Q&A with assistant coach Joel Beal

Miami assistant Joe Beal (used with permission of Miami University athletics)

Joel Beal was named Miami’s assistant coach on June 2 after five seasons at Sacred Heart, three as an assistant and the final two as associate head coach. He recorded 101 points in four seasons as a playmaking forward for Union and coached there for two seasons before joining Sacred Heart.

Beal moved to Oxford along with his wife, Jessica and his daughter, Mackenzie, 3. His son, Parker, was born on Sept. 4.

BoB: Coach, first of all, welcome to Miami. What would you want Miami fans to know about your coaching philosophy?

Beal: I think when I went through the interview process with (Coach Blasi) and (Coach Mannino) here a couple of months ago, we talked a lot about my coaching philosophy. As an assistant coach I think I have two roles within our staff here, and that’s to recruit the best possible players to Miami and then once those student-athletes get here to help them develop. I think that’s a huge piece of being an assistant coach is helping our players develop to play at the next level and to become great people, great hockey players, great students. Any way we can assist them whether it be through coaching, through video, through skills, even just lunch, breakfast, just being an ear for those guys, really being a support system for our players in key. And the way we’re going to do that is a lot of communication and make sure we have great relationships and work ethic. Those are the three things that I’m going to focus on here in terms of helping our players develop. And then obviously the recruiting piece is huge, being an assistant coach.

BoB: You grew up in Brantford, Ontario, and obviously anyone who knows hockey knows that’s the hometown of Wayne Gretzky. During your playing career did you find expectations on you were higher because you hailed from the same place as the best player ever to play hockey?

Beal: Not really. Any time I introduce myself I and they ask where you’re from and I say, Brantford, Ontario, and immediately they say, oh, isn’t there a famous hockey player from Brantford? (I say) absolutely, and that’s come up, and it’s a great topic of conversation with recruits, with families. Growing up in that town – it’s obviously a big hockey town – I played minor hockey at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre which is on Wayne Gretzky Parkway, and I played in the Wayne Gretzky Tournament at Christmastime. And Walter (Wayne’s father) is always at the rink. They’ve actually changed the name – it used to be the Wayne Gretzky Tournament, it’s now the Walter Gretzky Tournament because he’s the guy who’s there, who’s handing out the certificates and the trophies, signing autographs, doing all that stuff. My whole family’s from that town, my dad grew up there, he’s got five brothers and one of the brothers is the same age as Wayne, so my grandmother used to be able to go to Wayne’s baseball games in the summertime as well as the hockey games in the winter. She was close with Walter all those years, they’d say ‘hello’ at the rink…so it was pretty cool growing up in that town. But in terms of expectations on me or future hockey players, not really. There’s only one Wayne, right?

BoB: Has your path ever directly crossed with Wayne in your lifetime?

Beal: Yeah, once – and this is going way back – might have been the NHL lockout in the 90s. He was off for a couple weeks and he just showed up at the rink, and immediately, all in the sudden the rink was packed with people. His dad was still working with the team, and he jumped on the ice with the guys and he was in and out of town in like a half hour, but that was the only time our paths have actually crossed. Again, Walter is the guy you see around Brantford.

BoB: So you played at Union and racked up 101 points. You have the best single-season assist total in school history with 29 and are second all-time in career helpers with 74. Any time someone has 100 points in the NCAA it’s a great career, so can you talk about your NCAA playing days?

Beal: Union was a great spot for me because it brought – similar to Miami – a great academic tradition and history. That was really important for me. I wanted to make sure I was getting a good degree, I was a mechanical engineering major at Union, so that aspect was very important. At the time when I went to Union they weren’t as relevant on the national stage as they are today, so it was a good fit me for in terms of getting in and getting those opportunities to play. I got to play for two great coaches, who, 18 years later, are still coaching today. Kevin Sneddon, who’s (the head coach) at Vermont, recruited me to Union, and two years into my Union career he took the job at UVM, and Union hired Nate Leaman who has since moved onto (the head coaching role at) Providence. I was really lucky in that I got the opportunity to play for two great coaches and I got to learn from them. Two different experiences. I find myself in my coaching life very lucky to have played for two guys that are very different but also very successful in their own right. I think the on-ice experience was great for me. (Union’s) a great school and a great place and I do so a lot of similarities between Union and Miami in terms of the education and the athletics.

BoB: You were officially named assistant coach here on June 2. Can you talk about the process that lead to you landing the job here?

Beal: I didn’t have a previous relationship with either Rico (Blasi) or Peter (Mannino). Peter had been hired pretty quickly after the staff changes were announced, and two or three weeks before the coaches’ convention in Naples (Fla.), which is in April every year following the Frozen Four, I put in a call to Rico, I left him a voicemail to let him know that I was interested in the position and I was looking forward to hopefully hearing back from him. Rico was busy – he was doing a lot of work at that time before the coaches’ convention. The season had just ended and he was putting together a staff, and we ended up meeting for the first time in Naples. We had a conversation over coffee for about an hour and just kind of got to know each other and he got to pick my brain a little bit and I got to pick his brain a little bit. That was a really good conversation. I wasn’t sure where it was going to go from there, and then about a week later I had a phone conversation with Coach Mannino, who was somebody else I hadn’t met before. So there really was no previous relationship or previous history between the three of us. And it was just a series of phone calls and conversations that I thought were really positive, and I thought what they were trying to build here, I could be a good fit. It’s obviously about a fit – you want to be able to build your staff so that you have certain people that are able do certain things to really fulfill all of the jobs that we need to do here. That was going really well and I think Rico had some relationships with some coaches that I had played for before or worked with – I know him and Coach Leaman at Providence talk a lot and they value each other’s opinion, and I think Coach Leaman was willing to make a phone call to Rico and kind of put in a good word for me – I think that went a long way. Two or three weeks after that I was on campus for an interview. I loved it, I loved everything about it. The philosophy, The Brotherhood, the culture, the facilities, the school, the town, it all was really a good fit for my family and Rico offered me the job a couple days later. I think I wasn’t off the phone for an hour, I called my wife and I called him back and said we’re in.

BoB: Before that interview had you ever been to Oxford?

Beal: I’d never been to Oxford, no. So in reality it was a cold call from me to Rico that got the process started. It just so happened, and this is in life, any time that you’re trying to get a job, that there were some people that I knew that were willing to really put in a good word to Rico for me. And I really think that went a long way in terms of us not having a previous relationship. There are some people that he really trusts in the hockey world that I had known and had relationships with – Coach (Rick) Bennett at Union and Coach (C.J.) Marottolo at Sacred Heart – Rico knows those guys and those guys have all been around a long time, and the hockey world is small, so I think that really helped. And I’m very grateful to those guys that they were willing to help me out.

BoB: You didn’t get hired until the beginning of June, so what have you been able to do in the 3½ months since you’ve been hired at Miami to prepare for this season?

Beal: We’ve been really focused on recruiting. Peter and I have talked a lot about players that we both know. Players that I might know he might not know. What are needs are going into the future. We’ve watched a lot of video, both on recruits that were committed by the previous staff, so the guys that are coming to Miami that maybe I wasn’t as familiar with, and I think that’s really important is to understand what we’ve got coming in. We’ve been watching video on our current team because I think that’s important to have an idea of what our needs, what our holes might be as we look forward to the future, and then obviously there were a lot of phone calls that I had to make with some recruits and some prospects that I think might be a good fit for Miami in the future. There wasn’t a lot of crossover in the recruiting that I’d done at Sacred Heart with the recruiting that we’re doing at Miami in terms of the player pool – it’s a different player pool. So In think for me it was a lot of catching up with the player pool that we’re targeting. I think it’s a more elite, younger player that we’re targeting at Miami than I was previously at Sacred Heart. I’ve been trying to do a lot of homework in that aspect as well, and besides that getting my family moved out here to Oxford. It was a quick turnaround: I had to sell a house, buy a house, my wife was actually pregnant – she just gave birth (on Sept. 4) – so she was like seven months pregnant when we moved out here. I had to get the doctors and the hospitals sorted out on that side as well. But Rico and Peter are just amazing in terms of making sure that the family’s taken care of and family first. And it’s not just something that we say to our team – family first – the Brotherhood here and the staff embodies it and they put into practice, and I had first-hand experience with that from Day 1. Those guys were awesome.

