER – What a season it was for Gary Steffes. The 2010 Miami graduate scored 61 goals between the regular season and playoffs and capped his year off by winning the Kelly Cup with Allen of the ECHL.

Steffes netted four goals in nine games in a call-up to AHL Milwaukee, potted a league-leading 44 regular season goals for Allen – more than twice his previous career high – and tallied 13 more in 25 postseason contests, the second-highest total in the league.

In 317 pro games, Steffes has 128 goals and 116 assists for 244 points.

BOYLE REACHES NHL CONFERENCE FINAL – Defenseman Dan Boyle advanced to the Stanley Cup conference final as a member of the New York Rangers, playing 19 postseason games and recording three goals and seven assists.

Boyle, the only RedHawks alum to participate in the Stanley Cup playoffs, also became the first former Miamian to play in 1,000 regular season games in 2014-15. In addition to leading all ex-RedHawks in career regular season games played (1,019), he is tops in assists (428) and points (581), as well as career playoffs games played (126), goals (17), assists (63) and points (80).

PRO SIGNINGS, PLAYERS ON THE MOVE – Former Miamians were involved in a number of transactions between draft weekend and the first day of free agent signings on Wednesday.

Here are the highlights:

– Forward Reilly Smith was dealt from Boston along with F Marc Savard to Florida for F Jimmy Hayes. Hayes and Smith played against each other in the 2010 Frozen Four.

Smith has 36 goals and 64 assists for 100 points in 203 NHL games with the Bruins.

– F Blake Coleman signed a two-year deal with New Jersey on Wednesday. Coleman was drafted by the Devils but did not join a New Jersey affiliate in the spring after Miami was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.

– F Andy Miele was re-signed by Detroit for one year. He finished second in the AHL in points last season with 70.

– D Chris Wideman was re-signed by Ottawa for one year. Wideman led all AHL defensemen in assists (42) and points (61) and was tied for the league lead in goals (19).

– F Carter Camper, who played in the Boston, Columbus and Ottawa systems, was signed to a one-year deal by Washington. Camper finished with a pro-high 52 points with Binghamton in 2014-15.

– F Marc Hagel was inked to a two-year deal by Minnesota. Hagel is coming off his second full pro season, and he went 12-21-33 with AHL Iowa.

– F Curtis McKenzie signed a two-year deal to remain with Dallas. McKenzie split time between AHL Texas and the Stars. He went 6-15-21 in 31 games in the AHL, and he was 4-1-5 in the NHL.

– F Austin Czarnik signed with the Bruins right after Miami’s season ended, coincidentally ending up in Providence, where the RedHawks played their final game of 2014-15. Czarnik played three games with the P-Bruins, notching two assists.

– Though he’s not an alumni yet (thank God), F Sean Kuraly had his rights traded from San Jose to Boston last week. Kuraly will be a senior at Miami this fall and could rejoin Czarnik in 2016.

Twenty-four former RedHawks either logged games in the AHL, the NHL or both last season. Here are the final 2014-15 regular season and postseason stats for all former Miamians currently playing pro hockey around the world:

