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OXFORD, Ohio – Ryan Larkin’s 2018-19 debut was worth the one-day wait.
The junior stopped all 11 shots he faced in a 4-0 win over Alabama-Huntsville at Cady Arena on Sunday, earning his third career shutout.
Jordan Uhelski, expected to back up Larkin, started and won on Saturday while Larkin did not dress.
The win completes a series sweep for the RedHawks (2-0), who have won their first two games for the first time since 2013-14.
RECAP: The game was scoreless through the first period, but Brian Hawkinson teed up River Rymsha with a pass across the blue line, and Rymsha buried it just inside the post 5:39 into the second frame.
Less than three minutes later, a blast by Alec Mahalak tricked off the glove of goalie Mark Sinclair, and Karch Bachman was there to slam home the rebound.
Early in the third period, Josh Melnick whipped a wrister from the top of the faceoff circle that beat Sinclair. With 6:14 left in regulation, Ryan Siroky was denied on his initial attempt at the side of the net but batted one into the air, off Sinclair’s back and into the net.
STATS: Rymsha and Hawkinson led Miami with two points apiece. Rymsha scored once and set up another and Hawkinson earned a pair of helpers.
Larkin’s last shutout was Oct. 27, 2017 vs. Connecticut. All of his perfect sheets have been in October and at home.
Miami was 37-15 on faceoffs for a .714 win percentage. Casey Gilling was 14-3 on draws and Melnick 13-3 in the circle.
How about a strange one: Grant Hutton was the lone MU defenseman without a shot. The others combined for 15.
THOUGHTS: The first period was slow but once Rymsha’s shot went in, Miami dominated the balance of the game.
When it came to 50/50 pucks, the RedHawks won almost every physical battle and not only were faster but outhustled UAH as well.
By the third period the Chargers (0-2) were a beaten team. The final shot totals reflect that: 45 Miami, 11 UAH.
— Let’s give one of the stars of the game to the facility. This was a 3 p.m. game when the temperature is about its highest, and it was 90 degrees out for opening faceoff.
The ice certainly wasn’t January-Edmonton-in-the-1990s-caliber but it held in the near-record heat.
— Alabama-Huntsville captain Kurt Gosselin, who was booted for his hit on Carter Johnson in the opener, was absent from Sunday’s lineup. It’s unclear if the team or an outside entity made that call.
He should miss multiple games for that hit. It’s everything hockey is trying to take out of its game for the long-term well being of its players.
— Not to bore about a non-sexy subject, but Miami’s faceoff success is an area in which it has struggled for several years.
Gilling has been key in this realm since Day 1 and isn’t afraid to voice concerns to officials when he thinks draws are unfair.
Melnick’s numbers are outstanding early, as are those of Monte Graham, who won a team-best 11 draws on Saturday.
— While the 2-0 start is exciting, Miami has been above .500 early each of the four recent seasons in which it has finished below that mark.
The RedHawks started 2013-14 at 6-2-1, were 3-1-1 to open 2015-16, 3-1-2 in their first six of 2016-17 and reached 4-3 last season before their descent.
Miami’s problem in recent unsuccessful campaigns has been earning wins in those cold-weather months.
FORWARDS: A. This was a solid effort by all. We saw some suspect passing on Saturday but this corps seemed to tighten that up in that game. Loved Siroky’s combination of persistence and athleticism on his goal. Thought Gruden was much better in this game than in the opener. Thought Bachman was as much as force as in the opener. In the second period he stole the puck and nearly scored despite having a defender draped on his during a shorthanded chance. As mentioned, MU dominated on faceoffs.
DEFENSEMEN: A. This corps actually outshot the opposition, firing 15 shots while the entire UAH team managed just 11. None of those chances were Grade-A. Rymsha went 1-1-2 including the first goal and eventual game winner, Hutton and Mahalak picked up assists. Granted UAH lacks a lot of elite offensive talent but Miami’s D-corps shut the Chargers down in this game.
GOALTENDING: A. Hard to slight Larkin for not facing a difficult shot. He was perfect, albeit on 11 non-high-quality chances. This has to be a confidence boost for Larkin after last season when he posted an .886 save percentage.
LINEUP CHANGES: Two key ones: Larkin started in net after Jordan Uhelski earned the win in the opener, and Carter Johnson was out up front after getting cheap-shotted on Saturday.
Zach LaValle also sat among the forward corps, and Noah Jordan and Christian Mohs took the ice in their place.
Coach Enrico Blasi stuck with his starting six on D for Game 2, which is even more interesting because it was 20 hours between starts instead of the normal 23:30, and often a coach will go with a rested player in such a situation, but Andrew Sinard, Grant Frederic and Chaz Switzer all sat out for the second straight night.
UP NEXT: Miami will play in Pennsylvania for the first time since Robert Morris hosted the RedHawks six years ago at the Penguins’ home rink.
MU faces Providence at 4 p.m. on Friday, and if it wins will face the Notre Dame-Mercyhurst winner in the championship at 7:35 p.m. on Saturday but would play in the consolation vs. the loser of the other game at 4 p.m. Saturday. All games will be played at Erie Insurance Arena, home of the OHL Erie Otters.
In late 2012, MU took second in Pittsburgh, beating Ohio State before losing to the hometown host. Both scores were 1-0.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This weekend will provide a much better indication of where Miami is in early-to-mid October.
A strong showing could earn the RedHawks some much-needed respect into a four-game homestand.
