OXFORD, Ohio – Providence scored twice in a span of 1:56 – late in the second period and early in the third.
Those were the decisive goals as the Friars beat Miami, 3-1 in the teams’ season opener at Cady Arena on Friday.
Providence (1-0) opened the scoring 7:57 into the first period when Ryan Tait corralled a loose puck in the Miami faceoff circle and slipped it through RedHawks goals Ryan Larkin.
Miami (0-1) tied it when freshman Austin Alger skated laterally into the slot and whipped one just under the crossbar with 2:43 left in the opening period.
Greg Printz slipped behind the RedHawks’ defense and beat Larkin late in the second period to put the Friars ahead for good.
Providence’s Josh Wilkins stole the puck from Phil Knies at the blue line and scored the final goal.
It was Alger’s first career goal, and a pair of fellow freshmen assisted on it for their first collegiate points – Knies and Casey Gilling.
Miami appeared to have cut the lead to one in the third period, but an apparent goal by Kiefer Sherwood was waved off after it was ruled he interfered with the goalie while slipping the puck past him.
The RedHawks’ Gordie Green was also denied a goal after a review when his breakaway shot hit the crossbar.
Larkin stopped 27 shots in the losing effort.
Miami’s winless streak was extended to 11 games, its longest since 1991. The RedHawks are 0-10-1 in that span and have not won since Jan. 28.
The teams will wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.
WHO: No. 11 Providence Friars (22-12-5) at Miami RedHawks (9-20-7)
WHEN: Friday–7:35 p.m.; Saturday–7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Cady Arena, Oxford, Ohio.
NOTES: These teams split in Rhode Island last season, and Providence holds a 7-5-3 all-time edge.
And though it was 2½ years ago, the most memorable meeting between MU and PC came in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, when Providence held on for a 7-5 win, fending off Miami’s late comeback attempt.
Providence qualified for the NCAAs for the fourth straight season in 2016-17, a stretch that includes a national championship.
Six Friars have graduated from last season, and PC has eight freshmen.
Brian Pinho returns for his final season after leading the Friars in points with 40, including 28 assists. Junior Eric Foley, who scored 15 goals and dished for 19 assists, is also back for Providence.
Josh Wilkins is PC’s other returning skater with 30-plus points, as he went 13-18-31 in 2016-17.
Hayden Hawkey – could one pick a better name for a New England goaltender if one tried? – finished with a 2.19 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage.
Miami went 0-9-1 to finish last season in its second 10-game winless streak of the campaign.
The RedHawks were held to 42 shots in these teams’ weekend series to open 2016-17.
BoB grades forwards, defensemen and goalies after each home game.
So why not give preseason grades for each position?
Miami lost three players from 2016-17 but has added six – seven if you count reshirt freshman Christian Mohs – so BoB takes a look at each position heading into this season.
FORWARDS: C. The RedHawks were well below average in scoring last season, and they should be improved from 2016-17 overall. That said, depth beyond the team’s top two lines is still a question mark.
DEFENSEMEN: C-. Again, lots of question marks after the first pairing, and Louie Belpedio has been banged up multiple times. Grant Hutton is the best shut-down defenseman on the team, and the final four spots are all up for grabs with Jared Brandt transferring to Niagara.
GOALTENDING: A. Ryan Larkin was named team MVP by the team back in April, as he faced a Grade-A chance shooting gallery much of the season. His health is key in 2017-18. Larkin missed several games due to injury and was out for the end of the team’s playoff series vs. Minnesota-Duluth.
OVERALL PLACE OF FINISH: 4th. Miami finally earns a home series in the conference tournament after heading to the road back-to-back seasons. Both the offense and defense improve and Larkin is stellar in net.
Of the 23 players who dressed for Miami last season, 19 will back in the same sweaters this fall.
But that doesn’t mean the RedHawks didn’t lose any talent from 2016-17.
Anthony Louis wrapped up his college career as the team’s top point producer his senior year. Also departed are Justin Greenberg, who was a solid penalty killer, and Colin Sullivan, a two-way defenseman that could also move up to forward.
Jared Brandt is also gone after a solid freshman campaign that saw him ascend to the top pairing.
