Monthly Archives: October 2015

Analysis: Better effort on D in Game 2

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami’s defense tightened up considerably on Saturday, and the RedHawks allowed five fewer goals. Plus the blueliners scored all of the team’s goals.

That allowed Miami to pull out a 2-2 tie vs. Providence in the second game in two nights at Cady Arena on Saturday.

The Friars had way too many high-percentage looks at the net in the opener and rarely missed on their opportunities. Those chances were limited in this game, as Providence scored on a blue line shot off ofn offensive zone faceoff win and a rebound shot.

It’s fair to admit that the Friars are the better team right now. They’re experienced, their defense is impressive on both ends of the ice, their forwards have pinpoint shooting accuracy and they have solid goaltending. You might have heard this team won the national championship last season.

Miami has a lot of those things, too, but not as consistently at present. Of course, this is Game 2, and that could change in the next few weeks, few months, or at least (hopefully) by tournament time.

A few other thoughts:

– The power play needs work. It never lived up to expectations last season, and now a number of new players are on these units. Miami went 1-for-10 on the man-advantage this weekend and didn’t seem to have much chemistry. Of course, this was opening weekend and there hasn’t been much chance to build that.

– Defenseman Louie Belpedio had an interesting first period, as he took two undisciplined penalties and then made up for it by scoring the first goal of the game. That makes it easy to forgive the minors.

– Senior goalie Ryan McKay looked a little rusty early but got better as the game went along. He stopped a shot when a forward was left alone in front of the net in the second period as was 15 of 16 the final 45 minutes. If McKay can become McKay Version 2013-14 this team could be in for a phenomenal season.

– As appealing as 3-on-3 is, it doesn’t seem worth it if there are no stakes. Josh Melnick capped off an outstanding first weekend with a completely meaningless 3×3 goal, as the teams decided to play after the tie was official as a demonstration to prepare for conference play. Despite an announcement outlining that, the message didn’t get through to the crowd, which seemed to think that goal meant something. Even in conference play it will only be worth an extra point.

The problem is: The NCAA doesn’t want results of its games decided by artificial means, including 4×4. This has been discussed repeatedly. But the conferences are given leeway in determining their own points systems, so long as games are recorded as ties after 65 minutes of 5×5. That’s where the shootout and now 3×3 hockey comes in. Again, the concept is great, and hats off to league commissioner Josh Fenton for implementing it, but the problem is: It’s confusing to fans. Even the scoreboard operator incorrectly changed the final to 3-2 after the Melnick goal. And there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D+. The forwards were shut out. Providence seemed to have sticks in the lanes at all times, and although Miami overall generated 30 shots, many were right into the goalie’s logo. Senior Alex Gacek did pick up two assists – his third and fourth already – and Roslovic got a primary helper on the tying Chris Joyaux goal. Melnick had an outstanding first weekend.

DEFENSEMEN: B+. This was the most improved area of the team from Friday to Saturday, and they scored both goals. Belpedio had the first one off a feed from senior Matthew Caito, and Joyaux banged home the equalizer. Freshman Grant Hutton iced the puck unnecessarily and it ultimately ended up in Miami’s net, but coach Enrico Blasi clearly likes him and with his size, speed and ability, it looks like it will be worth suffering through any early growing pairs to get him some in-game experience. Joyaux had the other goal despite being benched on Friday, and he played very well overall.

GOALTENDING: B+. McKay had little chance on the first goal, and the second was on a rebound. He scared the crowd early when a routine shot hit the top of his glove and popped into the air in front of him, but he got better as he settled in. It’s way too early to go with one goalie at this point, but McKay had the better game and has the edge at this point if/when that decision is made.

LINEUP CHANGES: Joyaux was scratched on Friday but game back with an excellent game on Saturday. Sophomore Scott Dornbrock sat in his place. Up front, it was freshman Kiefer Sherwood who was scratched in favor of senior Andrew Schmit, who knocked a player out of the game with a crushing hit along the boards. And of course, McKay started over classmate Jay Williams, which everyone expected after Friday’s game.

Miami rallies for a tie vs. Providence

OXFORD, Ohio – It was just the second goal in the 116-game career of stay-at-home defenseman Chris Joyaux, but it could not have come at a better time.

Joyaux slammed home a one-time, cross-crease pass from reshman forward Jack Roslovic with 6:45 left in regulation as No. 10 Miami salvaged a 2-2 tie vs. No. 7 Providence in the series finale at Cady Arena on Saturday.

