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.

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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

Gruden, Pekar taken back to back

The first three rounds did not see any Miamians selected in this weekend’s NHL draft, but consecutive RedHawks were taken to open the fourth round in Dallas this weekend.

Incoming freshmen-to-be Jonathan Gruden was picked by Buffalo, 94th overall, and Ottawa Matej Pekar went 95th. Both forwards are expected to start their Miami careers this fall.

It’s just the second time since 2011 two RedHawks were drafted in the same year. Jack Roslovic and Karch Bachman were taken in 2015.

Miami could have 3 taken in NHL draft

The past two Junes, just one Miami player has had his name called on NHL draft weekend.

But in the next couple of days, as many as three RedHawks-to-be could be selected prior to their freshman seasons.

Carson Meyer was taken in the sixth round by Columbus last summer, and 2016 was the first draft in which Miami was not represented since the NHL dropped to seven rounds.

Since the program’s inception, 62 Miami players have been drafted.

A quick look at this year’s potential draftees:

JOHNNY GRUDEN

Birthplace: Rochester Hills, Mich.

Birthdate: 5/4/2000.

Position: Center/left wing.

2017-18 team: U.S. National Development.

Height: 6-0.

Weight: 170.

2017-18 stats: 86 GP, 43 goals, 51 assists, 94 points, 66 PIMs.

Skinny: Coming off an outstanding season with the U.S. Under-18 team, Gruden will likely be the highest pick among this group. After scoring 43 goals with the U.S. National Development Team – including 15 in 25 games vs. USHL opponents – Gruden’s already-healthy stock rose slightly.

He jumped from No. 48 to No. 46 among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting rankings from the mid-term rankings until the final edition, and with an allegedly strong European class this year, Gruden may be picked in the third round or fourth rounds.

Gruden is six feet tall, but at 170 pounds he knows he needs to add weight.

His father is John Gruden, a former defenseman who logged 92 NHL games over parts of six seasons with Boston, Ottawa and Washington.

That’s where it gets interesting. John Gruden previously coached Team USA before accepting a job with Flint of the OHL. He was fired in his first season for not playing the owner’s son enough then hired back after the players protested. Then he was fired again three months later. He got the last laugh, accepting a job with the OHL team in Hamilton and winning that league’s championship last month.

So it’s unusual that a successful OHL coach would have a son playing in the NCAA, although John Gruden attended Ferris State.

Anyway, Gruden could be the next major points producer on a Miami team has been short on offense the past couple of seasons, and he’s impressed with his defense.

He can play multiple forward positions and will likely excel at all of them when he takes the ice in Oxford this fall.

MATEJ PEKAR

Birthplace: Turnov, Czech Replublic.

Birthdate: 2/10/2000.

Position: Center/right wing.

2017-18 team: Muskegon.

League: USHL.

Height: 6-0.

Weight: 170.

2017-18 stats: 56 GP, 14 goals, 40 assists, 54 points, 36 PIMs.

Skinny: When Miami hired Nebraska-Omaha assistant Peter Mannino this spring, he came bearing gifts. Pekar almost immediately changed his commitment from UNO to Miami, and he is headed to Oxford this fall.

The Czech-born forward will be entering his fourth season of hockey in North America, and he earned Rookie of the Year honors in the USHL last season by averaging a point a game.

He is known for his intelligent play, versatility and a missile of a shot.

Similar to Gruden, Pekar earns high marks for his two-way play and could thrive on both the penalty kill and power play.

He has impressed with his ability to win battles for loose pucks, both in front of the net and along the boards, but he will need to add muscle to compete with NCHC foes physically.

Pekar rose 32 spots among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting rankings, up from 87th to No. 55. The means, like Gruden, he projects as a third- or fourth-round pick.

RYAN SAVAGE

Birthplace: Montreal, Canada.

Birthdate: 3/31/2000.

Position: Right wing.

2017-18 teams: Fargo/Omaha.

League: USHL.

Height: 5-11.

Weight: 187.

2017-18 stats: 48 GP, 8 goals, 7 assists, 15 points, 14 PIMs.

Skinny: Savage’s first full season in the USHL did not go well, and he slipped from 149th among North American skaters in the mid-terms to not ranked as a result.

Despite the setback, NHL teams love pedigree and take more chances late in drafts, so Savage could still be selected.