Joining the RedHawks for 2017-18 will be a class of seven, consisting of five forwards and a pair of defensemen.
That’s a net gain of four, so Miami should have ample depth heading into this season, which has been an issue at time the past couple of years because of injuries.
BoB breaks down how the RedHawks Version 2017-18 breaks down positionally.
Two starters are out (Louis and Greenberg) and five are in.
That means solid depth and lots of fierce, healthy competition for lineups spots each night on a team that struggled to produce offense after the first two lines.
Miami returns 11 forwards, which means at the very least one of the newbies will be dress each night.
Several of the freshmen have put points on the board in juniors, and Coach Enrico Blasi has a reputation for throwing young players into the mix immediately, so there is definitely plenty of opportunity for the newbies to carve themselves regular starting spots.
Four returning RedHawks recorded at least 20 points last season – Kiefer Sherwood, Josh Melnick, Carson Meyer and Gordie Green. Sherwood was second in points only to Louis (14-24-38), and Melnick went 9-18-27 as the team’s top defensive forward.
Meyer admirably missed just four games while suffering through mono, going 10-16-26 as he noticably ran out of gas down the stretch. Green turned it up as the season went on, as he had seven goals and eight assists the final 18 games of 2016-17.
What Miami needs is more production from the remaining eight spots.
Zach LaValle went 2-9-11 and big Willie Knierim scored four goals and seemed to be adapting well to the college game. Karch Bachman has tons of speed and a great shot, and hopefully that will translate to more success for the talented Florida Panthers draft pick.
That’s seven guys that should start for sure each night.
Of the returning forwards, Ryan Siroky has become a strong penalty killer but doesn’t produce much offense. Carter Johnson played on the fourth line and managed three points in 35 games.
Conor Lemirande is huge at 6-feet-6 but has just nine points in 103 games.
Alex Alger played in 21 games and was an energy forward but finished with just one assist in 21 games.
Those five spots would appear to be less secure on a team looking to generate more offense.
It’s an intriguing unit. Austin Alger, Philip Knies and Casey Gilling were all scorers in the USHL and could press all of the above for their jobs.
Miami was 45th out of 60 Division I teams in goals per game last season (2.53), and the RedHawks need to put the puck in the net more in 2017-18 if they hope to have success this season.
This was a facet of the game in which Miami struggled in 2016-17, and two mainstays from last season and gone in Jared Brandt and Colin Sullivan.
Brandt transferred to Niagara and Sullivan graduated.
Captain Louie Belpedio was limited to 24 games due to various injuries and although he was not 100 percent when he did play, he racked up six goals and 11 assists for 17 points, the best scoring rate of his career.
Grant Hutton is back for his junior season, and while he has been a shutdown-type D-man in his two seasons in Oxford, he scored nine goals in 2016-17.
Scott Dornbrock went 3-10-13 last season and is one of the team’s best hitters.
The other three returning blueliners are all sophomores – Grant Frederic, Chaz Switzer and Bryce Hatten.
Frederic finished with three points in 2016-17 and needs to be more physical this season, as he is 6-3-201. Switzer got better as last season went on, and tallied a goal and an assist in 23 games.
Hatten dressed just 11 times and did not record a point, but a major injury in 2015-16 stunted his performance, and he could take a huge step forward this season.
The freshmen are Alec Mahalak and Rourke Russell, who should challenge for starting spots right away.
Mahalak is more of an offensive-minded blueliner, tallying 26 points in 59 NAHL games, and Russell has a reputation for shutting down opponents.
Two defensemen will have to sit each night, so that should up the ante for everyone involved each practice.
At the banquet this spring, Ryan Larkin won the MVP award despite being a freshman.
That’s pretty much all you need to know about Miami’s goaltending.
Larkin logged 1,946 minutes last season, going 8-16-7 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
Those numbers are mediocre until considering the quality of shots Larkin faced in 2016-17. Miami only won nine games last season but that number would be lower if Larkin hadn’t been in net.
He was banged up a couple of times last season, most notably during the RedHawks’ NCHC playoff series, so hopefully he can stay healthy in 2017-18.
Chase Munroe went 1-4 with a 4.25 GAA and .861 save percentage, but he sat much of the year and was under fire when he did hit the ice.