BoB: Miami had a run of success with players from Chicago and to a smaller degree from Columbus, and recently it has taken on a more Michigan-centric feel. Being from Canada and having coached on the east coast, do you see this team taking on players from different regions than it has in the past?

Beal: A little bit. At Sacred Heart I’ve done a little more work in the Ontario loop – both the Toronto area and the Ottawa area – and then in British Columbia. I think we’re going to target some of those areas. We’re going to target areas where we think we can get the best possible players, and those are some areas that have produced some good players not only in our league but across the country. I did talk to Rico a little bit about the recruiting process, and some of the recruiting that I’d done in Ontario and British Columbia and Alberta and some of those places, and the lack of presence of those areas on the current roster was something that – hey, let’s look into that, let’s see why we haven’t been able to get some of the top players out of those areas and let’s go to the well and see what we can do.

BoB: Miami has a solid history in all of those spots, as Dan Boyle (Ottawa), Curtis McKenzie (Golden, B.C.) and Reilly Smith (Toronto area) have all worked out really well for Miami.

Beal: I have a few relationships with some of those (juniors) coaches and just like anything it’s all about relationships and knowing some people. I think that will help a little bit but in the end we’re not going to say ‘no’ or say ‘yes’ to anyone just because of where they’re from. We’ve done pretty good in our own back yard – Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois – and we need to make sure that we’re actively targeting those players in our backyard, but after that, yeah, let’s go find the best.

BoB: You’ve been a Division I assistant for quite a while. I remember just a few years ago it seemed like players weren’t allowed to interact with coaches at all until the week before opening night. What has changed in recent years from an NCAA perspective in terms of handling players?

Beal: In terms of the actual coaching, the NCAA has bumped it up from two hours to four hours a week for our on-ice skill instruction. So basically in the past those two hours were broken up into three 40-minute sessions – three practices a week – where now we’re able to go four practices a week at an hour long. There’s certainly a lot more involvement on ice, coaching our players in September, and hopefully that’s going to better prepare not only us but every team in the country and you’ll see a lot higher quality (play) in October, which is what everybody wants. I think it’s definitely been a benefit.

BoB: How about the dealing with recruits prior to the season?

Beal: One thing that’s changed is every league will basically have their showcase in September. All that means is they’re going to bring in all the teams from their league into one city and they’re going to play a series of games back-to-back. For us, as coaches recruiting, if we’re able to fly into Calgary or Toronto or Pittsburgh for two days and see 12 or 14 teams to give us a really good base of knowledge on the league, the teams and the players going into the season going forward. One, it saves a lot of money because you’re going to see a lot of teams in a quick weekend, but two, we get a really good feel for the leagues and the targets going into the season so that we can be a little more active and pinpoint who we want to be, who we want to (pursue) going into the year. Those showcases – every league does it now – so it’s just a matter of spreading ourselves out and using our time wisely and making sure we’re hitting all these leagues and all these teams and targets in September so that we’re ready to go when the season starts. Because when our games start, it’s always a little harder to get out and to be seeing as many players because a lot of these leagues are Friday-Saturday leagues as well.

BoB: How tough of a situation is this to come into? RedHawks fans were accustomed to annual NCAA berths and now the team has a .399 winning percentage the past three seasons and expect an immediate reversal, and yet the players you’re inheriting aren’t guys you recruited.

Beal: Me personally, I love the expectations. I think that having high expectations means you have a history of tradition, a history of success and you have the support of the institution, the administration to help build that success. For me personally it hasn’t been tough at all. I think it’s a terrific group of players that we have in the locker room, I think our culture’s outstanding right now, I think our work ethic’s outstanding and I think our team is genuinely excited to get on the ice and to play that first game. I think they really want to see what we have because we feel really good about it right now, which I think is a great start. Obviously we’re going to hit adversity at some point, we’re going to battle through some adversity like every team does, but I think we have a really strong culture in place right now, and we’re going to see the success and we’re going to see the results and hopefully we can live up to those expectations. Peter and Rico and I, we’re not coming into the season thinking these aren’t our players, it’s a rebuild time. We’re going to work every day to have success, that’s our goal.

BoB: Last season Miami seemed like it was close to being a contender in the NCHC but fell just a little short, and they seemed to lose a lot of close games. You’ve seen enough film at this point and know the guys well enough, so at this point what do you think this team needs to do in order to flip some of those losses to wins?

Beal: I think you’ll see that throughout college hockey is that it’s tight, and especially in this league there’s a lot of parity, there’s not a lot of difference from the top of the league to the bottom of the league. I think when you look at any league and you look at the teams at the top and the teams at the bottom, the two things you can look at are your special teams and your goaltending – you’ve got to be great in those two areas, and those are two areas that we’re going to focus on. If it’s a 3-2 game, you get another goal on the power play or your penalty kill keeps one out, that’s the difference between winning and losing. I don’t think I’ve given you any super-secret methodology of how to be successful, that’s a tried-and-true formula and recipe for success not only in our league but any league. Hopefully we can be great in those areas because I know our work ethic and our culture and our attitude is great.

BoB: Coaches Petraglia and Brekke both had specific in-game responsibilities. Coach Mannino was a goalie and you were a playmaking forward, so do you know what your specific game-night coaching duties will be?

Beal: We haven’t talked a lot about that yet up to this point, so I don’t really have a good sense. I can tell you right now Peter and I have working a lot with the penalty kill. We’ve trying to have that ready for the start of the season. We’ve been spending some time – Peter, obviously – working with the goaltenders, and that kind of goes hand-in-hand with the penalty kill and we’ve been working with the defensemen. That’s kind of what we’ve been focused on. Moving forward, in terms of game-day responsibility, I don’t think that’s something that our staff has worked out yet. We’re just trying to get our team ready for that point.

BoB: The NCHC is arguably to best league in Division I, and as a result the annual conference schedule is brutal. How does a coach help prepare a team for such a difficult slate of games and how do you keep the players focused throughout?

Beal: We focus on really setting a standard of how we want to practice every single day, and we’re not looking too far ahead – I know it’s a cliché, but we’re going to take it day by day here – beyond taking it day by day is we want to set a standard for our execution, our work ethic every day in practice. That’s kind of the first step we’re focusing on. In terms of having a murderer’s row, we’re going to trust our process for how we’re going to go about doing things. How we’re going to prepare, what our work ethic is going to be and how we’re going to execute. And if we go into every weekend, every game with a focus on how hard we’re going to work, and we’re prepared and we’re going to execute…we’re going to have success. And again, it’s going to be about managing some of that adversity and controlling our emotions and not getting too high and not getting too low because there’s going to be good nights and there’s going to be bad nights, but I think if we’re focused on trusting the process, setting that standard every single day I think we can have confidence going into every weekend that we can compete, and we’ll see what the results are.

BoB: Even though you weren’t here last season the team finished well and took Duluth to overtime in Game 3 of the NCHC semifinals. In your limited time with limited exposure to the players do you think that somewhat positive ending to 2017-18 will carry over to this season?

Beal: Yeah, I think so. It’s a really strong leadership group we have in the locker room. (Grant) Hutton and (Josh) Melnick – terrific captains, terrific leadership and I think they kind of saw at the end of last season what we could have going forward to this year, and I think that’s part of the reason they decided to come back for their senior years – they obviously had some options to sign but they decided to come back because they had something to prove and they kind of saw what we had building in the locker room. And then I think we’ve got a lot of young guys – freshman to sophomore year is a huge year where a lot of guys can make jumps, you see some big gains from that freshman year to that sophomore year. We had some really good freshman performances last year, so we feel really confident about that. I wasn’t here in the spring, but talking to performance coach (Ben) Eaves and Rico, the spring workouts were phenomenal. So I think there’s been a lot of great energy and big growth and I think that carries over – to what you just said – some success the last two weekends and getting these guys coming back, great leadership group, we had a great spring, guys came back this summer, they’re training together, and then we’ve had a really good start to our fall workouts and on-ice sessions together. I definitely think there was a carryover from last year and I think you saw that with the leadership group deciding to come back and the great spring workouts that we had. We’re hoping some of that will carry over into the start of the season, and we’ll see how it goes.

NOTE: BoB will publish its interview with associate head coach Peter Mannino in the coming days.

