Monthly Archives: February 2017
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami hockey has not seen a large number of transfers, and even fewer switch colleges from New England to become RedHawks.
And although former Boston College defenseman and Montréal Canadiens draft pick Colin Sullivan has battled injuries throughout his collegiate career, he is completely healthy for the stretch run of his senior career.
“He puts in the work every day in practice, he’s always looking to get better,” senior and student coach Johnny Wingels said. “Early on the ice, late off the ice, it’s nice to see a good kid like him get his opportunity now and be rewarded for it.”
Sullivan originally committed to Yale while playing for Avon, a prestigious prep school near his hometown of Milford, Conn. He and his family decided he should remain at Avon to complete his high school years, and he decommitted from Yale and signed with Boston College.
He joined the Eagles in the fall of 2012, a year after being selected in the seventh round by Montréal.
“You’re playing for the best coach – and arguably the most decorated coach in college hockey,” Sullivan said. “Jerry York was an amazing coach, and it was a fun experience. My whole family’s from the Boston area, so it was nice having them come to every single one of my games.”
Sullivan logged 32 games with Boston College his freshman season, but playing time was an issue and he decided to pursue other options. Transferring players have to sit out for a season, and Sullivan joined USHL Green Bay while in limbo, accumulating a pair of goals and six assists in 41 games during 2013-14.
Fortunately for the RedHawks, a former MU forward contacted Sullivan and played a key role in bringing him to Oxford.
In prep school, Kevin Morris played for rival Salisbury with Sullivan’s best friend.
“Kevin shot me a text and asked me if I was interested in Miami, and of course I was,” Sullivan said. “I’d never been to the campus and was interested that someone was actually going to take a look at me. When I came here for a visit I just fell in love with the place, so playing New England prep school actually brought me here with the connections that I had back there.”
After his redshirt year, Sullivan was ready to contribute as a sophomore. But after dressing for three of Miami’s first four games in 2014-15, he was shut down with a recurring groin injury.
“It was just so frustrating to come so close, to being in the lineup again, and all in the sudden you have to take your foot off the gas pedal and go back to square one,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan logged just nine games his sophomore season, picking up a lone assist in the best-of-3 home playoff series vs. Western Michigan.
Wingels, a defenseman himself and brother of Ottawa Senators forward Tommy Wingels, tried to help Sullivan through his transitional period.
“I think he had a unique experience at Boston College, and he lost some confidence there,” Wingels said. “And I was just telling him that he needs to play his game. Boston College is a great hockey school – they have the history that they have, and he was clearly good enough to be able to commit there – so it was just a matter of getting his confidence back, because he clearly has it in him to be a good player at this level.
“It’s never fun to lose your confidence as a player, because that’s something that’s very difficult to get back. You just have to fight through it sometimes, and it might take longer than you’d hoped.”
Junior year started off with plenty of promise, as Sullivan scored his first college goal in the season opener vs. Providence, juking a defender in the slot before burying a top-shelf wrister.
“I kind of blacked out to be honest with you,” Sullivan said. “We were playing Providence, too – my whole family went to Providence, it was down to Providence and Miami – so it was nice to get a goal against them.”
But after going under the knife for the fourth time for his groin injury, Sullivan said he tried to come back too soon, as he was limited to six games the first two months. Fortunately he was healthy for the second half of 2015-16 and was in the lineup 15 times.
Last summer was the first in three years that Sullivan did not require off-season surgery, but he still had trouble getting back on the ice. He did not dress for five of the RedHawks’ first eight games last fall.
“It was definitely frustrating,” Sullivan said. “Everyone’s got to pay their dues, and I think I definitely have, but it’s something where you put your nose to the grindstone and work hard every day, do what you need to do, and finally I’m back in the lineup and hopefully making a positive impact and helping us win some hockey games.”
His attitude and hard work eventually paid off. Finally, nearly four years after transferring from Boston College, the search for more ice time that drove him to Oxford is coming to fruition.
Sullivan has played in 20 consecutive games and has three assists, all in his last nine contests.
And that confidence that earned him an NHL draft pick and a spot on Boston College’s blue line is finally back.
“For me, confidence is really key,” Sullivan said. “I rely so much on my skating and my mobility – not feeling that pain down there. Even when it was heeled, I would kind of mentally expect to feel that pain. It’s just crazy how much of a mental effect being injured has on your entire body. Now I’m at the point where that’s not a factor any more. I feel like the old Colin Sullivan again.”