Roslovic’s assist was the first of his career. The goal by Joyaux was his first since March 14, 2014 in the St. Cloud State NCHC first-round playoff series.

Like Friday, the RedHawks (0-1-1) took the lead first, as sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio’s wrister from just inside the blue line beat goalie Nick Ellis with 6:39 left in the first period.

But just 3:31 later, the Friars’ Jake Walman tied it on a one-time blast.

Providence (1-0-1) took the lead when John Gilmour banged home a rebound shot three minutes into the second period after Miami had failed to score on a 5-on-3.

After the five-minute overtime, the game ended in a tie, but the teams played 3-on-3 to simulate conference play, and RedHawks freshman Josh Melnick scored in that.

Senior forward Alex Gacek picked up secondary assists on both goals, giving him four points on the weekend. He had 14 points all of last season.

Miami senior goalie Ryan McKay stopped 24 shots to earn the tie.

The RedHawks return to action this weekend with a home-and-series vs. Ohio State. The teams play in Columbus at 7 p.m. on Friday and in Oxford at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.

Analysis: Yeah, it was bad, but it was 1 game

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami has built a reputation for being one of the toughest teams to score on in college hockey.

Providence appears to be the RedHawks’ defensive kryponite.

The Friars beat Miami, 7-3 at Cady Arena on Friday, giving them 14 goals in two games vs. Miami, which likely can’t wait to play anyone else after losing to PC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to end its 2014-15 season.

With the lopsided score, it’s easy to say the defense and goaltending let the RedHawks down, and oh by the way, that’s supposed to be the team’s strength heading into this season, and while that isn’t completely untrue, as much credit belongs to Providence in this game.

The Friars were seemingly able to pick the corner of the net at will, and when they had opportunities, they did not miss.

Maybe it’s just because of the optimism of opening night, but this game seemed more like a team that is better right now played a nearly perfect game than Miami laid an egg on home ice to start 2015-16.

The first and third goals the Friars scored were perfect shots in the corner of the net. The second was on a penalty shot that was awarded even though it didn’t look like PC’s skater had a clear step breakaway.

The RedHawks got back to within one, but Providence put up four more in a row, as Miami sometimes has a tendency of not being able to stop the bleeding in games like this.

Overall this still looks like a good MU team. One loss doesn’t change that, even though it was lopsided, and of course it’s magnified because it was the season opener.

A few other thoughts on the game, trying to stay in line with the insert optimism theme:

– OK, one negative that needs to make it into prose is that Captain Kuraly didn’t play particularly well in this game. Sean looked like he may have been banged up or fighting an illness, as he appeared out of breath at times and hunched over. Defenses will pay much more attention to him this season with Czarnik-Barber-Coleman gone, and the 19-goal scorer from 2014-15 will need to step up if he hopes to match that goal total this season.

– Obviously Jack Roslovic, a first-round draft pick, was studly. He scored the first goal of the season, whipping it jai alai style into the net off a power play centering feed. Clearly Roslovic is going to be an offensive beast this season.

Miami's Jack Roslovic.

Miami’s Jack Roslovic.

– There’s a ton to like about Josh Melnick, who may have been better than Roslovic in this game. Melnick set up the Roslovic goal, scored one of his own and made a couple of great plays on the penalty kill. It speaks volumes about how much confidence Coach Enrico Blasi has in him that he’s on the first power play and first PK unit. From a purely Miami hockey fan perspective, Melnick not being drafted means he will likely spend four years in Oxford, and that will be fun.

– None of the other freshmen forwards stood out, bad or good. That’s OK. It was their first game. The chemistry will come. None looked lost on the ice. Roslovic and Melnick will obviously make up some of the void left by the departing forwards, and in theory the veteran defense and goaltending should make these players’ transitions easier, as the coaches can concentrate on helping develop them, and the team shouldn’t need to score as much to win. Friday didn’t exactly advance that theory, though.

It a tough way to start the season, but it was only one game. Time to move on. Some good things happened Friday, and it will get better.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. It was a pretty good night for this group. Melnick was awesome, Roslovic is going to be excellent, and senior Alex Gacek and junior Devin Loe also played really well. The latter two are what Miami needs: Veteran players who weren’t studs to step up. Gacek played his best hockey the second half of last year, and Loe has looked very good at times when given the opportunity, and with a short stash of reserves, he should have a chance to earn plenty of ice time this season.