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NCHC preview: North Dakota

For the first time since 2001-02, North Dakota failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

Coach Brad Berry won the national championship in his first season with the Fighting Hawks in 2015-2016, but the team won just 21 games the following campaign – its worst total in 15 years – and posted just 17 victories last season.

Four NHL draftees join the Fighting Hawks, who enter 2018-19 trying not to become the first UND squad since 1996 to miss to national championship tournament back-to-back years.

NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKS

NCAA titles: 8 (1959, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997, 2000, 2016).

COACH: Brad Berry (4th season, 72-35-17, .649 winning percentage).

2017-18 RECORDS: 17-13-10 (8-10-6 in NCHC).

POSTSEASON: Lost to St. Cloud State in an NCHC Tournament semifinal.

RINK (capacity): Ralph Engelstad Arena (11,634).

MIAMI VS. NORTH DAKOTA LAST SEASON: 1-1-2.

ALL-TIME SERIES: North Dakota leads, 13-6-3.

2018-19 SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Nov. 9-10 – at Miami.

KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: G Peter Thome, D Colton Poolman, F Grant Mismash, F Rhett Gardner, F Nick Jones.

KEY NEW FACES: F Gavin Hain, F Jasper Weathersby, F/D Jonny Tychonick, D Jacob Bernard-Docker, G Adam Scheel.

KEY LOSSES: G Cam Johnson, D Christian Wolanin, F Shane Gersich, F Austin Poganski.

NOTES: North Dakota averaged fewer than three goals per game for the first time in the NCHC era, as the Fighting Hawks ended the season fifth in the league in scoring, their lowest finish since the conference’s inception.

And three of UND’s top three four goal producers from 2017-18 have joined the pro ranks.

Fortunately for the Fighting Hawks, leading sniper Nick Jones is back after the Ohio State transfer led the team with 15 markers and ranked second on the team in points with 30.

Nashville second-round pick Grant Mismash returns after posting nine goals and 13 assists as a freshman, and he is expected to take a major step up this season.

North Dakota’s other returning 20 point-producing forward is Rhett Gardner, who went 7-13-20.

Three other Fighting Hawks reached double figures in points – Jordan Kawaguchi, Joel Janatuinen and Cole Smith.

Islanders draft pick Collin Adams was limited to 26 games in 2017-18 but scored five goals and could make a significant leap.

NHL draftee forwards USNDT product Gavin Hain and 6-feet-3 Jasper Weathersby enter their freshman seasons.

On defense, captain Colton Poolman scored seven times and picked up 22 assists last season while being whistled for just four penalties.

UND’s blueline is deep – five other defenseman logged at least 25 games last season.

Hayden Shaw dressed for all 40, going 3-10-13 and Gabe Bast tallied 10 assists in just 27 games. Matt Kiersted, Casey Johnson and Andrew Peski all played in the majority of the Fighting Hawks’ contests.

And North Dakota added the Ottawa Senators’ first- and second-round picks from 2018 in Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jonny Tychonick. The Alberta-raised tandem has played together since age 10.

Columbus draft pick Peter Thome posted a 2.14 goals-against average and .910 save percentage – showing how strong UND’s defense was last season – and he remains the favorite to start the majority of games this season after playing in 29 as a freshman.

Freshman Adam Scheel should be Thome’s primary backup after a strong showing in the BCHL in 2017-18.

North Dakota set a program record with 10 ties last season, which is part of the reason the team struggled to reach 20 wins. Eleven more of its contests were decided by one goal.

Despite the Fighting Hawks’ downturn the past two seasons, in May coach Brad Berry signed a five-year deal that will run through 2022-23.

NOTE: BoB is previewing each NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the fifth of seven installments.

Here are the links for the other snapshots:

Colorado College
Denver
Minnesota-Duluth
Nebraska-Omaha

NCHC preview: Nebraska-Omaha

Last season, Mike Gabinet inherited a team that had gone .500 the previous season and a game over that mark in 2015-16.

Despite the coaching change, Nebraska-Omaha proved itself the master of consistent mediocrity, finishing 17-17-2 in 2017-18.

It’s been a tough follow-up to the Mavericks’ first-ever NCAA semifinal round berth in 2015, as none of their subsequent seasons have produced return trips onto college hockey’s highest stage.

The loss of assistant coach Peter Mannino to in-conference rival Miami, as well as the resulting departure of multiple recruits to the RedHawks this off-season will not make it any easier for UNO to qualify for the NCAAs in 2018-19.

NEBRASKA-OMAHA MAVERICKS

NCAA titles: 0.

COACH: Mike Gabinet (17-17-2 in 1 season).

2017-18 RECORDS: 17-17-2 overall, 10-13-1 in the NCHC (6th place).

POSTSEASON: Lost to North Dakota in NCHC semifinal round.

RINK (capacity): Baxter Arena (7,898).

MIAMI VS. UNO LAST SEASON: 0-2.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 20-17-6.

2018-19 SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Nov. 2-3 – at UNO; Feb. 8-9 – at Miami.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: G Evan Weninger, F Zach Jordan, F Tristan Keck, F Steven Spinner, F Fredrik Olofsson, D Ryan Jones.

KEY LOSSES: F David Pope, F Tyler Vesel, F Jake Randolph, D Joel Messner.

KEY NEW FACES: F Tyler Weiss, F Chayse Primeau, F Taylor Ward, D John Schuldt.

NOTES: In addition to losing Mannino and two top-tier recruits, Nebraska-Omaha graduated four of its top five points producers from 2017-18.

Forward Zach Jordan is the team’s top returning points producer, as he posted 28 points including 16 goals last season.

Also up front, Tristan Keck, Fredrik Olofsson and Steven Spinner reached the 20-point mark in 2017-18.

Teemu Pulkinen netted eight goals and Mason Morelli dished for 10 assists.

The Mavericks expect 150-pounder Tyler Weiss to contribute immediately, as he is a USNDT product and Colorado Avalanche draftee. Same goes for 6-feet-3 Chayse Primeau, whose father Keith played in the NHL.

No returning UNO defenseman tallied more than two goals last season, and Ryan Jones is the Mavericks’ top returning points-getting among blueliners with 13.

D-man Lukas Buchta, Jalen Schulz and Dean Stewart are also back after turning in solid seasons for UNO in 2017-18.

Freshmen John Schuldt and Jason Smallidge look to make an immediate impact on the Mavericks’ blueline, but key defense commit Derek Dashcke bolted for Miami.

Goalie Evan Weninger is back after logging over 80 percent of UNO’s minutes between the pipes. His numbers weren’t great – his save percentage was .899 and goals-against 3.35 – and Philadelphia Flyers draftee and North Dakota transfer Matej Tomek could eat into Weninger’s ice time.

UNO needs serious improvement on the back end – the team was dead last in Division I in goals against per game and 49th on the penalty kill in 2017-18.

Conversely, the Mavericks finished seventh in goal average and were seventh on the power play.

Nebraska-Omaha’s tendency toward high-scoring affairs was exemplified by its series sweep vs. the RedHawks in Omaha that saw 25 goals including an 11-7 weekend opener.

That set extended UNO’s unbeaten streak vs. Miami to six games, as the Mavericks are 5-0-1 against the RedHawks the past two seasons.

NOTE: BoB is previewing each NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the fourth of seven installments.

Here are the links for the other snapshots:

Colorado College
Denver
Minnesota-Duluth

NCHC preview: Minn.-Duluth

Minnesota-Duluth entered the NCAA Tournament just five games over .500 but pulled off four straight one-goal wins to earn its second Division I title.

And the goalie that was in net for every minute of the Bulldogs’ playoff run, Hunter Shepard, returns for his junior season.

MINN.-DULUTH BULLDOGS

NCAA titles: 2 (2011, 2018).

COACH: Scott Sandelin (340-300-85 in 18 seasons).

2017-18 RECORD: 25-16-3.

POSTSEASON: Won NCAA Tournament.

RINK (capacity): Amsoil Arena (6,726).

MIAMI VS. UMD LAST SEASON: 1-3.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Minn.-Duluth leads, 15-4-2.

SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Jan. 18-19 – at Miami; March 1-2 – at Minn.-Duluth.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: G Hunter Shepard, F Parker Mackay, D Scott Perunovich, D Nick Wolff, F Riley Tufte, D Mikey Anderson, D Dylan Samberg, F Peter Krieger, F Joey Anderson.