At least against UAH, the forwards, defensemen and goalies were all superior. Much tougher test against this weekend’s foes.
OUT (6): Conor Lemirande (graduated), Kiefer Sherwood (turned pro), Carson Meyer (transferred), Austin Alger, Alex Alger, Willie Knierim.
IN (5): Jonathan Gruden, Noah Jordan, Monte Graham, Brian Hawkinson, Scott Corbett.
RETURNING (10): Srs. – Josh Melnick, Ryan Siroky, Zach Lavalle; Jrs. – Gordie Green, Karch Bachman, Carter Johnson; Sos. – Casey Gilling, Ben Lown, Phil Knies, Christian Mohs.
NOTES: Gordie Green hit his stride midway through his freshman year and has gotten better seemingly every game since, as he led the team in goals (15) and points (33) as a sophomore.
Newly-named captain Josh Melnick makes everyone around him better and finished with nine goals and a team best-tying 21 assists for 30 points in 2017-18.
Phil Knies was last season’s freshman goals leader with 11, including six in a four-game road trip in January, he finished with 20 points, and fellow college rookie Casey Gilling added 19 and was one of the team’s best in the faceoff circle.
Ben Lown (4-11-15) was the other significant contributing freshman up front.
Speedster Karch Bachman nearly tripled his rookie points output, posting 16 points including seven goals after earning six as a freshman. The Florida Panthers draft pick netted three goals the final four games.
Senior Ryan Siroky is the only other returning regular starter from last season. He dressed for 33 games and was of the team’s best hitters and played solid defense, contributing two goals and a pair of assists.
Zach Lavalle, Carter Johnson and Christian Mohs logged a combined 46 games, and Johnson locked down a lineup spot the second half of the season with his energetic play.
Not counting Johnson, that’s only seven every-night forwards back, meaning five other slots would be open each night. Even if all 10 veterans start that leaves two openings for newcomers.
“If you look at those guys, they took huge strides last year, especially toward the end,” Melnick said. Obviously those guys have to step into bigger roles now, and I think they’re ready for that. It’s easy for me to say they’ve been really good this preseason, but it’s 100 percent true. Also, the guys that are coming in are really exciting – you’ve got some really skilled and dynamic players all throughout the forward lineup.”
Of the freshmen, Jonathan Gruden is a near certainty to claim one of those lineup spots. Playing for the U.S. National Team the past two seasons, the Ottawa Senators’ fourth-round pick rolled up 34 points in 25 games vs. USHL competition last season as a 17-year-old while going plus-28.
Monte Graham has serious NHL pedigree, as he is the cousin of Wild center Charlie Coyle and former NHL forward Tony Amonte. A New Englander, the former Boston College commit boast plenty of juniors experience, as he has played two full USHL seasons.
Noah Jordan is 6-feet-5 and skated for North York in Ontario Juniors last season. He scored 18 goals in 2017-18, and the Toronto-area native led his team in playoff points.
Brian Hawkinson has three seasons of USHL experience and is known for his grit and leadership. He was the captain for Tri-City in 2017-18, where he notched 16 points.
Scott Corbett is another Carmel, Ind., product, the same hometown as former defensemen Cameron Schilling and Grant Hutton. He is known as more of a playmaker and has good size at 6-1 and 187.
“I think we’ve got like guys that are (solid), guys that need to take another step in terms of their production, and then we’ve got some guys that understand they’re playing a certain role, and they have to perform,” Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said. “I like the depth we have, it’s going to be a struggle each weekend to see who’s going to play, and that’s a good thing – that breeds competition in practice, and everybody has to elevate their game.”
Though Miami was below average offensively last season, the RedHawks finished ninth in Division I on the power play (23.2 percent).
Then again, MU’s defensive duo accounted for 13 of those 35 PPGs and managed just two markers in last season’s final 11 games on the man-advantage.
Depth was an issue among centers and wings, as only eight forwards were able to generate seven or more points last season.
“When we came here in the summer just to work on stuff, we actually started to get a lot better then,” Melnick said.
Since 2014-15, Miami has won just 36 games, its lowest three-season total since 1989-92.
As a result, the RedHawks parted ways with two assistants and 11 players this off-season and they hope the influx of new talent – both on the ice and the bench – will vault them to more victories.
With all of the moving parts within the program, game-action anticipation has never been greater. Fortunately for the RedHawks, opening night is Saturday vs. Alabama-Huntsville.
“I think you’re always excited to start a new season,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “But I think with the last five months the way they played out, just focusing on games and getting better as a team and moving forward, I think everyone’s excited, I’m excited, we’re ready to go.”
Peter Mannino was hired as associate head coach at the end of March, and Joel Beal was named assistant in June.
Mannino, a former NHL goalie and NCAA Tournament champ with Denver, was an assistant at in-conference rival Nebraska-Omaha last season after winning a Clark Cup as the assistant of the USHL’s Chicago Steel.
Beal was an assistant at Sacred Heart the past five seasons and an associate head coach since 2016, and on the ice he starred at Union in the early 2000s.
“Peter is very outgoing, energetic, very positive, kind of throws a lot of things at you and makes you think about 10, 15 things at once, and Bealer is very systematic, very cerebral, thinks about things, makes sure that we’re not missing anything,” Blasi said. “Both are very positive – Bealer’s a very positive guy – both are hardworking guys, trustworthy guys you can count on. That’s what you want in a staff and that’s what you want out there recruiting for your program. The dynamics of the three of us – we all bring something different to the table and yet…we mesh together. With both of them, my conversations were very similar in the fact that I felt like we could connect right away and build from there. And I think we see the game the same way, I think we see the type of team we want to be, where the game is going, the way we want to develop our players and inspire our players and the process in which to do it. Those are all things that will continue to grow as we go through the days, and the games, and the practices, but we get along really well.”