He picked up helpers in back-to-back games for the first time in his Miami career on Dec. 31 at Ohio State and Jan. 6 vs. St. Cloud State. Sullivan also earned an assist on Willie Knierim’s game winner vs. Western Michigan on Jan. 28 with a well-placed stretch pass.
“It’s taking me back to high school when I’m totally healthy and I’m having fun playing again,” Sullivan said. “There was a stretch mentally where I’d come back for a couple of games and I’d get hurt again, and I’d come back for a couple of games and I’d get hurt again. I was never 100 percent. Now that I’m back on track, I’m on cloud nine right now.”
Making Sullivan even more useful to the team is his ability to play forward. He has been listed on the fourth line several times this season, enabling the team to dress a seventh blueliner.
“Any way that I can help the team,” Sullivan said. “If Coach wants me to strap on the pads and go in play in net, I’ll gladly do that. If he wants me to sit in the corner and stand on my head for three hours, I’ll do that too. Whatever it’s going to take to help the team, and I can take a couple of faceoffs, and be a (fourth-line forward) and give the top-line guys a little break, and go out and do that too, yeah, definitely.”
Sullivan and classmates Wingels and Justin Greenberg have become close friends at Miami, and both said one of his best personality attributes is his sense of humor.
“When (Sullivan) transferred here he was sort of in between classes for a little bit while his credits were figured out, and he ultimately got slotted into my class, which is great because we got to spend another year with him,” Wingels said. “He’s a great guy – he’s probably one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and there’s never a dull time when you’re around him.”
Both Wingels and Greenberg have gone through their share of injury issues as well, and Sullivan’s positive attitude has helped them deal with their respective issues.
“Even with right now, with me being hurt (lower-body injury), he’s so positive,” Greenberg said. “He’s going to be a groomsman in my wedding, we’re so close. We do everything together. He’s just a great guy.”
Greenberg said he also noticed the improvement in Sullivan’s game as the months have passed since his injury.
“This year, it’s not just that he’s gotten in the lineup, but he’s contributing and playing well,” Greenberg said. “Making great plays and he’s learned to defend with his feet, and he’s really made an impact – in my opinion – when he’s played, since I’ve been watching. I tend to watch him more since I’m so close with him and I think he’s played great this year.”
Sullivan is also a favorite among his hockey peers, according to Greenberg.
“He would do anything for anyone on this team,” Greenberg said. “If you went through the locker room, there’s not one guy that say they don’t love Sully. He’s the best. I can’t say enough good things about him, and I’m sure most people wouldn’t be able to either.”
Now healthy, Sullivan would like to continue playing hockey after he graduates this spring. He is a history major with a minor in entrepreneurship, boasting a 3.3 grade-point average.
But in addition to his ultimate pursuit of a traditional job, Sullivan plans on joining the military for four-plus years, and is especially interested in special forces.
“I want to serve my country before I reap the benefits from it,” Sullivan said. “I think that whole lifestyle and the aspect of being on a team – and those guys are super-competitive guys, high-octane guys – I just want to be around that. It’s going to be similar to here, same exact kind of guys, Division I athletes. I just think that’s something that I would really enjoy.”
Though everything hasn’t worked out as Sullivan had originally planned when he moved here from New England, transferring to Miami is something he has never regretted.
“If I could do it all over again, Miami is definitely the place where I’d want to go,” Sullivan said. “Coming from out east, you don’t hear about Miami University – everybody thinks I play hockey in Miami, Florida – which is interesting. Coming out here, it’s all cornfields and farmland, and the minute I drove down High Street, I said, mom, dad, this is where I want to be, this is the right fit.”
In terms of scoring, the first two periods of Saturday’s game played out exactly the same as Friday’s game: No goals in the first, Miami takes the lead in the second, St. Cloud ties it.
Unfortunately for the RedHawks, the Huskies also potted the next two goals in the third period again in a 3-1 win in St. Cloud as SCSU wrapped up a weekend sweep.
Miami (9-13-6) has just one victory in its last seven games and is winless in five straight on the road.
Josh Melnick put the RedHawks ahead when he wired a shot off the inside of the far post after Gordie Green had stolen the puck and fed Melnick in the slot.