Savage will be another second-generation Hawk – he is the son of former Miami standout and NHL forward Brian Savage. Ryan Savage’s younger brother – Red Savage – is also committed to the RedHawks, so it’s likely Miami will have a Savage on the ice for a number of seasons.

Brian Savage played 12 seasons in the NHL, going 192-167-359 for Montreal, Phoenix, St. Louis and Philadelphia. He scored 37 goals in 38 games his final season in Oxford as he led MU to its first-ever NCAA Tournament contest.

It’s possible Savage returns to the USHL this fall. His stats were underwhelming last season, and another season of development in juniors could vault Savage back onto the fast track to draftee status.

Another two-generation Miami hockey family is the Kuralys, and son Sean benefited tremendously from another season in the USHL.

The Miami off-season timeline

It’s been the most eventful off-season in Miami hockey history, and four months still remain until the puck drops in 2018-19.

Starting just days after the RedHawks’ NCHC opening-round tournament loss at St. Cloud, a nearly non-stop flow of news has hit the internet.

A quick timeline:

March 11 – Miami’s best-of-3 first-round NCHC series at St. Cloud ends with an overtime loss. The RedHawks took the Huskies to Game 3 and led the finale, 3-1 but ultimately fell, 4-3 in the extra session.

March 16 – Stories surfaced that both assistant coaches, Nick Petraglia and Brent Brekke, were relieved of duties. One report added that four players from 2017-18 would not be back as well, which turned out to be true.

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

March 20 – Junior Kiefer Sherwood turns pro, signing with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks after playing three seasons and recording 86 points in Oxford.

March 29 – Peter Mannino, an assistant at Nebraska-Omaha, was named to Brent Brekke’s vacated associate head coach position. He was an NCAA title-winning goalie for Denver and played briefly in the NHL, and he was a head coach in the USHL before taking his post with the Mavericks.

May 22 – The Athletic reports that sophomore and Columbus Blue Jackets draftee Carson Meyer is leaving Miami after two seasons. That makes six players to leave the team since the end of the season.

May 31 – Seniors-to-be Grant Hutton and Josh Melnick go on record stating they will return this fall. Melnick has 81 points in three years at Miami, and Hutton scored 13 goals in 2017-18, the most by a RedHawks defenseman in a quarter century.

Also in the past week – Miami’s 2018-19 preliminary roster was posted on its site without any freshmen listed. Absent were Willie Knierim, Alex Alger, Austin Alger and Bryce Hatton.

June 2 – Sacred Heart assistant Joel Beal is named to Petraglia’s vacated spot. That rounds out the coaching staff. He was a solid player at Union and coached there as an assistant for two seasons before joining the Sacred Heart staff. That team has improved significantly in his five seasons on its bench, and he was promoted to associate head coach.

June 7 – Petraglia was named the director of external relations. As expected, the former RedHawks goalie and MU graduate was retained within the athletic department.

Now that we’re caught up, let’s take a more in-depth look at each of these events.

MIAMI FALLS TO ST. CLOUD – Not a shocker here, as the RedHawks were an eight seed and St. Cloud was No. 1, with all three games played in Minnesota. Miami played solid hockey in this set but as has happened so many times in recent years, it could not hold a two-goal lead in Game 3. The RedHawks gave up a late second-period goal, the tying marker with six minutes left in the third period and of course the series-clincher in OT.

That capped off Miami’s third straight losing season and its fourth in five years. Prior to that, the RedHawks had not posted a sub-.500 record since 2004-05.

Which led to this…

BREKKE, PETRAGLIA OUT – It’s an unfortunate part of the game, but this is a business and sometimes the most decent, passionate and hard-working people can’t translate those attributes into wins, and both coaches were casualties as a result.

Sub-par recruiting was a major reason for their departure. Brekke had been a Miami assistant for 10 seasons, Petraglia eight, and those two were exclusively responsible for bringing talent to Oxford.

Since the players that both coaches inherited graduated and Miami’s on-ice talent has been solely their responsibility, the quantity of highly-talented skaters and goalies in Oxford has dwindled.

On Thursday, Petraglia was named the director of external relations. Brekke was recently offered the Alaska-Fairbanks job and turned it down.

SHERWOOD TURNS PRO: This was somewhat surprising because Sherwood took a step back the first half of the season and appeared to need that fourth season in Oxford to prepare for his pro career.

Overall in 2017-18, he seemed less pro-ready than classmates Grant Hutton and Josh Melnick – both of whom recently announced they would be back – but it sounds like Sherwood had surgery prior to last season and that contributed to his slow start.