Senior co-captain Josh Melnick said the energy the duo has brought to the program has been contagious.
“They’re obviously two younger guys and they bring sort of a different perspective to the locker room,” Melnick said. “As a whole, they’ve settled in really well, and I think they’re getting a good feeling of what our program’s about and also helping re-establish the things that we want to work on to get the program back to where it was in the past.”
Miami’s roster, which was not completed until late July, features five new forwards, four on defense and two in net. Two of the 11 are graduate students completing their fourth years of hockey eligibility.
“I think we’ve brought in some guys that will know their role – they were recruited to it,” Blasi said. “I think they’re a little bit older, we’ve got some Clark Cup championship-caliber players who have been through it, understand how to win a championship, guys that have been captains on their teams, and we have one (Jonathan Gruden) that played on the U.S. Development Team, played in the Worlds, and played with (the forward) that’s probably going to be the first overall pick in this (2019’s) NHL draft (Jack Hughes) and played on the same line with him. These are all positive things, and then you add two postgrads to the new faces, and we’ve got guys that are real positive and a tight freshman group.”
Both Melnick and defenseman fellow co-captain Grant Hutton love what they’ve seen from the newest Hawks.
“I think it’s everything we’ve expected and more,” Hutton said. “A lot of these guys are a lot of key, role players that know they’re here for a reason. You see it a lot in college hockey where guys may be goal scorers or big points guys in juniors or whatever it may be, and they get to college and they’re kind of shell-shocked. Gruden is our only true freshman at 18 years old and a lot of older guys that are coming in are mature, and I think that’s the biggest thing. Usually you talk about college hockey being a place where players have the opportunity to mature and develop, but it’s a huge plus when you get players that come in and have some of that maturity, some of that development. We’re pretty lucky with the group we have coming in, and I think it adds more excitement.”
Said Melnick: “They all assimilated right into things quickly – they’re all great people off the ice, and I think a lot of the reason we have high energy is because those guys have a lot of energy. They came here ready to work, and they know what the program stands for and what it’s been like in the past, and they’re ready to help get it back to that point.”
During the summer before the new players arrived, the returning players reached out to the freshman class to welcome them to the program, Melnick said.
The off-season didn’t start well for Miami. Within days of the RedHawks’ final game, it was announced that assistant coaches Brent Brekke and Nick Petraglia would not return as well as four players.
Two other prominent forwards also left the team early in the off-season, with one turning pro and the other transferring.
That’s on top of Miami not qualifying for the NCAA Tournament or even making it out of the NCHC quarterfinal round for the third straight season after qualifying for 10 of the previous 12 national championships.
“This is something that, I don’t look at this as a job, this is my life,” Blasi said. “When your life isn’t going the way you think it should go in terms of guys not playing up to their capabilities or even some of the things I might’ve done in the last couple of years that were wrong decisions. You assess, you evaluate, you try to be better – we all have opportunities to be better every day, we’re no different and I’m no different – and if I told you I wasn’t frustrated or disappointed in certain occasions, I’d be lying to you. But I can also tell you that I’m very proud of some of the things that have happened in the past couple of years. I believe in my heart that these are necessary steps that need to happen to move forward and become better. When we built the program, we went through some tough times, but nobody talks about those because nobody remembers those, everybody just remembers the wins and the Frozen Fours and the championships. I can tell you there were times where we had the same frustrations, the same disappointments, but they were necessary disappointments and necessary things that we needed to get through to get to the next level, and that’s what we’re going to do right now.”
Some positive things happened this off-season well. Multiple prior Omaha recruits switched to Miami following Mannino’s hiring, including defenseman Derek Daschke.
“Obviously at first it was a little difficult with having to (deal with) some difficult situations, to be honest with you,” Blasi said. “Once we started to kind of shape our team around the guys we have coming back, finishing off the recruiting and finishing off the staff, and getting together as a staff and kind of formulating our plan and getting to know each other on a different level, and then obviously have our team come back and work with them and kind of creating their identity. It’s been a lot of fun. ‘Reenergize’ is a work that we’ve been using a lot lately.”
And both Melnick and Hutton, both seniors and destined for lucrative professional careers, announced they were returning this fall.
“I give Hudson, Melly a lot of credit, them and the senior class – Lavs (Zach Lavalle) and (Ryan) Siroky – that helped shaped the spring and the summer to make sure when these new guys came in, that our program was in a good place and we were going to hit the ground running.”
Miami played some quality hockey down the stretch last season, and Blasi said his team will seize that momentum and carry it into this campaign.
“Those are some of the things we were really proud of,” Blasi said. “To stick with it and to keep fighting, that’s a character trait that you can’t teach. And that’s something that’s in our locker room, that’s something that’s in our culture. I was very, very proud of the team and the way they played. Now, do we want to win at the end? Of course. Everybody does. But at the same time, you have to take a step back and assess the situation, and I believe that how we played was really important for the guys coming back in the spring and the summer and for our recruits, to say hey, we’re not that far off. We just need to maybe work a little harder, improve one or two percent. If everybody can do that, then we have something. When you’re in the moment, it doesn’t seem like it, and I know it probably doesn’t seem like it to the general fan – and we have great fans and great supporters, some of which have expressed their support and some of them haven’t, and that’s OK too – but when you take a step back and you see all the developments that have happened over the past couple of years, I think you’ll look back and say, hey, maybe if we didn’t go through that we don’t get to that next level.”
