OXFORD, Ohio – A successful career in college athletics has always been in Matthew Caito’s pedigree.
Several members of the senior defenseman’s family have competed for Division I schools.
But not in hockey, a seemingly unlikely sport of choice for a 22-year-old raised in Southern California.
His parents, both college athletes originally from New England, encouraged the 5-feet-11, 187-pound Caito to choose hockey, and it was a natural fit.
“They just really started getting me into it, and I really liked it,” Caito said. “Got my first stick when I was really little and I fell in love with it.”
Caito’s father and grandfather both played football for Boston University, and he had uncles that suited up for the Boston College and University of Pittsburgh football teams.
His aunts played field hockey, and his mother was a collegiate gymnast.
The increasingly-violent nature of football is why Caito was steered away from the gridiron. However, rinks are rare in the San Diego suburb of Coto de Caza, where he hails from.
With limited local practice facilities, Caito spent of lot of time traveling in search of ice.
“It’s tough – the minimum ride is probably 30 minutes with no traffic, and with traffic it’s probably an hour-plus,” Caito said. “My parents were always good about getting me there, so I really thank them for all of the time and effort that they put into that – getting me to practices every day.”
Caito’s hockey talent was obvious, so during his high school years he was sent across the country to the Salisbury prep school in Connecticut, where he joined current teammate Kevin Morris.
“That’s where you kind of gauge yourself when you’re younger,” Caito said. “Obviously you’ve got to realize you’ve got time to develop, so going back east where it’s easier (to be discovered), that was really the gauging point where maybe I could do something with this.”
Following two years in prep school, Caito spent one season in juniors, playing for Dubuque, where he was second in defenseman points (26) and first among blueliners in assists (19). He finished that campaign with the second-best plus-minus on the team at plus-16.
During his prep school years, Caito participated an evaluation camp in Oxford with former RedHawk Riley Barber while current MU assistant coach Brent Brekke was in attendance, setting the stage for Caito’s Miami career.
Caito fell in love with the campus as soon as he saw it. Knowing that friends and classmates Jay Williams and Alex Gacek, who were also in east-coast prep schools, were both committed to Miami helped seal his decision.
“I’m like, if there’s more kids like these that are coming in with my class these are going to be a great four years, and it’s been that way,” Caito said.
A goal of Caito’s was to come to Oxford as a true freshman, and after just one season in the USHL, he dressed for Miami on opening night in October of 2012.
“He’s obviously pretty offensive-minded at times, but he’s very dependable, pretty good defensively,” RedHawks coach Enrico Blasi said. “We just felt like he would be an all-around player for us on the D-side of things.”
All he did his rookie season was lead the RedHawks in defensemen goals, assists and points (5-6-21).
“Obviously he’s tremendously talented and he’s got the work ethic and the right mindset and the good head on his shoulders,” Williams said. “He comes to work every day to make the most of it. Pretty much from Day 1 he’s been first D-pair for us and played 30 minutes a night. Just the experience and the attitude he brings is invaluable to the team.”
He was the lone freshman to play every game in 2012-13, led Miami with 81 blocked shots and he tied for third with a plus-12 rating on a team that advanced to the NCAA regional final in Toledo.
“He just has a knack for seeing the ice,” senior defenseman Taylor Richart said. “Stretch plays that will open up, and he’ll know it’s going to open up before that even happens. I think that’s just having the hockey IQ that he has and just studying the game – he’s always watching video, stuff like that – I think knowing the players and being around the game so much, he knows what’s going to happen before it actually happens.”
Sophomore season was a disappointing one for the RedHawks overall, the lone campaign in the last 10 years they did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament, but Caito led the team in blocks again with 73.
He also topped the defense corps in assists (13) and points (16), finishing with more helpers than the second- and third-best D-men combined in that category.
It was another solid season for Caito as a junior, as he went 4-20-24 – again posting Miami defensemen highs in the latter two – and he led the team with a plus-19 rating and in blocked shots with 64. That includes a goal and an assist in the RedHawks’ NCAA Tournament loss to Providence.
“Matty’s decision-making has gotten a lot better at times,” Blasi said. “When he’s playing well he keeps things simple he makes smart plays in the defensive zone and the offensive zone.”
This season, Caito has three goals and six assists for nine points and 32 blocks. All of his goals have come on the power play, and he netted the game winner at Nebraska-Omaha on Jan. 22 in a 3-1 win over the seventh-ranked Mavericks.
That’s a total of 250 blocked shots. In 3½ seasons, Caito has recorded 15 goals and 55 assists for 70 points. He currently ranks ninth in school history in defenseman assists and points and is tied for eighth in markers.