That deeply-personal decision is extremely difficult and different for everyone, and BoB wishes Sherwood nothing but the best in the pros. He scored twice in 11 games with AHL San Diego.

For a Miami team that finished seventh in the eight-team NCHC in scoring last season, that’s a major offensive cog that will be missing from its lineup.

MANNINO NAMED ASSISTANT: The former netminder won an NCAA title in Denver and led Calder Cup playoff runs with Chicago and Wilkes-Barre in the AHL. He logged six NHL games with Atlanta, Winnipeg and the New York Islanders.

He clearly has the playing experience and he knows the NCHC, both from playing against most its current teams with Denver and more recently by coaching at UNO.

Mannino should understand the type of players it takes to win in this league, and he will be a primary recruiter for the RedHawks, who have recently struggled in this area.

For what it’s worth, BoB has heard nothing but praise for Mannino in his brief stint with the team, but that’s pretty standard when a team that has struggled brings in a fresh face.

But because he’s inheriting an entire team he did not recruit, it will take time to see the effects of a Mannino-recruited team.

F Matej Pekar, a Czech player previously committed to UNO, has since switched allegiances to Miami, and he is expected to join the RedHawks this fall.

Two more players could defect from the Mavericks and follow Mannino to Oxford as soon as this fall.

Miami’s Carson Meyer (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

TEDDYGATE: Making an already-eventful off-season a lot more bizarre is the saga of Carson Meyer, who discharged a 25-inch tapeworm, which is believed to be the cause for his struggles the past season and a half.

Meyer lit it up the first half of his freshman year but missed a handful of games down the stretch of 2016-17 due to what was believed to be mononucleosis. He did not improve last season, and in May, The Athletic broke the story that “Teddy” had exited Meyer.

Unfortunately for the RedHawks, Meyer also announced that he was exiting Oxford in favor of his hometown Ohio State.

Meyer indirectly blamed the coaching staff for its handling of his situation, which was more bad pub the team didn’t need in an already tumultuous spring.

That’s one more forward out of an already-decimated corps for 2018-19.

It’s a horrible situation for Meyer, who has been a shell of himself for a season and a half and will almost certainly have to redshirt in 2018-19.

BoB mirrors the Miami coaching staff in wishing Meyer nothing but the best in his hockey career moving forward.

HUTTON, MELNICK RETURNING: The worst part of the off-season for the college hockey fan is the waiting. At any point from the final horn of a campaign’s last game to the puck drop the following fall, a player could bolt for the pros.

That chance was elevated for standouts Hutton and Melnick in recent months after watching their roster from 2017-18 disintegrate. Both are pro-ready and both will be entering their senior seasons for a Miami team that will likely be picked to finish near the bottom of the league standings.

For everything that hasn’t gone right for the RedHawks this off-season, having two of your studs publicly tell your fanbase they are coming back – and doing so while inserting some much-needed positive comments about the program – couldn’t have come at a better time.

And Hutton and Melnick aren’t just outstanding players, they’re leaders. They’ll be co-captains this season. And they’re class acts.

THE ABRIDGED ROSTER? Miami recently posted its 2018-19 roster with no freshmen and just 15 skaters and four goalies, so obviously it will be updated.

In the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at the RedHawks’ pipeline and who we can expect to see in uniform this fall.

COACHING STAFF COMPLETE – Miami has little history with Union and Sacred Heart, so it’s unclear if there was any previous relationship between Beal and the RedHawks.

It’s only fair to note that the Pioneers took a step back this past season, finishing with their lowest win percentage since 2013-14, and .421 has been the team’s winning percentage high-water mark with Beal in his role.

Miami assistant Nick Petraglia (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

But Sacred Heart won just 14 games total in the three seasons before his arrival.

PETRAGLIA REASSIGNED – Petraglia exudes positive energy. If he’s bummed during a losing streak he never shows it.

So he will be a face of Miami athletics to the Blue Line Club and alumni among others and serve as a fundraiser. No doubt he will thrive in his new position.

Meyer latest to leave Miami

Carson Meyer is leaving Miami University, according to a story by The Athletic, and said a tapeworm is to blame for his struggles the past season-plus.

Miami’s Carson Meyer (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

He is “hoping to transfer to Ohio State”, the piece said, adding that “there were issues with the coaching staff, specifically coach Rico Blasi, that Meyer doesn’t want to discuss publicly”.