He pointed out that Miami was ranked as high as No. 14 in the PairWise after its big January home win over powerhouse Denver.
“It just shows that we have a group that isn’t rolling over, we’re not going to quit,” Hutton said. “We’re here because we want to be here, we’re here because we love each other, we love Miami, and we want to be the best possible hockey team that we can be every single night and ultimately reach our goal of bringing a championship back to Oxford.”
Blasi said that he, as well as both assistants, have been actively involved in recruiting this off-season and has hit the road with one or both on several occasions as Miami tries to fortify its roster for the coming years.
“I think the culture of the program is still very strong in terms of what we believe in and the way we do our business from day to day,” Blasi said. “We may tweak some things here and there but I think The Brotherhood and the family and the relationships and the process is still something that we still focus on, it’s still all about developing these young men to play at the next level or develop them to be better people on a day-to-day perspective. But at the end of the day, recruiting is your bloodline – that’s never going to change – and so recruiting is very important, and our team is very important. We have to make sure we’re focused on both equally and we’re doing what we need to do to help these men that we have get to the next level and win games and play at a high level, maybe reach levels that they thought they couldn’t reach. That’s part of what we do as coaches is inspire them and push them in a good way to make them play better than even they think they can.”
Though the season doesn’t start until Saturday, Melnick he noticed a marked difference in the locker room already.
“A lot of the times when people ask what’s most exciting about this year and what’s different, I think it’s the energy, and it’s just coming from everyone,” Melnick said. “It’s honestly kind of crazy to be around, because everybody’s so positive and confident and we just can’t wait to get out there.”
Check back for a positional breakdown of the RedHawks.
In 2016-17, Western Michigan finally reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the NCHC era.
Last season the Broncos regressed to four games under .500, posting their second-lowest winning percentage under coach Andy Murray.
But WMU could surprise, as the team returns its top eight points-producers and a talented eight-man freshman class that includes the Broncos’ second-highest NHL draft pick ever.
NCAA titles: 0.
COACH: Andy Murray (9th season, 118-116-34, .504).
2017-18 RECORDS: 15-19-2 (10-13-1 NCHC, 7th place).
POSTSEASON: Swept at Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.
RINK (capacity): Lawson Arena (3,667).
MIAMI VS. WESTERN MICHIGAN LAST SEASON: 2-2.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 68-63-11.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Jan. 11-12 – at Western Michigan; March 8-9 – at Miami.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Dawson DiPietro, F Wade Allison, F Hugh McGing, D Cam Lee, D Corey Schueneman, G Ben Blacker.
KEY NEW FACES: D Matthias Samuelsson, F Paul Cotter, D Jared Kucharek.
KEY LOSSES: D Paul Stoykewych, D Neal Goff.
NOTES: All three of Western Michigan’s 30-point skaters were sophomores last season, and with its top eight points leaders back again this fall, the Broncos’ offense looks formidable.
Dawson DiPietro dressed just once his freshman year but led WMU in assists (22) and points (35) in 2017-18. Wade Allison led the team in goals with 15 and notched 30 points.
Hugh McGing racked up 21 helpers and 30 points overall.
Colt Conrad was another key contributor up front, finishing 9-18-27, and Austin Rueschhoff notched 10 goals as a freshman.
Paul Cotter enters his freshman season after being selected by Las Vegas in the fourth round of this summer’s NHL draft. He was named to the USHL’s all-rookie team in 2017-18 following a 39-point campaign.
Three of the Broncos’ returning defenseman tallied at least 15 points last season, led by Corey Scheuneman’s 26. He scored five times – all on the power play.
Cam Lee picked up six goals and 18 assists, and Luke Bafia racked up 15 assists in addition to his lone goal, which was a game winner.
Mathias Samuelsson, son of former Pittsburgh Penguin Kjell Samuelsson, is expected to make an immediate impact on the blue line. He was drafted by Buffalo with the opening pick of the second round this June, the second earliest any Bronco has ever been selected.
He has played 105 games for the U.S. National Team.
Another newcomer for Western Michigan is Mike Joyaux, the youngest of the three Joyaux brothers. Both Chris and Matt played for Miami.
Following a stellar freshman season, goalie Blacker struggled in 2017-18, going 12-13-2 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .893 save percentage. Neither backup impressed in limited action.
Like many NCHC teams, Western Michigan scored plenty but also gave up its share of markers. The Broncos were No. 11 in the NCAA in goals per game but fourth last in average goals allowed.
NOTE: BoB previewed each opposing NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the seventh and final installment.
Here are the links for the remaining snapshots:
March was an exhausting month for the St. Cloud State hockey program.
The Huskies won the NCHC regular season title and earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Within a week and a half of the bracket layout, SCSU had been bounced by four seed Air Force and lost head coach Bob Motzko to in-state foe Minnesota.
Despite the turnover behind the bench, the Huskies return nine of their top 10 scorers from 2017-18, with their lone loss from that corps being early pro signee Mikey Eyssimont.
NCAA titles: 0.
COACH: Brett Larson (first season).
2017-18 RECORDS: 25-9-6 (16-4-4 NCHC).
