Monthly Archives: June 2018

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.

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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.