Category Archives: Commitments

Part I: Q&A With Coach Petraglia

It’s one of the biggest classes of incoming freshmen ever for Miami.

Miami assistant Nick Petraglia (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami assistant Nick Petraglia (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The RedHawks have 14 freshman hitting the ice this fall, and assistant coach Nick Petraglia handles a large portion of Miami’s recruiting.

So for the third straight summer, we talked to Petraglia about the team and the newest members of the program.

BoB: So how is the off-season going for the coaching staff?

Petraglia: It’s been great. A lot of time planning, and we all had some time away, obviously. I can tell you that we’re excited to get going here. We’ve all had time with our families but I know this season’s been on our minds the whole time and we’re charged up and ready to go.

BoB: With 14 incoming freshmen, what kind of challenges does that create for a coaching staff?

Petraglia: It’s a fun challenge. I think the most important thing is that we set the standard right away and they learn what our expectations are so they can make as seamless of a transition as possible. Obviously it’s going to be a learning curve for everybody, but just setting that culture, and we’ll lean on our returning players to do that right away. But with 14 guys being half of our team, the example we set and how we operate from a work ethic standpoint, a character standpoint, habits – just everything we do – trying to operate at the highest level possible right away so it becomes the way and we can just focus on getting better every single day, one day at a time. That’s what we’re going to try to do.

BoB: You coaches are super-intense people and obviously bleed for the program, so do you feel even more pressure because this big class of freshmen is coming in – especially with how last season ended – because this group is half of your team for the next four years?

Petraglia: No, I don’t think pressure is the way we look at it. I think we’re really excited. I will say that we very much believe in what we have in that room and what our culture is. We believe we have the right people and all the pieces of the puzzle are there and we just have to make sure they’re put together properly and guys are in a position to be themselves and be successful. Like I said, we’re very excited. We really love the class that’s coming in. We’re really happy with all of the work that’s been put in by the returning guys who have spent all of spring and the early parts of summer really taking the next step. We had a great summer with those guys in the weight room and off the ice and hopefully everything comes together as soon as possible.

BoB: We’ve written briefly about the freshmen individually (NOTE: That story can be found here), but specifically, the forwards in general, it seems like you’ve got a good mix of smaller guys, bigger guys – obviously that’s what you want – so can you talk about that group?

Petraglia: There’s a little bit of everything, and obviously that’s by design. Offensively, we have some guys that have proven they can produce.

Karch Bachman: Has elite speed, a really good shot, a scoring touch and is somebody who’s pretty electric. He missed a lot of last season because of injury and that’s why his numbers weren’t what you’d expect. But he’s a kid that has some high-end offensive ability and talent.

– Carson Meyer: Had an incredible rookie season (in the USHL) helping Tri-City win the Clark Cup. He’s a kid that knows how to score, plays the game the right way, great shot, he’s a complete player that can hopefully contribute right away.

A couple of kids coming from Dubuque that have been committed for a while.

– Gordie Green: A smaller guy who plays with a ton of passion and energy. He’s a rat out there – he’ll get under your skin and he’s not afraid of anything. His biggest strength is just his hockey sense and playmaking ability. So he’s a guy that can make a lot happen, and we expect him to be a major contributor.

– Willie Knierim: (Green’s) teammate last year, the youngest guy in the class. Big power forward. The best thing about Willie is he knows his game and he takes pride in it. He doesn’t try to be something that he’s not. He’s got a nice set of hands, he knows how to score. He’s really good around the net, he’s good in the corners and he’s one of those players that as a power forward can really complement skilled guys around him. Very excited about those two coming in.

– Carter Johnson: Is an older, mature player from the North American League. He’s one of our Canadians that we have coming in – first ones in a while from Canada – he’s a well-rounded centerman that I think is going to surprise a lot of people. He plays both ends of the ice sheet, he skates well, he has good skills. He’s produced a decent amount throughout his career, and he’s just a big body that understands the game and gets around well, so he should be able to fill in an important role on our team.