KEY NEW FACES: F Jackson Cates, F Noah Cates, F Cole Koepke.

NOTES: A couple of pieces may be gone from last season’s championship team, but Minn.-Duluth’s back end looks as good as any in college hockey.

Shepard logged 41 games and posted a 1.91 goals-against average and a save percentage of .925, and four returning defenseman recorded at least 13 points in 2017-18.

Shepard was second in Division I with 25 wins, 10th in save percentage and sixth in GAA. He won all four of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Tournament games this spring.

Blueliner Scott Perunovich led the team in plus-minus (22), assists (25) and points (36), and Mikey Anderson went 5-18-23.

Nick Wolff and Dylan Samberg finished with 13 points apiece, with Wolff hitting the net seven times and leading the Bulldogs with 81 penalty minutes.

Wolff and Samberg combined for 150 blocked shots.

Minn.-Duluth brings all that experience back after allowing just 2.09 goals per game last season – the fourth-best clip in the NCAA – and surrendering just 57 even strength tallies.

UMD also returns its top three points-producing forwards from its title year.

Peter Krieger led all forwards with 30 points and netted a team-best five game-winning goals. Riley Tufte finished with 29 points including a Bulldogs-high 16 markers, and Nick Swaney went 6-16-22, posting a plus-11 rating.

Newly-named captain Parker Mackay is also back and is a two-way stud up front.

The Bulldogs still have not released their 2018-19 roster, so it’s unclear how many freshmen they will bring in, but three players from that incoming class participated in NHL development camps this summer – Cole Koepke, Noah Cates and Jackson Cates.

NOTE: BoB is previewing each NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the third of seven installments.

Here are the links for the other snapshots:

Colorado College
Denver

NCHC preview: Denver

Denver has actually seen a more substantial exodus than Miami this off-season.

Head coach Jim Montgomery left for the NHL this spring, and the Pioneers’ three top scorers and five of their top 10 points producers from 2017-18 bolted for the pros in recent months.

So Denver has a lot of work ahead if it hopes for return trip to the regional final.

DENVER PIONEERS

NCAA titles: 8 (1958, 1960, 1961, 1968, 1969, 2004, 2005, 2017).

COACH: David Carle (first season).

2017-18 RECORD: 23-10-8.

POSTSEASON: Lost to Ohio State, 5-1 in a regional final.

RINK (capacity): Magness Arena (6,315).

MIAMI VS. DENVER LAST SEASON: 1-2-1.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Denver leads, 14-11-3.

SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Feb. 22-23 – at Denver.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Colin Staub, F Jarid Lukosevicius, D Ian Mitchell.

KEY NEW FACES: F Brett Stapley, F Mathias Emilio Pettersen, F Cole Guttman, D Slava Demin, D Sean Comrie, D Les Lancaster, G Filip Larssen.

KEY LOSSES: F Troy Terry, F Dylan Gambrel, F Henrik Borgstrom, F Logan O’Connor, F Blake Hillman.

NOTES: Denver probably expected early departures this off-season, but the Pioneers were hit harder than many expected.

DU has 11 freshmen listed on its roster, and its goaltending threesome has logged a total of 20 collegiate minutes.

Henrik Borgstrom, Troy Terry and Dylan Gambrell – all of whom left before completing four seasons – combined for 143 points in 2017-18.

Leading the way up front this season will be Jarid Lukosevicius, who scored 21 times last season, and two-way stud and team captain Colin Staub, a senior who has logged 117 career games and tallied 51 points.

Undersized Liam Finlay and Jake Durflinger produced 15 and 12 points, respectively.

Several of Denver’s newest forwards have been drafted, and the Pioneers will need them to contribute right away if they hope to return to the top tier of the NCHC standings.

Brett Stapley (Montréal), Mathias Emilio Pettersen (Calgary) and Cole Guttman (Tampa Bay) were all taken in the last two rounds.

On defense, Ian Mitchell led all blueliners last season in assists (28) and points (30) as a freshman.

But other than Mitchell, only Griffin Mendel and Michael Davies were the only other DU blueliners to dress for the majority of games in 2017-18.

Les Lancaster is an interesting addition, as he racked up 81 points at Mercyhurst, and he is eligible this season because he’s a graduate transfer.

Slava Demin, a Vegas fourth-round pick who thrived in the BCHL last season, is also expected to make a pick impact on the DU defense corps.

In net, Devin Cooley played one period last season as a freshman, as Tanner Jaillet was a mainstay between the pipes, and Detroit draftee Filip Larssen is expected to log substantial minutes as a freshman.

Denver has a talented freshman class coming in, but the Pioneers lost a lot of NHL-caliber talent and lack experience at forward, defense and especially in net.

Coach Jim Montgomery accepted the head coaching job with the Dallas Stars, and assistant David Carle was promoted to his position despite being just 28.

Carle is an NHL draftee, but sadly his career ended when he was diagnosed with a heart problem prior to him dressing in the NCAA.

He was a student assistant for Denver during his collegiate years, and after a year at USHL Green Bay as an assistant coach, he returned to the Pioneers as an assistant to Montgomery the past four seasons.

NOTE: BoB is previewing each NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the second of seven installments.

The first one on Colorado College can be read here: 2018-19 Colorado College preview

NCHC preview: Colorado College

Colorado College played with zero seniors last season but came within two points of home-ice advantage in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.

The Tigers took Denver to a third game in their best-of-3 series before finally falling to the Pioneers, but CC was better in practically every metric than in any other season since the formation of the league, finishing 23rd in the all-important PairWise rankings.

Each Wednesday through September, BoB will post a quick Miami-centric preview on one of the NCHC teams as the countdown the opening night begins.

This week we take a look at the Tigers in the first of seven team snapshot installments.

COLORADO COLLEGE TIGERS

NCAA titles: 2 (1950, 1957).

COACH: Mike Haviland (35-96-13 in four seasons).

2017-18 RECORD: 15-17-5.

POSTSEASON: Lost at Denver in NCHC quarterfinal.

RINK (capacity): Colorado Springs World Arena (7,343), Colorado Springs, Colo.

MIAMI VS. COLORADO COLLEGE LAST SEASON: 1-2-1.

ALL-TIME SERIES: 8-8-2.

SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Nov. 16-17 – at Colorado College; Jan. 25-26 – at Miami.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Nick Halloran, F Mason Bergh, F Trey Bradley, F Westin Michaud, D Kristian Blumenschein, D Andrew Farny, D Ben Israel, G Alex Leclerc.

KEY NEW FACES: RW Chris Wilkie, F Ben Copeland, F Erik Middendorf, D Bryan Yoon.

KEY LOSSES: F Kade Kehoe, F Branden Makara.

NOTES: Mike Haviland signed a well-deserved five-year extension this off-season after leading the Tigers to their best finish in the NCHC era.

Colorado College had won seven, six, eight and eight games in the first four seasons since joining the league before posting 15 victories in 2017-18.

This is definitely a team on the rise, as it ended last season two games below .500 despite having zero seniors on its roster.

Five players are out from that 2017-18 squad, but those skaters combined for just six points last season. CC has added eight new faces, including junior right wing and Florida Panthers draftee Chris Wilkie.

Wilkie played two seasons with North Dakota, going 6-13-19 before transferring to the Tigers. He sat out last season.

Freshman forward Ben Copeland racked up 62 points with Waterloo of the USHL in 2017-18, and Bryan Yoon was one of the top points-producing defensemen in that league, going 3-32-35 for Tri-City.

Another newbie for the Tigers is forward Erik Middendorf, who has spent the past two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team.

All of Colorado College’s top 14 points leaders from 2017-18 return.

Junior Nick Halloran led the team with 45 points, and senior Mason Bergh finished with 40.

Seniors Ben Israel and Andrew Farny key a defense corps that combined for just nine goals last season. The Tigers will need to tighten up in their own zone, as they allowed an NCHC-worst 35 shots per game, an average that ranked 55th out of 60 in the NCAA.

Last season’s goaltending tandem of Alex Leclerc and Alec Calvaruso returns. Leclerc, a junior, saw the bulk of the playing time, going 15-15-4 in 36 games with a .907 save percentage and 3.21 goals-against average. Calvaruso logged 314 minutes and finished 0-2-1, .909 and 3.06.