“For the most part he’s been really dependable and reliable back there for us,” Blasi said. “He’s played a lot of minutes and a lot of games for us, and that’s what we thought we saw in the future when we were recruiting him. I would say he’s done everything that we expected him to do.”
In the Cady Arena era, Alec Martinez is the only defenseman with more goals than Caito, and Martinez has won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings.
And then there’s Caito’s durablility. He has missed one game in his career at Miami, and that was the opener in 2014-15. He has played in 142 games and is just 16 shy of cracking the top 10 in team history.
For that to happen, the RedHawks need to play three postseason games, and they are guaranteed two in the best-of-3 first-round series under the NCHC format. Curtis McKenzie and Joe Hartman are currently tied for ninth all-time with 158 games played.
The statistics don’t always do responsible defensemen justice, but Caito has improved in his play across the board, from clearing pucks on the penalty kill to becoming more physical and knocking forwards entering the offensive zone around.
“I’m happy, it’s all like the simple plays and consistency is the big thing I’ve learned since being a freshman and coming in and all that,” Caito said. “Really, playing sound in my own end and making good decisions with the puck is a huge thing. And then offensively, working with Coach Blasi and Coach (Nick) Petraglia and Coach Brekke, just working on finding lanes to the net and finding guys’ sticks – simple stuff that helps you statistically over the years.”
Richart is one of his best friends on the team, and the two have been friends since coming to Oxford. The duo is nicknamed the Rock Brothers because they are so close, and both are similarly solid on defense.
“I knew (Caito) a little bit playing against him in juniors…and when I met him my visit freshman year I knew he was going to be one of the hard workers,” Richart said. “Kind of had his head on straight, and I looked up to him right when I first got here because I knew he was a good defenseman. He knew what he was talking about – defensive partner to (Steve) Spinell – so comes to the rink, works hard every day. He’s a great kid.”
Richart has seen Caito’s improvement first hand over the past four years.
“I think his all-around game defensively, always closing guys off, being tough to play against, a tough-nosed defenseman,” Richart said. “He has that offensive side to him, too, where his shot is great. He knows when to step up into the play, and he knows when to stay back, and I think (his) reading the situation has gotten a lot better with him.”
And Caito has made Williams’ life much easier in front of him with his tough defensive play.
“He’s so smart with the puck and he’s so steady, and his consistency – you know what you’re going to get,” Williams said. “Good day, bad day, whatever, he’s real steady, real even-keeled. He keeps his emotions in check, and he’s just a tremendous player.”
Caito is set to graduate this spring with a 3.0 grade-point average in sports management with a minor in economics.
His professional future appears bright. Any AHL team would be lucky to have a two-way defenseman with Caito’s talent.
But for the next couple of months, Caito is focused on completing his degree and his senior season, and he reflected on his time at Miami.
“It’s meant so much,” Caito said. “I have my best friends here – I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Just to share it with these guys is awesome. The school is beautiful, everyone around it is great, great community, great experience, and it’s something that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”
Miami lost 10 players from its NCHC Tournament championship team in 2014-15, including its top three points producers, but six regulars on defense plus both goalies return this fall as the RedHawks chase their 10th NCAA Tournament berth in 11 years.
So with the loss of Austin Czarnik, Blake Coleman and Riley Barber plus others up front, Miami will need more offensive production out of its returning forwards and its newbies.
The RedHawks entering the NCAA Tournament as the top seed in the Northeast Region last season but lost in the opening round, 7-5 to Providence. Miami hosts the Friars this weekend to open 2015-16.
The Blog of Brotherhood takes a look at this season’s RedHawks by position.
Czarnik, Barber and Coleman netted 49 of the team’s 130 goals and finished with 45, 40 and 37 points, respectively, and are all in the pros this fall.
Senior Sean Kuraly is the returning leading goal scorer with 19 goals and 10 assists last season. He was also named team captain this off-season, taking over the reins from Czarnik, who had held that post for two years.
“Huge honor,” Kuraly said. “It’s not just given away, I think it’s something that’s earned, and obviously it’s a great honor for me to wear that (‘C’), it’s not something that I take lightly, I know it comes with a lot of responsibility.”
Kuraly is the first son a former player, as his father, Rick Kuraly, is the team’s all-time leading scorer with 101 career goals. Sean Kuraly has 37 in three seasons and needs 65 to top his dad.
“I’m going for 70,” Sean Kuraly said.
Junior Anthony Louis finished with 36 points last season, fourth on the team and tops among all RedHawks back this fall. His 27 assists were second on the team.
After that, the dropoff is substantial, as seniors Alex Gacek and Kevin Morris both went 5-9-14 in 2014-15.
