Category Archives: Exclusive Interviews

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

Nick Petraglia is entering his sixth season as an assistant coach at Miami, but he has been around the program since he was 18.

PetragliaHe was a goalie for the RedHawks in 2000-01 and 2001-02 under current head coach Enrico Blasi, and was a volunteer assistant coach for three seasons before becoming the director of hockey operations at Miami.

Two of his main current responsibilities for the RedHawks are working with the goalies and serving as a recruiting co-coordinator.

Because he watches the incoming players extensively before they come to Oxford, the Blog of Brotherhood talked to him about how the newest crops of RedHawks and the state of the roster, as well as other off-season topics.

BoB: So what is the coaching staff doing at this point to prepare for this fall?

PETRAGLIA: Preparation started probably a couple of weeks after the Frozen Four last year. Really, just recapping last season, seeing what the makeup of our team was going to look like, establishing a new identity, leadership, addressing areas that we needed to improve. That all occurred at the end of last season, and then when the guys were around for summer session, they put in a lot of hard work, just getting off on the right foot in terms of training and their summer preparation. Right now, we’re just kind of recapping those topics that we covered in the spring, and then the next two weeks we’ll spend a lot of time meeting and planning our preseason in terms of what our practice is going to look like, what our schedule is going to look like, making sure we’re making the most of our time because we have to be pretty efficient with the NCAA restrictions that are in place in the preseason in terms of hours. So really at this point it’s just putting the plan in place and making sure we’re ready to go and we’re prepared to we can execute that plan when the guys are here.

BoB: Miami lost a lot of really good forwards from last season (Austin Czarnik, Blake Coleman, Riley Barber, Cody Murphy, Alex Wideman). Is the biggest concern heading into 2015-16 this team’s ability to put the puck in the net?

PETRAGLIA: I wouldn’t call it a concern, just part of our job in recruiting is to know what we’re losing and to replace it. So while obviously a few players that have those abilities have left, we feel like we’ve replaced it with guys who can fill those roles. Obviously with freshmen, there’s going to be a natural learning curve, but we’re really excited about what we have coming in with some of the new guys to carry to load. And then on top of that, as guys get older and new opportunities are available, you always look for some returning players to step up and take up their role and fill some of that void left by graduating seniors or in this case even Riley Barber, who left a year early. I think we have a lot of firepower, we have good balance – skill and speed – and hopefully that will translate to production. I wouldn’t say we’re concerned but it’s definitely something we’re going to have to find the right chemistry and work at, make sure we’re living up to the standards that we’ve set.

BoB: Is off-season at Miami easier for you and the other hockey coaches because you’ve been together so long? Coach Enrico Blasi is entering his 17th season, Coach Brekke has been there for almost a decade and you’ve been with the program since you were a teenager and are in your sixth season in your current role as an assistant.

PETRAGLIA: I think as a the years go on we become more and more cohesive as a staff, and I would also say that as a program, that includes our relationships between the staff and the players as well. Just having everybody on the same page, knowing what our standards are and buying in and working toward the same goal. So our summer discussions as a staff and the planning that’s in place: I think there’s a lot of chemistry in that area. We definitely have discussions where we’re trying to figure things out and think of new ways to do things, and we’re always trying to get better, but I would say that the quality of our relationships and where we’re all at personally really helps with that because we really are one big family, and it’s fun to show up every day and work with people that you care about and that you love and that you can really get along with and not only have a great relationship but a productive one where you can talk things out even when things are tough, and talk things out and come to an agreement as one.

BoB: In looking at your roster, last year at this time you had 28 players. Right now there are 25 listed, which is the smallest roster I can remember this team having. A couple of guys aren’t coming back that you probably expected to see here this fall, but how do you feel about having list 25 players on the roster right now?

PETRAGLIA: We feel OK with it. We were a little surprised about Jimmy Mullin moving on. Obviously he graduated, but (he) has an opportunity at Minnesota State…so that would’ve been 26. But 25, we feel good about. We feel really good about our senior class. Outstanding group of people that have been through a bunch of good times but some tough times as well, so they’ve seen both sides of it, and the leadership starting with Sean Kuraly, who’s going to be a tremendous captain for every reason you can list. Not only that but his support group is really, really good. The character that’s in that senior class is really going to lead the way for our team and sets the bar high for us. So we really couldn’t be more excited about that senior class taking charge of this team.