POSTSEASON: Lost to Air Force, 4-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
RINK (capacity): Herb Brooks National Hockey Center (5,159).
MIAMI VS. ST. CLOUD STATE LAST SEASON: 1-4.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 17-16-2.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Nov. 30-Dec. 1 – at Miami; Feb. 1-2 – at St. Cloud State.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Robby Jackson, F Ryan Poehling, F Blake Lizotte, F Easton Brodzinki, D Jimmy Schuldt, D Jack Ahcan, G David Hrenak.
KEY NEW FACES: F Sam Huntges, D Nick Perbix, D Spencer Meier, D Brendan Bushy.
KEY LOSSES: F Mikey Eyssimont, F Judd Peterson, D Will Borgen.
NOTES: Larson has been an assistant at St. Cloud State for six of the past 10 seasons, and his only high-level head coaching experience was two years at Sioux City of the USHL.
But where the Huskies lack in head coaching experience they account for on the ice, as they return all but three players from that top-seeded 2017-18 squad.
Robby Jackson is back after leading the team in points with 42, and the two-way forward also netted three shorthanded goals.
Montréal draftee Ryan Poehling also returns up front following a 30-point campaign.
Three other returning St. Cloud State forwards eclipsed 20 points – Blake Lizotte posted eight goals and 19 assists for 27, Patrick Newell also finished with 27 points, including 21 assists and Easton Brodzinski scored 14 goals en route to a 24-point season.
The Huskies hope newcomer Sam Huntges can help the forward corps as well, as the Minneapolis native was selected by his hometown Wild in June.
Talk about an experienced D-corps: Four returning blueliners played in at least 36 games for SCSU last season.
Team captains Jimmy Schuldt and Jon Lizotte are both seniors and dressed for all 40 contests in 2017-18.
Schuldt led the team in assists with 28 and scored 10 times for 38 points, the second-best total on the team. He led the Huskies with eight power play goals.
Lizotte’s five goals, 12 assists, 17 points and plus-20 rating were all career highs.
Undersized junior Jack Ahcan also skated in all 40 contests last season and rolled up 22 points, including 19 helpers.
Mike Ilvonen also returns for his fifth year as a graduate student.
St. Cloud State also added three freshman on the back end, all massive, in-state products. Tampa Bay draftee Nick Perbix and Spencer Meier are both 6-feet-4 and Brendan Bushy weighs 225 pounds
Both pieces of the Huskies’ goaltending tandem from last season also return.
Sophomore David Hrenak was selected by Los Angeles this summer after posting a 2.11 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and three shutouts in 25 games for SCSU.
Senior Jeff Smith went 11-2-4 in 19 games and has played over 2,500 career minutes.
SCSU’s 3.60 goals per game last season was fourth in Division I. The Huskies were second in the NCHC and 10th in college hockey in drawing penalties, going to the power play 174 times, and they scored 39 times on the man advantage.
St. Cloud State’s also tied for second in college hockey with seven shorthanded goals.
Since 2006, this program has been stuck in a holding pattern. The Huskies have qualifying for the NCAAs eight of the past 12 years including four of the last five but despite all their regular season success have only advanced to the Frozen Four once and was bounced in the regional semifinal that year.
The next step for St. Cloud State is an extended NCAA Tournament run, as this program has never been to a championship game.
This season’s team has the weapons to make that happen but enters 2018-19 with a rookie head coach.
For the first time since 2001-02, North Dakota failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Brad Berry won the national championship in his first season with the Fighting Hawks in 2015-2016, but the team won just 21 games the following campaign – its worst total in 15 years – and posted just 17 victories last season.
Four NHL draftees join the Fighting Hawks, who enter 2018-19 trying not to become the first UND squad since 1996 to miss to national championship tournament back-to-back years.
NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKS
NCAA titles: 8 (1959, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997, 2000, 2016).
COACH: Brad Berry (4th season, 72-35-17, .649 winning percentage).
2017-18 RECORDS: 17-13-10 (8-10-6 in NCHC).
POSTSEASON: Lost to St. Cloud State in an NCHC Tournament semifinal.
RINK (capacity): Ralph Engelstad Arena (11,634).
MIAMI VS. NORTH DAKOTA LAST SEASON: 1-1-2.
ALL-TIME SERIES: North Dakota leads, 13-6-3.
2018-19 SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Nov. 9-10 – at Miami.
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: G Peter Thome, D Colton Poolman, F Grant Mismash, F Rhett Gardner, F Nick Jones.
KEY NEW FACES: F Gavin Hain, F Jasper Weathersby, F/D Jonny Tychonick, D Jacob Bernard-Docker, G Adam Scheel.
KEY LOSSES: G Cam Johnson, D Christian Wolanin, F Shane Gersich, F Austin Poganski.
NOTES: North Dakota averaged fewer than three goals per game for the first time in the NCHC era, as the Fighting Hawks ended the season fifth in the league in scoring, their lowest finish since the conference’s inception.
And three of UND’s top three four goal producers from 2017-18 have joined the pro ranks.
Fortunately for the Fighting Hawks, leading sniper Nick Jones is back after the Ohio State transfer led the team with 15 markers and ranked second on the team in points with 30.
Nashville second-round pick Grant Mismash returns after posting nine goals and 13 assists as a freshman, and he is expected to take a major step up this season.
North Dakota’s other returning 20 point-producing forward is Rhett Gardner, who went 7-13-20.