However, Gacek played the best hockey of his RedHawks career the second half of last season and has become a strong defensive forward. Morris also plays good defense and scored all of his goals on the power play, finishing plus-6.
Junior Justin Greenberg, senior Andrew Schmit and sophomore Conor Lemirande also logged significant minutes last season, but Devin Loe and Michael Mooney – who combined to play 21 games – are the only other returning forwards that saw the ice last season.
Jack Roslovic is the team’s top incoming forward. The former U.S. National Development standout, who played on that team’s top line last season, was drafted in the first round, 25th overall by Winnipeg in this summer’s NHL draft. He has two assists in the exhibition last weekend.
Ryan Siroky, Zach LaValle, Josh Melnick and Kiefer Sherwood are the other freshmen forwards. Melnick found the net vs. Western Ontario on Saturday.
“I think every so often we go through a transition where we lose some real good guys, and you have to allow the young guys that you’ve brought in, to trust them and to allow them to grow into those roles, and we feel like we’ve done that,” Blasi said. “Those guys have to step up and play their role, and it might take a little time, but this isn’t anything that we haven’t been through before. Everyone wanted to question when Ryan Jones and Nate Davis left, and Andy Greene, and then everyone wanted to question when (Andy) Miele and (Carter) Camper and (Pat) Cannone) and Reilly Smith left, and I get it. But that’s what we’re paid to do is bring in guys that can play.”
With only nine returning forwards from last season and Roslovic a near lock to dress every night, the new forwards should have plenty of opportunity to his the ice.
“Obviously I think we have a lot coming in, but Czarnik, Barber, Coleman, (Cody Murphy, Alex Wideman), it’s a lot to replace, so we’re going to have to prove that we can score some goals, step up,” Sean Kuraly said. “I think we’re going to be relying a lot on our senior goalies and basically senior defensemen. It’s going to be a learning curve for sure, but I think the guys have what it takes, and we always replenish what we lose.”
Miami only lost Ben Paulides from last season’s team on defense, returning six regulars.
“That means we’re going a lot of faith in our defensemen to step up in big situations, and guys are progressing, so with the experience, (this group) should be very good,” senior Matthew Caito said.
The top pairing of Caito and sophomore Louie Belpedio lead this group after ending last season plus-19 and plus-15, respectively.
Caito had a career-best 24 points, including 20 assists, and will move into the top 10 all-time in Miami defensemen scoring this season. His 64 blocks led the team, and he has missed just one game in three years.
Belpedio, the Minnesota Wild’s third-round selection in 2014, posted a team blueliner-high six goals as a freshman, and also added 13 helpers.
Senior Taylor Richart earned most improved player honors, going 1-5-6. Sophomore Scott Dornbrock scored in last week’s exhibition and went 2-6-8 in 2014-15.
Senior Chris Joyaux ended last season with six assists in 38 games, and junior Colin Sullivan was limited to nine games because of an injury and the RedHawks’ team depth, but the former Montréal Canadiens draftee played well when he was in the lineup.
“Really, all year, (the defensemen) were unbelievable in front of me, blocking shots and limiting second and third opportunities, getting pucks out of dangerous areas,” senior goalie Jay Williams said. “We really started firing on all cylinders from a systems standpoint and executing last year, so that was a huge help.
“You’ve all the trust in the world and all the confidence in the world in them. They’re experienced and they know what to do. I would think (goalie) Ryan (McKay) would saw the exact same thing – knowing that they’re going to be there and they’ve got our back.”
The only freshman on the team is Grant Hutton, who is 6-feet-3 and went plus-26 for NAHL champion Janesville in 2014-15.
“That’s the great thing about it, is every day is a competition and guys are always battling for spots, and it helps them get better, which is great,” Caito said. “That’s what we have on D – we’ve got the depth that will make practice very competitive and very fun.”
With only 24 players on the roster this year, Mooney has experience on defense and could jump in there if Miami has injury issues.
“The luxury of having our veteran ‘D’ and goaltenders is nice, and we can focus on the younger guys up front,” Blasi said.
The blueline corps, which found the net just 16 times all of last season, scored three of the team’s six goals in the exhibition.
“It’s the effort to get more pucks on net, and we’re going be moving up in the play a lot more and helping our forwards out on the rush, so that’s how you get three goals, when you’re doing that stuff,” Caito said.
Like the defense corps, Miami has an all-veteran starting corps here.
Williams had his best season as a RedHawk in 2014-15, going 19-8-0 with a 2.04 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. His 38 career wins rank him fifth all-time in Miami history.
Williams also tied a school record with five shutouts.
