Category Archives: 2014-15 News

#7 Miami at #2 North Dakota

After a week off due to #lifeandstuff, we’re back with a preview of this weekend’s huge NCHC series against North Dakota in Grand Forks.

In what is shaping up as one of the biggest series of the season thus far, #7 Miami (7-3, 3-1 NCHC) visits second ranked North Dakota (7-1-1 , 2-0 NCHC) hoping to avenge last season’s dismal sweep at the hands of Gang Green. As you may recall, that series in February featured a 9-2 UND romp a night after Miami dropped a close 3-2 decision at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The Series

Miami trails the all-time series against North Dakota by a 2-5-1 margin and has never won at “the Ralph.” However, Miami did pick up the program’s first two wins over UND by beating them once in Oxford and also in Minneapolis in the league tournament semifinal 3-0 last season going 2-3 against the green and white.

The Coach

In his 11th season behind the bench of his alma mater, UND head coach Dave Hakstol (260-133-40) has compiled

UND head coach Dave Hakstol has taken his program to six Frozen Four’s in his ten seasons at the helm of the 7-time national champions. (photo: UND Sports)

a resume that almost anyone would dream of. Hakstol has led UND to six Frozen Fours, has captured four WCHA Final Five playoff titles, two WCHA regular season championships and has taken UND to the NCAA tournament in each of his 10 previous seasons as head coach.

But…

When you’re the head coach of the 7-time national champions with the largest and most vocal fan base in the nation, and that program hasn’t won a national title since 2000, the natives can be a little harsh on you. Hakstol has endured cat calls demanding his firing in seemingly every season that I can remember simply because he hasn’t won the big one…yet. As a Miami fan, I think we can all relate having been so close to a national title in 2009 and then returning to the Frozen Four a year later only to experience even more disappointment. As successful as Enrico Blasi has been at Miami, he like Hakstol, has yet been unable to get his program over the hump. With that sort of success, however, I think Hak deserves a break even if he can be one of the most childish fellas you’ll see behind the bench of a collegiate sports program.

Interestingly, Blasi will be speaking alongside Hakstol at UND’s Fan Luncheon tomorrow at noon CST. I’ve always sensed good competitive tidings between the two men and I think anything each can do to further the growth of college hockey and the NCHC can only be a good thing. Plus, they’re two Canadian boys so there’s that.

The Team

After dropping its first game of the season at home to Bemidji State, North Dakota has run off an eight game unbeaten streak including a sweep of Wisconsin (0-6) last weekend in Madison. In addition to the Badgers, who are awful (as is the Big 6), UND has beaten the likes of Bemidji State, Air Force (who just lost to UAH) and Colorado College (twice – sweeping them just like Miami did last weekend). The only quality win UND has to date is a 6-1 thrashing of Providence in Grand Forks. Interestingly, the Friars came back the next night to tie UND so their schedule has been light at best so far in the season.

And for Miami, if there ever was a weekend to face UND, it might be this one as the injury bug has really struck Gang Green.

Already without standout sophomore blueliner Paul LaDue (3-5-8) who injured a leg last Friday and did not suit up for Saturday’s game against Wisconsin, UND will also be without the services of uber freshman Nick Schmaltz (1-7-8) who was named the NCHC rookie of the month for October.

UND will be without the services of highly touted freshman forward Nick Schmaltz indefinitely. (photo: UND Sports)

Adding to UND’s injury woes, Miami killer senior Mark MacMillan has been out of the lineup for the past four games but yesterday, UND beat reporter Brad Schlossman hinted that maybe MacMillian (5-2-7, 5 games) might be ready for Friday night’s game — and just in time if you’re a UND fan.

Aside from MacMillan and Schmaltz who were off to great starts, UND is led by elusive forwards, junior Drake Caggiula and senior Michael Parks, both 3-8-11 in 9 games. Gone are both Rocco Grimaldi and captain Dillon Simpson from last year’s Frozen Four squad while junior Jordan Schmaltz (1-4-5) leads the blueline taking over a leadership role for the green and white.

Overall, it’s a very deep and talented roster that Dave Hakstol has assembled. A glance at the roster shows this is not an overly big UND lineup, but most of the skaters hover around 6′ tall which will still be challenging for some of Miami’s smaller forwards like Anthony Louis, Alex Wideman and Cody Murphy. But, I think Miami matches up much better than last year with the additions of Andrew Schmit, Conor Lemirande and Scott Dornbrock. With those three plus Kevin Morris patrolling the ice, Miami should not go into the Ralph feeling intimidated one bit.