REGULAR SEASON
NHL
F Reilly Smith, BOS, 81 GP, 13-27—40
F Tommy Wingels, SJ, 75 GP, 15-21—36
D Alec Martinez, LA, 56 GP, 6-16—22
D Andy Greene, NJ, 82 GP, 3-19—22
D Dan Boyle, NYR, 65 GP, 9-11—21
F Curtis McKenzie, DAL, 36 GP, 4-1—5
D Cameron Schilling, WSH, 4 GP, 0-0—0
G Jeff Zatkoff, PIT, 1 GP, 0-1, 1.62 GAA, .941 Sv%
AHL
F Andy Miele, GRP, 71 GP, 26-44—70
D Chris Wideman, BNG, 75 GP, 19-42—61
F Carter Camper, BNG, 75 GP, 15-37—52
F Pat Cannone, CHI, 64 GP, 14-33—47
F Marc Hagel, IOW, 67 GP, 12-21–33
F Curtis McKenzie, TEX, 31 GP, 6-15—21
D Vincent LoVerde, MNC, 63 GP, 9-11–20
D Cameron Schilling, HER, 63 GP, 3-15—18
F Trent Vogelhuber, SPR, 64 GP, 8-8–16
F Tyler Biggs, TOR, 47 GP, 2-3–5
D Steve Spinell, HFD, 52 GP, 1-4–5
F Gary Steffes, MLW, 9 GP, 4-0–4
F Justin Mercier, 16 GP, 2-2–4
F Alden Hirschfeld, GRP, 12 GP, 1-1–2
F Austin Czarnik, PRO, 3 GP, 0-2–2
F Ryan Jones, UTC, 5 GP, 0-1–1
D Will Weber, SPR, 30 GP, 0-1–1
F Alex Wideman, BNG, 4 GP, 0-0–0
G Jeff Zatkoff, WBS, 37 GP, 18-18, 2.45 GAA, .910 Sv%
ECHL
F Gary Steffes, ALL, 63 GP, 44-29–73
F Justin Mercier, TOL, 46 GP, 22-21–43
F Alden Hirschfeld, TOL, 59 GP, 11-33–44
F Tyler Biggs, ORL, 8 GP, 4-2–6
D Steve Spinell, GRE, 6 GP, 1-1–2
F Bryon Paulazzo, STK, 22 GP, 2-2–4
G Connor Knapp, REA, 41 GP, 24-15, 2.58 GAA, .915 Sv%
G Cody Reichard, STK, 31 GP, 8-20, 4.31 GAA, .872 Sv%
SPHL
F Devin Mantha, MIS, 39 GP, 11-17—28
F Bryon Paulazzo, MIS, 35 GP, 6-16—22
F Max Cook, COL, 36 GP, 3-9—12
Europe
F Dustin Whitecotton, Deggendorf, Oberliga (Germany), 38 GP, 14-33—47
F Evan Cheverie, Belfast, EIHL (Britain), 47 GP, 12-32—44
F/D Matt Tomassoni, Kassel, DEL-2 (Austria), 43 GP, 9-27—36
F Ryan Jones, Cologne, DEL (Austria), 30 GP, 12-5–17

PLAYOFFS
NHL
D Dan Boyle, NYR, 19 GP, 3-7–10
AHL
F Andy Miele, GRP, 16 GP, 3-11–14
D Vincent LoVerde, MNC, 19 GP, 2-8–10
D Cameron Schilling, HER, 10 GP, 3-5–8
F Pat Cannone, CHI, 5 GP, 0-6–6
F Curtis McKenzie, TEX, 3 GP, 1-1–2
D Steve Spinell, HFD, 3 GP, 1-0–1
F Alden Hirschfeld, GRP, 6 GP, 1-0–1
G Jeff Zatkoff, WBS, 1 GP, 0-0, 1.03 GAA, .958 Sv%
ECHL
F Gary Steffes, ALL, 25 GP, 13-5–18
F Justin Mercier, TOL, 20 GP, 8-4–12
F Alden Hirschfeld, TOL, 7 GP, 1-0–1
G Connor Knapp, REA, 7 GP, 3-4, 2.44 GAA, .919 Sv%
SPHL
F Bryon Paulazzo, MIS, 5 GP, 4-1–5
F Devin Mantha, MIS, 5 GP, 1-1–2
Europe
F Mike Kompon, Belfast, EIHL (Britain), 4 GP, 1-3–4
F Dustin Whitecotton, Deggendorf, Oberliga (Germany), 4 GP, 1-2–3
F/D Matt Tomassoni, Kassel, DEL-2 (Austria), 5 GP, 0-1–1

 

Joining the Blog of Brotherhood team

Blasi-a

(photo by Cathy Lachmann)

Redhawk95 and Miamibeef04 have graciously invited me to write for this site starting this off-season, and I just wanted to make a short post to express my gratitude and introduce myself.

I’ve been a writer for Scripps-Howard for the past 18 years, first with The Cincinnati Post and Kentucky Post and after those publications folded, I stayed on with Scripps-owned WCPO.com, and I also write for the Northern Kentucky Tribune, GetSportsInfo.com – which covers Cincinnati college and pro sports plus fantasy football and baseball – and Tristatefootball.com.