– Alex Alger: Is a guy that’s been committed for a long time. He plays with a lot of energy, he can skate, he’s not afraid to be physical, he’s got a good shot. He played a big role on his team up in Johnstown the last couple of years, so hopefully he can come in and make an impact.

– Christan Mohs: Is a guy that just plays with a relentless compete level. Really good on the forecheck, a ton of energy, produced in Minot in the North American League, had a very successful career. I think he’s coming in here as that program’s all-time leading scorer. But just the way he plays – he gets after it and he’s tough to play against and he adds that element.

Part II of our interview with Coach Petraglia will cover the defensemen and all-important three freshmen goalies. That will be posted on Sunday, Sept. 11.

Q&A with Miami’s Nick Petraglia, Part II

On Monday the Blog of Brotherhood published Part I of an interview with Miami assistant coach Nick Petraglia, which ran here:

Here is the conclusion of that conversation.

2BoB: Another forward coming in is Ryan Siroky (Sir-OH-key). BoB saw him a couple of seasons ago with Green Bay and he looked like he had some talent but was 17 and raw at that point. He went 14-19-33 last year, including 1-7-8 in the playoffs after being traded to Muskegon.

PETRAGLIA: High-character kid, power forward, responsible. In the last year, year and a half, he has become very versatile in terms of being able to play different positions up front. He was recruited as a winger but was moved around in different teams’ lineups and learned how to play center, so that versatility is very important for us to be able to use him in different spots. He’s a kid that works hard, he has the ability to score goals – he has a little bit of offense to him, has a scoring touch in tight. He’s a complete player that is responsible and can contribute meaningful minutes to our team.

BoB: Next would be Zach LaValle (la-VAL). LaValle had a big year in the NAHL, going 20-41-61 for Janesville.

PETRAGLIA: He was a very successful three-sport, all-state athlete in Minnesota. I would say his strengths are his hockey sense and his playmaking. He had a really good year leading the team in scoring, and (Janesville) set a league record for wins and points and they ran away with the league, and he kind of league the way offensively. He’s a smart, playmaking forward, and he’s a guy that can probably play center and wing for us as well.

BoB: Another player who was a big points producer in juniors is Josh Melnick. At 5-feet-7 and with a line of 14-48-62 with Youngstown of the USHL, that looks like the scoring line of a playmaking center.

PETRAGLIA: Yes, that’s exactly what he is. He is one of the best passers that we could’ve found. He knows how to set the table, he knows how to run a power play, and again, hockey sense. Really, really smart, really smart and reliable, he can fly, he can make plays at high speed. He could probably shoot the puck a little bit more, but he really knows how to step guys up and make plays and produce offense, and he’ll be a guy that we think will transition very nicely into college hockey and make an immediate impact.

BoB: Kiefer Sherwood. Here’s a guy that absolutely blew up last season. He scored 29 goals and set up 27 more in his third season with Youngstown. What is your impression of him?

PETRAGLIA: He did (score a lot) in midgets and that’s where we recruited him from. Again, looking at what we’re replacing and what we’re bringing in, you lose a shot like Riley Barber – and by no means am I expecting Kiefer to come in and score 20 goals, it could happen but you don’t want to put that kind of pressure on a kid – this is a kid that can just shoot the puck and score goals. His one-timer is incredible. He’s got a really quick release, a hard and heavy shot, he can really skate. So when you look at the list of guys we’re bringing in, we’ve mentioned a few playmakers, this would be a goal scorer, a guy that can score and get up and down the ice and make a difference.

BoB: The final forward is a University of Maine transfer, Ryan Lomberg. He played two seasons with the Black Bears, going 18-14-32 in 66 games and sat out last season, joining Youngstown where he went 24-19-43. He will be a junior this year, and he did have an off-ice incident that led to his departure from Maine. Can you talk about bringing in a player with two years of collegiate experience on a team that lost a lot of forward talent?

NOTE: Lomberg pled guilty to a disorderly conduct charge last summer stemming from a fight several months prior, for which he was originally charged with assault.  