Four forwards and two defenseman join the Miami program this fall.
Plus Christian Mohs enters his redshirt freshman season after injuring himself prior to 2016-17.
All of the incoming freshmen played their juniors hockey in the USHL, the top such league in the U.S., and Mohs thrived in the NAHL.
BoB takes a look at the new faces in Oxford this fall.
F Ben Lown, Omaha (USHL) – A product of the prestigious Shattuck St. Mary’s (Minn.) program, he scored 70 goals in two seasons in their youth development program. He logged the majority of 2015-16 in the NAHL and played his first full season of USHL hockey last year as an 18-year-old with a brutal Omaha team, going 11-12-23 with a minus-25 rating in 51 games. He’s super small at 5-feet-7.
F Christian Mohs, Minot (NAHL) – Mohs blew his knee out prior to last season and was reshirted. He played high school hockey for three years in his native Minnesota, and after a year of NA3HL, he joined Minot for 2015-16. In two seasons there he racked up 101 points in 118 games, including 35 goals. Mohs is already 22, so he has plenty of experience, but the question is how well he will do when he puts his repaired knee to the test. With hockey players, it often takes time to regain confidence.
F Casey Gilling, Muskegon (USHL) – Gilling played his first full season in the USHL in 2016-17, and he racked up 15 goals and 18 assists in 33 games, thriving after playing the previous season in the NAHL. He has good size for college at 6-feet-1, 185 pounds. He’s still just 19 and has over two full seasons of juniors experience under his belt.
F Phil Knies, Sioux City (USHL) – Knies was actually born in Slovakia but grew up in Phoenix. Another small guy at 5-9, 170, Knies thrived in his second USHL season. He scored 21 goals, set up 20 more and was plus-17 and picked up 10 points in 13 playoff games as Sioux City was a Clark Cup finalist.
F Austin Alger, Muskegon (USHL) – The younger brother of teammate Alex Alger, Austin recorded 43 points in 57 games last season with Omaha and Muskegon. It was his second season in the USHL and he nearly doubled his point rate over 2015-16. Alger is almost identical in size to his brother at 5-11, 167. He was named Mr. Hockey in Michigan his senior season of high school prior to his USHL career. He scored 86 goals in four prep seasons.
D Alec Mahalak, Youngstown (USHL) – In his first USHL game, Mahalak recorded three assists. That was the only contest he would play in for Youngstown in 2015-16, but he logged 58 games last season and tallied 23 points, including five goals. Mahalak is definitely small for a defenseman (5-9-171) but has good puck-moving skills and will hopefully be able to quarterback the power play at some point.
D Rourke Russell, Green Bay (USHL) – Last season, Russell made the jump from NAHL to USHL and thrived, dishing for 10 assists and recording a plus-15 rating in 59 games for Green Bay. He’s never scored a lot at any level but has a reputation as a solid shut-down guy. He is still building much-needed muscle for bone-crunching NCHC play. Russell is 6-1-176 and has a great hockey name.
Devin Mantha logged his fourth season in the SPHL, and despite playing just 32 games, he tallied 18 goals and 21 points for his best career points-per-game ratio in the pros.
Mantha, whose father is former NHL-er Moe Mantha, has scored 63 goals and dished for 86 assists for 149 points in just 170 games with Mississippi since 2013.
Max Cook finished the season with 11 goals and 13 assists in 47 games with Fayetteville, and rookie Andrew Schmit tallied six goals, 16 assists and 91 PIMs in 55 games with Pensacola.
EUROPE: Only four former Miamians suited up for European teams in 2016-17, and F/D Matt Tomassoni led ex-RedHawks in points with 32 on seven goals and 25 assists in 41 games with Frankfurt.
Ryan Jones scored 19 goals for Cologne, which plays in the the top league in Germany.
Cody Murphy tallied 12 goals and 15 assists in 42 games for Bjorkloven (Sweden), and Mike Glumac – in his 15th pro season – went 8-8-16 for Zagreb in his fourth season with the Croatian-based KHL team.
PLAYOFFS?! PLAYOFFS?!?!?!?!? – No former Miamian playing in the SPHL or Europe was able to enjoy a late playoff run.
