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Belpedio resists urge to go Wild

OXFORD, Ohio – More than ever, elite hockey players are choosing college as their path to the pros, leading to an increase in the number of early departures among high draft picks in the university ranks.

Louie Belpedio has faced the arduous decision to turn professional multiple times during his Miami career.

Louie Belpedio skates around a defender (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The third-round NHL pick’s choices? Sign and take the money while maneuvering closer to the dream of an NHL career, or remain in school as an amateur.

Each time, the two-year captain has picked Miami.

“That’s difficult,” Belpedio said. “How many times can you say ‘no’ to the thing you’ve been working on your whole life? But at the same time, I’m glad that I came back to school because of the player it’s developed me into today.”

Now a senior, Belpedio is one point away from tying Matthew Caito for eighth place on the RedHawks’ all-time defenseman points leaderboard, and his wait to join the paid-to-play ranks is nearly over.

“I think staying in school is most definitely the right decision, but it was a hard decision for sure, because I truly believe that if I would have had signed I would’ve had a shot to play in the NHL already,” Belpedio said. “But at the same time if you keep working hard and doing the things you’re supposed to do, the opportunity will be there again in the (coming) weeks for me.”

After captaining the U.S. National Development Under-18 team to a gold medal while racking up 23 points in 61 regular season games, the 5-feet-11, 194-pound Belpedio was selected 80th overall by the Minnesota Wild in June of 2014.

Belpedio is from Skokie, Ill., a northern suburb of Chicago, and a month before he was drafted, the Blackhawks knocked the Wild out of the playoffs in the conference semifinals.

The following season, Chicago would again end Minnesota’s season in that round en route to a Stanley Cup championship.

“Growing up just outside the city, the Blackhawks are my hometown team – I have to like them – but at the same time I have to like the Wild too,” Belpedio said. “Now that I’m about to enter my pro career, things are getting a little more interesting with that, so we’ll see how that plays out.”

Minnesota has taken interest in several Miamians in recent years, as Jarod Palmer, Pat Cannone and Marc Hagel have all played in the Wild’s system. The former two made the big club.

Ryan Jones is the only other Wild draft pick to play for the RedHawks, although that was under a different set of team brass and Jones was traded to Nashville before making his NHL debut.

Belpedio was already skating by age three and joined a team before starting elementary school, and although the three-sport star also played football and baseball through eighth grade, he gave them up to concentrate on hockey.

By junior high, Belpedio’s talents were evident, but rather than graduate to midgets like most area standouts he relocated to upstate Indiana where he attended Culver Military Academy.

“Obviously guys are successful staying in Chicago but I thought that was the best thing for me at the time,” Belpedio said. “I was there for two years, I liked it a lot – it helped me grow up a lot, being away from home. It kind of molded me into who I am today.”

Away from his family and homesick, Belpedio wasn’t always a fan of the regimented boarding school lifestyle, and long hours at the rink helped him escape Culver’s military drills.

After two seasons, 61 regular season games, 11 goals and 25 assists, Belpedio was invited to play his junior and senior campaigns with the U.S. National Development Team.

He finished with a goal and 10 assists as an Under-17 and was named captain the following season.

“The experiences that I had there were unbelievable – I’ll never forget any of them,” Belpedio said. “I was around so many of the best coaches, best trainers, got to play against the best players from around the world. It was awesome, and I’ll never forgot what that program did for me personally. I don’t know many kids that would say ‘no’ to that but I would recommend it to anyone I could, obviously.”

That U18 team won the World Juniors gold medal, and Belpedio was drafted that spring.

“It was especially exciting for me to be with my family at that time and know that it wasn’t just me that did it,” Belpedio said. “Without my mom and my dad and my brother, I wouldn’t be half the person or the player that I am today (without) the sacrifices that they made. It was an accomplishment for me but, (it) let them know that they were doing everything right. I was probably more happy for them than myself.”

Belpedio had chosen Miami before being selected by the Wild. Knowing nearly one-third of the RedHawks’ roster of fellow Chicagoans swayed his decision.

“I kind of felt: Not that I had to come here, but I wanted to come here and be the next on the Chicago-to-Miami train,” Belpedio said.

He said Oxford reminded him of Culver in some ways, including the building styles.

“And the whole girl thing isn’t too bad either,” Belpedio said.

“There was kind of lot going into (the decision), honestly, but the second I visited – I didn’t commit right away but I told my dad I was coming the second we got in the car after leaving the rink,” Belpedio said.

One of Belpedio’s cousins on his mother’s side is former RedHawks defenseman Vincent LoVerde, a 2011 graduate who played 159 games for Miami and was one of the best shut-down blueliners in the Cady Arena era.

LoVerde has played over 400 pro games and is currently with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.

“I talked to him about it,” Belpedio said. “We weren’t extremely close at the time, now we work out together, skate together in the summer every day, so we’re definitely a lot closer. I obviously knew he went here and just from hearing stories from my mom’s side of the family, that kind of had an impact on it too. Even if (Vincent) didn’t go here, I was coming here. I love this place with all my heart.”

Just three months after his 18th birthday, Belpedio headed to Oxford for the 2014-15 season.

Especially at that age, freshmen typically need to adjust to the collegiate game, but Belpedio jelled immediately with his new teammates. He scored six goals and dished for 13 assists, totaling 19 points.

“One thing that stands out to me right away is his ability to escape and move away from people, whether it’s on a power play or bringing the puck up the ice, and then his ability to make plays,” classmate Conor Lemirande said. “It’s something that’s very special and unique to him.”

Belpedio walks onto the ice at Soldier Field as a freshman (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

He dressed in all 40 games that season, including an outdoor contest vs. Western Michigan at Soldier Field, an NCHC championship game and an NCAA Tournament appearance.

With Belpedio growing up a handful of miles from the Chicago Bears’ home stadium, 100 members of his extended family as well as his circle of friends were able to attend that matchup vs. the Broncos.

“That was one of the coolest things ever,” Belpedio said. “I don’t even know how to describe that. You know, you grow up watching the Winter Classic, you watch all kinds of outdoor games. Obviously, it wasn’t being in the NHL but it was my dream school getting to play in my home town. I wish that was a yearly thing because that was one of the most fun games I’ve ever played in.”