Just 83 seconds later, St. Cloud State’s (15-14-1) Jimmy Schuldt beat Miami goalie Ryan Larkin on the glove side for a power play goal after the RedHawks were unable to clear the puck, tying the score.
It remained 1-1 until the Huskies’ Nick Poehling centered one from along the boards to Jake Wahlin for a tip-in goal with 2:37 left in regulation.
Jacob Benson tacked on an empty netter with 56 seconds to play, capping off the scoring.
Miami dropped to 3-9-3 on the road and have just one league win away from Cady Arena.
With the loss, the RedHawks remain in seventh place in the NCHC and are now five points out of tie for fifth and sixth, spots held by Nebraska-Omaha and SCSU.
Miami hosts Denver in a two-game series next weekend.
To see how St. Cloud State was able to finagle a comeback win, highlighted by a three-goal third period, it is necessary to evaluate the second period.
That’s when momentum that was clearly in Miami’s favor was reversed, culminating in the Huskies’ tying goal and ultimately three more in the final frame of SCSU’s 4-2 win over the RedHawks in central Minnesota on Friday.
The first period was evenly played and entertaining. Both teams were solid, but neither was able to find the net.
Miami dominated to start the second period and drew the game’s first power play. The RedHawks capitalized, as Gordie Green collected his own rebound on his tipped shot and stuffed it home four minutes into that frame.
A hockey axiom is to watch for the pushback by the team that gets scored on first, but Miami continued to push the pace the next eight minutes.
Then Grant Hutton threw puck up the right wing that Alex Alger couldn’t reach, and the RedHawks were whistled for icing.
The puck remained in the Miami zone for 90 seconds until an exhausted MU unit took a penalty, which was on Scott Dornbrock for slashing.
The RedHawks did an exceptional job of killing that penalty, and Green stole the puck for a breakaway, on which SCSU goalie Jeff Smith made an outstanding save to keep it 1-0.
But Louie Belpedio took tripping penalty away from the play, giving the Huskies a brief 5-on-3. After Dornbrock returned to the ice, making it 5-on-4, the Huskies tied it.
That gave St. Cloud State (14-14-1) the momentum heading into the second intermission, and the next two goals both went the Huskies’ way. Miami played pretty well the final 16 minutes but could not recover.
CBS College Sports pointed to Kiefer Sherwood getting out of position as the key reason for that tying goal, but Belpedio can’t take that penalty, especially as a captain, especially away from the play, especially when his team is already shorthanded.
And especially in this critical of a game, and especially with his team up by just one on the road.
It was so far away from the play that there wasn’t a clear camera angle, but that alone tells you plenty. The fuzzy goal cam shows him clearly making unnecessary contact along the boards, and officials in this league give a lot of leeway to teams that are already a man down.
MU also had good looks at the net in that middle frame – one each by Josh Melnick and Anthony Louis stand out – and the team couldn’t finish those chances. Jeff Smith also played exceptionally in net for SCSU.
Miami needs points more than ever and was in an excellent position to earn some from this game, leading by a goal with 23 minutes left.
But the RedHawks got zero, making their potential road to the NCAA’s a whole lot harder.
Especially since St. Cloud State is currently on the Tournament bubble, and Miami’s final six games are all against top-10 teams, including four vs. Nos. 1 and 2 in the PairWise.
– That 90-second shift following the above-mentioned icing that led to the penalty that led to another penalty that ate the lead that Miami built was the second time the fourth line was caught on the ice for an extensive shift. Including the time that unit was out there prior to the icing, it logged about two straight minutes during the period of the long change. And keep in mind, the fourth line typically plays shorter shifts anyway and is not accustomed to logging 120 straight seconds against high-caliber NCAA opponents. In the first period this threesome was also caught for an extended shift, as it was unable to clear its defensive zone.
– Belpedio had a tough night, as he was also out of position on the go-ahead goal early in the third period. After a SCSU pass was deflected by Jared Brandt, Belpedio did not pick up the trailer, Mikey Eyssimont, who skated in uncontested and fired his shot over Ryan Larkin’s shoulder. To be fair, it was Belpedio’s shot from the blue line that resulted in Green’s goal, and he did assist on both Miami tallies.
– Done talking about PairWise and NCHC standings for a while. The road to home ice for the NCHC, as well as at-large for the NCAAs, is too narrow right now. Will revisit if this team can string together some consecutive wins, which is a huge “if” with this upcoming schedule. Fans best brace themselves for a best-of-3 road series against a top-10 team just to advance to Minneapolis.