BoB: Two defensemen that were on the roster last year at this time, Matt Joyaux and Trevor Hamilton,  decided mid-season to pursue opportunities with other teams. Nothing against them, they did what they had to do to further their hockey careers, but a player like Garrett Kennedy a few years ago was willing to not dress for two years before getting his shot on the ice and ended up being a solid contributor his final two seasons. With college hockey becoming more competitive and more of a business than ever, do you envision this current scenario is going to become more of a reality or do you feel last season was an aberration?

PETRAGLIA: I really hope that’s not the reality – that’s a really tough question to answer because everything is a case-by-case basis. In those situations, it was a tough situation for both players, they found themselves out of the lineup more than they would like and felt that they would have better opportunities to play more elsewhere, and that was the reason for leaving. I think they both really did love Miami and enjoyed the overall experience, but it came down to playing opportunity. It’s disappointing to see that happen because there are other examples where players find themselves in that situation and they work hard and they work themselves out of it and find themselves in the lineup every single game, and that’s what you would like to see because unfortunately someone’s got to sit out each night, not everybody can play. So I hope that’s not the reality, but it is the nature of the business when you’re trying to put yourself in a position to succeed and play as much as possible. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out for whatever reason and people move on. That was tough, in the middle of the season, for that to happen, but both kids handled it well, left on good terms in terms of not having any animosity, it was handled rather professionally, and we all got through it.

BoB: Overall, looking at the dynamic of the team, you lost a 5-feet-6 and a 5-feet-7 guy and are only bringing in one smaller player. The lone incoming defenseman is 6-feet-3. So it looks like you’re going to have a little more size this season.

PETRAGLIA: I know going back a year ago, after 2013-14, we felt like we needed to get bigger. We added Lemirande, Dornbrook, Sullivan. We felt like we needed that size and strength. And at this point we feel like we’ve got a pretty balanced lineup where I don’t think size is an issue. Naturally, we’re going to have some smaller players that bring certain skill sets to the table. The size of this year’s class is probably average to normal.

BoB: The incoming player who has commanded the most hype is forward Jack Roslovic. He was picked in the first round, 25th overall by the Winnipeg Jets this summer. In 25 games for the U.S. National Development Team, he had 11 goals and 27 assists, plus he went 6-5-11 in seven games for the U.S. Under-18 Team in its gold medal effort. He played in an exhibition at Cady Arena last season, and BoB saw him again in Ann Arbor last winter and his talent level looks off the charts. Especially with all of the key forward losses, the RedHawks are going to need someone who can jump in and contribute right away. Can you talk about him and what he brings to Miami?

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PETRAGLIA: Jack is a special player. Obviously there’s going to be a lot of expectation and a lot of pressure just because of where he was drafted, where he’s coming from. He’s very highly touted. But the one thing I will say about Jack is he’s very, very grounded. For all that’s been through and what he experienced this summer, he’s got a really good head on his shoulders. He can do everything. He’s got decent size, he’s strong on his skates, his playmaking and offensive instincts are incredible. Very, very good hockey sense. He can do it all, and he’s one of those guys that we’re going to expect to be ready right away. Obviously there will be a little bit of a transition, but he’s already played in some college games (in exhibitions), he’s played in big-time environments, and we’re going to lean on him pretty heavily to produce right away, and we don’t see him having any big issues other than normal growing pains.

Check back on Wednesday for Part II and the conclusion of our conversation, as Petraglia dissects the rest of the incoming recruits and talks about the players he expects to take major steps forward this fall.

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

 

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>Exclusive: My Interview with Ryan Jones

>Ryan Jones needs no introduction. Those in the Miami community know who he is, what he’s done, and where his career is heading. I recently had the chance to find out a little more about his career in professional hockey, his thoughts on the Frozen four, and his reflection on Miami, straight from the man himself. Enjoy.

AM: What went through your mind when you found out you were being traded to Nashville? Had Minnesota given you any indication of where you’d be playing this season and what was your reception like within the Predators organization when you arrived?