Belpedio shakes the hand of NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton after the 2014-15 NCHC final (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Belpedio calls the RedHawks’ 2014-15 league tournament run the highlight of his career. He scored twice and dished for two assists in five NCHC postseason games and picked up a helper in Miami’s NCAA Tournament loss to Providence.

During the NCAA first-round regional, Belpedio famously skated full speed more than halfway down the ice and dove to knock a would-be empty goal away from his net before jamming into the boards at maximum velocity.

Belpedio as a sophomore (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

As a sophomore, Belpedio was named an assistant captain – a rarity for the RedHawks. He said the senior captains, Sean Kuraly and Kevin Morris, were instrumental in helping him adjust to wearing the ‘A’.

“That whole senior class was so supporting – I’m still close with all of them,” Belpedio said. “It was cool, but I definitely don’t deserve all the credit. They deserve most of it for helping me and getting me through it, because it’s not an easy job as a young kid.”

Belpedio went 4-13-17 as a sophomore and left Miami for two weeks over the holiday break, as he was named assistant captain of the U.S. World Juniors team that won the bronze medal in Finland.

Named captain prior to his junior season, Belpedio passed along what former letter wearers had taught him.

Junior and fellow blueliner Grant Hutton was a freshman in 2015-16 and said his adjustment to Division I was facilitated significantly by Belpedio’s unselfishness.

“As a freshman it’s hard sometimes to reach out to older guys and ask them to (hang out) together, but when it comes from the older guys I think that’s a really comforting thing and I think that helps not only me but our entire freshman class fit in,” Hutton said. “For me personally, I felt like I needed someone to kind of latch onto, and learn the ways from and Louie was that person for me. He was the first person to offer me a hand and offer me help in whatever situation it might be, whether it’s watching video, he was the first person to come up and offer advice in practice, so from a hockey standpoint, in my development, he was a huge help and I’m very thankful for that and the time he put into helping teach me what it takes to play at this level.”

“From a personal standpoint, Louie’s an unbelievable guy. He’s probably one of my best friends on the team and he’ll probably be my best friend for a really long time, but he’s a guy that’s always there for you. Usually when you come to a team, whether it’s college or juniors, it takes a little while to fit in with the guys, and he’s the complete opposite.”

Hutton attributes much of his own offensive success to Belpedio. Held without a goal his freshman season, Hutton netted nine as a sophomore and has 10 more in this campaign.

“I came in my freshman year and obviously my primary role was to be a shut-down defenseman, and I had five points (that) year,” Hutton said. “Louie’s an elite, elite offensive defenseman, a two-way defender, and if you watch him, he’s so dynamic when it comes to skating the puck, and handling the puck. That part of his game is so superior to most of the players at this level. For me, it was just a privilege to watch him in games and practice, and you try to pull bits and pieces out of what he does. Obviously I don’t have the skill set that Louie has in terms of offensive ability and the way he handles the puck and skates, but you try and take some of the plays he makes and the reads he makes and translate them to your own game, because he makes the game look so easy.”

Belpedio dons the ‘C’ as a junior (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The captaincy at Miami has proven a difficult title for even the most successful RedHawks. Just in the past few years, Austin Czarnik wasn’t initially stern enough with his teammates and Kuraly did not score until the 12th game of his senior season while wearing the ‘C’.

“There’s good days, there’s bad days, but that’s where being mature and being a leader comes into play – you’ve got to know how to handle that,” Belpedio said. “Everyone’s watching you and how you react at all times, so I think that’s helped me a lot attitude-wise and body language-wise. Even if it doesn’t show that we’re successful on the ice, I think it’s a big learning experience for me.”

Though Belpedio scored six times and set up 11 more goals, he was limited to 24 games as a junior.

He pulled his hip flexor first weekend of the year and missed first six games as a result. His first game back he jammed his thumb into a medal divider in the boards at Ohio State and tore a ligament.

Belpedio was unable to squeeze his hand for the next three weeks. Then a knee injury cost him the final six games of 2016-17.

This season, Belpedio is tied for fourth on the team with nine goals, is tied for Miami’s assists lead with 19 and is even with Josh Melnick for second in points (28).

“What’s impressed me is how he’s grown as a leader,” Hutton said. “When I came in he was an assistant captain and then obviously last year he took over as a first-year captain, and you can just see how much he’s learned over that time.”

Belpedio was named to the all-NCHC’s second team, is second on the RedHawks in blocked shots (40) and is second in plus minus (plus-3).

“I think he continues to grow as a person, and he makes the right decisions on and off the ice and it really sets the standard for everyone else,” Hutton said. “I know a lot of guys on this team look up to him and aspire to be the same person that he is on and off the ice.”

Belpedio is honored on senior night (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

For his career, Belpedio is ninth all-time in RedHawks defenseman points and fifth in blueliner goals with 25.

“Being a consistent, every-day guy – he’s been someone we’ve been able to rely on for four years now,” Lemirande said. “And now we look at him, and he’s got tremendous upside. This is only a start for him. He’s going to have a tremendous career, and it’s going to be fun to be able to watch what’s in store for him.”

On pace to graduate with over a 3.0 grade-point average as a sports management major later this spring, Miami’s season could be down to its final days and the call of the pros may be too strong for Belpedio to resist any longer.

“He cares more about this program, the Brotherhood, than anyone I’ve ever known, and he’s always been someone you can rely on to put a smile on your face when you need it,” Lemirande said.

Despite any possible missed opportunities in the pros, Belpedio he has no regrets about remaining in Oxford for a fourth college season.

“A place like Miami is just so special I think in every aspect,” Belpedio said. “It’s been honestly way more than I could’ve ever imagined, hockey, school, people I’ve met, experience here. For me to turn down my dream, I turned that down a couple of times to come back to a place like this. That’s how much it means to me. And the people here, my teammates, the coaching staff…honestly it’s become a home for me. It’s actually disappointing that I have to leave, but I’m obviously excited that I was lucky enough to come here for four years and live out my dream and set me up for success in the future.”