Three other Fighting Hawks reached double figures in points – Jordan Kawaguchi, Joel Janatuinen and Cole Smith.
Islanders draft pick Collin Adams was limited to 26 games in 2017-18 but scored five goals and could make a significant leap.
NHL draftee forwards USNDT product Gavin Hain and 6-feet-3 Jasper Weathersby enter their freshman seasons.
On defense, captain Colton Poolman scored seven times and picked up 22 assists last season while being whistled for just four penalties.
UND’s blueline is deep – five other defenseman logged at least 25 games last season.
Hayden Shaw dressed for all 40, going 3-10-13 and Gabe Bast tallied 10 assists in just 27 games. Matt Kiersted, Casey Johnson and Andrew Peski all played in the majority of the Fighting Hawks’ contests.
And North Dakota added the Ottawa Senators’ first- and second-round picks from 2018 in Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jonny Tychonick. The Alberta-raised tandem has played together since age 10.
Columbus draft pick Peter Thome posted a 2.14 goals-against average and .910 save percentage – showing how strong UND’s defense was last season – and he remains the favorite to start the majority of games this season after playing in 29 as a freshman.
Freshman Adam Scheel should be Thome’s primary backup after a strong showing in the BCHL in 2017-18.
North Dakota set a program record with 10 ties last season, which is part of the reason the team struggled to reach 20 wins. Eleven more of its contests were decided by one goal.
Despite the Fighting Hawks’ downturn the past two seasons, in May coach Brad Berry signed a five-year deal that will run through 2022-23.
NOTE: BoB is previewing each NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the fifth of seven installments.
Here are the links for the other snapshots:
Minnesota-Duluth entered the NCAA Tournament just five games over .500 but pulled off four straight one-goal wins to earn its second Division I title.
And the goalie that was in net for every minute of the Bulldogs’ playoff run, Hunter Shepard, returns for his junior season.
NCAA titles: 2 (2011, 2018).
COACH: Scott Sandelin (340-300-85 in 18 seasons).
2017-18 RECORD: 25-16-3.
POSTSEASON: Won NCAA Tournament.
RINK (capacity): Amsoil Arena (6,726).
MIAMI VS. UMD LAST SEASON: 1-3.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Minn.-Duluth leads, 15-4-2.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Jan. 18-19 – at Miami; March 1-2 – at Minn.-Duluth.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: G Hunter Shepard, F Parker Mackay, D Scott Perunovich, D Nick Wolff, F Riley Tufte, D Mikey Anderson, D Dylan Samberg, F Peter Krieger, F Joey Anderson.
KEY NEW FACES: F Jackson Cates, F Noah Cates, F Cole Koepke.
NOTES: A couple of pieces may be gone from last season’s championship team, but Minn.-Duluth’s back end looks as good as any in college hockey.
Shepard logged 41 games and posted a 1.91 goals-against average and a save percentage of .925, and four returning defenseman recorded at least 13 points in 2017-18.
Shepard was second in Division I with 25 wins, 10th in save percentage and sixth in GAA. He won all four of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Tournament games this spring.
Blueliner Scott Perunovich led the team in plus-minus (22), assists (25) and points (36), and Mikey Anderson went 5-18-23.
Nick Wolff and Dylan Samberg finished with 13 points apiece, with Wolff hitting the net seven times and leading the Bulldogs with 81 penalty minutes.
Wolff and Samberg combined for 150 blocked shots.
Minn.-Duluth brings all that experience back after allowing just 2.09 goals per game last season – the fourth-best clip in the NCAA – and surrendering just 57 even strength tallies.
UMD also returns its top three points-producing forwards from its title year.
Peter Krieger led all forwards with 30 points and netted a team-best five game-winning goals. Riley Tufte finished with 29 points including a Bulldogs-high 16 markers, and Nick Swaney went 6-16-22, posting a plus-11 rating.
Newly-named captain Parker Mackay is also back and is a two-way stud up front.
The Bulldogs still have not released their 2018-19 roster, so it’s unclear how many freshmen they will bring in, but three players from that incoming class participated in NHL development camps this summer – Cole Koepke, Noah Cates and Jackson Cates.
NOTE: BoB is previewing each NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the third of seven installments.
Here are the links for the other snapshots:
Head coach Jim Montgomery left for the NHL this spring, and the Pioneers’ three top scorers and five of their top 10 points producers from 2017-18 bolted for the pros in recent months.
So Denver has a lot of work ahead if it hopes for return trip to the regional final.
NCAA titles: 8 (1958, 1960, 1961, 1968, 1969, 2004, 2005, 2017).
COACH: David Carle (first season).
2017-18 RECORD: 23-10-8.
POSTSEASON: Lost to Ohio State, 5-1 in a regional final.
RINK (capacity): Magness Arena (6,315).
MIAMI VS. DENVER LAST SEASON: 1-2-1.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Denver leads, 14-11-3.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Feb. 22-23 – at Denver.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Colin Staub, F Jarid Lukosevicius, D Ian Mitchell.
KEY NEW FACES: F Brett Stapley, F Mathias Emilio Pettersen, F Cole Guttman, D Slava Demin, D Sean Comrie, D Les Lancaster, G Filip Larssen.
KEY LOSSES: F Troy Terry, F Dylan Gambrel, F Henrik Borgstrom, F Logan O’Connor, F Blake Hillman.
NOTES: Denver probably expected early departures this off-season, but the Pioneers were hit harder than many expected.