“Jay has been able to grow as a goaltender and as an individual off the ice, and I think all of those things came to fruition for him a year ago,” Blasi said. “He looks great right now, and it’s a tough decision again (who to play), but that’s also something that we want, we want that competition. It brings out the best in all of them.”
McKay, also a senior, went 6-6-1, 3.09 and .898 last season. While his numbers weren’t great, he posted a .946 save percentage as a freshman and has the second-leading save percentage on the school’s all-time leaderboard (.920). He is also fourth in career shutouts with eight.
“Goaltending is difficult, let’s face it,” Blasi said. “You’re under a lot of pressure and sometimes it doesn’t go your way. I thought Ryan, as a young man, matured a great deal for us and obviously for himself. I think he understands what might have gone wrong for him last year, and he’s had a great attitude and he’s worked really hard to get himself back into a spot where he can compete for to be the starter and contribute on our team.”
Williams ended up logging the majority of minutes last season, but both should play a significant amount this year.
“It’s awesome, the two-headed monster has always been key for us, and I know both guys are going to step up for us and have great years,” Caito said.
Those two should eat up all of the minutes in net for the RedHawks, and freshman Evan McCarthy will serve as the team’s third goalie. McCarthy, who is expected to compete for playing time next season, went 9-8-3.05 for NAHL Kenai Valley in 2014-15.
“Obviously it was a good year – I think the most important thing is our success as a team,” Williams said. “It was pretty exciting to be able to win the NCHC. Things obviously didn’t work out in the end, but looking at the whole body of work and the guys we have coming back, I think we have a lot to be excited about to build on to get this year started right away.”
We’re back. And, we are the three best friends any Miami hockey fan could ever have as the Tremendous Trio of John, Mike and Doug will conspire to bring you even better coverage this year than in past years.
But, more on that later. Enough of the offseason previews and fancy media day pressers. It’s time for the first weekly preview of the season and we couldn’t be happier.
When we last saw you, Miami, minus it’s top two goal scorers, played a first round NCAA tournament game against eventual national champion, Providence. Well, those two goal scorers have since moved on, so once again, Miami will face Providence without its top two goal scorers from a season ago.
For Miami, it was heartbreak as the RedHawks fought back from a 6-2 deficit to make it a 6-5 game on the strength of three extra-attacker goals.
Then, this happened.
And, you really felt like Miami would find a way to tie the game. Alas, Providence finally found an empty-net goal and won the game 7-5 en route to the program’s first national championship.
But, this is a new season and both squads will line up differently than they did in March.
Last season’s Providence Friars were built from the net out as they relied heavily on their goaltender and an impressive group of blueliners. Lost among all that defense was a solid, if unspectacular, group of forwards with the talent to put enough pucks in nets. That squad engineered a four-game winning streak at precisely the right time that included victories over three consecutive NCHC squads — Miami, Denver and Omaha — en route to a championship win over fellow Hockey East foe Boston University.
This season, Providence returns 19 letter-winners including a group of experienced forwards looking to end their college careers with back-to-back national titles including last season’s top scorer Nick Saracino (14-24-38) who contributed two assists in the win over Miami. In addition, Trevor Mingoia (15-16-31) and Brandon Tanev (10-13-23) who both contributed 1-1-2 in the 7-5 win return as do Mark Jankowski (8-19-27) and the top scorer from the blueline Tom Parisi (5-19-24). In short, the Friars are loaded with veteran talent looking to prove that last season’s improbable run to a national title was no fluke.
The only real question mark for Providence is in net where two juniors, Brendan Leahy and Nick Ellis, along with freshman Hayden Hawkey (I swear I did not make that up) will vie to fill the vacancy created by Gillies’ early departure. Last season, the two of them played a combined 193 minutes with Ellis getting 189 of them meaning the Friars are extremely inexperienced in net. It would seem that the race for the starting goaltender job is wide open.
During his weekly press conference, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi talked about the challenge of facing the Friars.
“Everything that they do is a challenge (to play against),” Blasi said. “They’re well coached…they have a D-corps that is very mobile and veteran, they have forwards that have contributed to their national championship run that are back, high-end forwards – their power play is very good, so we’re going to make sure that we stay out of the box. We’re going to have to play good team defense, and they do a real good job in transition. They’re as good as anybody that we’re going to see all year, and we’ve got to be ready for them.”
Considering the challenge in facing the defending national champions and the team that just ended your season, Miami senior netminder Jay Williams had this to say about the need for additional motivation for the season’s opening weekend.
“Absolutely not,” Williams said. “But at the same time it’s important that we not over-hype it and approach it like we have every day and be consistent and not let the emotions take over too much. Because then you become a bit of a wild card. But certainly we’re excited to play them.”