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Slow start vs. Denver dogs Miami

Denver had three power play chances in the first period and scored on two of them.

The Pioneers added another goal early in the second period for a three-goal lead it would not relinquish in Friday’s 6-3 DU win over Miami at Magnuss Arena.

The RedHawks (11-18-4) did pull to within a goal in the closing minutes but No. 5 Denver punched in a pair of late markers to seal the win.

Miami has lost 10 straight March games and is 0-9 in this month the past three seasons. The RedHawks are 0-7-1 on the road since their last victory outside of Oxford on Dec. 8, and they have a 2-10-2 overall record in their last 14 games.

RECAP: It was the Dylan Gambrell show early.

The DU forward scored on the backhand from the slot to open the scoring, and his shot from the same area was tipped in by Jarid Lukosevicius to make it 2-0.

Rudy Junda extended the DU lead to three when he took a behind-the-net feed from Kolin Olischefski, was denied by Miami goalie Ryan Larkin and batted home the rebound.

The RedHawks cut the deficit to two when Kiefer Sherwood knocked home a one-time pass from Phil Knies on a 3-on-1.

With 10:14 left in the second period, Logan O’Connor centered a pass to Henrik Borgstrom, and the puck hit off Borgstrom’s skate and into the net, making it 4-1.

Miami trimmed the lead to two with five minutes remaining in regulation when Conor Lemirande penetrated the zone and had his pass into the slot hit a Denver player and carrom in.

The RedHawks’ Casey Gilling’s feed also hit a Pioneers defender, deflecting off a stick and into the net with 3:57 remaining.

But a seeing-eye shot from the blue line by Adam Plant found the cage with 2:23 left to make it 5-3, and Colin Staub capped the scoring with an empty netter.

STATS: Slow starts have been the norm for Miami in recent weeks, as the team has been outscored, 9-0 in the first period its last seven games.

Miami’s Rourke Russell (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The RedHawks also have not scored a power play goal in that seven-game span, going 0-for-22 on the man advantage.

Denver (18-8-7) had five power play chances, scoring on two of them. Miami was on the man advantage once.

— It was the first career multi-point game for Rourke Russell, who picked up two assists.

— Sherwood has scored in consecutive games for the second time this season and has a team-best three-game points streak.

— Gilling scored for the first time in seven games. Lemirande had not scored in his last 25 contests.

THOUGHTS: Did we mention the early power play goals for Denver?

An opponent just can’t give the Pioneers three chances in the first period and expect to win, especially on their home ice.

Then it was 3-0, and that pretty much sealed Miami’s fate for the night.

To the RedHawks’ credit, they battled until the end, trimming a 4-1 Denver lead to one before ultimately surrendering a fifth goal followed by an empty netter.

Being an early no-show has been a theme for Miami this season and is a tough way to make a living in the ultra-competitive NCHC.

— Both early goals were scored because Denver was allowed to control the slot. Gambrell skated laterally to get in there for his goal, and he did the same from the opposite direction on goal No. 2, which was tipped in by Lukosevicius – a player allowed to camp out at the top of the crease.

— It was a strange night for redirected pucks. Miami had one go in off a skate and another hit a stick, as both completely changed direction en route to the net.

One could argue the RedHawks got somewhat lucky in getting back into the game, since those consecutive goals took the score from 4-1 to 4-3.

To be fair, Denver also scored one – its fourth of the night – when a centering feed hit Borgstrom’s skate before finding its mark.

LINEUP CHANGES: Up front, Christian Mohs dressed for just the eighth time this year, and Zach LaValle was in the lineup for only the second time in eight contests.

Carson Meyer was the notable scratch, as the Columbus Blue Jackets draftee has struggled this season. It’s the second time he has not played this season. Willie Knierim was also out of the lineup.

No changes on defense.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Officially these games mean nothing for Miami, which has one clear route to the NCAA Tournament: Beat St. Cloud next week and win the NCHC Tournament.

But it would’ve been nice if there were more positives to be taken from this game.

The RedHawks did battle after falling behind by three, which is admirable in an essentially meaningless game, and Sherwood continues to shine after a sub-par first half.

That’s the boom from this one.

The negatives: Opponents didn’t pay a price in the slot – a recurring theme – the team got off to a slow start, etc.

Ideally, it would be nice to have momentum heading into the opening round of the conference tournament. Denver and SCSU are the elite of the elite in this conference, and Miami needs to show it can compete on the road against Division I’s best.

Unfortunately, this game did little to inspire confidence.

Crash Cousin reveling in grinder role

OXFORD, Ohio – Very few 6-feet, 6-inch skaters end up as high-level forwards in hockey.

Manning left or right wing requires a certain level of speed and athleticism players that size often lack.

But in 2014, left wing Conor Lemirande pounced on the opportunity to fill that role with Miami alongside his cousin, Andrew Schmit.

And Lemirande has thrived as a grinder with the RedHawks since, dressing for 133 games and loving every shift.

“The moment I stepped on the campus I knew it was the right place,” Lemirande said. “Obviously with Andrew here, my cousin, I had some inside information, and he told me how nice it was and what a great opportunity it would be, so as soon as that was offered I couldn’t resist that.”

Conor Lemirande at the outdoor game at Soldier Field (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The duo was informally nicknamed the Crash Cousins for Lemirande’s first two seasons, and at a combined weight of 500 pounds, that tandem often comprised two-thirds of Miami’s fourth line.

Size is a family tradition in Lemirande’s extended family, which is from Janesville, Wis. His father, Jeff, refers to himself as one of the smaller males in the clan at about 6-5.

Lemirande’s brother Logan is also in that height range.

Schmit is 6-5, about the same height as his father, Robb.

“It definitely makes it hard for family meals,” Lemirande said. “We’d have all the kids there, and the parents there. My dad would actually go to the farm and buy a full cow just for the year and get that going. He’d have pigs for all of us. We consumed a lot of food during the week, I can tell you that.”

Lemirande started hockey around age four, and he played baseball through eighth grade and football – a family staple – until his junior year.

With his girth, the temptation was there for at least one coach to try him on defense early in his career.