DEFENSE: C-. As usual, this is the hardest area to grade, and with the lamp getting lit seven times, it makes it tougher to grade higher. Freshman Grant Hutton did some really good things and looks like he has a lot of potential, but he also let a player cut in for the breakaway on which he was called for the penalty shot that resulted in the second PC goal. He allowed another player to cut in for an odd-man chance later in the game. But he looks big, strong, smart and agile for his size, and he should turn into a solid defenseman. Colin Sullivan’s goal was a thing of beauty, which gets the grade above the ‘D’ range.

GOALTENDING: D. Like we said, Goals 1 and 3 for PC were just wired. The second goal was a penalty shot, and except for a big rebounds, Providence had very good looks on the rest and did not miss. Not a fan of ever allowed a goalie to give up seven, whether it’s his fault or not, so it would’ve been nice to see him lifted earlier to his confidence doesn’t take a bigger hit. Ryan McKay stopped one shot in relief and will almost certainly start the series finale.

LINEUP: The odd men out for this game were forwards Andrew Schmit and Justin Greenberg, and defenseman Chris Joyaux. Greenberg is banged up, and we’ll see how the defense is handled moving forward. Joyaux played well at the end of 2014-15, so we’ll see how much patience Blasi is going to have with Hutton. Knowing Blasi, he’ll probably rotate which blueliner sits, with Louie Belpedio, Matthew Caito and Taylor Richart likely being the three with job security at this point.

Providence scores 7 again to beat Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – In a press conference earlier this week, Miami coach Enrico Blasi was asked about his team’s strategy against Providence this weekend, and he joked that his team needed to not allow seven goals like it did in the NCAA Tournament in March.

The Friars scored seven times against the RedHawks again on Friday. Not surprisingly, the outcome was not good for Miami again, a 7-3 loss in the teams’ season opener at Cady Arena.

It was the first career goal for all three RedHawks scorers.

Miami took the lead just over five minutes into the game when freshman Jack Roslovic whipped home a centering feed from classmate Josh Melnick on the power play.

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

But that lead was short-lived, as Robbie Hennessey picked the top corner of the net seven-plus minutes later.

Trevor Mingoia put Providence ahead for good when he cut through the RedHawks’ defense and drew a penalty shot, which he converted by slipping the puck through the legs of Miami senior goalie Jay Williams.

Anthony Florentino found the top corner of the net to make it 3-1 with 4:40 left in the opening frame.

The RedHawks cut the lead to one early in the second period when junior defenseman Colin Sullivan skated through the high slot, juked around a defender and fired a shot into the corner of the net.

The Friars sealed it with four unanswered goals, giving them a 7-2 lead before Melnick tipped home a shot by senior defenseman Taylor Richart with 7:42 left in regulation.

It was the third time in six games Miami allowed seven goals. Providence beat the RedHawks, 7-5 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in March, and Western Michigan won by the same score in the best-of-3 series on the NCHC Tournament earlier that month.

The last time Miami has allowed more than seven goals was Feb. 15, 2014 at North Dakota, which beat the RedHawks, 9-2.

Mingoia finished with two goals and two assists to lead the Friars.

Melnick tallied a goal and an assists, and senior forward Alex Gacek recorded a pair of helpers in Miami’s losing effort.

Williams’ seven goals against were a career high. He stopped 18 shots.

The series wraps up at Cady Arena at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday in Oxford.

2015-16 Miami season preview

Miami lost 10 players from its NCHC Tournament championship team in 2014-15, including its top three points producers, but six regulars on defense plus both goalies return this fall as the RedHawks chase their 10th NCAA Tournament berth in 11 years.

So with the loss of Austin Czarnik, Blake Coleman and Riley Barber plus others up front, Miami will need more offensive production out of its returning forwards and its newbies.

The RedHawks entering the NCAA Tournament as the top seed in the Northeast Region last season but lost in the opening round, 7-5 to Providence. Miami hosts the Friars this weekend to open 2015-16.

The Blog of Brotherhood takes a look at this season’s RedHawks by position.

FORWARDS

Czarnik, Barber and Coleman netted 49 of the team’s 130 goals and finished with 45, 40 and 37 points, respectively, and are all in the pros this fall.

Senior Sean Kuraly is the returning leading goal scorer with 19 goals and 10 assists last season. He was also named team captain this off-season, taking over the reins from Czarnik, who had held that post for two years.

Sean Kuraly.