Predicted to finish third and sixth this season by USCHO writers Matthew Semisch and Candace Horgan respectively, and fifth by the media’s preseason poll, Miami enters the 2015-16 season looking to replace its top two goal scorers (Blake Coleman, Riley Barber) and its captain, Austin Czarnik from a squad that finished second in the NCHC and claimed the conference’s second-ever tournament championship on the strength of victories over Denver and St. Cloud en route to a #1 seed in the national tournament. In fact, Miami must replace five of its top nine scorers from a year ago. You can read more about Miami’s roster makeover from BOB’s John Lachmann here.
Senior captain Sean Kuraly netted a career-high 19 goals last season, and along with junior Anthony Louis, will be expected to carry the offensive load while a large class of freshmen forwards including first round NHL draft pick Jack Roslovic (Winnipeg) adjust to the college game. In net, seniors Jay Williams and Ryan McKay are back for one more season of “goalie
carousel” as it’s anybody’s guess if one or the other will seize the bulk of the playing time. In fact, in last weekend’s opening 6-1 exhibition victory over Western Ontario, the two seniors split 60 minutes about as evenly as they possibly could with Williams surrendering the only goal against on the evening.
“This is the national champion from a year ago, but at the same time we’ve got a lot we’ve got to work on,” Blasi said. “Providence, although they have a lot of guys coming back, they have some different looks. For us, for our culture and the way we develop, and the way we try to educate our players, is you have get up for every game in college hockey. Providence happens to be our first opponent, and we’re thrilled that we’re coming, and we’ve got a lot of respect for them and their coaching staff.”
“We want to play the best, and Providence is certainly the defending national champions and they have a lot of weapons,” Blasi said. “We’ve got to be ready and we’ve got to prepare well during the week.”
This is a difficult series to pick because while we know Miami will be leaning on its defense and veteran goaltending, we simply do not know a lot about the newcomers and the lack of roster depth is concerning. That’s not to say there won’t be roster battles as there will be a few skaters sitting each weekend, but with only 24 skaters on the roster it’s more important than ever that the coaching staff dresses the right guys every night.
Considering the emotional way Miami’s season ended a year ago, and the need to prove themselves early in the year, I’ll pick a split, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Providence get a sweep as they return so much from last year’s title team.
Both games can be heard via TuneIn Radio and seen via the NCHC.tv package. Greg Waddell (PxP) and Drew Davis (analysis) return to call all the action.
From the League Office
• After NCHC teams went 6-1 in exhibition games last weekend (Omaha didn’t play), all eight NCHC teams open the 2015-16 regular season this weekend with non-conference games. Two series feature a pair of top-10 teams as No. 11/10 Miami hosts defending national champion and No. 7/7 Providence for two games, while No. 10/11 Omaha travels to No. 6/9 Minnesota State for two games. The Friars eliminated Miami from the NCAA Tournament last season while the two Mavericks also opened last season against each other, splitting two games in Omaha.
• Two other NCHC teams are traveling to opposite ends of the country to open the season at tournaments. No. 4/4 North Dakota drops the puck on 2015-16 at the Ice Breaker Tournament in Portland, Maine, while No. 17 St. Cloud State begins at the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage, Alaska.
- UND officially begins the Brad Berry era on Friday as he begins his first season at the helm of his alma mater after nine seasons as an assistant coach at UND. He is the only new head coach in NCAA men’s hockey (D-I) this season.
• St. Cloud State senior forward Kalle Kossila is the active career leader in points in the NCHC with 99 and sixth among active NCAA players. His 65 career assists are second among active NCAA players.
• Omaha returns 91.4 percent of its goal-scoring from last season and 90.1 percent of its points from a year ago, both of which are the highest percentage of any NCAA team this season.
• Omaha junior forward Austin Ortega, who set the NCAA single-season record with 11 game-winning goals last season, is the active NCAA leader in career game-winners with 12. Miami senior forward Sean Kuraly is tied for second among active players with 11 career game-winning tallies.
• North Dakota senior forward Drake Caggiula has played in 123 career games, the most of any active NCAA player. Miami senior defenseman Matthew Caito and Denver seniors Nolan Zajac and Gabe Levin have all played in 119 career games, which is tied for third among active players.
• NCHC teams have a combined 44 NHL Draft picks on their rosters.
• In the NCHC Preseason Poll, Minnesota Duluth was picked as the favorite to capture the Penrose Cup, earning 17 of 30 first-place votes. UND, the defending Penrose Cup champions, Denver and Miami also received first-place votes in the poll.
For the stats geek of any team and in any sport, it’s fun to watch players vault themselves onto all-time team leaderboards
With the success of the Miami hockey program the past decade, many skaters and goalies have muscled up the ranks in numerous categories.