“I was a defenseman my pee wee year, and that was it,” Lemirande said. “I did a camp, and it was actually coach Bob Suter from Madison, and he told me, you know, I want you to try out at defense. I did it in his summer camp, and after that, I was like, you know, I like getting in on the forecheck, I like being that physical presence, and my coach the next year really liked that, so (forward) is where I stayed.”

He spent two seasons at in-state Madison on Under-16 and Under-18 teams before signing with the hometown Janesville Jets of the NAHL prior to 2011-12.

Lemirande logged 110 games over two seasons there, becoming team captain and tallying 32 points. He played against his brother, Logan, who was on Port Huron in the same league.

“Obviously that was a great opportunity to play in front of a crowd in Janesville,” Lemirande said. “It was pretty awesome.”

Scott Dornbrock and Conor Lemirande celebrate an NCHC Tournament win in 2014-15 (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

He was drafted in the USHL his second year at Janesville and ended up in Youngstown, where he scored seven goals and picked up 10 assists in 58 games.

From there it was south to Oxford, where Lemirande dressed for opening night of 2014-15, nine days after his 21st birthday. He was in the lineup for the team’s first 23 games and 36 overall that season, which culminated in an NCHC Tournament championship and NCAA berth.

“You know, that was an unbelievable opportunity to have that group of guys and be fortunate enough to go through that,” Lemirande said. “It’s one of those things that I’ll never forget, just the lifetime bond. That experience and having that feeling of playing on the biggest stage – that was a lot of fun.”

Lemirande’s lone goal that season came vs. Notre Dame in a Florida tournament, but as a sophomore, he would log the offensive game of his career.

In a Jan. 23, 2016 contest at Nebraska-Omaha, Lemirande slammed home a loose puck with four minutes left in the first period to give the RedHawks a 1-0 lead.

Miami was up 3-1 midway through the second period when Lemirande again found the net, this time banging home a centering feed by Alex Gacek. Just over three minutes later, he scored again on a double deflection that was also redirected by Schmit.

That completed the hat trick – including the game winner – with Schmit picking up primary assists on two of the goals.

Conor Lemirande celebrates a goal his junior season (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“That did happen,” Lemirande said. “(The first goal) I just found the back of the net – got a greasy one – and then the second one was a shot from about the dot lane, and then the third one was actually a shot from the point. Andrew had actually deflected it and then I re-tipped it again, so it was a double tip for a third goal. So Andrew was celebrating, we were both celebrating, happy, so obviously a great opportunity there. From a guy not getting a lot of points, to have that opportunity is kind of a fun thing.”

That was the last three-goal game recorded by a Miamian.

Lemirande was limited to a goal and an assist his junior season, but his 2017-18 line is 1-4-5, already a career high in helpers and points.

Of those helpers, two came in a win at Bowling Green on Nov. 24, his only career multi-assist contest.

Captain and senior defenseman Louie Belpedio roomed with Lemirande freshman year and currently lives across the hall from him.

“He’s kept the same role throughout those four years here, but as he’s progressed he’s done a way better job,” Belpedio said. “He’s done a great job for himself and his team and I’m happy for him.”

Conor Lemirande as a senior (photo by BoB).

For his career, Lemirande has scored six times and set up eight more scores, but most of his contributions do not appear on a scoresheet.

“I think he’s a really good role player,” Belpedio said. “He comes to the rink with the right attitude every day and he knows what he’s supposed to do on the ice to be successful. He’s obviously not looked to to score goals but he’s looked to to do all the little things right and be solid defensively, and in my opinion he’s been our most consistent guy all year. So my hat’s off to him.”

Lemirande has also gained additional minutes as he has been added to a penalty killing role this season.

Conor Lemirande cuts down a Bowling Green player his senior year (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Forwards at his size are unusual enough, but it’s even less common to see 250-pounders up front when their teams are shorthanded because four skaters have to defend five on the PK.

“He’s a bigger guy, obviously takes up a lot of shot lanes, he’s got a long stick so that helps a ton,” Belpedio said. “He’s worked for everything he’s gotten…that’s the type of kid he is and he’s a huge part of our team.”

His additional ice time on the PK is a direct result of his overall evolution on the ice. Defenseman Scott Dornbrock has played with Lemirande for four years and has also been his roommate the entire time the pair has been in Oxford.

“He’s progressed a ton over his three years – he’s (been) one of our best forwards all year,” Dornbrock said. “He allows our top-line guys to go out there and do what they do because he goes out there the shift before and really grinds down the team. People are watching out when he’s on the ice because they obviously don’t want to get hit. It definitely gives us an advantage to have him out there because he’s always moving his feet and always getting in people’s faces.”

As in any sport, more versatility equals more playing time.

“(I’m) working every day to be who I am to give my best to being that physical presence, be that guy that can be relied upon and trusted in different situations,” Lemirande said.

Said Belpedio: “For a big guy he moves extremely well and he’s always doing little things to get his feet faster. He’s worked on his skating, and it’s paid off a ton in his four years here.”

As a defenseman, Dornbrock frequently battles with Lemirande in practice. Through that experience, Dornbrock has learned how to handle the giant on skates in 1-on-1 battles.

“Most of the time I don’t even hit him because I know that I’m not going to get through him,” Dornbrock said. “So I always just stay on the outside of him and wait for him to make a mistake.”

Conor Lemirande talks to an official (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Lemirande’s positivity at the rink is another tangible attribute, Belpedio said, and his attitude is infectious.

“He’s just awesome to be around,” Belpedio said. “He generates energy for everyone else on the bench, and he says the right things at the right times and he fits perfectly into his role.”

And Lemirande’s personality extends off the ice.

“He’s one of my best friends – I have a lot to say about him,” Belpedio said. “He’s probably one of the nicest kids I’ve ever met. He’s always doing the right thing, and he’s one of those people you want to surround yourself with, whether it’s a serious situation or you’re just joking around. He’s just a good person to be around. He’s awesome. If the world was filled with Conors it would be a much better place.”