I’ve also been a Miami season ticket holder since 2006, and have missed just three games since Cady Arena opened – two to get married and one for my grandmother’s funeral.

I started writing about Miami hockey for Trent Rosecrans’ site in 2009, and after he moved on to The Enquirer, I starting writing the RedHawkey blog for WCPO and have done so for the past five seasons.

Last March the editor of WCPO.com informed me he is going to remove my blog from its site even though I’ve written hundreds of pieces pro bono over the past five years, generating tens of thousands of hits.

Coming from that situation to this one, the prospect of writing for The Blog of Brotherhood is exciting. I look forward to joining two passionate Miami fans as we make this the best source for RedHawks hockey coverage on the ‘net.

I also hope to continue providing game analysis and writing player features like I did for RedHawkey.

Check back in the next few weeks as we bring you exclusive off-season interviews and roster analysis as we prepare for the 2015-16 season!

Follow me on Twitter at @rednblackhawks

#1 Miami v. #4 Providence :: 2015 NCAA Tournament First Round

Founded in 1636, historic Providence, R.I. will host the 2015 NCAA Tournament’s East Region.

This evening at 6:30 PM EDT the Miami RedHawks, champions of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, are set to mark their return to the NCAA tournament after a one-year absence.

The top seed in the East Region, the RedHawks (4th overall seed) will face fourth seeded Providence College (15th) of Hockey East in their hometown.

The Friars last played two weekends ago when they were ousted by New Hampshire in the quarterfinals of the Hockey East conference tournament. The two squads went the distance in the best-of-three weekend series in Providence playing three low-scoring 2-1 games.

We could end this post right here, because a low-scoring game is precisely what Miami should expect this weekend.

Junior Jon Gillies could sign with Calgary upon the completion of the Friars season. Tomorrow, perhaps?

The Friars rank in the top 5 nationally in many defensive categories including goals allowed (3rd) and save percentage (4th) led by junior goaltender Jon Gillies, who’s .931 save percentage and 1.95 GAA each rank 6th best nationally. That said, Miami will run out junior Jay Williams, who’s numbers aren’t too shabby either. Williams actually has a better GAA (1.89, 5th nationally)) than Gillies and his .922 save percentage (29th nationally) ranks just a few spots lower.

Meanwhile, Miami is much more offensively inclined boasting three players with 18 or more goals (Blake Coleman and Riley Barber (20 each) and Sean Kuraly 18) but they will be without Coleman, and likely, Barber for the game against the Friars. In fact, the Friars leading goal scorers, Nick Saracino and Trevor Mingoia have just 13 goals each, but Providence does run out five players with 11 or more goals. Maybe not as dynamic as Miami’s top end forwards, but they certainly have depth. That could be a problem for a Miami team suddenly without a lot of it.

This is not the first time Miami has seen Gillies. The two schools have met four times over the last three seasons playing, amazingly, four consecutive overtime games. Last year, Miami traveled to Providence and put up a four-spot against Gillies on Saturday night scoring six goals on the weekend. Miami should have some confidence against one of the nation’s best.

The Prediction

With both Coleman and Barber likely missing this game, obviously the Crash Cousins, and their size, can play a larger than usual role. Like most Hockey East squads, Providence is relatively small. Miami should use their blend of size and speed to jump on the Friars right away. I’d love to see Rico have the guys throw the body around, but they’ll have to mindful of east coast refs. The NCHC is a big, physical league and the RedHawks are one of the most physical teams in the country. If the refs don’t let the boys play, Miami could find themselves killing far too many penalties despite the Friars woeful powerplay which is converting at a paltry 14.7% clip this year.

Ultimately, this game is Jay Williams’ to win. He has to step up and hold Miami in the game. The RedHawks should expect to have to win a 2-1 style game because, 1) we’re missing 40 goals from the lineup, and 2) it’s how the Friars play.

Despite missing huge parts of the lineup, this is not your father’s Miami. This is not the team from the CCHA that was hardly challenged over the past decade and then, at times, unprepared for the rigors of the NCAA tournament. But, these RedHawks are the champions of the NCHC, a conference that sent six of its eight teams to the Dance. A conference that is currently 3-0 in the 2015 tournament. After last year’s adjustment to life in the National and life on the road, Miami has figured out how to win in the most dominant college hockey conference in the land. That has to account for a lot.