On Feb. 27, the Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick discharged a 25-inch tapeworm, according to his mother, Holly, and Carson’s mental and physical health has been much better since.

Meyer recorded 22 points in his first 19 games during his freshman season but posted just 14 in his final 47, including a 6-4-10 sophomore campaign in which he went minus-22.

(Here’s a link to The Athletic’s story, which is behind a Paywall: https://theathletic.com/362923/2018/05/22/absolutely-freaking-out-blue-jackets-prospect-carson-meyer-and-the-parasite-that-ruined-his-season/)

Carson’s departure from Oxford brings the number of team defectors to six this off-season. Fellow Columbus-area native Kiefer Sherwood turned pro, and a story in March stated that four other players are not expected back.

Willie Knierim is one of them, as he annouced via Twitter he is returning to Dubuque of the USHL, and it became known that brothers Alex and Austin Alger would not return when they did not attend the team’s awards banquet last month.

The fourth was not an impact player in 2017-18.

The team has typically released its roster for the following season in late spring.

That leaves just 15 skaters from last season expected to take the ice for Miami this fall, and only three recruits have officially signed National Letters of Intent to join the team in 2018-19.

Assistants, players out after 12-win season

Miami assistant Nick Petraglia (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Typically news for a college hockey team wanes after its season ends.

Miami’s postseason was halted in the first weekend, concluding with a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 3 of an NCHC Tournament opening-round series at St. Cloud State.

But just a week later, the RedHawks announced both of its assistant coaches – Nick Petraglia and Brent Brekke – will not return to the bench in 2018-19, and several of its players also won’t be back this fall.

Brekke has been a coach at Miami the past 10 seasons, and Petraglia has been an assistant for eight campaigns.

Director of hockey operations Tommy Hill is expected to take over the position of Petraglia, who will remain with Miami’s athletic program in a different role. The other position has already been listed online and applications are being accepted.

Four players from Miami’s 2017-18 roster have also reportedly been cut after the team finished 12-20-5.

A wild card in the coaching shake-up is Dean Stork, who took a volunteer assistant position for the RedHawks this past season. He has been wildly successful coaching in the ECHL, helping lead the Cincinnati Cyclones to multiple Kelly Cup championships.

For the third straight year, the RedHawks have failed to reach the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, the NCAA Tourament or even the .500 mark.

Miami finished last in the conference this season and dropped its first-round conference series, two games to one.

Hutton OT winner evens series

Grant Hutton is having one of the best offensive seasons for a defenseman in Miami history, and he added to his resume on Saturday.

Miami defenseman Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Hutton netted a pair of goals, including the overtime winner, as the RedHawks pulled even with St. Cloud in their first-round NCHC Tournament series with a 3-2 win at the Herb Brooks Center on Saturday.

It was the 11th and 12th goals of the season for the junior, who moved into fourth in single-season blueliner goals. He is also tied for fifth in career markers by a RedHawks D-man, as he moved even with Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez with 21.

The win snapped a four-game winless streak overall and an 0-7 skid in this building.

The championship game will be at 8:05 p.m. on Sunday.

RECAP: Miami led this game for over two-thirds of regulation.

Just 1:54 in, Josh Melnick redirected a slap pass from Alec Mahalak to open the scoring.

Miami made it 2-0 when Kiefer Sherwood pulled defenders into the corner on a 4-on-4 and dropped a pass to Hutton. Hutton deked a defender before whipping it into the far corner of the net with 2:27 left in the opening frame.

But with 12:40 left in the second period, Ryan Poehling poked home a one-timer from Mikey Eyssimont, who slid a pass through traffic into the slot.

St. Cloud State tied it in the opening minutes of the third period as Blake Winiecki tipped home a blue-line wrister by Jack Ahcan.

Both goals were scored on the power play.

The Huskies outshot Miami, 24-14 the last 40 minutes of regulation.

Hutton won it when he again faked out a defender at the blue line and penetrated, hitting the net from the high slot.

STATS: Hutton now has 12 goals, but he had not scored in 10 straight.

It was his fourth multi-goal game of the season, a team high.

— Sherwood extended his points streak to six games, and he has multiple points in each of his last three. He is 3-6-9 in his last six.

— It was the second multi-point game of Mahalak’s career, as he picked up two assists.

— Louie Belpedio earned an assist for the third straight game and passed Matthew Caito for eighth on the team’s all-time defenseman points leaderboard with 83.