Said Lemirande: “I like to have a smile on my face, I like to be positive all of the time, bring that good attitude. It’s fun to be around ‘Lou’ and Scotty – we were living together my freshman year, all three – being around the guys, it’s such a blessing, and being grateful for the opportunity we have here. Just helping everybody out, if somebody calls you and needs you, (being the) first guy there, that kind of thing.”

Lemirande’s last two homes games will be this weekend, and he is set to graduate in May.

He has a 3.4 grade-point average, earning him All-NCHC Academic honors this season, and he is majoring in sports management. Lemirande has already completed his core classes and is down to electives.

“It goes by quick, and you want to tell everyone how fast it goes,” Lemirande said. “What a great opportunity we have here, being a part of the (hockey) program and at the school. I wouldn’t change a thing. Being there every day and being around the guys is something that I’ll never forget. I’ll share with my kids how special that opportunity is.”

 

Atypical path to D-I for Dornbrock

OXFORD, Ohio – A season before joining the Miami hockey team, Scott Dornbrock considered quitting the sport he loves.

After spending one year with Minot of the NAHL, he was told prior to 2013-14 that he would be playing in the USHL, the primary feeder league to the NCAA.

But when the defenseman inquired about living arrangements, he was informed he had not made the team since its allotment of 20-year-olds was used up.

That meant accepting returning to Minot as an overager.

“It was kind of an uneasy situation when I called and asked for housing information when they said, yeah sorry, you’re not coming here,” Dornbrock said. “When I made that phone call I was kind of heartbroken, and I didn’t know if I wanted to keep doing it just because I felt like I’d worked so hard to get back into the USHL.”

The NAHL is a slightly lower-level league than the USHL and doesn’t see as many players join NCAA teams on scholarship.

Rather than sulk, Dornbrock returned to Minot where he was named assistant captain. He scored seven goals and notched 17 assists for 24 points, his best numbers to date in all three categories.

That season vaulted him to a starting job at Miami, and the senior has dressed for 132 games in his four seasons in Oxford, tallying 34 points including six goals.

“I didn’t have any problem going back to Minot, but in the end it really helped me realize that playing in the USHL wasn’t the only way you could move forward,” Dornbrock said. “Going back for my second year in Minot helped out a lot more than it would’ve if I went to the USHL.”

Dornbrock, from Harper Woods, Mich., on the northeast side of Detroit, started skating when he was three and playing organized hockey by five.

He tried baseball, basketball and golf – even freshman football for half a season – but decided to concentrate on hockey.

Unlike most Miamians who go the midgets-to-juniors route, Dornbrock played three seasons with his high school team, skating with former standout Andy Miele’s brother, Shawn Miele.

“It made me realize how much I wanted to play hockey after high school and after junior hockey,” Dornbrock said.

He was already weeks from his 18th birthday when he suited up for Omaha of the USHL. Dornbrock logged 35 games there, dishing for five assists and compiling a plus-13 rating.

Scott Dornbrock at the outdoor game at Soldier Field his freshman year (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“It was unbelievable,” Dornbrock said. “I stayed with a great family and it was like here – a small group of players – and there were three of us that went to high school together, so we were a really tight-knit group. It was just a very good experience.”

Dornbrock hoped to return, but his style didn’t mesh with the new coaches’ system, and he was one of the last players Omaha cut that preseason.

So he took a demotion to Topeka of the NAHL. Dornbrock played 12 games and picked up three assists there before being traded to Minot, where he added 11 more helpers.

“I would say that I definitely developed there,” Dornbrock said. “I got a lot of power play time and it just developed me offensively.”

Combined with his 7-17-24 line his overage season, Dornbrock finished his 91-game Minot career with seven goals, 28 assists, 35 points.

Scott Dornbrock lays out a North Dakota player his freshman year (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB.com)

“I loved Minot, I try to go back almost every summer to visit the billet family that I lived with there,” Dornbrock said. “It was a great experience. Pretty cold, but I loved it up there. I would say that besides Omaha that was my favorite place that I’ve been.”

During that pivotal 2013-14 season, Dornbrock visited Oxford, and having been teammates with Shawn Miele, he talked to his brother Andy Miele, who was having photos taken on campus with his recently-won Hobey Baker trophy.

After that conversation, Dornbrock decided to commit to Miami, where he was roomed with fellow current senior Conor Lemirande.

The two had never met.

“Obviously through mutual friends we figured out who each other were,” Lemirande said. “And you get to know him really quick when you’re in the same dorm with him.”

The tandem has roomed together all four years at Miami.

“Scotty’s a good guy, he likes to have a lot of fun,” Lemirande said. “We’ve had a lot fun times.”

They also previously roomed with captain Louie Belpedio. Belpedio now resides across the hall from the duo.

“(Scott’s) probably the funniest kid I’ve ever met – he’s hilarious,” Belpedio said. “He’s a dummy, too – I mean that in a good way. I look at him and laugh, and that’s all I’ll say about that. He’s awesome. Another one of my best friends, and I spend of time – the three seniors, we have to stick together – and never a dull moment.”

Upon arriving in Oxford, Dornbrock was thrust into the lineup immediately. He played in 36 games as a freshman, notching two goals and earning six assists.

“He really took initiative coming in and said ‘I’m going to make the most of my opportunity’, and he really did, he grasped that,” Lemirande said. “Being that simple, puck-moving defenseman that we need him to be, and his presence on the ice when he’s at the top of his game is there. And we really rely on him to make those plays.”

While it took Dornbrock until his third season of juniors to score a goal, he found the net 10 games into his freshman campaign vs. Colorado College.

But he has established his niche as a shut-down defenseman who can carry the puck and rip a glass-shattering slap shot when necessary.

Scott Dornbrock and Conor Lemirande celebrate an NCHC Tournament win in 2014-15 (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“He’s a shut-down defenseman, he skates really well too,” Belpedio said. “He’s smart, you can use him in all situations, honestly. He’s not looked to as a power play guy but he’s been on our power play a couple of times. He’s pretty versatile with the things he’s able to do, and I think if he keeps it up he’ll have a good rest of his career here at Miami and carry that into his pro career.”

Belpedio is also a physical blueliner, but he is listed at 6-0, 198 pounds, three inches shorter and 32 pounds lighter than Dornbrock.