The Blog of Brotherhood takes a look at some team and individual numbers to watch 2015-16.
1. Miami’s win total – According to its media guides, Miami has 679 all-time wins and needs 21 to reach 700. The RedHawks have recorded at least that many victories in nine of their last 10 seasons. Coach Enrico Blasi has 351 of those wins, and he has coached the team for 16 of its 37 seasons.
2. Sean Kuraly’s GWGs – Kuraly set a school record in 2014-15 with nine game-winning goals.
He is already in a six-way tie for fifth all-time at Miami with 11 for his career, and he needs just two to move into third on the career leaderboard. Ryan Jones owns to RedHawks’ mark with 21.
3. Jay Williams’ wins – With a breakout 19-win season, Williams is now tied for sixth in the school record book with 36 victories. He needs to just five to crack the top five and is 24 off the Miami mark, held by 2003 graduate David Burleigh (60).
4. Coach Enrico Blasi’s win total – This is now one to watch each year, as Blasi is already 30th in Division I history with 351 wins. Remember that Blasi took over the job at age 27 and won’t turn 44 until next February. With 10 of the school’s 12 NCAA Tournament appearances occurring on his watch, including its only two Frozen Four berths, and nine trips to the NCAAs in the last 10 years, Blasi should remain in Oxford for a long time.
A number of coaches immediately ahead of Blasi are still active, so moving up the ranks the next couple of seasons will be difficult, but he has a legitimate shot at 400 by the end of 2016-17, which is a pretty big milestone in college hockey, especially since teams play just 35-40 games per campaign on average. By the way, Boston College’s Jerry York holds the NCAA record with 984 wins.
5. Anthony Louis points – Miami fans have been spoiled over the past five years with Andy Miele, Carter Camper and Austin Czarnik all posting over 150 career points and shooting into the top 10.
This is more of a 20-16-17 tracker alert, as Louis will be a junior this fall, but he already has 21 goals and 40 assists for 61 points, and with 36 points last season, he could become the 51st member of the 100-point club. Barring injury and other factors, he could move pretty far up the 100-point club list next season.
6. Matthew Caito defenseman points and assists – The senior has slowly been moving up the ranks, and he is just four out of the top 10 in points by blueliners. He is averaging 20 points a season, and 20 more would give him a career total of 81, placing him eighth in school history for defensemen. His 49 assists have him one out of the top 10 behind Cameron Schilling. If he hits his average of 16 he would also end his career eighth that category among defensemen with 65.
7. McKay/Williams shutouts – Jay Williams tied a school record with five shutouts in 2014-15, giving him seven for his career, and he is still one behind Ryan McKay for the active lead. McKay has eight and Williams is at seven, ranking fourth and tied for fifth in school history, respectively. The record is held by Connor Knapp (13), and Cody Reichard and Burleigh are tied with 12, so both would have much work to do to move up, but they have had exemplary careers in Oxford and either could challenge the record, especially if one takes over the starting reins exclusively.
8. More Jay and McKay – Speaking of goalies, despite an off-year, McKay is second in the qualitative career save percentage category at .920. Williams moved into the top 10 and is sitting at .911, good enough for sixth all-time. Jeff Zatkoff is the RedHawks’ leader at .927.
9. Even more Jay and McKay – And then there’s goals-against average. Williams moved ahead of McKay and into fourth place in this qualitative stat at 2.29 vs. 2.31. Williams has the fourth-best mark in Miami history, McKay is fifth. Connor Knapp holds the school GAA mark at 1.94, and that would take a major effort to topple, even if one started almost every game and went well below 2.00 this season.
10. Caito’s games-played total – Among the seniors at Miami, Caito is the clear leader in games played in his three seasons with 119, having missed just one contest (the 2014-15 opener vs. Bowling Green…Miami lost that game…coincidence?). He needs to play 39 games this season to tie for ninth all-time, and his advancement in this category depends on his continued health and earning the right to dress (a near given to this point with him) as well as the team’s success. Only five Miamians have played 160 career games, but he has a shot to join that exclusive club.
After a week spent licking its wounds following an embarrassing sweep at the hands of then seventh place St. Cloud State, 9th ranked Miami (14-8, 7-5 4th NCHC) jumps into the final stretch of the regular season with a challenge from #11 Denver (13-7-1, 6-5 5th NCHC) in Oxford. For Miami, these are the first home games since December 5-6 when they split a league series against Omaha.
After five meetings last year, these are the first of the 2014-15 campaign and first since Miami’s 4-3 loss to Denver in the NCHC championship game in Minneapolis last March. Last season, Miami and the Pioneers split four regular season meetings before Denver prevailed in the title game propelling DU to the NCAA tournament where they were routed by Boston College in the first round of the Dance.