Sean Kuraly.

“Huge honor,” Kuraly said. “It’s not just given away, I think it’s something that’s earned, and obviously it’s a great honor for me to wear that (‘C’), it’s not something that I take lightly, I know it comes with a lot of responsibility.”

Kuraly is the first son a former player, as his father, Rick Kuraly, is the team’s all-time leading scorer with 101 career goals. Sean Kuraly has 37 in three seasons and needs 65 to top his dad.

“I’m going for 70,” Sean Kuraly said.

Junior Anthony Louis finished with 36 points last season, fourth on the team and tops among all RedHawks back this fall. His 27 assists were second on the team.

After that, the dropoff is substantial, as seniors Alex Gacek and Kevin Morris both went 5-9-14 in 2014-15.

However, Gacek played the best hockey of his RedHawks career the second half of last season and has become a strong defensive forward. Morris also plays good defense and scored all of his goals on the power play, finishing plus-6.

Junior Justin Greenberg, senior Andrew Schmit and sophomore Conor Lemirande also logged significant minutes last season, but Devin Loe and Michael Mooney – who combined to play 21 games – are the only other returning forwards that saw the ice last season.

Jack Roslovic is the team’s top incoming forward. The former U.S. National Development standout, who played on that team’s top line last season, was drafted in the first round, 25th overall by Winnipeg in this summer’s NHL draft. He has two assists in the exhibition last weekend.

Ryan Siroky, Zach LaValle, Josh Melnick and Kiefer Sherwood are the other freshmen forwards. Melnick found the net vs. Western Ontario on Saturday.

“I think every so often we go through a transition where we lose some real good guys, and you have to allow the young guys that you’ve brought in, to trust them and to allow them to grow into those roles, and we feel like we’ve done that,” Blasi said. “Those guys have to step up and play their role, and it might take a little time, but this isn’t anything that we haven’t been through before. Everyone wanted to question when Ryan Jones and Nate Davis left, and Andy Greene, and then everyone wanted to question when (Andy) Miele and (Carter) Camper and (Pat) Cannone) and Reilly Smith left, and I get it. But that’s what we’re paid to do is bring in guys that can play.”

With only nine returning forwards from last season and Roslovic a near lock to dress every night, the new forwards should have plenty of opportunity to his the ice.

“Obviously I think we have a lot coming in, but Czarnik, Barber, Coleman, (Cody Murphy, Alex Wideman), it’s a lot to replace, so we’re going to have to prove that we can score some goals, step up,” Sean Kuraly said. “I think we’re going to be relying a lot on our senior goalies and basically senior defensemen. It’s going to be a learning curve for sure, but I think the guys have what it takes, and we always replenish what we lose.”

DEFENSEMEN

Miami only lost Ben Paulides from last season’s team on defense, returning six regulars.

“That means we’re going a lot of faith in our defensemen to step up in big situations, and guys are progressing, so with the experience, (this group) should be very good,” senior Matthew Caito said.

The top pairing of Caito and sophomore Louie Belpedio lead this group after ending last season plus-19 and plus-15, respectively.

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Caito had a career-best 24 points, including 20 assists, and will move into the top 10 all-time in Miami defensemen scoring this season. His 64 blocks led the team, and he has missed just one game in three years.

Belpedio, the Minnesota Wild’s third-round selection in 2014, posted a team blueliner-high six goals as a freshman, and also added 13 helpers.

Senior Taylor Richart earned most improved player honors, going 1-5-6. Sophomore Scott Dornbrock scored in last week’s exhibition and went 2-6-8 in 2014-15.

Senior Chris Joyaux ended last season with six assists in 38 games, and junior Colin Sullivan was limited to nine games because of an injury and the RedHawks’ team depth, but the former Montréal Canadiens draftee played well when he was in the lineup.

“Really, all year, (the defensemen) were unbelievable in front of me, blocking shots and limiting second and third opportunities, getting pucks out of dangerous areas,” senior goalie Jay Williams said. “We really started firing on all cylinders from a systems standpoint and executing last year, so that was a huge help.

“You’ve all the trust in the world and all the confidence in the world in them. They’re experienced and they know what to do. I would think (goalie) Ryan (McKay) would saw the exact same thing – knowing that they’re going to be there and they’ve got our back.”

The only freshman on the team is Grant Hutton, who is 6-feet-3 and went plus-26 for NAHL champion Janesville in 2014-15.