The RedHawks, though missing some big-time talent, have guys that can step up. Miami’s depth will certainly be challenged.

As much as I want to pick Miami, overcoming the losses of Coleman and Barber, along with the need to win a tight 2-1 game just doesn’t seem to fit Miami’s run, gun and bang style.

But, there is just something different about this team. They’re more battle tested. They’re deep. I think Miami finds a way to get it done but the goal scoring will surprise you. Look for a Kevin Morris or Crash Cousin dirty goal to be the difference. Miami wins.

Parting Thoughts

– Williams and the RedHawks’ defense will have to be big tonight because Miami cannot afford to fall behind the Friars and expect to be able to come-from-behind facing such an intensely defensive team.

– Unless Miami wins, we MAY have seen the last of Coleman and Barber in the red and white which would be an unbelievable shame considering how their Miami careers could end. Barber is just a junior, but could decide to sign with Washington. However, if his knee injury is severe, the Capitals could be inclined to see how he does in a comeback situation with Miami meaning, perhaps, Barber could also come back to finish his degree. Something I’d assume his family would be quite happy with given his father, Don Barber, collected his degree from Bowling Green before embarking on a successful pro career. When Miami’s season is finished, I’d expect the New Jersey Devils to sign Coleman (a senior) as quickly as possible.

– Gillies, Kuraly and Barber know each other well having played together on the US U20 team that won gold in 2013 and then again Barber and Gillies returned for the 2014 team when Barber was captain. Gillies was the main netminder that year for Team USA.

The home of the AHL’s Providence Bruins will host the 2015 NCAA Tournament East Region.

– Despite playing at “home,” the Friars have not played a game at the Dunkin Donuts Center since 2004. And, with Providence having a fairly small fan base, the advantage Providence will have shouldn’t really affect the RedHawks. Certainly, this team is road tested playing in hostile environments like the Ralph (UND), Amsoil (UMD) and Lawson (WMU) to say nothing of having made long road trips all year, twice in fact, to Colorado to play at altitude. In other words, Miami has seen and heard it all.

#4 Miami vs. #15 Providence

Earlier this morning, the Miami RedHawks, champions of the NCHC, learned their NCAA region and opponent. The RedHawks will travel to Providence, R.I. to take on Providence College of Hockey East in a first round East Region game. Miami is no stranger to going east to face HEA opponents as they have done so countless times taking on the likes of UMass-Lowell, UNH and BC over the past 10 years. Unfortunately, the majority of those contests have turned out poorly for Miami as they have been skated out of the rink.

But, that’s what’s so intriguing about this draw.

Head coach Enrico Blasi built this team to compete against HEA teams. Smallish, fast forwards who can possess the puck, get out in transition and put pressure on the forecheck are hallmarks of this squad, and seemingly, what’s been done to Miami over the years. And, this year, Blasi added more size with the Crash Cousins and the addition of Scott Dornbrock on the blueline.

Simply put, this team is built to win against teams big and small. And, since you can’t do anything about the draw. Go east and win the region. If there was ever a year that Miami would get over this hump, it’s this year with this team of veterans.

Honestly, the bracket is pretty good for Miami.

Consider Providence. The #15 overall seed should be playing the #2 overall seed. Sure, we’re playing them in their town, but Providence doesn’t have any kind of fan base. The crowd will not be an issue and Miami has gotten used to traveling after two seasons in the NCHC. We should be playing the #13 overall seed, Yale, but at least on paper, may have gotten a break. Providence has great goaltending, but Miami faces great goaltenders each and every weekend in the NCHC. This team should be ready.

Also consider the other half of the bracket…BC and Denver. We know all about Denver and have beaten them 3-of-5 times this year. We’re a much faster team than the Pioneers and their goaltending is suspect. As for BC? It’s not a great BC team with average goaltending and not the teams of the past with guys like Gaudreau, Gerbe, Kreider and others that were elite college players.

This is a region that Miami can win, but the RedHawks are not without their faults.