Schmit and Cook notched a goal and an assist in four games in their respective series, as both saw their teams eliminated in the first round. Cook dished for an assist in two games and Mantha picked up a helper in three contests, as his team also exited the playoffs early.
Jones played seven postseason games overseas and recorded one assist.
MILESTONES: Despite being limited to seven games, Jones tallied his 200th professional point last season. He needed just three to reach that mark and finished with a pair of goals and two helpers. That give him 121 pro goals and 90 assists between the NHL, AHL and Europe.
Glumac has now logged 921 games between the ECHL, AHL, NHL and Europe. Now the elder skatesman among former Miamians in the pros, he has 297 goals and 262 assists for 559 career points over 15 seasons.
A look at all RedHawks that appeared in other leagues this season:
FINAL 2016-17 REGULAR SEASON STATS
|Matt Tomassoni||Frankfurt (DEL-2)%||F||41||7||25||32||17||8|
|Ryan Jones||Cologne (DEL)#||F||49||19||11||30||8||49|
|Cody Murphy||Bjorkloven (Sweden)@||F||42||12||15||27||-2||41|
|Mike Glumac||Zagreb (KHL)&||F||60||8||8||16||-10||31|
FINAL 2016-17 PLAYOFF STATS
|Ryan Jones||Cologne (DEL)#||F||7||0||1||1||8|
%-Frankfurt is in the German Deutsche Eishockey Liga and plays in DEL2, the second highest league in Germany.
#-Cologne is in the German Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL), the top league in Germany.
@-Bjorkloven is in HockeyAllsvenskan, the second highest league in Sweden.
&-Zagreb is in the Kontinental Hockey League, the top league in Russia, its territories and surrounding countries.
Alex Gacek shuffled between three ECHL teams in 2016-17, but he finished seventh in rookie goals and ninth in points by a first-year player in that league.
Gacek, a 2016 Miami graduate, scored 26 times and dished for 26 assists en route to a 52-point rookie campaign with South Carolina, Orlando and finally Atlanta.
Gacek started the season with South Carolina but was traded to Orlando on Dec. 29. On March 7 he was acquired by Atlanta at the trade deadline.
Gacek ended the season with a plus-11 rating and his shooting percentage was 18.7.
OTHER ROOKIES: Matthew Caito played just 23 games with Toledo during the regular season, but the defenseman scored eight times and added six assists.
Caito picked up his first pro hat trick vs. Fort Wayne on Nov. 25 as part of a five-game stretch in which he found the net seven times.
Caito also played with Grand Rapids (AHL) for 13 games before returning to Toledo for the playoffs, racking up nine more points in 17 games. He logged eight games with the Walleye at the end of 2015-16 following Miami’s season.
Defenseman Taylor Richart netted seven goals and picked up 13 assists in his first pro season.
Playing for Utah, Richart was limited to 48 games in 2016-17 but still finished second on the team in blueliner goals. He was tops among ex-Miamians in ECHL defenseman points with 20.
Defenseman Colin Sullivan made his pro debut with Atlanta this spring after wrapping up his season season in Oxford.
Sullivan earned his first career assist at Greenville on April 2.
LEADING AT INDY: Alex Wideman led all former RedHawks in ECHL points last season with 55.
He was tops on Indiana in assists (33) and shootout goals (3) and has already racked up 94 points in 128 games in the league.
Wideman played juniors in Indianapolis for two years prior to his Miami career, and now calls his former rink home.
MINORS MASTERTON: Alden Hirschfeld required season-ending brain surgery in 2015-16 but returned to post a career-high 49 points last season for Toledo.
Hirschfeld also set high marks in goals (23) and plus-minus (17).
After earning a promotion to AHL Grand Rapids, Hirschfeld collapsed on the bench as the result of a seizure on Jan. 8, 2016 and underwent a craniotomy on March 14, during which a malformation on his brain was removed.
MILESTONES: Gary Steffes needed two points to reach the 200 mark for his career entering the final game of the 2016-17 regular season.
His line in that contest: 1 goal, 1 assist, capped off by a clinching marker in a 4-2 win over Wichita.