“That’s the great thing about it, is every day is a competition and guys are always battling for spots, and it helps them get better, which is great,” Caito said. “That’s what we have on D – we’ve got the depth that will make practice very competitive and very fun.”

With only 24 players on the roster this year, Mooney has experience on defense and could jump in there if Miami has injury issues.

“The luxury of having our veteran ‘D’ and goaltenders is nice, and we can focus on the younger guys up front,” Blasi said.

The blueline corps, which found the net just 16 times all of last season, scored three of the team’s six goals in the exhibition.

“It’s the effort to get more pucks on net, and we’re going be moving up in the play a lot more and helping our forwards out on the rush, so that’s how you get three goals, when you’re doing that stuff,” Caito said.

GOALIES

Like the defense corps, Miami has an all-veteran starting corps here.

Williams had his best season as a RedHawk in 2014-15, going 19-8-0 with a 2.04 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. His 38 career wins rank him fifth all-time in Miami history.

Williams also tied a school record with five shutouts.

Williams2

“Jay has been able to grow as a goaltender and as an individual off the ice, and I think all of those things came to fruition for him a year ago,” Blasi said. “He looks great right now, and it’s a tough decision again (who to play), but that’s also something that we want, we want that competition. It brings out the best in all of them.”

McKay, also a senior, went 6-6-1, 3.09 and .898 last season. While his numbers weren’t great, he posted a .946 save percentage as a freshman and has the second-leading save percentage on the school’s all-time leaderboard (.920). He is also fourth in career shutouts with eight.

“Goaltending is difficult, let’s face it,” Blasi said. “You’re under a lot of pressure and sometimes it doesn’t go your way. I thought Ryan, as a young man, matured a great deal for us and obviously for himself. I think he understands what might have gone wrong for him last year, and he’s had a great attitude and he’s worked really hard to get himself back into a spot where he can compete for to be the starter and contribute on our team.”

Williams ended up logging the majority of minutes last season, but both should play a significant amount this year.

“It’s awesome, the two-headed monster has always been key for us, and I know both guys are going to step up for us and have great years,” Caito said.

Those two should eat up all of the minutes in net for the RedHawks, and freshman Evan McCarthy will serve as the team’s third goalie. McCarthy, who is expected to compete for playing time next season, went 9-8-3.05 for NAHL Kenai Valley in 2014-15.

“Obviously it was a good year – I think the most important thing is our success as a team,” Williams said. “It was pretty exciting to be able to win the NCHC. Things obviously didn’t work out in the end, but looking at the whole body of work and the guys we have coming back, I think we have a lot to be excited about to build on to get this year started right away.”

#10 Miami v. #7 Providence

Yep.

We’re back. And, we are the three best friends any Miami hockey fan could ever have as the Tremendous Trio of John, Mike and Doug will conspire to bring you even better coverage this year than in past years.

But, more on that later. Enough of the offseason previews and fancy media day pressers. It’s time for the first weekly preview of the season and we couldn’t be happier.

When we last saw you, Miami, minus it’s top two goal scorers, played a first round NCAA tournament game against eventual national champion, Providence. Well, those two goal scorers have since moved on, so once again, Miami will face Providence without its top two goal scorers from a season ago.

For Miami, it was heartbreak as the RedHawks fought back from a 6-2 deficit to make it a 6-5 game on the strength of three extra-attacker goals.

Then, this happened.

And, you really felt like Miami would find a way to tie the game. Alas, Providence finally found an empty-net goal and won the game 7-5 en route to the program’s first national championship.

But, this is a new season and both squads will line up differently than they did in March.

Providence

One of these days Miami will pose for a picture like this. (Maddie Meyer)

Last season’s Providence Friars were built from the net out as they relied heavily on their goaltender and an impressive group of blueliners. Lost among all that defense was a solid, if unspectacular, group of forwards with the talent to put enough pucks in nets. That squad engineered a four-game winning streak at precisely the right time that included victories over three consecutive NCHC squads — Miami, Denver and Omaha — en route to a championship win over fellow Hockey East foe Boston University.

This season, Providence returns 19 letter-winners including a group of experienced forwards looking to end their college careers with back-to-back national titles including last season’s top scorer Nick Saracino (14-24-38) who contributed two assists in the win over Miami. In addition, Trevor Mingoia (15-16-31) and Brandon Tanev (10-13-23) who both contributed 1-1-2 in the 7-5 win return as do Mark Jankowski (8-19-27) and the top scorer from the blueline Tom Parisi (5-19-24). In short, the Friars are loaded with veteran talent looking to prove that last season’s improbable run to a national title was no fluke.