This weekend’s NCHC series against DU is the start of a brutal final month-plus of the regular season as Miami will next face Western Michigan (@Kalamazoo, @Chicago/Hockey City Classic) followed by Colorado College (road), Minnesota-Duluth (home) and Denver again (road) before finishing the regular season with a home series against North Dakota on March 6-7.
Miami trails the all-time series with the Pioneers 7-6 including a 1-1 mark against Denver in NCAA tournament games.
Maine alum Jim Montgomery is in his second season behind the DU bench after replacing legendary head coach George Gwozdecky before the start of last season. Overall, Montgomery is a modest 33-23-7 in his season and a half with the Pioneers and the program is still really looking for the spark I feel they lost in making a mistake by firing Gwozdecky.
Having seen Denver twice in person, they are a smooth skating, puck-moving team with decent size and goaltending. In a 4-1 victory over outmanned RPI, Denver was dominant. However, in a humbling 3-1 loss to North Dakota, the Pioneers were exposed by speed and stretch passes as UND dominated from start to finish.
So, a mixed bag, perhaps. What I will say is that Miami needs to get out in space and challenge the DU forwards to backcheck. It was either an off-night or the Pioneers don’t care much for defensive play so perhaps Miami can use that to its advantage.
Offensively, the Pioneers are led by freshman Danton Heinen (9-16-25) and last year’s leading scorer, sophomore Trevor Moore (9-11-20). On the blueline, junior Joey LaLeggia (8-12-20) leads a stellar group of puck movers and is a player Miami must keep tabs on, particularly on the powerplay.
In net, the Pioneers have split minutes between sophomore Evan Cowley (2.09 GAA, .924 SV, 14 GP) and freshman Tanner Jaillet (2.01 GAA, .920 SV, 12 GP) to almost identical results. Cowley was thought to have been on the short list to make this year’s US WJC team, but was one of the final cuts before the team skidded to a 5th place finish. Frankly, I thought Cowley should have gotten the nod before Brian Halverson who saw little action backing up Boston College’s Thatcher Demko.
Overall, this is a big, fast Pioneer team and Miami will have its hands full. Expect to see both Crash Cousins in the lineup this weekend as Enrico Blasi attempts to get favorable line matchups with the final change.
This is a series Miami needs to sweep. The first two home games in well over a month. Coming off that embarrassing sweep. Despite the fact the students are still on break, I say Miami shows its heart and finds a way to get a tough NCHC series sweep over the Pioneers.
Thoughts after last night’s 8-2 whipping of #12 Omaha.
Overall, it was a thorough beat down as Miami rattled off seven consecutive goals after actually surrendering the first goal of the game just 4:14 in. Six different RedHawks combined for the 8 goals with senior Cody Murphy notching a natural hat trick (3 consecutive goals) while Kevin Morris, Matthew Caito and Michael Mooney found the net for the first time this season. For Mooney, it was his first career goal, shorthanded, while the Omaha net was mysteriously vacated by Omaha head coach Dean Blais, despite trailing 7-2. Bit of a bush league move if you ask us. Senior captain Austin Czarnik recorded four assists, including his 100th and gave up an opportunity to record his first goal of the season when he passed the puck to Mooney on a 2-on-1 break. On the year, Czarnik has a 0-16-16 line in what can only be described as a bizarre start to his senior season.
Thinking more about Czarnik’s scoring line, I wonder if it’s something having to do with last season when this team seemed to be all about individuals rather than the greater good. I wonder if it’s a sign of maturity as a leader on this club that Czarnik isn’t trying to do to much. That he’s more comfortable with the ‘C’ on his sweater? While I still have some leadership concerns with the ‘C’ I think the formal addition of Sean Kuraly and Blake Coleman as assistant captains was an appropriate move.
Coleman was a bit out of his mind last night, but you have to like the combination of skill and snarl he brings. He’s tough to play against and will make his presence known to the opposition when he doesn’t like something.
Other thoughts and notes:
– Depth: This team has it. It didn’t last year. I believe Tim Bray said 14 Miami skaters have tallied goals this year and that, amazingly, does NOT include senior captain Austin Czarnik who entered 2014-15 with 37 career goals.
– Goaltending: Jay Williams was good, not great last night. I’m sure he’d like to have the first goal back scored off an ugly rebound of a harmless point wrist shot that hit him square in the chest. But, with this offense (and really any offense), two goals or less should get a W and Williams now has 11 of them this year. Those 11 wins are just one short of his career high set his freshman year, the last year of existence for the CCHA. Despite his success, I could see Miami head coach Enrico Blasi give Ryan McKay a start tonight since he hasn’t played in a few weeks. However, this is another important league game. I’d rather see Williams again tonight and then give McKay a start in the Florida College Hockey Classic on either December 28 or 29. There’s certainly no fatigue issue with Williams, or shouldn’t be, because Miami is coming off a bye week, and will have two off-weeks for exams and Christmas before heading south.