And more good news for the Tigers: They recently had their plans for a $38 million on-campus rink green-lighted, as they look to open that facility in 2020.

Miami has struggled against Colorado College, posting just a .500 winning percentage vs. the Tigers all-time despite CC’s doormat status in the formative seasons of the NCHC.

The RedHawks have not won in Colorado Springs since 2015.

These teams meet in mid-November at CC as Miami wraps up a six-game, three-weekend set vs. NCHC opponents.

They hook up again at Cady Arena in late January in the back half of a RedHawks four-game homestand.

Different foes for Miami in 2018-19

A weekend tournament in Erie, Pa., a pair of New England road trips and rare Oxford visits for three out-of-conference opponents.

Those are some of the RedHawks’ 2018-19 schedule highlights.

Miami will also play an extra series for a 36-game regular season instead of the usual 34. Teams are allowed an additional two games when participating in a tournament or traveling to Alaska so they can recuperate travel expenses.

The RedHawks drop the puck on Oct. 6 vs. Alabama-Huntsville, hosting an unusual Saturday-Sunday weekend series. They are 8-1 all-time vs. the Chargers, who will skate at Cady Arena for just the second time.

Next up is the Ice Breaker Tournament, hosted by Mercyhurst. Miami will play Providence in the opening round and either Notre Dame or the host in the finale.

UMass-Lowell and Colgate visit Oxford the next two weekends. Miami and the Riverhawks have never played on each other’s campus, and Colgate has only played three games on the RedHawks’ home ice, with two of those games coming at Cady Arena in 2011.

UML is 1-0-1 vs. Miami with a neutral-ice tie in 2003 and an opening-round NCAA Tournament win in 2012. The Raiders and RedHawks split a 2011 series in Oxford, and Miami hammered Colgate, 14-2 in the only other series meeting on MU’s campus at Goggin.

Miami is 4-2 vs. the Raiders all-time.

After six straight conference games, the RedHawks head to New Hampshire, hooking up with the Wildcats for the first time since 2011. Miami is 1-2-1 at UNH and 5-6-1 in the history of the series.

Providence is the lone non-conference carryover from 2017-18. These teams will face off three times this regular season, including the Ice Breaker opener. They will play at Cady Arena on Jan. 4-5.

The Friars are 9-5-3 vs. the RedHawks including three straight wins. The last neutral-site game between these teams was the 2015 NCAA Tournament opener which PC won, 7-5.

Miami is 2-3-1 at Providence all-time and has played the Friars 12 times the past seven seasons.

The RedHawks will finish their campaign with 16 straight in-conference contests.

Dropping off the schedule from 2017-18 are Maine, Connecticut, Bowling Green and Cornell.

Starting with the first weekend in October, Miami hits the ice nine straight weeks to open the season. Dec. 1 is its final game of the first half, and the RedHawks do not play again until their lone exhibition vs. Guelph on Dec. 30.

They return to regular season action Jan. 4 at Providence then skate every weekend except one until the postseason, with the exception being Feb. 15-16.

Our thoughts: For better or worse, this is definitely not as difficult a schedule as Miami faced last season. Cornell was well embedded in the top five, Bowling Green challenged for the top 20 all season and Maine ended up in the middle of the pack.

Two of 2018-19’s non-league opponents, UAH and New Hampshire, finished in the bottom 10 of the NCAA.

Once again it will be a difficult finish for the RedHawks, as they face the defending national champions in four of their final 12 games and also travel to both St. Cloud and Denver, both of which were top five teams in 2017-18.

By the way, Bowling Green should be back on the schedule next season, but scheduling conflicts prevented the in-state foes from hooking up in the upcoming campaign.

A look at the 2018-19 schedule with opponents’ records in 2017-18 and Miami’s all-time head-to-head history:

NOTE: The next seven Wednesdays, BoB will preview each of Miami’s seven NCHC foes as we count down to the start of the 2018-19 season.

Home games in CAPS.

Date Opponent ’17-’18 record PairWise MU vs. all-time
Oct. 6-7 ALA.-HUNTSVILLE 12-23-2 51 8-1
Oct. 13 Providence! 24-12-4 7 5-9-3
Oct. 14 Mercyhurst/N. Dame! 21-12-4/25-9-2 23/2 0-0/39-18-10
Oct. 19-20 UMASS-LOWELL 17-20-2 36 0-1-1
Oct. 26-27 COLGATE 17-17-6 27 4-2
Nov. 2-3 at Nebraska-Omaha 17-17-2 19 20-17-6
Nov. 9-10 NORTH DAKOTA 17-13-10 14 6-13-3
Nov. 16-17 at Colorado Coll. 15-17-5 24 8-8-2
Nov. 23-24 at New Hampshire 10-20-6 52 5-6-1
Nov. 30-Dec. 1 ST. CLOUD STATE 25-8-6 1 17-16-2
Dec. 30 GUELPH@ 24-11 NA NA
Jan. 4-5 at Providence 24-12-4 7 5-9-3
Jan. 11-12 at W. Michigan 15-19-2 28 66-55-11
Jan. 18-19 MINN.-DULUTH 21-16-3* 12 4-15-2
Jan. 25-26 COLO. COLLEGE 15-17-5 24 8-8-2
Feb. 1-2 at St. Cloud State 25-8-6 1 17-16-2
Feb. 8-9 NEBRASKA-OMAHA 17-17-2 19 20-17-6
Feb. 22-23 at Denver 22-9-8 5 11-14-3
March 1-2 at Minn.-Duluth 21-16-3* 12 4-15-2
March 8-9 W. MICHIGAN 15-19-2 28 66-55-11

POSTSEASON

March 15-17 NCHC Tournament# TBA TBA TBA
March 22-23 Frozen Faceoff$ TBA TBA TBA
March 29-31 NCAA regionals TBA TBA TBA
April 11-13 Frozen Four% TBA TBA TBA

*-won NCAA championship in 2017-18
!-Ice Breaker Tournament, Erie, Pa.
@-exhibition
#-first-round best-of-3 series at campus sites
$-at the Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.
%-at Buffalo, N.Y.

Ten newbies on Miami’s roster

Miami entered 2017-18 with just three seniors, but its 2018-19 roster features 10 first-year RedHawks.

One is an NHL draftee – Johnny Gruden was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the fourth round last month.

Of the 10, five are forwards, four are defensemen plus one goalie. That brings Miami’s full roster to 15 wings and centers, nine blueliners and three netminders.

Two key names were missing from the RedHawks’ roster: Fs Matej Pekar and Ryan Savage.

Pekar was committed to UNO but switched to Miami this spring, following assistant coach Peter Mannino. He was drafted one spot ahead of Gruden, No. 94, by the Buffalo Sabres.

Since this is a sensitive subject that could negatively affect Pekar, BoB will not report any speculation about if or when he will join the team.

Savage, son of former NHL forward and RedHawks standout Brian Savage, signed an NLI prior to 2017-18 but will play another season in juniors after going 8-7-15 in 48 USHL games. He will join the RedHawks in 2019-20.

A glance at the newest official members of the Miami hockey community:

FORWARDS


71 JONATHAN GRUDEN

DOB: 5/4/2000.

Height: 6-0.

Weight: 170.

From: Farmington Hills, Mich.

2017-18 stats/team: USNDT, 61 GP, 28-32-60.

Notes: Gruden has the best credentials of any incoming player. He was drafted by Ottawa 95th overall in June and kept a point-a-game place for the USNDT and posted 15 goals and 19 assists in 25 games vs. USHL opponents.

His father, John Gruden, is a former NHL defenseman who logged 92 games over parts of six seasons with Boston, Ottawa and Washington. He is now the coach of OHL Hamilton, which makes Jonathan Gruden choosing the college path interesting.

In addition to his points production, he has impressed with his two-way play, and he also can play multiple forward positions. Coach Enrico Blasi really likes versatility.

Where he fits in this season: There’s rarely a sure thing in college hockey, but barring injury Gruden will almost certainly skate on one of the top two pairings this season and should excel.

The RedHawks will need his offensive talents, as six forwards from 2017-18 have moved on.


18 MONTE GRAHAM

DOB: 5/4/1998.

Height: 5-11.

Weight: 174.

From: Hanover, Mass.