In net, UND returns junior Zane McIntyre (formerly Zane Gothberg) who has started right where he left off last year sporting a sterling 7-1-1 record with 1.94 GAA and .927 save percentage. But, Miami has gotten to McIntyre beating him in Oxford and also at the Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis. In fact, McIntyre’s GAA against the RedHawks is around 3.33 and he was rocked by the RedHawks early last year and again in the NCHC semifinals in March. That said, McIntyre is an outstanding goaltender and to beat him, Miami will have to continue to generate shots and quality chances from throughout the lineup as they have versus nearly every opponent so far this season.

The Prediction

These are two good teams. With UND’s injury situation, it’s hard to see them sweeping Miami, but if any team can dig deep and get it done on home ice, it would be the green and white. On the other hand, because of the injuries I really want to pick a Miami sweep. All that said, I’ll take a split with Miami picking up another NCHC road win.

Both games can be seen on NCHC.tv and Saturday’s game will be carried nationally on Fox College Sports. Greg Waddell will have the Miami audio call at Miami All-Access and he can also be heard via the Tune-in app on your smartphone. Twitter, smartphones and the interwebs have been godsends to college hockey.

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Miami sweeps Ohio State

We’ll have more to say about the weekend that was, but here’s one of the coolest things from the weekend…the new silver alternate sweaters from adidas. Rachel Lewis gets the photo credit.

Miami is 1-0 in their new alternate adidas sweaters.

Miami is 1-0 in their new alternate adidas sweaters.

#11 Miami at/vs #17 Ohio State

This weekend, Miami faces duhOSU in another in-state rivalry renewed.

Yep, it’s red and gray time as Miami faces yet another in-state and former conference rival, Ohio State.

The Series

Miami has dominated the Buckeyes over the past several years owning an 8-2-1 record against them in the previous 11 contests. Overall, Miami leads the all-time series with the “little hockey sisters of the poor” from Cowtown by a 71-61-13 margin, but it obviously has always been relatively close as both programs were down for many years. It’s a great rivalry and is good for both programs for different reasons. I’m glad the two schools plan to continue playing each other on an annual basis.

The Coach

duhOSU head coach Steve Rohlik is in his second year behind the bench after the shocking dismissal of Mark Osiecki. I still contend that was a mistake, but Rohlik has provided a steadying hand as he attempts to solidify OSU as a perennial Big Six power along with Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. With the two losses to Miami last season, Rohlik is still looking for his first win against the RedHawks.

The Team

Last weekend, the Buckeyes split two overtime games at Cheap Furniture Arena against then #3 Providence winning Friday by a surprising 5-4 score and dropping the series finale by a more expected final score of 2-1. I say the Friday score was surprising because I thought it would take at least three games for duhOSU to score five goals, especially against a top five team like Providence.

But since last weekend, the Friars faced the U.S. U-18 squad in an exhibition tying the youngsters 3-3. So, two things there…first, that’s a pretty darn good U.S. U-18 team this year and maybe the Friars aren’t quite as good (right now) as anticipated. The Friars highly touted goaltender, Jon Gillies, currently sports a 2.89 GAA and .895 save percentage, which is hardly “Mike Richter Award Watch List” worthy. But, it’s early.

duhOSU returns several familiar names to Miami fans including seniors Tanner Fritz and Nick Oddo. Seriously, these guys have to be on the 8-year program. Of course we’re talking about duhOSU so that shouldn’t surprise.

Fritz led Ohio State with 11-26-37 in his sophomore season but trailed off a bit to 8-24-32 last year. Still, Fritz is a solid, if unspectacular, player for the Buckeyes and is off to a 2-2-4 start in their first two games.

Oddo had a bit of a breakout year last year with 9-21-30 after posting just 17 total points in his first two seasons with the red and gray.

duhOSU did lose two big offensive contributors in Ryan Dzingel (22-24-46) and Max McCormick (11-24-35) who both left Cowtown with college eligibility remaining to sign pro deals. Dzingel may have more upside, but I have to question the advice these two received. Neither really strike me as immediate impact kind of NHL prospect meaning you’re way better off getting a degree and moving on a year later.

Returning in net for duhOSU is Christian Frey (9-4-3, 2.27 GAA, .929 save percentage), who joined the Buckeyes in an emergency at mid-season after all hell broke loose in the crease. Ohio State burned through several goaltenders losing some to departure and others to injury. Paula Weston has a bit on this here. However, Frey solidified the Buckeyes problems in net and it was after his arrival that the team played a bit better. Actually, if not for a 3rd period collapse against Wisconsin in the inaugural Big Six Championship Game, they would have made the NCAA tournament. Instead, OSU surrendered the final three goals in a 5-4 OT loss to the Badgers. But before that loss, Ohio State defeated Michigan State and Minnesota at the Xcel Center so they did show some promise in that late season tournament run.