— Miami snapped a four-game winless streak (0-2-2) and won its first postseason contest since March 21, 2015 when the RedHawks beat this same St. Cloud team in the NCHC championship game in Minneapolis.

— Titanic special teams update: Miami now 1-for-28 on the power play (3.6 percent) over its last 11 games and 16 of 24 on the penalty kill (66.7 percent) in its last six contests.

Opponents have also had 18 man-advantage opportunities over the past five games, while the RedHawks have had just eight.

— The last overtime playoff game for Miami was last season, and that one was 14 seconds longer than Saturday’s tilt, with the RedHawks coming up on the short side in 2016-17.

THOUGHTS: Miami battled back on Friday but fell short, and on Saturday it blew a two-goal lead but won in overtime.

The game had a bit of a North Dakota from a couple weeks ago feel, as the RedHawks were in control with a 2-0 lead but gave up the next goal and eventually the tying marker in the third period.

But in the regular season, teams only skate for five overtime minutes, while playoff OT is indefinite. That game against UND on Feb. 24 was ultimately a tie, while in this one Miami won in the eighth minute of the extra session.

— Miami deserves a lot of credit for not only winning but doing so in overtime after giving up a two-goal lead. Down 1-0 in the series, on the road vs. the top-ranked team in Division I on the road, many teams would’ve packed it in and called it a season.

— Ryan Larkin: 30-for-32. Great line, great game, just hope he doesn’t wear down playing three games in three days.

LINEUP CHANGES: Just one, but it was a bit surprising. Christian Mohs was in the lineup for just the second time in 24 games, and Carson Meyer was scratched.

It was the second time in four games Meyer did not dress.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Miami is 3-1 in conference tournaments in St. Cloud.

The RedHawks are 1-0 in clinching games here.

St. Cloud is already a lock to make the NCAA Tournament, and Miami is a desperate team that must win to have a chance, so that could work in the RedHawks’ favor.

Three positives. The latter is the only one that matters.

We’ll find out if Miami is headed to St. Paul or if its season is over in the next 24 hours.

Miami loses series opener at St. Cloud

Miami’s next loss will be its last of 2017-18.

The RedHawks fell, 5-2 to No. 1 St. Cloud State in the opener of their best-of-3, first-round NCHC Tournament series at the Herb Brooks Center on Friday.

Miami needs to win out in the conference tournament to advance to the NCAAs.

The loss extended the RedHawks’ winless streak to four games, and they are 1-7-2 in their last 10 and 2-11-3 since Jan. 6. It was Miami’s seventh straight defeat in this building.

Game 2 is at 8:05 p.m. on Saturday, and if necessary, Game 3 would be played at 8:05 p.m. on Sunday.

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

RECAP: St. Cloud’s Jake Ahcan fired a slap shot past Miami goalie Ryan Larkin on the glove side after taking a feed from Blake Winiecki on a rush just 6:02 into the game.

The RedHawks tied it with 4:32 left in the first period, as Grant Hutton sent a pass all the way across the ice through traffic to the tape of Kiefer Sherwood, who buried a wrister.

Jimmy Schuldt put St. Cloud State back ahead, 2-1 on a stick side slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle on the power play 6:11 into the second period.

Blake Lizotte gave the Huskies a two-goal lead with 4:56 remaining in the middle stanza when he intercepted a clearing pass along the board, skated in and beat Larkin 1-on-1.

Sherwood beat two defenders down the right side to create a 2-on-1 and centered one to Gordie Green, who made a move and slid it in, cutting the deficit to one with 15:34 to play.

But Robby Jackson dropped a pass to Easton Brodzinski, who whipped it past Larkin on the glove side with 8:21 remaining and Mikey Eyssimont sealed it with an empty netter.

Miami’s Gordie Green (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

STATS: Sherwood led Miami with two points on a goal and a helper. He has points in a team-best five straight games, with three goals and four assists in that span.

Green scored in his second consecutive contest and leads the RedHawks with 15 goals and 32 points.

Louie Belpedio picked up an assist and tied Matthew Caito for eighth on the team’s all-time defenseman points leaderboard.

The RedHawks’ last win in this building was in the 2013-14 NCHC Tournament when they swept the Huskies. Miami was also a No. 8 seed that season, and St. Cloud State was the top seed.

Special teams have been anything but for the RedHawks. They allowed a power play goal for the fifth straight game and are just 14-for-20 on the PK their last five games (70.0 percent).