PETRAGLIA: He’s a kid very similar to Blake Coleman. Difficult to play against, can play in all situations. Very, very gritty and hard-nosed, can score, can make plays, but he’s a player that the other team notices and they don’t want him on the ice. And he’s an outstanding kid. Had a situation at Maine that was obviously tough for him to deal with but we can definitely speak to his character and say that he’s a really good person that’s learned from his mistakes and deserves a second chance. Still some eligibility issues with the NCAA in regards to his transfer, so we’re not quite sure if he’s going to be ready for us in the first half or if we’re going to have to wait until January. If we have to wait until January, we’ll get through it and he’ll be a big part of our team whenever the NCAA says that it’s OK.

BoB: So, worst-case scenario, he can come in this January as a junior and still play his entire senior season in 2016-17?

PETRAGLIA: That’s correct. Worst-case scenario…he can play (vs.) RPI, Jan. 2.

BoB: With all of the forward spots that are open from last season (7 – Czarik, Coleman, Murphy, Wideman, Mullin, Barber, Doherty), the spots are there for these incoming players to win starting jobs right away. Is that accurate?

PETRAGLIA: Yeah, and that’s how we’ve always recruited. We want to bring in guys to fill roles and we bring them in when they’re ready to contribute. No different than when Austin Czarnik came in, Austin Czarnik replaced Carter Camper…and Austin Czarnik was our leading scorer and No. 1 center for four years. And now Austin’s gone.

(At center), Sean (Kuraly) coming back, and what he brings to our team and the impact he’s going to have on the ice is huge. I don’t want to say who our No. 1 center is going to be, who knows? You could argue whomever. But Sean’s going to be a huge piece of our puzzle, and Jack replaces Austin and kind of fills that role. So you can see the different skill sets and the different elements that the (incoming) guys bring to the table. They’re brought here for a reason and hopefully they’re ready.

BoB: You mentioned Sean Kuraly a couple of times. He takes over the captaincy from Czarnik. Fans can see how hard he works and much of a force he’s become since coming to Oxford, but can you talk about the type of leader he is, which is something many people don’t see?

PETRAGLIA: He just gets it. First of all, he is the poster child of how to carry yourself, the perfect example of a human being in terms of humility, caring for other people, caring for his teammates, his selflessness. He’s so passionate and he works so hard. I think that’s one thing that people who don’t know Sean Kuraly that come to watch us play – I’m sure that if you’re watching that, oh, look at Sean Kuraly. Look how hard that kid works. He brings his best every single shift, and it’s not just on the ice. He brings his best in the classroom, he brings his best in terms of his attention span in a meeting, when he’s talking to his friends and his teammates. More than anything, he is respected by every single person in our program. If you were to take a poll, I’ll bet every single person in our program would vote him as our captain. It would probably be unanimous.

BoB: You have one defenseman coming in, who is Grant Hutton. He has bounced between the NAHL and the USHL and had an excellent playoff year with that tremendous Janesville team. He’s 6-feet-3, so can you talk about how he fits in to this team?

PETRAGLIA: Grant is a kid that’s built off of work ethic. He’s very strong, very well conditioned, great athlete. Obviously he has some size, and one thing about him – he can shoot the puck and he has a little bit of offense – but more than anything he takes great pride in playing D and shutting down the other team and keeping the puck out of his own net. He’s a player that hates to get scored on more than anybody I’ve ever met. It really bugs him, and obviously that’s a very important attribute to have on your team is a guy that really takes pride in taking care of his own end and defending, and that’s what Grant Hutton does. Another kid (with) great character from Indy, just down the road, so a semi-local kid that grew up loving Miami. (He’s) excited to be here and we’re excited to have him.

BoB: With Ben Paulides graduating and Colin Sullivan, who played very well when he was healthy last season, in the mix, it looks like there are going to be battles for those final couple of defenseman spots in the lineup each night.