But, that was last year.

Overall, Ohio State finished the 2013-14 season 18-14-5, good enough for fourth in the Big Six. The Buckeyes had the 14th ranked offense in the nation averaging 3.19 goals per game, but were tied for 28th nationally in defense, giving up an average of 2.70 per contest.

Defensively, the Buckeyes are a veteran group likely to pose a significant challenge for Miami’s corps of talented forwards. But again, they’re filled with solid, but unspectacular, contributors throughout their lineup. Miami is more talented, but that doesn’t always mean wins as we learned weekly a year ago.

The Prediction

Last year, Miami swept OSU in impressive fashion winning by 6-2 and 6-3 scores as they opened the season strong. However, this looks like another split weekend with each team winning on it’s home ice, but you never know. Cheap Furniture Arena should be filled with Miami fans tonight, but I’ll still say split until I have a better read on whether or not Miami can fix the continued defensive issues that are plaguing the team.

Both games face-off at 7:05 PM with tonight’s game at Cheap Furniture Arena in Columbus and tomorrow’s at the beautiful hockey-only facility known better as Steve Cady Arena at the Goggin Ice Center.

Catch all the action at MURedHawks.com. An All-Access broadcast will also be available for both contests. Saturday’s matchup will also be streamed on NCHC.tv.

Enrico Blasi’s Postgame Comments

Here are Miami head coach Enrico Blasi’s short postgame comments in what can only be described as the BG dungeon of a “press room” following last night’s 3-2 loss in the season opener to the Falcons.

#10/#11 Miami v. Bowling Green

Former Miami captain and assistant coach, Chris Bergeron, brings an improving Bowling Green program into the 2014-15 regular season against his alma mater. (photo: Todd Pavlack/Bowling Green Athletics)

With the start of the 2014-15 season just a few days away, hope springs eternal in Bowling Green, Ohio where Miami man, Chris Bergeron, has the Falcon faithful dreaming of an NCAA tournament berth for the first time since 1990. Bergeron, 43, spent four years as a player at Miami in the early ’90s as a teammate of current Miami head coach, Enrico Blasi. Then after several seasons of professional hockey, he gave the program another 10 seasons as an assistant coach before leaving Oxford for the barren wasteland that is Bowling Green before the start of the 2010-11 season.

At Bowling Green, Bergeron has revitalized a once-proud program by guiding them to their first plus .500 season in a decade, and in the now lesser WCHA, has a reasonable chance to take the Falcons into the NCAA tournament. The Falcons finished 2013-14 with a respectable 18-15-6 record and played in the WCHA’s “Final Five” after sweeping a home playoff series against Michigan Tech before falling to eventual Broadmoor Trophy champion, Minnesota State 4-0.

The Series

Over the past decade, this series has belonged to Miami. The RedHawks have dominated the Falcons as the football team has done to them year after year on the gridiron. Yet, because of the former dominance of the BG program in the ’80s and early ’90s, the all-time series still favors Bowling Green 58-46-8 as the Falcons would routinely crush the then Redskins when Miami’s program was just getting started. At the same time, BG was winning national titles coached by legends such as Ron Mason and Jerry York, and was, well, relevant. And, because they showed us no quarter “back in the day,” I have no feelings of remorse reminding everyone that Miami has owned their longtime MAC rivals for the better part of the last decade. While the teams haven’t played since the 2012-13 season, the final season of the now defunct CCHA, Miami is 12-1-1 against the orange and brown in the past 14 and you have to go back to the 2007-08 season to find the Falcons last non shootout victory over the Red and White.

But, this is a new Bowling Green.

The Coach

They’re headed by a Miami man in Chris Bergeron who was a successful college star and helped lead Miami to back-to-back Frozen Four appearances as an assistant. He knows how to coach and he’s successfully turning the BG program. Around? Stay tuned, but they are certainly in a much better place today than how he and former Miami icer Barry Schutte, found them.

The BGSU Ice Rink, est. 1967, has been in need of improvement for years.

The BGSU Ice Rink, est. 1967, has been in need of improvement for years.

Along with more success on the ice, Bergeron has overseen substantial renovations at BGSU Ice Rink including new locker rooms. And, while (thankfully) the old curling parlor is still in use by the BGSU curling team, it has been largely changed over into another skating sheet to help save wear and tear on the main rink.