Steffes also scored his 100th ECHL goal late last season and has rolled up 105 in four seasons in that league.
PLAYOFFS?! PLAYOFFS?!?! No former Miamian advanced to the championship series, but Kevin Morris and Matthew Caito both posted nine points as their respective teams qualified for the conference final.
Morris played 19 games with Manchester, scoring five goals and adding four assists, and defenseman Matthew Caito racked up a goal and eight helpers.
Dynasty team Allen was bounced in the second round, and Gary Steffes finished with three goals and three assists in that team’s postseason.
On deck: BoB takes a look at Miamians in other leagues.
A look at all RedHawks that appeared in ECHL games this season:
|Will Weber||Fort Wayne||D||67||3||6||9||4||76|
|Devin Mantha||Fort Wayne||F||25||2||4||6||2||2|
|Will Weber||Fort Wayne||D||8||0||0||0||4|
Miami continued its strong presence in the AHL in 2016-17.
Seventeen former RedHawks logged games in the NHL’s top development league, with Andy Miele finishing 14th in points and Jack Roslovic ending up sixth in rookie scoring.
Blake Coleman tied for 11th in rookie goals with 19, and Roslovic tallied 35 assists, tied for second among first-year players.
BoB takes a look at ProHawks’ milestones and highlights of the 2016-17 AHL season.
MODEL OF CONSISTENCY: In Miele’s last four seasons, his assist totals have been 45, 44, 44, 44.
In his first season with Lehigh Valley, Miele led all former Miamians in points with 57. He has now logged 420 career games, racking up 119 goals and 249 assists for 368 points.
RATED ROOKIES: Roslovic was second in points by an ex-RedHawk with 48, scoring 13 goals and setting up 35 more for 48 points, and he finished second in the entire league in rookie helpers with Manitoba.
Coleman went 19-20-39 and was tied for third in rookie plus-minus at plus-21.
OTHER NEWCOMER HIGHLIGHTS: Sean Kuraly scored 14 goals and picked up 12 assists for 26 points in his first season with Providence, recording a plus-10 rating.
FIRSTS: Speaking of rookies, Anthony Louis and Matthew Caito scored their first career AHL goals in 2016-17.
After wrapping up his Oxford career in March, Louis found the net in Milwaukee on April 8, putting Rockford ahead, 2-1 in an eventual 4-2 win for the IceHogs.
Caito picked up his first two league points the same night in a 6-0 home win vs. San Antonio, earning the primary assist on the third goal and finding the net on the Griffins’ final tally.
MILESTONES: Pat Cannone is tops in games played among current former RedHawks pros with 421, edging Miele out by one. Three current skaters have logged over 300 AHL games.
– In addition to being called up to the NHL for the first time in 2016-17, Cannone notched his 150th career assist. He has 89 goals, 152 assists and 241 points in 421 AHL games.
– Defenseman Vincent LoVerde eclipsed the 300-game and 100-point mark, racking up a career-best 35 points for Ontario. He is plus-89 in five AHL seasons and plus-105 in six pro campaigns.
– Forward Carter Camper surpassed the 250-point mark by putting up six goals and 29 assists for 35 points in his seventh AHL season and his first with Albany. He reached the 30-point mark for the sixth straight season.
PLAYOFFS?! PLAYOFFS?!?!?!? No ex-Miamian won the Calder Cup this season, but Austin Czarnik’s Providence Bruins advanced to the Eastern Conference final, with the former captain logging 17 postseason games. Czarnik notched three goals and four assists for seven points, tops among former RedHawks skaters.
The P-Bruins eliminated Hershey in the second round, ending the season of former teammate and close friend Riley Barber, who was second in Miami Calder Cup scoring with five points.
Kuraly also played part of the playoff season with Providence, dressing six times and dishing for an assist. He was the only ex-Miamian to skate in both the Stanley Cup playoffs and Calder Cup playoffs, combining for two goals and a helper in 10 postseason games.
See also: NHL report: 6 made debuts in ’16-’17
On deck: BoB takes a look at Miamians in the ECHL.