2017-18 stats/team: Muskegon (USHL), 57 GP, 10-15-25.

Notes: The former Boston College commit (actually still on the Eagles’ 2018-19 roster!) is the cousin of former NHLer Tony Amonte and current Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle.

Graham has already played three full seasons in the USHL, logging 173 games and notching 21 goals and 36 assists. He is known for his skating, and he racked up 95 PIMs last season.

While he went from eight points to 24 in his first two USHL seasons, he climbed just one point to 25 in 2017-18.

Where he fits in this season: Not a big offensive guy in juniors, but Graham reached the 10-goal mark for the first time last season, so he may slide into a starting role.

Miami only has nine returning forwards, so opportunities for ice time should be ample for rookies up front.


14 NOAH JORDAN

Position: F.

DOB: 3/8/1997.

Height: 6-5.

Weight: 216.

From: Toronto, Ont.

2017-18 stats/team: North York (OJHL), 47 GP, 18-20-38.

Notes: Jordan played four seasons for St. Michael’s of the Ontario Junior Hockey League then was back in that league for his overage season in 2017-18. He netted 18 goals and dished for 20 assists in 47 games with North York and also tied for the team lead in playoff points with 12 in 11 games.

Jordan is 21, and only 20 Division I players are taller, according to College Hockey News. Originally a Quinnipiac commit, Jordan switched to Miami in April.

Where he fits in this season: The OJHL is considered a slight step above the NAHL, so we’ll see how that offensive success translates in the NCAA.

With Conor Lemirande graduating, a player exhibiting a similar style could be welcome for the RedHawks.


19 BRIAN HAWKINSON

DOB: 1/10/1998.

Height: 5-9.

Weight: 146.

From: Aurora, Colo.

2017-18 stats/team: Tri-City (USHL), 58 GP, 6-10-16.

Notes: Hawkinson has played the past three seasons with USHL Tri-City, where he was team captain last season. He was also teammates with Graham the duo’s first two juniors campaigns.

Known as a do-anything-to-win type, he enters 2018-19 with 164 games of regular-season experience in the USHL. He notched just 10 points in his first two seasons combined in that league, but he stepped up with a 6-10-16 line last year.

Tri-City lists him at 5-10, 175 while other sites have him at 5-9-146.

Where he fits in this season: Hard to say because smaller forwards are usually known for their offense and Hawkinson is more of a grit guy.

A ton of USHL experience should make for a smooth transition to the college game.


25 SCOTT CORBETT

Position: F.

DOB: 4/14/1998.

Height: 6-1.

Weight: 187.

From: Carmel, Ind.

2017-18 stats/team: Dubuque (USHL), 59 GP, 6-18-24.

Notes: Another older player with ample USHL experience, Corbett started his Major Juniors career in the NAHL but has been in the U the past season and a half.

The dual citizen committed to Miami last week, becoming the third player from the northern Indianapolis suburb to join the RedHawks in the past dozen years, with Cameron Schilling and Grant Hutton being the others.

Corbett was solid in his first full season in the USHL, going 6-18-24 in 59 games with Dubuque. He has good size for a forward competing in the ultra-physical NCHC.

Where he fits in this season: He hasn’t been a big points producer in juniors but Miami hasn’t gotten much production from its third and fourth lines in recent seasons so he may have the opportunity to thrive.

Again, with nine returning forwards, starting slots will be there for the taking so Corbett and the four other newbies up front should get long looks this fall.

DEFENSEMEN


13 DEREK DASCHKE

DOB: 1/6/1998.

Height: 6-2.

Weight: 190.

From: Troy, Mich.

2017-18 stats/team: Chicago (USHL), 56 GP, 8-21-29.

Notes: Peter Mannino was Daschke’s coach for Clark Cup-winning Chicago of the USHL this spring.

Daschke was committed to Nebraska-Omaha, where Mannino was an assistant, but when Mannino was hired by Miami this off-season, the blueliner switched his commitment to the RedHawks.

His commitment is definitely in the top five news items from this program this off-season. Daschke has played in the USHL since 2014 and he was the captain of that championship Steel team last season.

He has a laser of a shot and found the net eight times last season, adding 21 assists.

Where he fits in this season: It’s hard to imagine, barring injury, Daschke not contributing right away.

He’s big, he’s experienced, he can shoot the puck and he’s joining a team that has just five returning D-men.


4 ANDREW SINARD

DOB: 5/22/1997.

Height: 6-6.

Weight: 185.

From: Brentwood, Tenn.

2017-18 stats/team: Aberdeen (NAHL), 58 GP, 0-19-19.

Notes: Sinard is a shut-down defenseman with a huge reach, and he also picked up 19 assists last season with NAHL Aberdeen.

He started his Major Juniors career with USHL Cedar Rapids but has been with the Wings since. Sinard does not have a goal in 96 juniors games, but he has impressed with his shut-down prowess.

Where he fits in this season: The only two similar players in recent Miami history are Brian Sipotz and Michael Findorff, and neither were full-time starters, although Sipotz played six seasons with Chicago of the AHL.

We’ll see if Sinard can buck that trend.

3 BRAYDEN CROWDER

DOB: 11/17/1998.

Height: 6-6.

Weight: 201.

From: Sudbury, Ont.

2017-18 stats/team: Muskegon (USHL), 55 GP, 5-14-19.

Notes: Like Daschke, Crowder was also committed to Nebraska-Omaha but switched to Miami after Mannino was brought in as an assistant.

Crowder left Canada two seasons ago, and after staying in the NAHL in 2016-17, he jumped to the USHL and went 5-14-19 with Muskegon, finishing plus-11.

Miami will be his 10th team in six seasons, so the blueliner should welcome the stability. His father, Troy, was a tough guy who logged 150 NHL games over seven seasons, amassing 433 PIMs to go along with his nine goals and seven assists.

Where he fits in this season: A 6-6 defenseman who scores five goals in the USHL is very intriguing, especially since he was 18 when last season started, and big guys typically develop later.

81 RIVER RYMSHA

DOB: 8/11/1996.

Height: 6-3.

Weight: 205.

From: Huntington Woods, Mich.

2017-18 stats/team: Dartmouth (NCAA), 28 GP, 1-2-3.

Notes: Like former Miamian Marc Hagel, Rymsha completed his degree with a year of eligibility remaining due to an injury that cost him the majority of a season, so he will work on his graduate studies at Miami.

Rymsha, who will not turn 22 until next month, played just 63 games at Dartmouth and scored three goals accompanied by five assists.

He is known as a physical D-man with a high hockey IQ. Rymsha also boasts a strong hockey pedigree, as his father, Andy, played six games with Quebec of the NHL and his brother is a Los Angeles Kings prospect.

Where he fits in this season: He has not played more than 28 games in an NCAA season and has just eight points, so it’s unlikely he goes Grant Hutton this season.

But another steady blueliner with plenty of college experience can’t hurt on a team that will start the season with five D-men who are freshmen or sophomores.

GOALTENDERS


32 JORDAN UHELSKI

DOB: 8/4/1993.

Height: 6-1.

Weight: 194.

From: Burton, Mich.

2017-18 stats/team: Alabama-Huntsville (NCAA), 32 GP, 12-18-2, 3.05, .907.

Notes: Another fifth-year senior situation, as Uhelski was a major contributor in net for Alabama-Huntsville the past two seasons.

He played 55 games with the Chargers the past two seasons, posting a .907 save percentage and recording 18 wins.

Where he fits in this season: Chase Munroe and Grant Valentine were expected to vie for the backup job this season, but Munroe is not listed on Miami’s roster and Uhelski is.

Boasting a quality resume, Uhelski could move into the No. 2 spot and push Larkin for starts.

State of the program: Depth needed

After a whirlwind spring, Miami once again has a full complement of coaches and within a few weeks its 2018-19 roster will likely by finalized.

But several unanswered questions still surround the RedHawks heading into the season as they hope to halt their run of three consecutive sub-.500 campaigns.

BoB takes a look at some of those issues in the summer 2018 edition of State of the Program.

Q: So what’s up with the struggles the past few years?

Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

A: I would say the biggest issue for Miami since 2015 has been depth. The Josh Melnicks and Grant Huttons are as talented as anyone to don the Red and White, but when the RedHawks were qualifying for the NCAAs annually and winning conference titles, they essentially had five lines, four defensive pairings and a suburb goaltending duo.