PETRAGLIA: So with Mooney, you mentioned having a roster of 25, it gives us comfort knowing we have a guy like him that can play both positions as necessary based on the way things are going. But you mentioned the competition and that’s absolutely true, competition makes everybody better, it makes our team better, and we’re really happy with the makeup of our D-corps and the different elements and the competition that’s back there. We thought the guys did a real good job last year, playing both ends and taking care of the D-corps, so to have the majority of them back, and losing Ben Paulides, who did a good job for us. Grant comes in and has a similar skill set, defends in the same way that Benny did in terms of being a defensive defenseman, so we’re hoping for our D-corps to once again have a solid year, be a big part of our team.

BoB: Miami is bringing in another goalie in Evan McCarthy. He has been decent in the NAHL the past two seasons, so can you talk about him coming in with two other established goalies already with the RedHawks?

PETRAGLIA: So Evan’s coming into a situation where we obviously have two seniors who have played every minute for the last three years, and we’re going to expect a lot out of them, so he’s going to have an opportunity to compete and learn and be a part of that for a year. A year from now we’re going to expect Evan to step up and compete for a spot. We have a kid coming in who I’m not allowed to talk about until he signs his (Letter of Intent), but just having the competition that position, Evan’s going to have the opportunity to compete for playing time for four years. This year will be a little tougher for him because he’s got two seniors (in front of him), but after that it should be a good opportunity for him to battle it out. He’s a good that is extremely bright, very, very good student – he was valedictorian of his high school in Colorado – has a great work ethic. He has good size, he fills the net well, has a good skill set, so it will be a really good opportunity for him to learn the college game and adapt to this level of play and just get used to it before Ryan (McKay) and Jay (Williams) both graduate.

I’ve got one other thing to say, because it’s really important: Anthony Louis and Louie Belpedio. I would expect both of them to take huge steps this year. They were both great for us last year, but in terms of developing into elite college players, I think both of those guys are ready to take that step. When you talk about the guys that are leaving and trying to fill voids, both of those guys are totally capable of stepping up, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Anthony Louis light it up.

John Lachmann writes for WCPO.com, the Northern Kentucky Tribune, Tristatefootball.com and GetSportsInfo.com. You can follow him at @rednblackhawks.

>Berschbach Skips Out On Miami; Joins Blashill at WMU

> Several outlets have reported late this week that Miami commit Shane Berschbach will no longer be heading to Oxford and will instead join former Indiana Ice front-man Jeff Blashill at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

Berschbach, who signed a National Letter of Intent at Miami in 2008, played under Blashill in Indiana for the past two seasons and will be a part of his first ever recruiting class. The Clawson, Michigan native registered 79 points (32 G, 47 A) during his time in the USHL and is considered to be undersized, standing 5’8 and weighing 140 lbs.

“Once I was in place at Western Michigan, he was the first call I made,” Blashill said of Berschbach. “He’s a skilled forward, and very, very smart offensively. He’s not very big, but he has a lot of courage.” (MLive.com)

You’ll recall that Blashill, a Miami assistant from 2002-2008 was hired as the new Broncos’ head coach in May, after Jim Culhane was removed as the bench boss with one year remaining on his contract and will spend the final year as a fundraiser for intercollegiate athletics, the University has said.

>There’s A Draft In Here…

>The 2009 NHL Entry Draft has wrapped up from Montreal and four future, or present RedHawks had their names called.

The first to go, was 2010 commit Reilly Smith, a winger, drafted by the Dallas Stars in the third round (69 overall). Smith, who played last season for the St. Michael’s Buzzers in the OJHL, was originally ranked at number 158 on the NHL’s Central Scouting list. His selection at 69 is a jump of 89 spots. AT 6’0, 157 Smith has good size, but desperately needs to fill out a his frame. Dallas made it clear that the wing was an area of concern, selecting 4 wingers out of 5 picks.

Next to go, was sophomore defenseman Chris Wideman, selected by the Ottawa Senators in the fourth round (100 overall). Wideman, who quarterbacked the CCHA’s second best powerplay in 2009, will surely be on the Sens “watch list,” as they’re steadily rebuilding a solid D-corps. His puck moving abilities are a must have on every NHL roster. Look for Wideman to continue to improve in the following years.