On the man advantage, Miami has just one goal its past 10 games, converting on 1 of 27 chances (3.7 percent).

THOUGHTS: We saw a lot of repeating themes in the St. Cloud goals.

Miami losing 50-50 battles, trailers jumping in on the rush uncontested and stoppable shots to the glove side getting by Larkin.

A tough road to the NCAA Tournament just got a lot tougher for the RedHawks, who need to win the final two here and run the table in the conference semifinal and title game.

Sherwood played some of his best hockey in this one, highlighted by his Jimmy Mullin-like acceleration past two defenders along the right wing boards for a 2-on-1 and goal by Green.

LINEUP CHANGES: Miami went with the same 19 it dressed in the final game of the regular season.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The RedHawks must win tomorrow to extend their season.

One positive stat: Miami is still 2-1 in St. Cloud in the NCHC Tournament.

Belpedio resists urge to go Wild

OXFORD, Ohio – More than ever, elite hockey players are choosing college as their path to the pros, leading to an increase in the number of early departures among high draft picks in the university ranks.

Louie Belpedio has faced the arduous decision to turn professional multiple times during his Miami career.

Louie Belpedio skates around a defender (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The third-round NHL pick’s choices? Sign and take the money while maneuvering closer to the dream of an NHL career, or remain in school as an amateur.

Each time, the two-year captain has picked Miami.

“That’s difficult,” Belpedio said. “How many times can you say ‘no’ to the thing you’ve been working on your whole life? But at the same time, I’m glad that I came back to school because of the player it’s developed me into today.”

Now a senior, Belpedio is one point away from tying Matthew Caito for eighth place on the RedHawks’ all-time defenseman points leaderboard, and his wait to join the paid-to-play ranks is nearly over.

“I think staying in school is most definitely the right decision, but it was a hard decision for sure, because I truly believe that if I would have had signed I would’ve had a shot to play in the NHL already,” Belpedio said. “But at the same time if you keep working hard and doing the things you’re supposed to do, the opportunity will be there again in the (coming) weeks for me.”

After captaining the U.S. National Development Under-18 team to a gold medal while racking up 23 points in 61 regular season games, the 5-feet-11, 194-pound Belpedio was selected 80th overall by the Minnesota Wild in June of 2014.

Belpedio is from Skokie, Ill., a northern suburb of Chicago, and a month before he was drafted, the Blackhawks knocked the Wild out of the playoffs in the conference semifinals.

The following season, Chicago would again end Minnesota’s season in that round en route to a Stanley Cup championship.

“Growing up just outside the city, the Blackhawks are my hometown team – I have to like them – but at the same time I have to like the Wild too,” Belpedio said. “Now that I’m about to enter my pro career, things are getting a little more interesting with that, so we’ll see how that plays out.”

Minnesota has taken interest in several Miamians in recent years, as Jarod Palmer, Pat Cannone and Marc Hagel have all played in the Wild’s system. The former two made the big club.

Ryan Jones is the only other Wild draft pick to play for the RedHawks, although that was under a different set of team brass and Jones was traded to Nashville before making his NHL debut.

Belpedio was already skating by age three and joined a team before starting elementary school, and although the three-sport star also played football and baseball through eighth grade, he gave them up to concentrate on hockey.

By junior high, Belpedio’s talents were evident, but rather than graduate to midgets like most area standouts he relocated to upstate Indiana where he attended Culver Military Academy.

“Obviously guys are successful staying in Chicago but I thought that was the best thing for me at the time,” Belpedio said. “I was there for two years, I liked it a lot – it helped me grow up a lot, being away from home. It kind of molded me into who I am today.”

Away from his family and homesick, Belpedio wasn’t always a fan of the regimented boarding school lifestyle, and long hours at the rink helped him escape Culver’s military drills.

After two seasons, 61 regular season games, 11 goals and 25 assists, Belpedio was invited to play his junior and senior campaigns with the U.S. National Development Team.

He finished with a goal and 10 assists as an Under-17 and was named captain the following season.

“The experiences that I had there were unbelievable – I’ll never forget any of them,” Belpedio said. “I was around so many of the best coaches, best trainers, got to play against the best players from around the world. It was awesome, and I’ll never forgot what that program did for me personally. I don’t know many kids that would say ‘no’ to that but I would recommend it to anyone I could, obviously.”