Miami will be missing the services of NCHC tournament MVP, Blake Coleman, for the first round match against Providence. And, who knows the injury status of junior sniper Riley Barber, who’s play has been outstanding the last month of the season. Last we saw Barber, he was being helped on and off the ice with a large ice bag on his left knee. Clearly not a good sign, but let’s hope for the best. I’m sure we won’t know his status until very late in the week. If those two guys are out, it’s on the other leaders to step up. Also concerning is Miami’s goaltending. I’d say it’s been average of late. Clearly the RedHawks will ride Jay Williams, but if I had to take Williams or Providence’s Jon Gillies to win this game, all else notwithstanding, I’d have to say I’d take Gillies. He’s a proven stud in the Friars net.

So, Miami fans. A lot to celebrate this season. Let’s hope the boys have four more W’s in them.

Love and Honor!

More to come this week.

NCHC CHAMPS!

The Miami RedHawks are the 2014-15 NCHC Champions!

On the strength of three Blake Coleman goals, solid goaltending from Jay Williams and spectacular penalty killing, the Miami RedHawks won the second Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis. The RedHawks defeated a stingy St. Cloud State team 3-2 and have earned a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Concerning however, is that Blake Coleman was issued a game misconduct, his third of the season, meaning he will be suspended and miss Miami’s first round tournament game next weekend. And, Riley Barber was injured late in tonight’s game and was seen being helped on the ice by teammates to join the celebration following Miami’s victory. Barber had an ice pack on his left knee as he hopped across the Target Center ice.

Coleman was named tournament MVP and Austin Czarnik and Louis Belpedio joined him on the all-tournament team.

More to come later, but tune in tomorrow at noon EDT for the NCAA selection show on ESPNU. USCHO.com will have a bracket projection up soon I’m sure so check out Jason Moy’s excellent analysis there as well.

Love and Honor!

NCHC Semifinal :: Miami vs. Denver

The RedHawks return to the Frozen Faceoff looking for an NCHC tournament championship.

The RedHawks are back in the Frozen Faceoff for the second consecutive year and like last year, will face Denver albeit in the semifinal rather than the championship game.

Miami and Denver have played four times this year splitting two weekends with the most recent contests coming just three weeks ago in the Mile High City. In that series, Miami dominated play on Friday night and Riley Barber and Alex Gacek had two goals in a 5-3 victory before the Pioneers returned the favor drubbing the RedHawks 6-2 on Saturday night.

For Miami, this game is simple. Contain the DDT line of Daniel (Doremus), Danton (Heinen) and Trevor (Moore), you limit Joey LaLeggia’s chances from the point and you fire shots against good but not great goaltending (either Evan Cowley or Tanner Jaillet) and you walk away a winner.

But, you let that top line get going and Miami will have its hands full.

Of concern is that Miami has been lax defensively over the past several weeks. I know Jay Williams played well and got his fifth shutout of the season last weekend (BTW – Can we be done with the goaltender rotation? Let’s pick Williams and move on) but there were also two disallowed goals in Sunday’s series clinching win over Western Michigan that helped retain that goose egg. Miami has to get back to playing sound defensively and needs Williams to put this team on his back. Remember, one of his very few poor games this year was the 6-2 loss to DU a few weeks ago when he surrendered four goals in less than one period of play. He has to put that out of his mind and focus on doing what he’s done nearly all of this year, which is play fantastic hockey.

Offensively, Riley Barber is hot. Ten points in his last seven games including six goals. He had three vs. DU in the series in Denver a few weeks back so he can hurt this team. Austin Czarnik is hot. Six goals in his past four games. Blake Coleman is hot with nine points in his past four games.

These are the right guys to carry this team.

A little defense, a little goaltending and some tenacity from Coleman and friends up front and Miami could really make a run not only this weekend, but next weekend in the NCAA tournament as well.

I’m optimistic that this team is peaking at just the right time.

Go RedHawks!

“It’s Go Time” – Western Michigan at #5 Miami

Question: Is there anything better than playoff hockey?

Answer: No.

The last time WMU and Miami met, it was under the stars at the Hockey City Classic in Chicago.