The only real question mark for Providence is in net where two juniors, Brendan Leahy and Nick Ellis, along with freshman Hayden Hawkey (I swear I did not make that up) will vie to fill the vacancy created by Gillies’ early departure. Last season, the two of them played a combined 193 minutes with Ellis getting 189 of them meaning the Friars are extremely inexperienced in net. It would seem that the race for the starting goaltender job is wide open.

During his weekly press conference, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi talked about the challenge of facing the Friars.

“Everything that they do is a challenge (to play against),” Blasi said. “They’re well coached…they have a D-corps that is very mobile and veteran, they have forwards that have contributed to their national championship run that are back, high-end forwards – their power play is very good, so we’re going to make sure that we stay out of the box. We’re going to have to play good team defense, and they do a real good job in transition. They’re as good as anybody that we’re going to see all year, and we’ve got to be ready for them.”

Miami

Miami would love to “sing a song” again this season. (Jim Rosvold)

Considering the challenge in facing the defending national champions and the team that just ended your season, Miami senior netminder Jay Williams had this to say about the need for additional motivation for the season’s opening weekend.

“Absolutely not,” Williams said. “But at the same time it’s important that we not over-hype it and approach it like we have every day and be consistent and not let the emotions take over too much. Because then you become a bit of a wild card. But certainly we’re excited to play them.”

Predicted to finish third and sixth this season by USCHO writers Matthew Semisch and Candace Horgan respectively, and fifth by the media’s preseason poll, Miami enters the 2015-16 season looking to replace its top two goal scorers (Blake Coleman, Riley Barber) and its captain, Austin Czarnik from a squad that finished second in the NCHC and claimed the conference’s second-ever tournament championship on the strength of victories over Denver and St. Cloud en route to a #1 seed in the national tournament. In fact, Miami must replace five of its top nine scorers from a year ago. You can read more about Miami’s roster makeover from BOB’s John Lachmann here.

Senior captain Sean Kuraly netted a career-high 19 goals last season, and along with junior Anthony Louis, will be expected to carry the offensive load while a large class of freshmen forwards including first round NHL draft pick Jack Roslovic (Winnipeg) adjust to the college game. In net, seniors Jay Williams and Ryan McKay are back for one more season of “goalie

Jack Roslovic is an Ohio native and first round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets. (Miami Athletics)

Jack Roslovic is an Ohio native and first round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets. (Miami Athletics)

carousel” as it’s anybody’s guess if one or the other will seize the bulk of the playing time. In fact, in last weekend’s opening 6-1 exhibition victory over Western Ontario, the two seniors split 60 minutes about as evenly as they possibly could with Williams surrendering the only goal against on the evening.

“This is the national champion from a year ago, but at the same time we’ve got a lot we’ve got to work on,” Blasi said. “Providence, although they have a lot of guys coming back, they have some different looks. For us, for our culture and the way we develop, and the way we try to educate our players, is you have get up for every game in college hockey. Providence happens to be our first opponent, and we’re thrilled that we’re coming, and we’ve got a lot of respect for them and their coaching staff.”

“We want to play the best, and Providence is certainly the defending national champions and they have a lot of weapons,” Blasi said. “We’ve got to be ready and we’ve got to prepare well during the week.”

The Prediction

This is a difficult series to pick because while we know Miami will be leaning on its defense and veteran goaltending, we simply do not know a lot about the newcomers and the lack of roster depth is concerning. That’s not to say there won’t be roster battles as there will be a few skaters sitting each weekend, but with only 24 skaters on the roster it’s more important than ever that the coaching staff dresses the right guys every night.

Considering the emotional way Miami’s season ended a year ago, and the need to prove themselves early in the year, I’ll pick a split, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Providence get a sweep as they return so much from last year’s title team.

Both games can be heard via TuneIn Radio and seen via the NCHC.tv package. Greg Waddell (PxP) and Drew Davis (analysis) return to call all the action.

From the League Office

• After NCHC teams went 6-1 in exhibition games last weekend (Omaha didn’t play), all eight NCHC teams open the 2015-16 regular season this weekend with non-conference games. Two series feature a pair of top-10 teams as No. 11/10 Miami hosts defending national champion and No. 7/7 Providence for two games, while No. 10/11 Omaha travels to No. 6/9 Minnesota State for two games. The Friars eliminated Miami from the NCAA Tournament last season while the two Mavericks also opened last season against each other, splitting two games in Omaha.