DU has 11 freshmen listed on its roster, and its goaltending threesome has logged a total of 20 collegiate minutes.
Henrik Borgstrom, Troy Terry and Dylan Gambrell – all of whom left before completing four seasons – combined for 143 points in 2017-18.
Leading the way up front this season will be Jarid Lukosevicius, who scored 21 times last season, and two-way stud and team captain Colin Staub, a senior who has logged 117 career games and tallied 51 points.
Undersized Liam Finlay and Jake Durflinger produced 15 and 12 points, respectively.
Several of Denver’s newest forwards have been drafted, and the Pioneers will need them to contribute right away if they hope to return to the top tier of the NCHC standings.
Brett Stapley (Montréal), Mathias Emilio Pettersen (Calgary) and Cole Guttman (Tampa Bay) were all taken in the last two rounds.
On defense, Ian Mitchell led all blueliners last season in assists (28) and points (30) as a freshman.
But other than Mitchell, only Griffin Mendel and Michael Davies were the only other DU blueliners to dress for the majority of games in 2017-18.
Les Lancaster is an interesting addition, as he racked up 81 points at Mercyhurst, and he is eligible this season because he’s a graduate transfer.
Slava Demin, a Vegas fourth-round pick who thrived in the BCHL last season, is also expected to make a pick impact on the DU defense corps.
In net, Devin Cooley played one period last season as a freshman, as Tanner Jaillet was a mainstay between the pipes, and Detroit draftee Filip Larssen is expected to log substantial minutes as a freshman.
Denver has a talented freshman class coming in, but the Pioneers lost a lot of NHL-caliber talent and lack experience at forward, defense and especially in net.
Coach Jim Montgomery accepted the head coaching job with the Dallas Stars, and assistant David Carle was promoted to his position despite being just 28.
Carle is an NHL draftee, but sadly his career ended when he was diagnosed with a heart problem prior to him dressing in the NCAA.
He was a student assistant for Denver during his collegiate years, and after a year at USHL Green Bay as an assistant coach, he returned to the Pioneers as an assistant to Montgomery the past four seasons.
NOTE: BoB is previewing each NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the second of seven installments.
The first one on Colorado College can be read here: 2018-19 Colorado College preview
Colorado College played with zero seniors last season but came within two points of home-ice advantage in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.
The Tigers took Denver to a third game in their best-of-3 series before finally falling to the Pioneers, but CC was better in practically every metric than in any other season since the formation of the league, finishing 23rd in the all-important PairWise rankings.
Each Wednesday through September, BoB will post a quick Miami-centric preview on one of the NCHC teams as the countdown the opening night begins.
This week we take a look at the Tigers in the first of seven team snapshot installments.
COLORADO COLLEGE TIGERS
NCAA titles: 2 (1950, 1957).
COACH: Mike Haviland (35-96-13 in four seasons).
2017-18 RECORD: 15-17-5.
POSTSEASON: Lost at Denver in NCHC quarterfinal.
RINK (capacity): Colorado Springs World Arena (7,343), Colorado Springs, Colo.
MIAMI VS. COLORADO COLLEGE LAST SEASON: 1-2-1.
ALL-TIME SERIES: 8-8-2.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Nov. 16-17 – at Colorado College; Jan. 25-26 – at Miami.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Nick Halloran, F Mason Bergh, F Trey Bradley, F Westin Michaud, D Kristian Blumenschein, D Andrew Farny, D Ben Israel, G Alex Leclerc.
KEY NEW FACES: RW Chris Wilkie, F Ben Copeland, F Erik Middendorf, D Bryan Yoon.
KEY LOSSES: F Kade Kehoe, F Branden Makara.
NOTES: Mike Haviland signed a well-deserved five-year extension this off-season after leading the Tigers to their best finish in the NCHC era.
Colorado College had won seven, six, eight and eight games in the first four seasons since joining the league before posting 15 victories in 2017-18.
This is definitely a team on the rise, as it ended last season two games below .500 despite having zero seniors on its roster.
Five players are out from that 2017-18 squad, but those skaters combined for just six points last season. CC has added eight new faces, including junior right wing and Florida Panthers draftee Chris Wilkie.
Wilkie played two seasons with North Dakota, going 6-13-19 before transferring to the Tigers. He sat out last season.
Freshman forward Ben Copeland racked up 62 points with Waterloo of the USHL in 2017-18, and Bryan Yoon was one of the top points-producing defensemen in that league, going 3-32-35 for Tri-City.
Another newbie for the Tigers is forward Erik Middendorf, who has spent the past two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team.
All of Colorado College’s top 14 points leaders from 2017-18 return.
Junior Nick Halloran led the team with 45 points, and senior Mason Bergh finished with 40.
Seniors Ben Israel and Andrew Farny key a defense corps that combined for just nine goals last season. The Tigers will need to tighten up in their own zone, as they allowed an NCHC-worst 35 shots per game, an average that ranked 55th out of 60 in the NCAA.
Last season’s goaltending tandem of Alex Leclerc and Alec Calvaruso returns. Leclerc, a junior, saw the bulk of the playing time, going 15-15-4 in 36 games with a .907 save percentage and 3.21 goals-against average. Calvaruso logged 314 minutes and finished 0-2-1, .909 and 3.06.
And more good news for the Tigers: They recently had their plans for a $38 million on-campus rink green-lighted, as they look to open that facility in 2020.