Now that we’ve established that, the fifth ranked and second seeded Miami RedHawks (21-12-1, 14-9-1-1 2nd NCHC) are back at home for the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season when they needed three games to dispatch Michigan State en route to the final CCHA championship weekend at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. They will face an old CCHA foe and MAC rival in seventh seeded Western Michigan. The Broncos (13-16-5, 6-13-5-4 7th NCHC) trail the tightly contested all-time series 56-60-11 and went 0-3-1 vs the RedHawks with the only non-loss coming in Kalamazoo a weekend before the Hockey City Classic in Chicago. In that game, Miami led 4-0 after two periods before hanging on to post a 4-3 victory at Soldier Field.

In Oxford, it was a more pleasing storyline as the RedHawks swept the Broncos by 1-0 and 5-2 scores and you never really got the feeling that WMU could challenge Miami offensively. Hopefully we’ll see even more offense this weekend after watching Miami put up 44 shots against North Dakota in a 2-1 loss Friday last before putting six goals on the board against likely NCHC Player of the Year, Zane “Five Spot” McIntyre who trolled the Blog of Brotherhood on Twitter.

What did he do?

He “favorited” our tweet predicting a Miami sweep of UND last weekend. The problem was that he did it after UND won game one by the narrowest of margins when a fluke goal decided the outcome.

Of course he then laid an egg on Saturday surrendering a “five spot” to the RedHawks in a 6-3 Miami victory.

Zane “Five Spot” McIntyre trolled the Blog of Brotherhood last weekend. The problem? Five goals against on Saturday night.

If you’re going to troll, at least do it before the game. And, if not, you might consider backing up the trolling with decent play. Either way, not good.

Anyway, back to this weekend.

Miami enters the NCHC playoffs as the second seed nearly pulling off a “worst to first” story. As it is, Miami turned the tables on last year’s 8th place finish on the strength of a 2nd place effort in the regular season. They built upon last season’s successful NCHC playoff run which ended in the inaugural NCHC championship game where they fell to Denver ending up a mere goal short of a ninth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. This year, an NCAA appearance is all but certain as playoffstatus.com shows the RedHawks as having a 99% chance of reaching the tournament even with two losses this weekend.

Last weekend Miami dropped a close one on Friday before Austin Czarnik went off on Senior Night recording four points on the back of his first career hat trick (including two shorthanded goals) to lead the RedHawks to a dominating 6-3 victory over North Dakota. Jay Williams had goaltending duty and played well on Friday save the first goal by UND, which was an ugly, harmless shot from the corner that he inexplicably misplayed. Ryan McKay had the net Saturday and played well enough to win but I think we definitely see Williams tomorrow. Depending on how game one goes, and based on his play, we could see him again on Saturday night.

Western Michigan is led offensively by three players with 10 or more goals. Colton Hargrove (12-13-25, 72 PIM), Sheldon Dries (13-12-25) and Nolan LaPorte (10-12-22, 89 PIM). On

Kenny Morrison is highly regarded as a potential NHL free agent.

the blueline, Kenny Morrison (5-10-15) is well-regarded and has been mentioned as a possible early departure risk as NHL scouts are circling the would-be free agent.

In net, Lukas Hafner has had a good season including last Saturday’s shutout of #6 Minnesota-Duluth in Kalamazoo. Hafner (11-11-5, 2.35, .916) took the reins from senior Frank “The Big” Slubowski last season and has played the majority of the minutes in the WMU net this year. He has the talent to keep WMU in these games and could even steal one if Miami isn’t getting traffic in front and pucks to the net. Like last weekend, Miami should attempt to make these games up and down affairs and fire more than 40 SOG to wear down the Broncos and their netminder.

Interestingly, the Broncos have four players with 50 or more PIM this year with three of those four having 70 or more. In contrast, Miami has just one, senior Blake Coleman (80 PIM) so this will definitely be a clash of styles. WMU likes to muck it up and play in your face using their size and physicality. That said, they feature uber-goon Mike McKee who is really worse than a goon. He’s a cheap, dirty player. Miami will have to keep their composure because WMU head coach Andy Murray will want his guys in the faces of Miami’s talented and smallish forwards.

Overall, this is a very good matchup for Miami on paper. While I believe Hafner could steal a game for the Broncos, I don’t see it happening. I think Miami will take care of business in two tightly contested games. MIAMI SWEEPS.

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