– Third period update. So BoB documented that Miami was outscored, 14-3 in the final frame during its 10-game winless streak. Then the RedHawks ran off 18 goals to their opponents’ two in the last 20 minutes in overtime as they ran off five straight wins. Now MU has allowed six goals while recording just two (with one being a 6-on-4 marker in this game) during this current 1-4-1 slide. Overall, it’s actually been Miami’s best period (27-26 advantage), as it’s the only stanza in which the RedHawks have outscored their opponents, not counting overtime. Here’s one for the stats geeks: Miami has scored 23 times after the second intermission in its nine wins. In its 12 losses, the RedHawks have four markers, including Sherwood’s laser tonight. Opponents have scored 20 third-period goals in Miami losses, six in Miami wins.
– Let’s insert some happy positive. Carson Meyer didn’t get a point, but he was dominating the first half of the game. He’s playing some of his best hockey of the season, and would be tied with Gordie Green if there was a most-improved-since-Game-1 award. Green, despite being having barely graduated from his Andy Miele growth chart, scored while camped out at the top of the crease, getting his own rebound. He’d subbed on for Melnick late in the power play and was with the top unit, possibly foreshadowing his 2017-18 role. He played that down-low role in the USHL despite his size. Green has 10 points this season, with six coming in his last 10 games.
– Continue to be impressed with Dave Starman on his CBS College Sports broadcasts. Anyone who can recite all six Miami goalies in the three tandems since David Burleigh deserves some credit, and yes, he did manage to mention Pat Cannone’s name. Most viewers will learn plenty about their opponents from any telecast, but people watching his games will almost certainly learn about their own team, which is especially impressive since this isn’t one of the Big Two college sports. His analysis of Ryan Larkin’s stance, and his ability to show a graphic and tie that to assistant coach Nick Petraglia goes beyond what one will see from almost any other college hockey commentator. Color jobs, like all in that field, can be based more on politics and connections than talent, but the guy is a delight to listen to and is incredibly unbiased in an era that sees less and less of this from media members.
Miami has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the third period this season.
The final stanza was the RedHawks’ demise on Friday, as they allowed three crucial goals in the last 20 minutes and fell, 4-2 at St. Cloud State.
It was the fourth time this season Miami had surrendered three or more goals in the final period and the second straight contest in which an opponent tallied multiple markers after the second intermission.
After a scoreless first period, the RedHawks (9-12-6) took the lead on the game’s first penalty, as a shot by Louie Belpedio was tipped on net by Gordie Green, who seized the rebound and beat Jeff Smith for a power play goal 4:04 into the middle frame.
The Huskies (14-14-1) tied it with 2:59 left in that stanza when a wrister by Dennis Cholowski was redirected home by Ryan Poehling on the man advantage.
Mikey Eyssimont put St. Cloud State ahead 2:35 into the third period. A lateral offensive-zone pass by Patrick Newell was partially deflected to Eyssimont, who fired it just under the crossbar.
Just 71 seconds later, the Huskies went ahead by two on another tipped shot, as Jon Lizotte deflected a blue-line rip by Robby Jackson into the bottom corner of the net.
In the final minute, Miami did cut the deficit to one on a 6-on-4, as Anthony Louis slid a pass from the high slot to Kiefer Sherwood for a one-time blast that found the top of the cage.
But with 13 seconds remaining, SCSU sealed it for good on an empty netter by Jimmy Schuldt from his defensive zone.
The RedHawks have won just one of their last six (1-4-1) and are winless in their last four on the road.
Sherwood finished with a goal and an assist, extending his points streak to three games, and he snapped a six-game stretch without a goal.
Belpedio ended up with two helpers and also has a three-game point streak.
After scoring just once in his first 17 games, Green’s marker was his fourth in his last 10.
Miami entered this game in prime position to move up in the NCHC standings, as it was just one point back of the Huskies, who were in sixth place, but now MU is ensured of remaining in seventh after this weekend, as it is four points back of St. Cloud State.
The RedHawks slipped to 24th in the PairWise rankings, and would need to move up about 10 spots in the final weeks to warrant NCAA Tournament at-large consideration.
These teams wrap up their weekend series at 8:07 p.m. on Saturday. That game will be telecast on FSN North.