That U18 team won the World Juniors gold medal, and Belpedio was drafted that spring.

“It was especially exciting for me to be with my family at that time and know that it wasn’t just me that did it,” Belpedio said. “Without my mom and my dad and my brother, I wouldn’t be half the person or the player that I am today (without) the sacrifices that they made. It was an accomplishment for me but, (it) let them know that they were doing everything right. I was probably more happy for them than myself.”

Belpedio had chosen Miami before being selected by the Wild. Knowing nearly one-third of the RedHawks’ roster of fellow Chicagoans swayed his decision.

“I kind of felt: Not that I had to come here, but I wanted to come here and be the next on the Chicago-to-Miami train,” Belpedio said.

He said Oxford reminded him of Culver in some ways, including the building styles.

“And the whole girl thing isn’t too bad either,” Belpedio said.

“There was kind of lot going into (the decision), honestly, but the second I visited – I didn’t commit right away but I told my dad I was coming the second we got in the car after leaving the rink,” Belpedio said.

One of Belpedio’s cousins on his mother’s side is former RedHawks defenseman Vincent LoVerde, a 2011 graduate who played 159 games for Miami and was one of the best shut-down blueliners in the Cady Arena era.

LoVerde has played over 400 pro games and is currently with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.

“I talked to him about it,” Belpedio said. “We weren’t extremely close at the time, now we work out together, skate together in the summer every day, so we’re definitely a lot closer. I obviously knew he went here and just from hearing stories from my mom’s side of the family, that kind of had an impact on it too. Even if (Vincent) didn’t go here, I was coming here. I love this place with all my heart.”

Just three months after his 18th birthday, Belpedio headed to Oxford for the 2014-15 season.

Especially at that age, freshmen typically need to adjust to the collegiate game, but Belpedio jelled immediately with his new teammates. He scored six goals and dished for 13 assists, totaling 19 points.

“One thing that stands out to me right away is his ability to escape and move away from people, whether it’s on a power play or bringing the puck up the ice, and then his ability to make plays,” classmate Conor Lemirande said. “It’s something that’s very special and unique to him.”

Belpedio walks onto the ice at Soldier Field as a freshman (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

He dressed in all 40 games that season, including an outdoor contest vs. Western Michigan at Soldier Field, an NCHC championship game and an NCAA Tournament appearance.

With Belpedio growing up a handful of miles from the Chicago Bears’ home stadium, 100 members of his extended family as well as his circle of friends were able to attend that matchup vs. the Broncos.

“That was one of the coolest things ever,” Belpedio said. “I don’t even know how to describe that. You know, you grow up watching the Winter Classic, you watch all kinds of outdoor games. Obviously, it wasn’t being in the NHL but it was my dream school getting to play in my home town. I wish that was a yearly thing because that was one of the most fun games I’ve ever played in.”

Belpedio shakes the hand of NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton after the 2014-15 NCHC final (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Belpedio calls the RedHawks’ 2014-15 league tournament run the highlight of his career. He scored twice and dished for two assists in five NCHC postseason games and picked up a helper in Miami’s NCAA Tournament loss to Providence.

During the NCAA first-round regional, Belpedio famously skated full speed more than halfway down the ice and dove to knock a would-be empty goal away from his net before jamming into the boards at maximum velocity.

Belpedio as a sophomore (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

As a sophomore, Belpedio was named an assistant captain – a rarity for the RedHawks. He said the senior captains, Sean Kuraly and Kevin Morris, were instrumental in helping him adjust to wearing the ‘A’.

“That whole senior class was so supporting – I’m still close with all of them,” Belpedio said. “It was cool, but I definitely don’t deserve all the credit. They deserve most of it for helping me and getting me through it, because it’s not an easy job as a young kid.”

Belpedio went 4-13-17 as a sophomore and left Miami for two weeks over the holiday break, as he was named assistant captain of the U.S. World Juniors team that won the bronze medal in Finland.

Named captain prior to his junior season, Belpedio passed along what former letter wearers had taught him.

Junior and fellow blueliner Grant Hutton was a freshman in 2015-16 and said his adjustment to Division I was facilitated significantly by Belpedio’s unselfishness.