The Team

As for the team on the ice, Bergeron has nine of his top thirteen scorers returning from last year’s fourth place WCHA squad. Most importantly, both Falcon netminders are back including Tommy Burke who finished 2013-14 with an impressive 14-7-6 record with a 2.43 GAA and .912 save percentage. Burke figures to get the bulk of the work this year with back up Tomas Sholl (4-8, 2.68 GAA and .896 save percentage) relieving him from time to time.

Bowling Green returns their top goal scorer (14) from a year ago in junior Mark Cooper and top points man (32) in senior Dan DeSalvo whom Miami fans should remember from the CCHA. In addition, the Falcons return two other 10 goal scorers and their top returning threat from the blue line is Pierre Luc-Mercier, who just deserved to have his name typed because it’s so cool. Departed are clutch scorer Ryan Carpenter along with top defensive scorer Ralfs Freibergs and Marcus Perrier, but the Falcons appear to have some depth that should worry Miami this weekend.

On the recruiting trail, the Falcons are not loaded with top tier recruits, but have a large freshman class consisting of 10 players who are hoping to make an impact on the college stage. But then again, Miami won with lower-tiered recruits during Bergeron’s time in Oxford as the program has become a destination for the nation’s top junior players. I’m certain Bergeron is getting the type of player that he feels best fits his system as he builds their compete level and a culture of consistency in northwest Ohio.

The RedHawks

When taking about this year’s squad, these previews nearly write themselves.

As you’re well aware, the RedHawks will run out top end forwards Sean Kuraly, Blake Coleman, Riley Barber, Anthony Louis and Austin Czarnik and expect to get bounce-back seasons from junior goaltenders Ryan McKay and Jay Williams. Everyone in RedHawk nation must hope the defense corps will improve with the additions of super Freshman Louie Belpedio and Boston College transfer, junior Colin Sullivan. Returning RedHawks like Matt Caito, Trevor Hamilton and the Joyaux brothers must be improved or Miami will find the going tough once NCHC play begins on Halloween in Duluth.

Looking back at the weekend, some of Miami’s old defensive problems resurfaced in a 3-0 loss to the US Under-18 team and 11-0 thrashing of Simon Fraser (whom the Falcons also defeated 7-2).

The captains.

The captains.

In the exhibition opener, Jay Williams allowed all three goals playing the entire game, but Miami was unable to solve the younglings defense. On that team is incoming Miamian Jack Roslovic who contributed a shot on goal for the Red, White and Blue. Hopefully the US game was just a matter of Miami finding its legs, but the RedHawks have struggled against top-talented teams over the past year and some defensive letdowns were apparent.

 

The Prediction

Overall, Miami is much more talented than the Falcons. However, you know Bowling Green will be fired up to face another out-of-league school who also happens to be a longtime rival in their building on Friday night. I expect a close game with Miami winning 4-3 Friday and then taking it to the Falcons 5-1 on Sunday in Oxford.

Note: This is a Friday/Sunday series with Friday’s game starting at 7:07 PM EST at Bowling Green. Sunday’s affair starts at 5:05 PM at Steve Cady Arena. All games can be seen and/or heard via Miami All Access and you can watch Friday at WCHA.tv (which is a heckuva lot more expensive than the NCHC’s package which also provides superior hockey) and watch Sunday on Time Warner Cable or NCHC.tv.

2014-15 Preview: The new guys

Yesterday, we provided our review of the returning letterwinners from last year’s Miami club that finished dead last in the inaugural NCHC regular season but just a goal away from a Frozen Faceoff championship. Now, let’s take a look at the new guys who will be called upon to do two specific things.

  1. Shore up the defensive corps that were so poor a year ago. Remember, despite having the top two scorers in the league

    A goal, a helmet-less Ryan McKay and no defenseman in sight. (photo: Bradley K. Olson)

    (senior captain Austin Czarnik and junior Riley Barber), Miami won just six league games and continually hung junior goaltenders Ryan McKay and Jay Williams out to dry.

  2. Add “Miami size” back into the lineup.

Defense

To address the defense, welcome 7th round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens and Boston College transfer, junior Colin Sullivan and highly regarded 3rd round pick of the Minnesota Wild, freshman Louie Belpedio.