RJ: “The first thing that went through my mind initially was shock. I really couldn’t believe that I was being traded before my first full professional year. Minnesota had a meeting with me just after I had surgery to repair my shoulder (combination of 4 years of college and a freak collision with the boards in my first pro game) and told me that they were looking for me to compete for a position on the big squad. They had some holes that weren’t filed and were looking to go with a more youthful line up, so things looked good. The Predators were great when I got here. I actually came down two months early to rehab my shoulder and live with Jason Arnott. His brother is my agent so that is how the connection was made. It was good to meet the guys prior to the season and get a chance to establish my work ethic within the organization.”

AM: Talk a little about how life in professional hockey differs from life as a collegiate hockey player. In addition, how does “game day” differ?

RJ: “Well, there is a lot more down time. Just think of when you were sitting in class or doing homework and saying, “man I could do so much if I wasn’t in class or doing work.” That is what it is like. It is actually a fairly boring lifestyle if you ask me. Travel is second to none. We have a private jet and basically all we do is show up at the private runway and step on the plane. Meals are provided on the plane so it is extremely nice. My game days have actually settled down from college. I spent a lot of the game day at Miami getting myself pumped up because there was so much practice time between games. Here I try to calm myself down because it is the NHL and I am so excited every game.”

AM: Living in Ohio and being an admitted Blue Jackets fan, I don’t get to see many Predator games on TV. I know that a large part of your game is camping in front of the net and driving to it to try and create offense. Has the Predators system/your role on a line/Coach (Barry) Trotz allowed you to focus on doing this? Would you consider your game in the NHL to be similar to the game you played as a RedHawk?

RJ: “My game is exactly how it was at Miami, minus the confidence. As a rookie you spend so much time worrying about if you’re going to be in the line up and dwelling on mistakes and what not. My confidence has been a roller coaster so far this year and I think my game has taken a hit because of it. Much like my freshman year at Miami, I haven’t been as productive as I would have liked to be, but I continue to work hard and try to provide energy. The goals and points will come next year when I have had the experience, the game starts to slow down, and I start to be confident in my game again.”

AM: We all know the story of why you chose to grow your hair long…because of Korinne Croghan and Locks of Love. In her passing, how have you been affected and how did Korinne’s fight inspire you, on a personal level?

RJ: “Well, the whole thing was a little more publicized than I would have liked it to be. I worry that I took a little bit of attention away from who the attention should have been on. People made a big deal about me growing my hair and it took off because I was an athlete. I would have liked the stories to be more about her and how amazing of a person she was; a celebration of her life so to say. The one regret that I have is not showing the world more of how amazing of a girl she was. On a personal level, I still stay in contact with her family and sent some equipment, (jerseys and what not) to her brother and her foundation. I’ll always remember her and how she enjoyed everyday of her life despite her struggles. I always thought about her when I was in the AHL, feeling sorry for the situation I was in. She taught me to enjoy everyday which is what I did and it ultimately led to my being re-called.”

AM: With it being tournament time, here’s a two-part question: Watching the Boston College game last year, I remember you were shown leaving the bench after the Eagles had scored the game winner in overtime. What was that moment like for you, knowing your Miami career had come to an end?

RJ: “I have said before and still say that that moment was one of the saddest days of my life. Miami was a huge part of who I was. I had life-long friends there, people I loved and whom I enjoyed working so hard for. Everything about Miami was amazing in my eyes; the community, classes, partying. It just couldn’t get better to me. I expected, going into that tournament, to be playing two weeks later, so I never braced myself for what might happen. At that moment, reality hit me that I would never wear the Miami jersey again, which is why I didn’t want to take it off.”

AM: Second part: you said after that game, in the press conference, that you’d be the first alum to call once the program made the Frozen Four. I know that after several attempts, you did in fact manage to reach Coach Blasi. Explain the feeling you had when you found out that Miami beat Minnesota-Duluth to advance.