A look at all RedHawks that appeared in AHL games this season:
2016-17 AHL REGULAR SEASON STATS
|Andy Miele||Lehigh Valley||F||65||13||44||57||-15||54|
|Matthew Caito||Grand Rapids||D||13||1||1||2||1||6|
|Trent Vogelhuber||San Antonio||F||15||0||2||2||-2||8|
2016-17 AHL PLAYOFF STATS
|Andy Miele||Lehigh Valley||F||5||1||2||3||-1||4|
Six former Miamians made their NHL debuts in 2016-17, bringing the total number of ex-RedHawks to play in the world’s best hockey league to 33.
Scoring their first NHL goals were rookies Austin Czarnik and Blake Coleman, who became the 18th and 19th players to hit the net in that league after playing their collegiate hockey in Oxford.
Miamians have logged a total of 5,831 NHL games, tallying 798 goals and accounting for 2,205 points.
BoB takes a look at ProHawks’ milestones and highlights of the 2016-17 NHL season:
FIRST LOOKS: Dressing in their first NHL games this season were Czarnik, Coleman, Riley Barber, Sean Kuraly, Pat Cannone and Jack Roslovic.
Czarnik had the best rookie year from a points perspective, scoring five times and dishing for eight assists for 13 points in 49 games for the Boston Bruins.
Coleman played in 23 games for the New Jersey Devils, finishing 1-1-2 in 23 games.
Kuraly picked up a lone assist in eight games with Boston, but he scored twice in the same game in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the tying goal with under three minutes left in the third period and the overtime game winner in a 3-2 win over Ottawa.
Cannone (Minnesota) debuted at the age of 30, and both he and Barber (Washington) logged three games without a point, while Roslovic (Winnipeg) took the ice for one game and was held off the scoresheet.
CALLING IT A CAREER: Dan Boyle called it quits prior to the season, ending his career with 1,093 games played, 163 goals and 442 assists for 605 points. He is tops all time among ex-Miamians in games, helpers and points and is second only to Brian Savage in markers.
SCORING LEADER: Los Angeles D Alec Martinez was tops among former RedHawks in NHL scoring with 39 points, including nine goals. F Reilly Smith was No. 1 in goals, scoring 15 times for Florida.
PLAYOFFS? PLAYOFFS?!?! While 13 players who spent time in Oxford logged NHL games in 2016-17, only three participated in the Stanley Cup playoffs: Kuraly, Tommy Wingels and Chris Wideman. Kuraly scored two goals in four games, including a game-tying goal and an OT winner. Wideman made his NHL postseason debut, and notched a goal and three assists in 15 contests. Wingels dressed for nine games but did not tally a point. Wideman and Wingels both played for the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa eliminated Boston in the first round before being knocked off in the conference final.
HEADING TO CANADA: Wingels was traded to Ottawa mid-season and rolled up four points including two goals in 36 games after his move. He had eight points (5-3-8) in 37 games with San Jose, but that team was bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
IRON MAN: For the fourth straight season, Smith played in at least 80 games. He dressed for exactly 80 in 2016-17, which actually represented a four-year low for the forward. He has also recorded at least 20 assists and 35 points in each season during that span.
MILESTONES: Andy Greene moved into second place on the all-time games-played list by former Miamians, and dressed for the 700th time in his career, all with New Jersey. He also earned his 150th career assist in 2016-17.
Martinez moved into sixth in games played, eclipsing the 400 mark, and passed Kevyn Adams to move into sixth place in career points.
Wingels became the sixth former RedHawk to scored 50 NHL goals. He had eight in 2016-17, giving him 53 total. Wingels has now played in 54 postseason contests, fourth-most by a former Miamian.
On deck: BoB takes a look at Miamians in the AHL.