“I think it’s different between he and I – he obviously can use his body a lot better than me – he’s a lot bigger than I am,” Belpedio said. “So I think I have to use my stick and use my skating and try to be as physical as possible to try and separate the guy from the puck. Where as Scott, if you have your head down he’s probably going to kill you. That’s awesome to have a guy like that on your team, especially because it creates energy.”

Dornbrock celebrates a goal vs. Maine his junior season (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Dornbrock would score twice and pick up six assists his freshman campaign to accompany a plus-4 rating, That season, Miami finished second in the NCHC and won the conference championship.

“That was definitely one of the best teams I’ve ever been on,” Dornbrock said. “Obviously we had a lot of high-end guys that decided to come back, like (Austin) Czarnik, (Blake) Coleman, (Riley) Barber. You know, that was just a really fun experience and that was probably my favorite hockey moment so far.”

In his collegiate career, Dornbrock has missed just 10 games. He went 0-6-6 as a sophomore and tallied three goals and 10 assists his junior year – his best as a RedHawk offensively.

But his calling card is his physical style of defense. As a forward, Lemirande often matches up with the 6-feet-3, 230-pound blueliner in practice.

“I get to battle with him in practice a lot, and that’s a lot of fun – having another big guy battling in front of the net,” Lemirande said. “He’s hard to play against and that’s what makes it fun. You’re working to get better, he’s working to get better, so pushing each other is something that I’ll always remember about Scotty.”

He was second on Miami in blocked shots in both his freshman and sophomore years, rejecting a total of 88 those seasons, and he led the team in 2016-17 with 47.

And while Dornbrock plays a physical brand of hockey, he has kept his penalty minutes to a minimum. He was whistled for 37 PIM as a freshman but has just 49 the last three seasons combined.

“Being a bigger guy, refs always have their eye on you,” Lemirande said. “The game’s not stick lifting, big hits anymore, you’ve got to play simple, you’ve got to play smart and he’s real good at that – staying out of the box – which is crucial.”

Dornbrock gets into defensive position his senior year (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Said Belpedio: “He’s really smart with that. I think the only time it really gets iffy is because he’s so big it looks worse than it actually is. But he’s not the type of kid that would try to hurt you in a dirty way. Obviously he wants to run you through the boards, but he’s clean about it, he’s smart about it, and he’s really good at it, so it’s something you’ve got to be aware of every time you’re on the ice with him.”

In his time with the RedHawks, Dornbrock has gotten much smarter about positioning, cutting down the angles at which opposing would-be offensive threats approach the net.

“He’s definitely smarter – I think that comes with the role he’s in – he’s definitely played a lot more as he’s progressed,” Belpedio said. “I think, just from that experience he’s grown a ton – I guess you could say that about anyone as you get older, I guess – but Scott’s done a really nice job with it.”

Dornbrock talks with a referee during his final year in Oxford (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Through 26 games this season, Dornbrock has a goal and six helpers, giving him a line of 6-28-34 in his four years at Miami. He has 170 blocks.

After hanging up the skates, Dornbrock said he’d like to coach or follow his restaurant-owning uncle’s path and become an entrepreneur.

Another possibility is consulting. Specifically, said he would like to help former hockey players find career paths after retirement from the game.

Dornbrock will graduate in May with a degree in sports leadership and a minor in management – he has a 3.0 grade-point average – and he has made life-long friends at Miami.

“He’ll be standing up at my wedding, that’s for sure,” Lemirande said.

On the ice, he has logged over 130 games played including an NCHC championship game and NCAA Tournament contest.

All that less than five years after nearly giving the game up.

“It’s been amazing – it’s the best experience that I’ve ever had in my life,” Dornbrock said. “Being able to have so many close teammates, I haven’t had that anywhere else where I’ve stayed in contact with pretty much every single one of my teammates. Being able to pick up the phone and call a teammate and (pick up) right where you left off.”

Later this week we feature the career of F Conor Lemirande.

 

Last-second goal dooms Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – For the second time in six home games, a Miami opponent scored the game-winning goal in the final second of a period.

Westin Michaud found the net with one tick remaining in the second period to lift Colorado College to a 2-1 win over the RedHawks at Cady Arena on Saturday.

The first weekend of the season, MU gave up the winning goal in the final second of the third period in a 3-2 loss to Providence.

Miami’s Conor Lemirande (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

With 4:09 left in the first period, Miami took the lead when Ryan Siroky carried the puck into the zone and slid a pass to Conor Lemirande, who beat Alex Leclerc inside the far post.

The Tigers (6-4) tied it two minutes into the second period when Christiano Versich fed a pass from along the boards to Tanner Ockey in the slot, and Ockey ripped a one-timer past goalie Ryan Larkin on the glove side.

The decisive goal with time running out in the middle frame came when Michaud took a backdoor pass from Nick Halloran as he joined a power play rush late and blasted one past Larkin from the inside of the faceoff circle.

Colorado College appeared to take a two-goal lead midway through the third period but that marker was waved off because a Tiger was in the crease.

Miami (4-4) outshot Colorado College, 11-3 in the final frame but was unable to generate the equalizer.

Miami’s Austin Alger (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Lemirande’s goal was his first since Nov. 11, 2016, Siroky picked up his first assist of the season and Austin Alger earned his first career helper on the play.

The RedHawks were 0-for-6 on the power play and Miami was shut out on the man advantage for the weekend.

The loss snapped a three-game RedHawks winning streak, and Miami fell to 1-1 in the conference.

Miami heads to North Dakota next weekend for its first conference road games of 2017-18.

Secondary scoring huge for Miami

Miami broke out with seven goals on Saturday, and its scorers had a combined nine markers this season entering that game.

While it’s obviously insane to expect that kind of offense from second-, third- and fourth-line forwards on a regular basis, the RedHawks – at least for one night in a 7-3 win vs. Nebraska-Omaha at Baxter Arena – appeared to be over the forcefield-across-the-threshold-of-the-net blues that plagued them for many of their first 22 contests.