No action for Miami in the fifth round, however another winger, Curtis McKenzie, set to join the ‘Hawks in the Fall, was also taken by the Dallas Stars, only in round 6 at 159 overall. He led the Penticton Vees of the BCHL in scoring this season, with 33 goals and 41 assists. McKenzie is considered to be a two-way power forward who is strong in front of the net and in the corners, but can also score goals and has great size for that, at 6’2, 192.

Last to be taken was sophomore goaltender Connor Knapp, by the Buffalo Sabres in round 6, 164 overall, just five spots down from McKenzie. Knapp was ranked number 19 on the list of 31 North American goalies that are draft eligible. In his freshman campaign, Knapp posted a 13-5-3 record and a 2.09 goals against average and will fit nicely in a Buffalo organization with a dwindling supply of ‘tenders in the system. Knapp, along with Wideman, will be attending the USA World Junior Evaluation Camp in August.

>Mantha to Join Miami In the Fall

>Add another name to the list of soon to be RedHawks- Devin Mantha, from the Orangeville Crushers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. In 49 regular season games this season, he collected 21 goals and 31 assists, along with 38 penalty minutes. The Ann Arbor native stands 6’1 and weighs in at 190 pounds; good size for a forward.

Mantha will join the RedHawks this fall.

>Steve Mason to Play for Miami

>Rest easy Blue Jacket fans, it won’t be your Steve Mason won’t be playing for the RedHawks (not that he would be allowed/want to anyway.) Nanaimo Clippers forward Steve Mason has committed to Miami and will be joining the team this fall, in 2009.

Mason, 21, is from The Netherlands, making him the first Netherlander in the program’s history; the Tilburg native is 5’11, 172. He had 22 goals and 22 assists in 63 games with the Clippers of the BCHL this season, including 9 on the power play.

>Gacek Commits to Miami

>I officially feel old…and I’m only 22. 15 year old Alex Gacek has given a verbal commitment to play his college hockey here at Miami. The Dracut, Massachussettes native spent last season with the Boston Little Bruins midget team and tallied 8 goals and 8 assists in 27 games. Gacek, a 5’8, 170 pound forward, is slated to arrive in Oxford in 2011. He’ll turn 16 on April 6.

Little Bruins Team Page

More to come…

>Kennedy Commits to Miami

>And the pipeline through Indianapolis continues, as Ice defenseman Garrett Kennedy has committed to play his college hockey at Miami. Nice work, Blash. A little about Kennedy, from the article:

The Brighton, MI native has been a nice addition to the Ice line-up this season. The hard-nosed defenseman has recorded six points (G, 5A), 62 penalty minutes, and a team leading (+13) plus/minus.

Seems like a perfect fit! Kennedy is the fourth Indiana Ice player to commit to Miami this season. In all probability, he’ll be arriving in Oxford in 2010.

>Jimmy Mullin Commits to Miami

>News on the recruiting front tonight, as Shattuck St. Mary’s forward Jimmy Mullin has reportedly committed to play his college hockey at Miami. Mullin plays on the school’s under 16 team and is first in scoring, with 41 goals and 26 assists, in 39 games.

Mullin is a 5’10 soon to be 17 year old from Deptford, New Jersey. One would assume his commitment would be for the 2010-2011 season, but no official word has been given.

Stay tuned.

>The Pipeline Continues…

>The following post is brought to you by Jeff Blashill and the Indiana Ice. For all of your recruiting needs, visit Jeff and the friendly folks over on E. 38th Street, in Indianapolis.

Yes, Miami has landed another commitment from Indiana of the USHL; his name…Shane Berschbach. A native of Clawson, Michigan, Berschbach stands 5’8 and weighs in at 135 pounds (Nathan Gerbe would be proud).

This makes the third player from Indiana to commit to Miami. Max Cook and Joe Hartman will be heading to Oxford in 2009.

No word on when Shane will be joining the RedHawks.