RJ: “I was able to watch the games this past weekend at my place due to not traveling with the team because of my injury (which I am quickly healing from. SORRY Jackets fans, I’ll be back to punish them!). What I saw was exactly what Miami hockey is all about: hard work, sacrifice, dedication and passion. I was proud beyond words to be an alumni of the team that was playing. When they won those two games, all I could think about was a promise that I had made to my school to be the first person to call and I was not going to break it. I was able to get ahold of Rico after the meeting and it was a pretty emotional conversation, I’ll leave it at that. I have talked to most of the guys since and I look forward to another excited phone call in two weeks.”

AM: To me, you are a large part of what “The Brotherhood” is about and in my opinion, a perfect example of what a captain should be. What do you personally feel that you’ve done to better the Miami hockey program? I could list about 1,000 things and am sure others could too, but what does Ryan Jones feel that he’s done?

RJ: “My goal in life is the leave every place I stop a better place than when I arrive. I am not sure in which way I have made Miami better. It was an amazing place when I got there. However, many people have told me how much I have impacted the program and that is one of the greatest compliments I will ever receive.”

AM: Put your rookie season, thus far, into perspective. Explain how it has played out vs. your initial expectations. Were you at all…”starstruck,” more or less, to playing with/against guys that you maybe had watched throughout your years in college and before?

RJ: “I told myself I was going to do everything in my power to play in the NHL this year and I accomplished it. I wish I could have played the year a little more consistently. There were games I felt like I was one of the best players on the ice and others where I questioned if I could keep up. If I can eliminate the latter, I will be a darn good NHL player. Another thing I wish, is that I could eliminate the injury I am currently dealing with. It is kind of a pain and is really testing my mental strength off the ice. I was star struck at first, but I can recall winning a face-off against Mike Modano and at that point I realized that all these guys I looked up to were just players and I could compete.”

AM: One of the highlights of this rookie season was your first NHL goal, which you scored against Marty Turco, another CCHA guy, from Michigan. Explain that moment.

RJ: “My first goal is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. It is a moment when everything kind of came together and a childhood dream came true, (actually Turco is so old that when I was 6 I was probably imagining scoring on him, joking). That goal was a big thank you to so many people that have had such a huge impact on my career. The main people being my parents, especially my father who sacrificed so much for me to play hockey at the level I did. My dad is the greatest leader the world will ever see and only a few people will see it. That however, is a long story. Not far behind my family is my second family, the people at Miami. Coach Blasi, Bergeron, Blashill, and Petraglia. Athletic Director Brad Bates, Steve Cady, Josh Fenton, the man himself Mr. Goggin, who without him, Miami hockey would not be possible. I could list 100 people at Miami that I scored that goal for, including many fans. It was just nice to be able to give people something to cheer about and be happy for.”

AM: I’m very curious to know what type of rookie hazing you’ve been subjected to?

RJ: “Nothing other than paying for the rookie meal, which was more than I want to share. I’ll just say it was somewhere between five hundred and five thousand. You can guess which end it was closer to.”

AM: Inquiring minds were wondering: Is there any significance as to why you wear the number “10” in Milwaukee (which you also wore in Houston) and “28” in Nashville? I know Steve Sullivan has 26 occupied, for now.

RJ: “I was always a be “19” fan, but I think my calling is 26/27. “26,” because of the obvious, I played the best hockey of my life in that number and “27” because my cousin, John Tonelli, wore that number and I think it would be cool to have it in the family. Both of those numbers were taken, so I just stayed with the number they gave me at camp. You haven’t seen the last of the Jones 26 jersey though, I promise you that.”

AM: Is there anyone you keep in contact with at Miami, or guys you’ve played with on past teams? Do you feel you’ll always follow the program in years to come and as I’m sure many will wonder, do you plan on going back to Oxford at all?

RJ: “I keep in contact with a bunch of the guys that I played with. Mitch Ganzak and I were roomates throughout our time at Miami, so we still have lots to talk about, but I have made so many good friends that I will stay in touch with them all. Brian Kaufman is someone I live with in the summers, so I have to congratulate him publicly for being the oldest player in Miami history. Brian and I train together and we are life long friends. I plan to come to Miami in the summers for the Alumni events which sound exciting beyond belief. I will always follow Miami hockey because of how much the program meant/means to me.”