The reaction from 800 miles to east, behind a computer screen in a cozy back room, was 50 percent what-in-the-world-is-going-on-but-this-is-awesome and 50 percent it’s-about-time-some-of-those-shots-that-had-been-whistling-just-wide-or-off-posts-the-past-four-months-finally-found-twine.

The obvious question no one has the answer to is: Is the drought finally over or was this a three-hour reprieve?

Miami entered this weekend 53rd out of 60 in Division I in offense. The RedHawks aren’t that bad.

Miami's Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami scored seven times on Saturday, and only one of those was by a usual sniping suspect: Anthony Louis.

The RedHawks aren’t that good. No team is.

The word of the night, and the series, and the past nine days for that matter dating back to the Bowling Green win, is encouraging.

Two more words could determine how the rest of this season goes for MU: Secondary scoring.

Team leader Jack Roslovic, who had nine tallies this season, has one goal in his last 10 games. Josh Melnick is second overall with six but has one marker in 11 tilts.

Miami has still won three straight.

This team has seven excellent defensemen and two fantastic goalies. It doesn’t need to lead the NCAA in goals.

The RedHawks are now at 2.38 per game, up to 49th, and an average of 3.17 during their current 4-1-1 run. If they can come close to that clip, the back end should take care of the rest, and this could be a fun couple of months.

Only once in the past 11 games has Miami allowed more than three goals, so three should be enough most nights.

Back to the secondary scoring.

Could Kevin Morris could find the net a few more times during the stretch run like he did in both ends of this series?

Or is it a reach to suggest that Zach LaValle, who seems to get better every game, could start pumping in the occasional goal?

How about an occasion tally – not three a night, obviously – from wide-bodied Conor Lemirande, who showed an ability to use his hands to find the net and was able to tip in a shot while in the goalie’s face (with help from linemate and cousin Andrew Schmit, who picked up primary assists on two of his goals)?

Miami's Sean Kuraly (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Sean Kuraly (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

The biggest question of this set is Sean Kuraly, since he has the potential to generate the most offense of this group.

Can he continue to play at the level he has the last three games, during which he has six points?

These don’t seem like outrageous questions to anyone who has seen this team frequently, and if the answer is “yes” to most, that goals-per-game average should continue to improve along with the team’s win total.

It was just one game, of course, but that’s on top of two other wins vs. highly-ranked teams, which has to have a confidence carryover for the entire team heading into a crucial four-game homestand and the second half of the NCHC slate.

Other thoughts…

– Miami did get a little sloppy with the big lead and could’ve finished better. Amazingly, the RedHawks were actually outshot overall, 30-27 after netting six goals on 12 shots in the second period.

– It was comical that when UNO scored late, the scoreboard operator initially gave the score to Miami, as the top of the screen read 8-2. Force of habit from the previous period, perhaps.

– Coach Enrico Blasi’s starting 19 were the same on Saturday as Friday. Evan McCarthy was still listed as the backup goalie.

– Speaking of Blasi, let’s give some credit to the coaching staff as well for this mid-season turnaround. Two weeks ago Miami was 6-11-3 and one point away from the NCHC cellar. Somehow they got this team to turn it around and win a couple of close games, followed by this not-to-close game.

– Segueing again, if Louis doesn’t score with two seconds left to beat Bowling Green last weekend, does Miami go into Omaha Friday and Saturday and pound the seventh-ranked team in Division I back-to-back nights on its own rink? Probably not?

Miami scores 7, sweeps UNO

Miami took out a half season of offensive frustrations on Nebraska-Omaha.

The RedHawks, who had not scored more than four goals in any game this season, struck for six in the second period alone in a 7-3 win over the No. 7 Mavericks at Baxter Arena on Saturday, completing a series sweep.

That extended MU’s winning streak to three games. Miami beat UNO, 3-1 on Friday following a 2-1 victory vs. Bowling Green last weekend. The RedHawks have lost just one of their last six games (4-1-1).

Miami's Conor Lemirande (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Conor Lemirande (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Sophomore forward Conor Lemirande, who had netted one career goal entering this contest, recorded the first Miami hat trick of the season.

Miami opened the scoring when senior forward Andrew Schmit passed a puck off the boards behind the net, and the carom came to Lemirande, who buried it from the side of the net with 4:02 left in the first period.

The net seemed to double in size once the middle stanza began.

Senior center Sean Kuraly centered a puck from along the boards to classmate and forward Kevin Morris, who one-timed one home from the slot 42 seconds into that frame.

Kuraly made it 3-0 just over two minutes later when he slammed home a one-touch pass from Morris at the inside edge of the faceoff circle.

The Mavericks cut the lead to two when Ryan Galt played a puck on net, and when RedHawks senior goalie Jay Williams did not handle it cleanly, Mason Morelli jammed it home with 11:54 left in the period.

Lemirande answered, taking a pass from senior forward Alex Gacek from the corner and beating UNO goalie Kirk Thompson on the stick side midway through the period.

Lemirande completed his hat trick with 6:58 to play in the frame, tipping home a Schmit shot from the blue line to give Miami a 5-1 lead.

The RedHawks would add two more tallies in the next three minutes. Junior forward Anthony Louis ripped a cross-crease pass from Kuraly past Thompson, and Kuraly set up a goal by forward Zach LaValle.

Kuraly slid a pass from behind the net to the wide-open freshman in the shot, and LaValle wired it past Thompson on the blocker side to cap off Miami’s scoring.

Nebraska-Omaha did add a pair of scores on slap shots from the blue line to cut the final deficit to four.

It was the first six-goal period for Miami since Feb. 26, 2010 vs. Ohio State.

Kuraly finished with a career-best four points (1-3-4), and his three assists tied a career high.

Lemirande became the only active RedHawk with a hat trick in his career. This season, no one on the team had scored more than one goal in any game.

In its last six games, Miami has scored 18 second-period goals vs. UNO, including 12 in its last four. The last time the RedHawks netted at least seven goals in a game was Dec. 5, 2014 vs. Nebraska-Omaha in Oxford.

Lemirande now has six career points, with four coming against the Mavericks.

LaValle finished with a goal and two assists, Morris notched a marker and an assist and Schmit ended the night with a pair of helpers.