“As a freshman it’s hard sometimes to reach out to older guys and ask them to (hang out) together, but when it comes from the older guys I think that’s a really comforting thing and I think that helps not only me but our entire freshman class fit in,” Hutton said. “For me personally, I felt like I needed someone to kind of latch onto, and learn the ways from and Louie was that person for me. He was the first person to offer me a hand and offer me help in whatever situation it might be, whether it’s watching video, he was the first person to come up and offer advice in practice, so from a hockey standpoint, in my development, he was a huge help and I’m very thankful for that and the time he put into helping teach me what it takes to play at this level.”

“From a personal standpoint, Louie’s an unbelievable guy. He’s probably one of my best friends on the team and he’ll probably be my best friend for a really long time, but he’s a guy that’s always there for you. Usually when you come to a team, whether it’s college or juniors, it takes a little while to fit in with the guys, and he’s the complete opposite.”

Hutton attributes much of his own offensive success to Belpedio. Held without a goal his freshman season, Hutton netted nine as a sophomore and has 10 more in this campaign.

“I came in my freshman year and obviously my primary role was to be a shut-down defenseman, and I had five points (that) year,” Hutton said. “Louie’s an elite, elite offensive defenseman, a two-way defender, and if you watch him, he’s so dynamic when it comes to skating the puck, and handling the puck. That part of his game is so superior to most of the players at this level. For me, it was just a privilege to watch him in games and practice, and you try to pull bits and pieces out of what he does. Obviously I don’t have the skill set that Louie has in terms of offensive ability and the way he handles the puck and skates, but you try and take some of the plays he makes and the reads he makes and translate them to your own game, because he makes the game look so easy.”

Belpedio dons the ‘C’ as a junior (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The captaincy at Miami has proven a difficult title for even the most successful RedHawks. Just in the past few years, Austin Czarnik wasn’t initially stern enough with his teammates and Kuraly did not score until the 12th game of his senior season while wearing the ‘C’.

“There’s good days, there’s bad days, but that’s where being mature and being a leader comes into play – you’ve got to know how to handle that,” Belpedio said. “Everyone’s watching you and how you react at all times, so I think that’s helped me a lot attitude-wise and body language-wise. Even if it doesn’t show that we’re successful on the ice, I think it’s a big learning experience for me.”

Though Belpedio scored six times and set up 11 more goals, he was limited to 24 games as a junior.

He pulled his hip flexor first weekend of the year and missed first six games as a result. His first game back he jammed his thumb into a medal divider in the boards at Ohio State and tore a ligament.

Belpedio was unable to squeeze his hand for the next three weeks. Then a knee injury cost him the final six games of 2016-17.

This season, Belpedio is tied for fourth on the team with nine goals, is tied for Miami’s assists lead with 19 and is even with Josh Melnick for second in points (28).

“What’s impressed me is how he’s grown as a leader,” Hutton said. “When I came in he was an assistant captain and then obviously last year he took over as a first-year captain, and you can just see how much he’s learned over that time.”

Belpedio was named to the all-NCHC’s second team, is second on the RedHawks in blocked shots (40) and is second in plus minus (plus-3).

“I think he continues to grow as a person, and he makes the right decisions on and off the ice and it really sets the standard for everyone else,” Hutton said. “I know a lot of guys on this team look up to him and aspire to be the same person that he is on and off the ice.”

Belpedio is honored on senior night (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

For his career, Belpedio is ninth all-time in RedHawks defenseman points and fifth in blueliner goals with 25.

“Being a consistent, every-day guy – he’s been someone we’ve been able to rely on for four years now,” Lemirande said. “And now we look at him, and he’s got tremendous upside. This is only a start for him. He’s going to have a tremendous career, and it’s going to be fun to be able to watch what’s in store for him.”

On pace to graduate with over a 3.0 grade-point average as a sports management major later this spring, Miami’s season could be down to its final days and the call of the pros may be too strong for Belpedio to resist any longer.

“He cares more about this program, the Brotherhood, than anyone I’ve ever known, and he’s always been someone you can rely on to put a smile on your face when you need it,” Lemirande said.

Despite any possible missed opportunities in the pros, Belpedio he has no regrets about remaining in Oxford for a fourth college season.

“A place like Miami is just so special I think in every aspect,” Belpedio said. “It’s been honestly way more than I could’ve ever imagined, hockey, school, people I’ve met, experience here. For me to turn down my dream, I turned that down a couple of times to come back to a place like this. That’s how much it means to me. And the people here, my teammates, the coaching staff…honestly it’s become a home for me. It’s actually disappointing that I have to leave, but I’m obviously excited that I was lucky enough to come here for four years and live out my dream and set me up for success in the future.”