Let’s look at the forwards from 2007-08, arguably the best offensive Miami hockey team ever. Here are the point totals of the top 12 forwards:

49-41-40
37-35-30
29-18-17
16-14-10

By the way, the 17-point scorer was Nathan Davis, who was hurt for half of his junior season, and the guy with 14 was Andy Miele, who played just 18 games his freshman year, coming in mid-season.

Now 2017-18:

33-30-29
20-19-16
15-10-6
4-4-4

Yes, there is more to forward-ing than racking up points, and yes, that was against CCHA competition and not the NCHC, but the dropoff is still stark.

Defense is much more subjective, but I was a huge fan of the pairings the 2009-10 team rolled out. Here’s how that blueline stacked up:

Chris Wideman
Vincent LoVerde
Joe Hartman
Cameron Schilling
Will Weber
Steve Spinell
Matt Tomassoni (F/D)

Name one of those guys who was easy to play against.

Last season the top-end defensemen were fantastic but opponents’ Grade-A chances were at least double those faced eight years prior.

Every season Miami has fared well in the postseason it has had two strong goalies.

In that 2007-08 season, Jeff Zatkoff posted a .933 save percentage. His backup, Charlie Effinger, went 6-0, 2.16 and .912 and still played fewer than 400 minutes.

Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

It was Jeff and Eff, then Cody and Connor, then Jay and McKay. Competition is healthy, and those tandems motivated and fed off each other.

Junior-to-be Ryan Larkin thrived as a freshman but was at .886 in 2017-18 and his backups were well below that mark. The last time a goaltending leader had posted a goals-against average above three was 2001-02. Larkin’s was 3.12.

Again, depth. Miami has been so deep in net it has typically rotated the past decade-plus. A strong showing by a No. 2 could’ve pushed Larkin to more success.

Now, people may say comparing 2017-18 to some of the best Miami teams is unfair, but those teams made deep runs in the NCAAs, and isn’t that the ultimate goal moving forward?

Q: Assuming you’re right – and you rarely are – why has depth been a problem the past few years?

A: The athletic department and/or the hockey team obviously felt like recruiting was a primary reason, as both assistant coaches were moved out of those roles as soon as last season ended.

I definitely think that was a large part of it, which pains me to say because Coaches Brekke and Petraglia bleed Miami red and worked so hard to keep this program on a successful course.

But a key to their demise was the incoming 2016-17 class, when the RedHawks needed 12 freshmen to replenish talent after suffering major losses at forward, defense and in net. Only seven of those players will dress as juniors this fall.

Q: Are there any other reasons high-end players aren’t coming to Miami?

A: Unfortunately, when a team isn’t performing well, it’s tougher to persuade the next Austin Czarnik to come to Oxford.

A lot of the negativity surrounding those sub-par teams over the past few seasons may have also stained the culture’s image to a degree.

Especially in the social media era, the hockey world is a small one and extremely tight-knit. Picking a college is a huge decision for an elite player and he’s going to balk at one that has perceived internal problems.

That said, bringing in new coaches could have a cathartic effect.

And the good news is that Miami is still an excellent school in a beautiful town, playing in a state-of-the-art facility that is the envy of the Division I world. Those attributes of this program will always steer quality recruits to Oxford.

Coach Enrico Blasi (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Q: What is Coach Blasi’s status?

A: There are more rumblings each off-season, but he still has five years left on a multi-million dollar contract. That deal doesn’t expire until 2023.

So for those who want him out, he’s not going anywhere. Maybe if this losing trend continues for a couple more seasons, Miami would eat the final couple years on his contract. Maybe.

Personally, I thought his in-game coaching was markedly better last season. The team just didn’t have the guns to make a much-needed postseason run.

Q: Are these new assistants any good?

A: We’ll find out soon enough, won’t we?

To be fair, they’re inheriting a team of players that didn’t recruit, so it’s going to be tough to evaluate them for a couple of years.

Still just 34, Peter Mannino moves into the more revered role of associate head coach, which was Brekke’s position. He is a former goalie that won a Division I title with Denver, played eight years in the pros including a cup of coffee with three NHL teams, and this will be his third season behind the bench.

Coming from an assistant’s role at Nebraska-Omaha and having played at DU, he should be extremely familiar with the teams in this league and the types of players he will need to recruit to help Miami win in the NCHC.

The other thing with Mannino is several players previously committed to UNO may now come to Miami as soon as this fall. That could make a huge impact on a team that currently has just 15 skaters on its roster.

Joel Beal has been a D-1 assistant for Union and Sacred Heart the past seven seasons, so he has much more coaching experience.

It will be interesting to see where Miami draws its next generation of players from with these coaches at the helm. The RedHawks had a long-running Chicago-area pipeline, but those connections may have dried up and recent rosters have featured more of a Michigan flare.

Q: So is this team going to be better this year?

A: It’s really hard to say, especially with so many still-unfilled holes on the roster.

Phil Knies (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

It was very encouraging to see how well Miami played down the stretch, taking St. Cloud State to overtime in Game 3 on the Huskies’ home ice.

There was also a lot to like among the freshman class. Phil Knies posted 11 goals, Casey Gilling tallied 19 points and was a stud on defense and in the faceoff circle, and Ben Lown dished for 11 assists and was also a solid penalty killer.

Alec Mahalak and Rourke Russell showed lots of promise on defense, with Mahalak running the power play at times later in the season.

But nine players are gone from that 2017-18 team. Graduated are Louie Belpedio, Scott Dornbrock and Conor Lemirande, Kiefer Sherwood turned pro, Carson Meyer transferred and the team is not bringing back Willie Knierim, Bryce Hatten or the Alger brothers.

Exactly who is coming in this fall is still a huge question mark with several players possibly following Mannino to Oxford, and internet speculation is running amuck, so we’ll leave that for the next post.

The point is: That’s a lot of players to replace when a year ago Miami thought it would only lose three guys this off-season.

When the full roster is posted it will be easier to assess the 2018-19 version of the RedHawks.

Pro report: Smith thrives in Cup run

Not only did Reilly Smith lead expansion Vegas in points in that team’s Stanley Cup final run, his 17 assists and 22 points were both Miami alumni playoff records.

Reilly Smith (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

In the final series alone, he posted three goals and three helpers, recording multiple points twice during the Golden Knights’ historic run vs. eventual champion Washington.

Dan Boyle held the previous RedHawks record with 16 points in 2010-11 during San Jose’s postseason run.

Smith is second all-time to Boyle in Stanley Cup playoff points with 35. Boyle notched 81 during his 17-season NHL career.

During the regular season, Smith blew away the field, leading 11 former Miamians by posting 60 points on 22 goals and 38 assists and tallying a plus-31 rating.

Here is a look at some of the other highlights by ex-RedHawks during the 2017-18 regular season and playoffs:

NHL: Smith and defenseman Andy Greene both eclipsed the 200-point mark in the NHL. Greene ended the season with three goals and 10 assists for the New Jersey Devils.

Blake Coleman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Smith is now fourth all-time on the Miami leaderboard with 247 points, and Greene ranks fifth with 210.

– It was forward Blake Coleman’s first full NHL season, and he thrived, rolling up 13 goals and 12 assists in 75 games as Greene’s teammate on the Devils. He also scored twice in five postseason games.

Jack Roslovic (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

After dressing just once for Winnipeg in 2016-17, Jack Roslovic played in 31 games for the Jets this season, going 5-9-14, and he also logged 10 playoff games in which he picked up three helpers.

Roslovic forced his way into the NHL with 35 points in 32 AHL games.

Louie Belpedio made the most of his first and only NHL appearance. He dished for two assists in his debut and finished the game plus-1.

Vincent LoVerde (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

AHL: Defenseman Vincent LoVerde won his second Calder Cup championship, and he tallied a pair of assists in Game 7 of the final to help Toronto secure that title.

LoVerde also skated that trophy with Manchester in 2014-15. He has played in 364 AHL games in six seasons, posting 141 points, and has been on the ice for 65 more postseason contests.

Providence’s Austin Czarnik finished third in the league in points with 69 as he eclipsed both the 100- and 150-point marks for his career in this league.

Czarnik was also fourth in the AHL in power play goals (13) despite playing just 64 games because of stints with NHL Boston.