Boston College transfer, Colin Sullivan, should contribute immediately on Miami’s blue line. (photo: Getty Images)

Colin Sullivan’s journey to Oxford is an interesting one. As you may know, Miami is the third collegiate program to which Sullivan has committed since his initial declaration to play at Yale beginning in the fall of 2013. However, the New Haven Register has reported that Sullivan agreed to play a season of junior hockey before enrolling at Yale and that Sullivan decided against it wanting to play college hockey immediately at the beginning of the 2012 season. With Yale’s incoming class having been filled, Sullivan re-opened his recruitment landing at Boston College. After scoring just one point in 32 games as a freshman with the Eagles in 2012-13, Sullivan who according to the Register had fallen out of BC’s top six, left the school just before the season started in October 2013 and played for Green Bay of the USHL last season. There, Sullivan had two goals and six assists in 41 games for the Gamblers. Sullivan brings size (6’1″ 205) and an impressive resume of prep hockey starring in the northeast. Here’s hoping Colin can recapture his game and elevate Miami’s top six back to where we are accustomed to seeing them.

Louie Belpedio (5’10” 193) is a “can’t miss” college prospect who last season led all USNTDP defensemen with five goals and was the second-leading scorer from the blue line with 15 points playing in all 26 games for the red, white and blue. Belpedio,

Freshman Louie Belpedio is a highly regarded defenseman from Illinois. (photo: Tom Sorensen)

who is just the latest highly regarded Chicago-area prospect to commit to Miami, captained Team USA to a gold medal in the Under-18 World Junior Championship in Finland in April notching two assists and a +3 rating in seven games. We expect big things from Belpedio over the course of his Miami career.

Size

Cue the music!

The 2013-14 season might best be remembered by the phrase, “they’re small, but Rico is trying to match up better against Hockey East schools.”

Well, if that was indeed true, it backfired big time.

The smallish RedHawks were routinely pushed around by the bigger squads of the NCHC, and even when matching against smaller, faster teams, deficiencies in physicality were apparent. Yet, there’s no question the current roster is probably the fastest group Miami has ever put on the ice, but with the addition of 6’5″ Nebraska-Omaha transfer, junior forward Andrew

At 6’6″, freshman forward Conor Lemirande is the tallest RedHawk since Justin Vaive.

Schmit and his “crash cousin” (I’m trademarking that one right now), 6’6″ freshman forward Conor Lemirande and the addition of 6’3″ freshman defenseman Scott Dornbrock, Miami returns to the days of Will Weber, Justin Vaive and Joe Hartman. I’m sure you’ll remember that size has always been a Miami hallmark throughout head coach Enrico Blasi’s tenure.

And, while I’m suggesting this new size means more physical play, I’m not going to negate the impact these three will make in other ways though Schmit has just one collegiate goal and 30 penalty minutes in 38 career games (but another 19 goals and 188 PIM in 105 games in the USHL) and Lemirande had 7 goals and a whopping 139 penalty minutes in 58 games for the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL last season. As for Dornbrock, he had a more “typical” line with the NAHL’s Minot Minotaurs notching 7-17-24 and 41 PIM in 59 games from the blue line.

With Miami’s depth, it will be interesting to see if these three are in the lineup on a nightly basis. Of the three, I think Schmit will see the most ice time given his familiarity with the program as he was in the press box with the team all of last year sitting out following his transfer. I think Schmit will add size, toughness and leadership to a club that last year at times seemed to lack all three. Because, if it means anything based on our Twitter (@schmittythedog) interactions with him, he seems like a quality guy

Something's fishy here.

Something’s fishy here.

that we’re rooting for. We also believe he secretly loves “The Bachelor,” or perhaps something even better, but that has not been confirmed. We expect full disclosure soon.

Projected Lineup

Having not seen the team practice this season, and having not even played an exhibition yet, here’s our guess at how Miami will lineup when the puck drops for real on October 10 at Bowling Green.

Offense

Coleman – Czarnik – Murphy

Louis – Kuraly – Barber

Wideman – Morris – Doherty

Schmit/Mooney – Greenberg – Gacek

Other forward possibilities: Devin Loe, Lemirande – Actually, when you look at the roster like this, Jimmy Mullin’s injury really hurts the depth at forward. While I do not think we’ll be seeing Conor Lemirande on opening night, it’s completely reasonable to expect to see him soon, especially if there is any other injury concern. With the depth at defense, and the lack of it at forward, Michael Mooney’s move to forward makes even more sense now.

Defense

C. Joyaux – Caito

M. Joyaux – Sullivan

Belpedio – Hamilton

Other defense possibilities: Taylor Richart, Dornbrock, Ben Paulides – Rico will have his work cut out getting ice time for everyone but the depth here is dramatically better than last year when you figured his best play was to shift Matt Caito for 60 minutes and and take his chances.

So, there you are. The new guys. Welcome all to The Brotherhood and best of luck this year!

What do you think the opening night lineup will look like?