• Two other NCHC teams are traveling to opposite ends of the country to open the season at tournaments. No. 4/4 North Dakota drops the puck on 2015-16 at the Ice Breaker Tournament in Portland, Maine, while No. 17 St. Cloud State begins at the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage, Alaska.

  • UND officially begins the Brad Berry era on Friday as he begins his first season at the helm of his alma mater after nine seasons as an assistant coach at UND. He is the only new head coach in NCAA men’s hockey (D-I) this season.

• St. Cloud State senior forward Kalle Kossila is the active career leader in points in the NCHC with 99 and sixth among active NCAA players. His 65 career assists are second among active NCAA players.

• Omaha returns 91.4 percent of its goal-scoring from last season and 90.1 percent of its points from a year ago, both of which are the highest percentage of any NCAA team this season. 

• Omaha junior forward Austin Ortega, who set the NCAA single-season record with 11 game-winning goals last season, is the active NCAA leader in career game-winners with 12. Miami senior forward Sean Kuraly is tied for second among active players with 11 career game-winning tallies. 

• North Dakota senior forward Drake Caggiula has played in 123 career games, the most of any active NCAA player. Miami senior defenseman Matthew Caito and Denver seniors Nolan Zajac and Gabe Levin have all played in 119 career games, which is tied for third among active players.

• NCHC teams have a combined 44 NHL Draft picks on their rosters.

•  In the NCHC Preseason Poll, Minnesota Duluth was picked as the favorite to capture the Penrose Cup, earning 17 of 30 first-place votes. UND, the defending Penrose Cup champions, Denver and Miami also received first-place votes in the poll.

Top 10 stats to track 2015-16

For the stats geek of any team and in any sport, it’s fun to watch players vault themselves onto all-time team leaderboards

With the success of the Miami hockey program the past decade, many skaters and goalies have muscled up the ranks in numerous categories.

The Blog of Brotherhood takes a look at some team and individual numbers to watch 2015-16.

1. Miami’s win total – According to its media guides, Miami has 679 all-time wins and needs 21 to reach 700. The RedHawks have recorded at least that many victories in nine of their last 10 seasons. Coach Enrico Blasi has 351 of those wins, and he has coached the team for 16 of its 37 seasons.

2. Sean Kuraly’s GWGs – Kuraly set a school record in 2014-15 with nine game-winning goals.

Sean Kuraly.

Sean Kuraly (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

He is already in a six-way tie for fifth all-time at Miami with 11 for his career, and he needs just two to move into third on the career leaderboard. Ryan Jones owns to RedHawks’ mark with 21.

3. Jay Williams’ wins – With a breakout 19-win season, Williams is now tied for sixth in the school record book with 36 victories. He needs to just five to crack the top five and is 24 off the Miami mark, held by 2003 graduate David Burleigh (60).

4. Coach Enrico Blasi’s win total – This is now one to watch each year, as Blasi is already 30th in Division I history with 351 wins. Remember that Blasi took over the job at age 27 and won’t turn 44 until next February. With 10 of the school’s 12 NCAA Tournament appearances occurring on his watch, including its only two Frozen Four berths, and nine trips to the NCAAs in the last 10 years, Blasi should remain in Oxford for a long time.

Enrico Blasi.

Enrico Blasi (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

A number of coaches immediately ahead of Blasi are still active, so moving up the ranks the next couple of seasons will be difficult, but he has a legitimate shot at 400 by the end of 2016-17, which is a pretty big milestone in college hockey, especially since teams play just 35-40 games per campaign on average. By the way, Boston College’s Jerry York holds the NCAA record with 984 wins.

5. Anthony Louis points – Miami fans have been spoiled over the past five years with Andy Miele, Carter Camper and Austin Czarnik all posting over 150 career points and shooting into the top 10.

Anthony Louis.

Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

This is more of a 20-16-17 tracker alert, as Louis will be a junior this fall, but he already has 21 goals and 40 assists for 61 points, and with 36 points last season, he could become the 51st member of the 100-point club. Barring injury and other factors, he could move pretty far up the 100-point club list next season.

6. Matthew Caito defenseman points and assists – The senior has slowly been moving up the ranks, and he is just four out of the top 10 in points by blueliners. He is averaging 20 points a season, and 20 more would give him a career total of 81, placing him eighth in school history for defensemen. His 49 assists have him one out of the top 10 behind Cameron Schilling. If he hits his average of 16 he would also end his career eighth that category among defensemen with 65.