Czarnik was signed by Calgary on Sunday and is expected to compete for a job with the Flames this fall.

Texas’ Curtis McKenzie played against LoVerde’s Toronto team in the championship, and despite falling in the finals, he was the AHL’s leader in postseason goals (11) and power play goals (5).

McKenzie also picked up nine assists for 20 playoff points, ranking second in the postseason.

He will rejoin his former Oxford roommate Smith in Vegas, as he was signed by the Golden Knights last week.

Carter Camper (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Last season was Carter Camper’s eighth in the AHL, but it was first time he eclipsed 60 points. Camper went 16-45-61 for Cleveland and Tucson, and he added nine more points in the postseason.

Camper, a Cleveland-area native, was dealt to Grand Rapids last week, and when he hits the ice this fall that will be the eighth AHL team for which he will have dressed.

Camper has played in 443 AHL games, scoring 87 times and adding 243 assists for 330 points plus an 18-27-45 line in the playoffs.

ECHL: He had never scored more than 14 goals in any of his previous six pro seasons, but Justin Vaive netted 32 with Cincinnati in 2017-18 at age 29, and he added five more in five playoff games with the Cyclones.

Between the regular and postseasons, Vaive found the net 37 times in 53 games at this level.

Jimmy Mullin (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

After a nightmarish end to his Miami hockeycareer, Jimmy Mullin finally had the chance to prove himself in the pros. And he thrived in Kalamazoo.

Mullin went 21-24-45 in 68 games after a major injury ultimately cost him nearly two seasons.

Speaking of feel-good stories, defensive defenseman Taylor Richart scored 17 goals and assisted on 24 more for 41 points with Utah.

At 5-feet-9, he earned his inaugural call-up to the AHL and went 1-2-3 in two games for San Antonio.

Alex Wideman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Alex Wideman led all former Miamians with 48 ECHL points. With a line of 16-32-48 in 2017-18, he has 103 regular season points the past two seasons.

SPHL: Mississippi fifth-year pro Devin Mantha set a career high in points with 58. Mantha scored 22 times and earned 36 assists in 56 games, and he went 1-2-3 in three playoff games.

Andy Miele (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Europe: Andy Miele won the Le Mat Trophy this spring, the Swedish Hockey League’s version of the Stanley Cup, as his Vaxjo team swept Skelleftea in the final.

Miele picked up an assist in the clinching game, a 5-0 win. He finished 1-8-9 in 13 postseason games.

Matt Tomassoni also won a championship, as he was a member of EBEL’s Bolzano Foxes team that won that league’s title in April.

Tomassoni picked up an assist and was plus-2 in Game 7 the 3-2 finale of Bolzano’s championship series.

Here are the final regular season and playoff stats for all former Miamians playing around the world:

FINAL 2017-18 REGULAR SEASON

NHL
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Reilly Smith Vegas Golden Knights F 67 22 38 60 31 24
Blake Coleman New Jersey Devils F 79 13 12 25 7 50
Alec Martinez Los Angeles Kings D 77 9 16 25 3 34
Tommy Wingels Chicago Blackhawks F 75 9 8 17 -11 45
Sean Kuraly Boston Bruins F 75 6 8 14 -5 40
Jack Roslovic Winnipeg Jets F 31 5 9 14 5 2
Andy Greene New Jersey Devils D 81 3 10 13 -9 21
Chris Wideman Ottawa Senators D 16 3 5 8 5 6
Austin Czarnik Boston Bruins F 10 0 4 4 -1 0
Curtis McKenzie Dallas Stars F 7 0 2 2 3 11
Louie Belpedio Minnesota Wild F 1 0 2 2 1 0

AHL
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Austin Czarnik Providence F 64 25 44 69 18 24
Carter Camper Tucson F 68 16 45 61 -16 14
Curtis McKenzie Texas F 51 25 23 48 11 74
Anthony Louis Rockford F 70 14 30 44 6 8
Pat Cannone Iowa F 76 17 22 39 -16 24
Riley Barber Hershey F 60 20 18 38 -13 49
Jack Roslovic Manitoba F 32 15 20 35 16 8
Cameron Schilling Manitoba D 71 6 26 32 25 27
Vincent LoVerde Toronto D 63 9 12 21 12 22
Trent Vogelhuber San Antonio F 59 4 8 12 -7 26
Taylor Richart San Antonio D 2 1 2 3 -1 0
Kevin Morris Binghamton F 12 0 2 2 -1 11
Matthew Caito Iowa D 9 0 2 2 -2 2
Louie Belpedio Iowa F 10 0 2 2 -6 0
Alex Wideman Rockford F 13 0 0 0 -1 2
Justin Vaive Belleville F 6 0 0 0 0 2


Goalies

Player Team GP Min. W L GAA Sv% SHO
Jeff Zatkoff Cleveland 17 912 4 9 3.22 .885 2

ECHL
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Alex Wideman Indianapolis F 53 16 32 48 -12 43
Justin Vaive Cincinnati F 48 32 13 45 -2 107
Jimmy Mullin Kalamazoo F 68 21 24 45 -2 38
Taylor Richart Utah D 70 17 24 41 -13 20
Tyler Biggs Kalamazoo F 55 18 21 39 -20 60
Kevin Morris Manchester F 40 12 15 27 -2 46
Matthew Caito Rapid City D 28 5 14 19 4 18
Alex Gacek Atlanta F 28 8 9 17 -10 2
Max Cook Norfolk F 30 4 10 14 -15 9
Chris Joyaux Tulsa D 53 3 10 13 5 50
Colin Sullivan Atlanta D 51 1 9 10 -1 11
Andrew Schmit Wheeling F 28 0 6 6 5 28
Alden Hirschfeld Toledo F 10 2 3 5 6 6
Conor Lemirande South Carolina F 2 0 0 0 -1 2

SPHL
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Devin Mantha Mississippi F 56 22 36 58 11 38
Max Cook Fayetteville F 13 4 11 15 3 14

Europe
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Andy Miele Vaxjo (SweHL) F 46 10 22 32 -7 39
Ryan Jones Cologne (DEL) F 52 15 14 29 -1 8
Marc Hagel Lorenskog (Eliteserien) F 39 16 12 28 -14 86
Matt Tomassoni Bolzano (AUS) F 54 4 17 21 -3 28
Will Weber Crimmitschau ETC (DEL-2) D 39 3 5 8 10 132
Cody Murphy Bjorkloven (Allsvenskan) F 16 3 3 6 3 2

FINAL 2017-18 PLAYOFFS

NHL
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Reilly Smith Vegas Golden Knights F 20 5 17 22 5 10
Sean Kuraly Boston Bruins F 12 2 2 4 5 2
Jack Roslovic Winnipeg Jets F 10 0 3 3 4 2
Blake Coleman New Jersey Devils F 5 2 0 2 1 4
Andy Greene New Jersey Devils D 5 0 2 2 -4 6
Alec Martinez Los Angeles Kings D 4 0 0 0 -2 0

AHL
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Curtis McKenzie Texas F 21 11 9 20 -4 27
Carter Camper Tucson F 9 1 7 8 3 6
Austin Czarnik Providence F 4 2 4 6 4 0
Anthony Louis Rockford F 9 0 5 5 -5 0
Cameron Schilling Manitoba D 9 2 2 4 -3 4
Vincent LoVerde Toronto D 20 0 4 4 19 6

ECHL
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Justin Vaive Cincinnati F 5 5 1 6 -1 12
Kevin Morris Manchester F 8 2 3 5 -2 6
Alex Wideman Indianapolis F 4 1 1 2 -3 6
Colin Sullivan Atlanta D 1 0 0 0 0 4

SPHL
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Devin Mantha Mississippi F 3 1 2 3 2 4

Europe
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Andy Miele Vaxjo (SweHL) F 13 1 8 9 8 24
Matt Tomassoni Bolzano (AUS) F 18 1 8 9 3 2
Cody Murphy Bjorkloven (Allsvenskan) F 5 2 2 4 0 0
Ryan Jones Cologne (DEL) F 6 1 1 2 -3 2
Marc Hagel Lorenskog (Eliteserien) F 4 1 0 1 -3 18
Will Weber Crimmitschau ETC (DEL-2) D 9 0 1 1 3 4