Miami has struggled against Colorado College, posting just a .500 winning percentage vs. the Tigers all-time despite CC’s doormat status in the formative seasons of the NCHC.
The RedHawks have not won in Colorado Springs since 2015.
These teams meet in mid-November at CC as Miami wraps up a six-game, three-weekend set vs. NCHC opponents.
They hook up again at Cady Arena in late January in the back half of a RedHawks four-game homestand.
A weekend tournament in Erie, Pa., a pair of New England road trips and rare Oxford visits for three out-of-conference opponents.
Those are some of the RedHawks’ 2018-19 schedule highlights.
Miami will also play an extra series for a 36-game regular season instead of the usual 34. Teams are allowed an additional two games when participating in a tournament or traveling to Alaska so they can recuperate travel expenses.
The RedHawks drop the puck on Oct. 6 vs. Alabama-Huntsville, hosting an unusual Saturday-Sunday weekend series. They are 8-1 all-time vs. the Chargers, who will skate at Cady Arena for just the second time.
Next up is the Ice Breaker Tournament, hosted by Mercyhurst. Miami will play Providence in the opening round and either Notre Dame or the host in the finale.
UMass-Lowell and Colgate visit Oxford the next two weekends. Miami and the Riverhawks have never played on each other’s campus, and Colgate has only played three games on the RedHawks’ home ice, with two of those games coming at Cady Arena in 2011.
UML is 1-0-1 vs. Miami with a neutral-ice tie in 2003 and an opening-round NCAA Tournament win in 2012. The Raiders and RedHawks split a 2011 series in Oxford, and Miami hammered Colgate, 14-2 in the only other series meeting on MU’s campus at Goggin.
Miami is 4-2 vs. the Raiders all-time.
After six straight conference games, the RedHawks head to New Hampshire, hooking up with the Wildcats for the first time since 2011. Miami is 1-2-1 at UNH and 5-6-1 in the history of the series.
Providence is the lone non-conference carryover from 2017-18. These teams will face off three times this regular season, including the Ice Breaker opener. They will play at Cady Arena on Jan. 4-5.
The Friars are 9-5-3 vs. the RedHawks including three straight wins. The last neutral-site game between these teams was the 2015 NCAA Tournament opener which PC won, 7-5.
Miami is 2-3-1 at Providence all-time and has played the Friars 12 times the past seven seasons.
The RedHawks will finish their campaign with 16 straight in-conference contests.
Dropping off the schedule from 2017-18 are Maine, Connecticut, Bowling Green and Cornell.
Starting with the first weekend in October, Miami hits the ice nine straight weeks to open the season. Dec. 1 is its final game of the first half, and the RedHawks do not play again until their lone exhibition vs. Guelph on Dec. 30.
They return to regular season action Jan. 4 at Providence then skate every weekend except one until the postseason, with the exception being Feb. 15-16.
Our thoughts: For better or worse, this is definitely not as difficult a schedule as Miami faced last season. Cornell was well embedded in the top five, Bowling Green challenged for the top 20 all season and Maine ended up in the middle of the pack.
Two of 2018-19’s non-league opponents, UAH and New Hampshire, finished in the bottom 10 of the NCAA.
Once again it will be a difficult finish for the RedHawks, as they face the defending national champions in four of their final 12 games and also travel to both St. Cloud and Denver, both of which were top five teams in 2017-18.
By the way, Bowling Green should be back on the schedule next season, but scheduling conflicts prevented the in-state foes from hooking up in the upcoming campaign.
A look at the 2018-19 schedule with opponents’ records in 2017-18 and Miami’s all-time head-to-head history:
NOTE: The next seven Wednesdays, BoB will preview each of Miami’s seven NCHC foes as we count down to the start of the 2018-19 season.
Home games in CAPS.
|Date||Opponent||’17-’18 record||PairWise||MU vs. all-time|
|Oct. 14||Mercyhurst/N. Dame!||21-12-4/25-9-2||23/2||0-0/39-18-10|
|Nov. 2-3||at Nebraska-Omaha||17-17-2||19||20-17-6||Nov. 9-10||NORTH DAKOTA||17-13-10||14||6-13-3|
|Nov. 16-17||at Colorado Coll.||15-17-5||24||8-8-2|
|Nov. 23-24||at New Hampshire||10-20-6||52||5-6-1|
|Nov. 30-Dec. 1||ST. CLOUD STATE||25-8-6||1||17-16-2|
|Jan. 4-5||at Providence||24-12-4||7||5-9-3|
|Jan. 11-12||at W. Michigan||15-19-2||28||66-55-11|
|Jan. 25-26||COLO. COLLEGE||15-17-5||24||8-8-2|
|Feb. 1-2||at St. Cloud State||25-8-6||1||17-16-2|
|Feb. 22-23||at Denver||22-9-8||5||11-14-3|
|March 1-2||at Minn.-Duluth||21-16-3*||12||4-15-2|
|March 8-9||W. MICHIGAN||15-19-2||28||66-55-11|
|March 15-17||NCHC Tournament#||TBA||TBA||TBA|
|March 22-23||Frozen Faceoff$||TBA||TBA||TBA|
|March 29-31||NCAA regionals||TBA||TBA||TBA|
|April 11-13||Frozen Four%||TBA||TBA||TBA|
*-won NCAA championship in 2017-18
!-Ice Breaker Tournament, Erie, Pa.
#-first-round best-of-3 series at campus sites
$-at the Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.
%-at Buffalo, N.Y.