LaValle had never recorded more than one point in a game, and it was the second career two-point tilt for Schmit.

With the three points on Saturday and six for the weekend, MU vaulted Western Michigan and moved into a tie for fifth with UNO at 16 points in the NCHC standings. The RedHawks also improved to 20th in the PairWise rankings.

Miami opens a four-game homestand with a two-game series vs. Denver on Jan. 29-30.

Analysis: Still hope for home ice

OXFORD, Ohio – Last Sunday, hopes were that Miami’s win over RPI was a momentum builder, as it scored three times in the third period for a boost heading into the heart of league play.

But it was business as usual for the RedHawks, Version 2015-16 on Friday, as once again they failed to hold a late lead and ended up tying Minnesota-Duluth, 1-1 at Cady Arena.

This time it was an equalizer by Tony Camenaresi with 5:38 left on a laser from the right faceoff circle.

It was the sixth straight NCHC game that Miami has given away valuable league point/points in the third period.

That bears repeating: In its last six conference games, the RedHawks have squandered at least one league point in the third period, many of which were lost late in the final stanza.

Let’s assume for a second that Miami had six more points. The team has given away two and three points in some of these contests (Friday it was just one, as the RedHawks won the 3-on-3), but add six points to its total.

That would give it a total of 16, good enough for third place in the NCHC. Plus instead of 6-10-3 – the RedHawks’ current record – it would be closer to 8-8-3, which would put Miami on the PairWise bubble with its brutal strength of schedule.

Instead the RedHawks have 10 and are mired in seventh place.

And yet, with all of the bad things that have happened to Miami this season, the team is just five points out of that No. 3 seed.

The team that holds that spot? UMD. So a win on Saturday would pull the RedHawks within two of the Bulldogs.

The top two seeds are off the board, as North Dakota and St. Cloud State are both 12 points ahead of the field. But home ice? Even at 2-7-2 in league play, Miami has every chance to get back into the race and earn home-ice advantage in the NCHC Tournament.

And unless the team’s record improves dramatically and quickly, home ice will be critical as the RedHawks hope to make the NCAA Tournament.

But none of these good things will happen for Miami if it can’t figure out how to maintain third-period leads.

Other thoughts…

– The RedHawks’ power play continues to have zero to do with power. Miami is 0-for-16 in its last six games and has allowed two shorthanded goals in that span for a net of minus-2 goals on the man advantage. That’s a special kind of bad. Not coincidentally, MU has scored two goals or fewer in five of those six games.

– Actually, the power play was so bad that Minn.-Duluth gained momentum on Miami’s first chance. The RedHawks were dominating early in the second period, but after doing zip on that opportunity, the Bulldogs controlled the pace the rest of that stanza and were the better team the rest of the way. Play was pretty even in the first period.

– Some perspective: UMD has a good team with excellent goaltending and talented forwards. It’s head-scratching that the team is 7-7-4, especially with so many key players back from last season. This team is poised for a second-half run, making Saturday’s game even more important for both squads.

– The attendance for this game was 1,743. When does this J-term end again?

– Was that actual rock music we heard in the second period? No kidding: An assortment of mostly standard rock selections was played in that frame before the powers-that-be returned to the same miserable crap fans have become accustomed to hearing. Hey, at least there was no Village Idiots or Neil Diamond in this game that normally makes hockey traditionalists want to jam ice picks through their ear drums.

– Per the NCHC, it looks like Miami will don its red jerseys for home games the rest of the season. Not sure what the point of changing that up is.

GRADES

FORWARDS: D. This corps combined for one point (assist by senior Andrew Schmit) and managed a whopping 20 shots in 65 minutes. Freshman Jack Roslovic looked either disinterested or tired late, and with few offensive weapons this team needs him to be focused at all times. The Crash Cousins line, with Ryan Siroky, played well together, with sophomore Conor Lemirande also playing a role in Miami’s lone goal. The Zach LaValle-Kiefer Sherwood duo appears to be building chemistry, and the pair of freshmen will hopefully evolve together for the next three-plus years.

DEFENSEMEN: C-. Too many odd-man rushes, too many unnecessary icings. Not a typical shut-down effort from this group, although Coach Enrico Blasi did shake up the pairings as Louie Belpedio returned, which may have affected chemistry. Senior Matthew Caito took a 4-on-4 shot from the faceoff circle that whistled wide, and that’s how UMD scored its lone goal. That shot has to be on net, and he’d probably be the first to admit that, although he was his typical solid self otherwise. Grant Hutton has been a defensive staple in his freshman year but struggled in this game. He looks like a natural right D-man and was a little awkward on the left side. Chris Joyaux did score the team’s lone goal, which elevates this group out into the ‘D’ range.

Jay Williams stopped 36 shots for Miami on Friday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Jay Williams stopped 36 shots for Miami on Friday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

GOALTENDING: A. There’s the hockey cliché of stealing a win, but can a goalie steal a tie? Jay Williams stopped 36 shots, and it was practically a shooting gallery his way the final 25 of regulation. There wasn’t one signature save on the night, but he was strong the whole game and was excellent at controlling his rebounds. His best effort of the season by far. The one goal was an absolute rip ticketed for the corner of the net. Without Williams, this game goes in the loss column for Miami.

LINEUP CHANGES: Up front it was Devin Loe out and Conor Lemirande in on Friday, perhaps because of the ultra-physical nature of UMD. With Belpedio returning from the World Juniors, he was back on the blue line after playing in Finland this week. His presence relegated fellow defenseman Colin Sullivan to the scratch column despite his strong play last weekend. Williams was in net for the second straight game, and he certainly has earned at least a split of playing time with Ryan McKay, who will probably start on Saturday.

2014-15 Preview: The new guys

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

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

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

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

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

Defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

Size

Cue the music!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something's fishy here.

Something’s fishy here.

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

Projected Lineup

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

Offense

Coleman – Czarnik – Murphy

Louis – Kuraly – Barber

Wideman – Morris – Doherty

Schmit/Mooney – Greenberg – Gacek

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

Defense

C. Joyaux – Caito

M. Joyaux – Sullivan

Belpedio – Hamilton

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

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

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