FINAL 2016-17 REGULAR SEASON STATS
|Alec Martinez||Los Angeles Kings||D||82||9||30||39||-17||24|
|Reilly Smith||Florida Panthers||F||80||15||22||37||-13||17|
|Chris Wideman||Ottawa Senators||D||76||5||12||17||7||46|
|Curtis McKenzie||Dallas Stars||F||53||6||10||16||5||72|
|Austin Czarnik||Boston Bruins||F||49||5||8||13||-10||12|
|Andy Greene||New Jersey Devils||D||66||4||9||13||-15||8|
|Tommy Wingels||Ottawa Senators||F||73||7||5||12||-11||27|
|Blake Coleman||New Jersey Devils||F||23||1||1||2||-7||27|
|Sean Kuraly||Boston Bruins||F||8||0||1||1||-1||2|
|Pat Cannone||Minnesota Wild||F||3||0||0||0||0||0|
|Riley Barber||Washington Capitals||F||3||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jack Roslovic||Winnipeg Jets||F||1||0||0||0||-1||0|
|Jeff Zatkoff||Los Angeles Kings||13||555||2||8||2.94||.879||0|
FINAL 2016-17 PLAYOFF STATS
|Chris Wideman||Ottawa Senators||D||15||1||3||4||4|
|Sean Kuraly||Boston Bruins||F||4||2||0||2||4|
|Tommy Wingels||Ottawa Senators||F||9||0||0||0||4|
ALL-TIME NHL STATS
ALL-TIME PLAYOFF STATS
|Player||S. Cups||Games||Min.||W||L||SHO||GAA||Sv %|
For the third time in four years, Miami viewed the NCAA Tournament at home following a run of eight consecutive appearances on Division I hockey’s highest stage.
It was tough to watch, as this team didn’t compete hard enough, consistently enough to pull itself into PairWise contention, and the reality that the RedHawks would not play long into March began to set in during a miserable February.
The program is presently at its lowest point of the Enrico Blasi administration, as its win total last season was Miami’s lowest since 1990-91.
True the RedHawks went 0-for-4 in NCAA berths during Blasi’s first four years, but they were trending upward at that point.
And now we’re nearly at the midway point of the off-season, three months removed from the tragic end of 2016-17, a little under four months from puck drop.
When a program reaches DEFCON 2, everyone has a theory to fix its problems, and emotions can sometimes obscure rational thought.
And giving into that mentality is tempting, because of course SOMETHING has to be done.
It doesn’t help being close to the situation. Going to a majority of games, watching most of the rest on TV or the internet, knowing many people within the program and their families.
From this end, in a way the relationship is somewhat paternal (or maternal for any PC police that may be reading). There’s a love of program that ultimately – eventually – overrides all negatives.
A season like last one is tantamount to having your kid get busted by the cops for egging neighborhood houses: You’re mad as hell but that anger only exists because of your superseding love.
And that’s largely why three months have elapsed since the last post on this site (to that point: two written and edited stories were scrapped on this end in late March). Blasting hard-working athletes and coaches seems like piling on after a season ends.
Everyone reading knows 9-20-7 isn’t an acceptable record for this program. Re-hashing that yet again doesn’t do anyone any good.
So it was necessary to take a step back rather than rolling out the hatemobile and taking the urban assault approach.
With that out of the way, let’s address the program in an ombudsman-like fashion, answering some of the questions now being tossed out and allow people who didn’t follow this season to catch up.
Q: What happened last season?
A: A number of issues culminated in a bad year. Injuries to key players, such as captain Louie Belpedio and fellow defenseman Jared Brandt, goalie Ryan Larkin, forwards Carson Meyer and Justin Greenberg, all of whom missed multiple games. The team severely lacked scoring depth beyond its first two lines, and overall the forwards weren’t as strong defensively as in past years. Same with the defensemen, who were not physical enough and frequently out of position, leading to far too many A-plus scoring chances by opponents. And yes, there were 14 freshmen on the team, which didn’t help. The development didn’t happen as quickly for some as has typically been the case at Miami.
Q: So if there are all of these freshmen this year, does that mean the program is doomed for several more seasons?
A: Let’s hope not. The injuries were (hopefully) an aberration, and only three of the starting 19 graduated (Fs Anthony Louis and Greenberg and D Colin Sullivan). Several of the freshmen got substantially better as the year went on, most notably F Gordie Green. The defense is going to be key next season. Miami scored 2.53 goals per game, which is nowhere near great, but the RedHawks allowed an average of 3.14, which is brutal with such a solid goalie. And Miami does have an excellent netminder in Ryan Larkin who was among those freshmen.
Q: Is Miami not getting good enough players or are they not being coached well?