AM: Closing thoughts? What advice would you give anyone considering making a commitment to play college hockey at Miami?

RJ: “If you’re looking for a place where hard-work, dedication, sacrifice and comradery are the core of everyday living, then Miami is your place. If you want individualism and spot light, try Michigan (laughs). Miami is a place where dreams and life long friends are made. It is the best four years anyone can ever wish to experience.”

>A Diamond Is Forever…

>“Diamond” Dave Allen began his journey into the world of broadcasting in 1978 at age 12, by taking a tape recorder to Cincinnati Reds games and calling the action. He hasn’t looked back since. Born and raised in Butler County, Allen returned to his roots in 2002, replacing longtime radio voice John Walton. But it was long before that when he first got his “official” start in the business. Well traveled in the broadcasting industry, Allen’s first on air play-by-play was at WTRE-AM in Greensburg, IN, however, his first on-air sports announcing job was as a color commentator for a pro boxing match in St. Paul, IN. He has done on-site reporting for USA Radio Network, WFAN in New York, KCFX in Kansas City and KTAR in Phoenix. He also worked for the NFL office on their Sportsphone service (in the days before the Internet explosion), and was part of the start-up of SportsLine USA, now known as CBS SportsLine.

And that was just the non-hockey experience.

He called selected games for the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, when they began in 1997, which landed him his first play-by-play position in Huntington, WV with the Blizzard in 1998. He called a couple of playoff games for the Dayton Bombers filling in for Greg Waddell in 2000. Then, it was on to Greensboro, NC for the 2000-01 season as Voice of the Generals (ECHL).

However, there was one thing more important to Allen…and that was coming home…to Southwest Ohio. As Miami Hockey was on the air via WHSS-FM at the time, Allen says that the situation…was a perfect fit.
The radio signal was good and I’d be back in broadcasting close to my home, and I love announcing hockey. Being able to again announce hockey games close to home and to be a part of the sport was the real attraction.”

“Love and Honor to Miami,” goes the fight song. But it’s much more than just a lyric to Allen.
“Getting on board with Miami hockey was the absolute best thing to happen to me in my professional life and my joy of being here grows every day,” he said. “I feel completely blessed to be at Miami. To be a part of the magic and excitement that is game night at Steve Cady Arena is something that I don’t believe even the NHL could top.”

Finally, when asked if there was anything he had yet to do in hockey, but would eventually like to do, Allen provided an answer that many of the Miami faithful would love to hear.
“I’d love to say the words…”and the Miami RedHawks are the NCAA hockey champions”!

…wouldn’t we all?

Dave Allen’s Top 3 Miami Hockey Moments:

3. March 13, 2004: Todd Grant’s goal at 12:05 of overtime against Lake Superior State sends Miami back to “The Joe;” the team’s first appearance since the 1996-1997 season. Read.

2. March 11, 2006: Another OT thriller. Alec Martinez scores against Western Michigan at 17:00 of the extra period to send Miami to the semifinals of the CCHA Championship at “The Joe.” Martinez’ goal was the final tally at Goggin Ice Arena. Read.

1. January 24, 2006: 2 goals in the final :22 by Mitch Ganzak and Marty Guerin lift the RedHawks past the Western Michigan Broncos 4-3. Read or watch and listen to Allen’s call.

>One On One With Coach Blasi

>As it’s hard to find news during the off-season months, I recently had the chance to conduct an e-mail interview with Coach Blasi. Everything from the OOC schedule to the power-play is addressed. Hope you enjoy it! Feel free to send any feedback.

With the official beginning of the 2008-2009 season still more than a month away, light work for the RedHawk icers has already begun. For those curious as to how the off-season schedule works, Rico says that, with the exception of a month or so, the season…never really ends.

“The players all stay for the first summer term and workout as a team. This lasts from May through the end of June. Then, they have about a month and a half on their own; some stay, some go home, and some go to NHL developmental camps. We start individual practice sessions when the guys get back to campus to start school. Our official first day of practice is October 4. Last year, we chose to play an exhibition game on that day and we are doing the same this year. For the coaching staff, the off-season schedule consists of planning, recruiting, and camps.”