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

7. McKay/Williams shutouts – Jay Williams tied a school record with five shutouts in 2014-15, giving him seven for his career, and he is still one behind Ryan McKay for the active lead. McKay has eight and Williams is at seven, ranking fourth and tied for fifth in school history, respectively. The record is held by Connor Knapp (13), and Cody Reichard and Burleigh are tied with 12, so both would have much work to do to move up, but they have had exemplary careers in Oxford and either could challenge the record, especially if one takes over the starting reins exclusively.

Jay Williams.

Jay Williams (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

8. More Jay and McKay – Speaking of goalies, despite an off-year, McKay is second in the qualitative career save percentage category at .920. Williams moved into the top 10 and is sitting at .911, good enough for sixth all-time. Jeff Zatkoff is the RedHawks’ leader at .927.

9. Even more Jay and McKay – And then there’s goals-against average. Williams moved ahead of McKay and into fourth place in this qualitative stat at 2.29 vs. 2.31. Williams has the fourth-best mark in Miami history, McKay is fifth. Connor Knapp holds the school GAA mark at 1.94, and that would take a major effort to topple, even if one started almost every game and went well below 2.00 this season.

10. Caito’s games-played total – Among the seniors at Miami, Caito is the clear leader in games played in his three seasons with 119, having missed just one contest (the 2014-15 opener vs. Bowling Green…Miami lost that game…coincidence?). He needs to play 39 games this season to tie for ninth all-time, and his advancement in this category depends on his continued health and earning the right to dress (a near given to this point with him) as well as the team’s success. Only five Miamians have played 160 career games, but he has a shot to join that exclusive club.

Thoughts on Miami’s exhibition win

The highlights from Miami’s 6-1 win over Western Ontario in the RedHawks’ lone exhibition on Saturday were impressive.

And while, disappointingly, getting to this game was not a possibility on this end (Mrs. Rednblackhawks and I were vacationing in Alberta), there typically is not a ton to take out of preseason games.

But there are a few facts and observations from the highlights, box score and the embedded spies BoB sent to the game that are worthy of prose here as Miami heads into opening weekend.

– Fs Zach LaValle and Justin Greenberg did not play. Greenberg has played in 68 games the past two seasons and is turning into a solid penalty killer. LaValle went 20-41-61 with NAHL Janesville last season. The competition at forward will be great this season, and two forwards and one defenseman will have to sit each night, so we’ll see how coach Enrico Blasi handles his scratches moving forward. Third goalie Evan McCarthy didn’t get into the game either, but that’s not unexpected – the freshman will be a more of a factor for playing time in 2016-17.

– Defensemen scored three of the six goals, and another was by swingman Michael Mooney, who was playing forward at the time. The entire team generated just 17 goals from its blueline corps in 2014-15. Trend or the result of a weak opponent? Hopefully the former. Sophomore Scott Dornbrock found the net once and Louie Belpedio banged home the other two. Both had four shots and senior Matthew Caito tallied three. More shots by defensemen will keep opponents’ defenders honest, so it would be great if they continued to put the puck on net.

Louie Belpedio.

Louie Belpedio.

– By all accounts, the standouts from this game were junior Anthony Louis, sophomore Louie Belpedio and freshman Jack Roslovic. One Tweet I received from someone in attendance said simply “Roslovic is a monster”. This summer, assistant coach Nick Petraglia raved about the former two and the expectations on them this season, and they delivered in this game. Belpedio scored twice, Louis netted a goal and Roslovic set up a pair.

– Sean Kuraly finished with three assists. Again, trying not to read too much into an exhibition against a CIS school, but a lot of focus will be placed on Kuraly by opponents with Czarnik/Coleman/Barber et al out of the picture. Kuraly definitely brought his passing stick in this game after ended 2014-15 with just 10 helpers to complement his 19 goals. He can alleviate the defensive pressure on him by creating chances for others this season via the passing game.

Sean Kuraly.

Sean Kuraly.

– Freshman Josh Melnick scored. Maybe this is just a personal thing, but it makes me feel good to see a rookie score in the exhibition(s) because that has to help his confidence. D-I college, especially at an elite program like Miami, is a major step up from U.S. juniors, and scoring in a first game has to make life easier on a player moving forward.