A: Gotten this one a couple times, and it’s an excellent question but a really tough one to answer. In college, the coaching staff recruits the players, so either way it falls on the assistants and the head coach. But to answer, it appears to be more on the recruiting end but it’s a little of both. Miami was extremely fortunate to have current Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill and Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron as assistants during much of that long NCAA Tournament run, and even after Blashill left, he was coaching USHL Indiana and feeding players like Blake Coleman and Joe Hartman to Oxford. With those coaches no longer associated with the program, the talent pool has not been as strong, and that obviously has a delayed effect, as players that those former coaches guided to Miami remain in college for several years after they sign. Miami has brought in more NAHL players recently, and while some have thrived in Oxford, overall it’s not as strong of a juniors league as the USHL, the top development league for Division I.
Q: So the current coaches are to blame?
A: Questions like these deserve very careful response, because we’re talking about people’s livelihoods. People with families and houses and bills. Journalists of all people should be aware of the scrutiny people can face when they’re in the public eye. If a team goes 9-20-7 like Miami just did, it’s there for everyone to see, evaluate and lambaste through social media and other internet sites. On a smaller scale, if a writer types “seive” instead of “sieve”, same thing. So there should be professional courtesy. That said, yeah, it’s absolutely fair is to say the coaching staff hasn’t done a good job during this stretch. Note that it’s not saying that any of these men who undoubtedly love the program and work their hind quarters off to make it successful aren’t doing their best, they don’t care, or they’re bad people. That effort just isn’t culminating into victories. And what’s especially frustrating is that they’ve been given all of the right tools by the university to win. The RedHawks play in a rink that’s the envy of 90 percent of Division I and they had a seven-figure weight room built specifically for them, literally yards from the Cady Arena ice. The school is top-notch, the campus is beautiful, as are the co-eds. Heck, even the weather is fantastic compared to the rest of the NCAA, except Arizona State and Alabama-Huntsville. They also have two well-paid assistants when the standard in college hockey has been one. And speaking of pay, head coach Enrico Blasi is one of the highest-compensated college hockey coaches on the planet. The university has basically said, here you go, here’s the keys to the vault and everything you could possibly need to field a winning hockey team. All you need to do is win. And for four years, they haven’t done that nearly enough.
Q: Should the coaches get the boot?
A: It’s the elephant-on-the-computer-monitor question. First off, Blasi has six years left on a huge contract. So for the people who want him gone, he isn’t going anywhere soon, especially with the recent turmoil surrounding the coaching positions in other sports the past couple of years. And in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately field, let’s not forget that without Blasi, there would likely be no palace of a rink on the south side of town, no 10 NCAA Tournament banners – including eight in a row – a national championship game appearance and two Frozen Four berths. Like him or not, the guy built this program to elite status. Miami went 11-20-5 the year before he took over, and in his fifth season – the first year all of his players were recruits by his staff – the RedHawks made the NCAAs and would do so eight of the subsequent nine years. He’s also a Miami graduate who has completed 18 years of coaching at his alma mater. He deserves a ton of respect for what he’s done for this program. Now if the titanic struggles continue for several more seasons, his position may be reevaluated. As for the assistants, their positions are probably less stable since they’re largely responsible for recruiting. They’re also pretty well paid for Division I hockey. And to be fair to them, Brent Brekke is well-respected for his work with defensemen and Nick Petraglia – another MU alum – has done great work with the goaltenders (TV PxP guy Dave Starman illustrated the improvement in Larkin’s game due to an adjustment Petraglia made in his stance). But it’s very difficult to answer the question as someone who’s not in the locker room every day and rarely sees practices or even a lot of live road games. To call for those jobs from this perspective would be irresponsible. But it’s irrelevant right now anyway. It’s mid-June, and any changes in this area would’ve been addressed months ago.
Q: So what now?
A: So an outside entity is going to evaluate every aspect of the program, which cross-our-fingers will get it back on track. Hopefully the coaches realize what they’ve been doing the past several years isn’t working – a tough thing to accept for choleric leaders accustomed to success – and will hopefully implement suggestions from that analysis. Then the hard part: Everyone from fans, players, coaches, etc., play the waiting game for another four months until Miami’s 2017-18 home opener vs. Providence.