Planning
Planning is a topic of which the RedHawk coaching staff has undoubtedly become very familiar with since the season-ending loss to Boston College in the quarter-finals of the 2008 Frozen Four tournament. As the team was already prepared to lose seven seniors due to graduation, juniors Alec Martinez and Jeff Zatkoff both decided to forgo their final year of eligibility and sign with the Los Angeles Kings, the rights holder to both players. With the Martinez’ departure, the RedHawks lost four defensemen, three of which were a consistent presence on the blueline, leaving only seniors Kevin Roeder and Ray Eichenlaub, as well as sophomore Vincent LoVerde as the top 3 defensemen. While defensive pairings obviously haven’t been decided upon yet, Blasi says the returning RedHawk blueliners will have a lot on their shoulders and certainly expects Michael Findorff to be in the mix.

“No question, we’ll look to our returning guys (Roeder, LoVerde, Eichenlaub, and Findorff) for leadership and consistency,” said Blasi. “At the same time, we are extremely excited about our freshmen; a very talented group of Will Weber, Matt Tomassoni, Chris Wideman, and Cameron Schilling.”

Leadership
Another area where the RedHawks were hit hard in…more specifically, senior leadership. Gone are captains Ryan Jones and Nathan Davis and while it’s a very tough task to replace a presence like Jones both in the dressing room and on the ice, Blasi, once again, looks to the senior leaders to do just that-lead…and choosing a captain to replace Jones, Blasi says, wasn’t an easy decision.

“Brian Kaufman will be our captain and our only alternate will be Kevin Roeder. It’s a tough decision when you have so many great guys in the locker room.”

A New Face Behind the Bench
No, the new face behind the bench this season isn’t Jeff Blashill with a makeover. It’s new RedHawk assistant coach Brent Brekke. Brekke, who had spent the last several seasons with Cornell, replaces Blashill, who left Miami earlier in the summer to become the head coach/general manager of the USHL’s Indiana Ice. With Blashill now in the USHL, it could be surmised that more Ice alums could be wearing red and white during their college years. Regardless of where the recruits come from, Rico feels very good about his coaching staff- past and present.

“Blash did a great job for us and we wish him the best of luck,” Blasi said. “With Coach Brekke, I have used the saying “we just keep on running.” He is a well respected person and coach around the country and an excellent recruiter. We feel very fortunate to have him on the staff.”

Miami vs. North Dakota…regular season? Yes.
We’ve all either heard the comments, or made the comments about the out of conference schedule as of late. Once again this season, Miami will face RPI, and Vermont in weekend series’ and will see Clarkson in the Ohio Hockey Classic. Blasi has his take on the OOC schedule and to those who want to play bigger and better schools? Relax. It’s coming.

“Some of these teams will not travel to play and it’s very difficult to schedule with all the different leagues and very few open dates,” Blasi said. “With that said, Vermont is a top-20 program and Clarkson is a top-10 program. RPI is an extremely tough opponent and well coached. Then you add the cluster we are in with Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State and we may have one of the toughest schedules in the country. For our fans who say we should be playing the bigger schools, it’s coming. Have a little faith. We have North Dakota, University of New Hampshire, and St. Cloud State on the schedule in the next few years.”

Other Notes of Interest
-Rico feels very good about the power play over the past 5 years. He feels that it’s more important to score timely goals, while on the PP and for the most part they have done that.
-Expect a “competition” if you will, for the number one goaltender job. Rico also says that we will probably see both Reichard and Knapp early on in the season, much like he did with Effinger and Zatkoff in the past.

>Needed: Your Questions!

>I’m trying to line up an interview with Coach Blasi, for the blog here. If we can set something up, I’d love to hear whats on your mind for the upcoming season! Click on the envelope to the right to e-mail me, or post them in the comments section so I can add them to the list. I’ll keep you updated as to whether or not I’ll be able to speak with him.

8/5/2008, 1:23AM Update: Still nothing back from coach. I’ll keep trying. In the meantime, let me know what’s on your mind! Only one question so far. Keep ’em comin’!

8/11/2008, 3:40PM Update: Just heard back from Rico, and sent him the questions. Stay tuned for the interview in the coming days.