– Attendance: 2,006? For a matchup of
top-15 top-12 squads? I really don’t know what’s going on in the SW Ohio area. The Reds don’t draw. The Bengals don’t draw. And now, Miami hockey doesn’t draw.
Admittedly, I live in Denver and my partner-in-crime Miamibeef04 lives in Columbus. However, Beef was there last night making the two hour drive south. Just because it’s no longer Michigan and Ohio State is no reason that building isn’t full. Here’s a rundown of Miami’s home attendance this year. Because capacity has never really been settled — is it 3,200? 3,642? 4,000? — I’m going with 3,200 to qualify as a sellout.
vs. Bowling Green – 1,860
vs. Ohio State – 3,554 (sellout)
vs. St. Lawrence – 2,589 and 2,663
vs. Colorado College – 3,153 (sellout) and 2,878
vs. Western Michigan – 2,633 and 2,470
Frankly, this is pathetic. You have a top-5 team again. It was one bad season last year. That there aren’t at least 3,000 butts in seats (seriously, it’s not a big building to fill) each night is embarrassing. I don’t want to hear about the new seat licenses, though surely that hasn’t helped. Tickets are available. If you don’t want your season tickets anymore, fine. Walk up and buy a ticket. Good seats still available.
I can guarantee you I will be at Magness Arena here in Denver and World Arena in Colorado Springs when Miami visits the Centennial State twice in February.
Get to the games, people!
– Highlights: Here is a link to the highlights from last night courtesy of NCHC.tv
And, check out John Lachmann’s analysis at http://www.wcpo.com/sports/redhawkey
– Tonight: Miami and Omaha will complete their NCHC weekend series, and the season’s series, tonight at 7:05 PM at Steve Cady Arena in Oxford.
After a week off following a sweep of Western Michigan, the #4/5 Miami RedHawks (10-4, 6-2 1st NCHC) prepare to face another ranked NCHC team as Dean Blais and the #12/13 Mavericks of Nebraska-Omaha visit Oxford for a two game series. To date, six of Miami’s first eight opponents are either currently ranked, or were when the RedHawks played them awarding MU the 5th toughest schedule in the country.
And, if that weren’t enough, this weekend’s series against Omaha (7-3-2, 3-2-1-1 4th NCHC) is huge in more than one way.
First, six NCHC league points are on the line.
Second, Miami owes the Mavericks for putting a line of 0-3-1 on the RedHawks last season as UNO owned Miami, especially in Omaha where I had the displeasure of watching both whippings live and in person.
Lastly, Omaha is just above Miami in the PairWise rankings checking in at #3 while the RedHawks currently rank #4 in the all-important table that largely determines the participants in the national tournament at the conclusion of the regular season.
Simply put, this is a monster series to conclude the first half of the conference season.
This is a rekindling of an old CCHA rivalry as Miami and Omaha are once again conference mates with the formation of the NCHC after college hockey’s realignment. Overall, Miami has had success against the Mavericks going 17-10-4 but are a dismal 0-4-1 in the last five against them.
Thinking about Miami’s recent run of poor play against Omaha, it certainly corresponds with the arrival of legendary head coach Dean Blais. Blais, who coached North Dakota for 10 seasons guiding the green and white to two national championships before departing for the CBJ of the NHL, has also led Team USA to World Junior Championship gold in 2010 and will once again wear the red, white and blue later this month as Team USA plays for the title in Canada — ironically the same country where Blais last struck gold for the US. Needless to say, the man can coach and has Omaha’s program pointed in the right direction.
Surprisingly, this team is built from the net out as senior goaltender Ryan Massa has been nothing short of outstanding so far. Massa, who entered 2014-15 having never had a GAA lower than 2.60, leads the NCHC with a ridiculous .943 save percentage and owns a minuscule 1.68 GAA. Of course, Miami can counter with junior Jay Williams, his 10-1 record, 1.56 GAA and .928 save percentage. What a goaltending battle we could have this weekend.
Offensively, the Mavs are led by uber-pest/sophomore Austin Ortega (5-8-13) and classmate Jake Guentzel (5-6-11). Ortega was particular chirpy following UNO’s 4-1 victory over UMD three weeks ago saying, “Tonight we were able to get up on the board; we really showed we’re a scoring team,” Ortega said. “Kind of sending a message to North Dakota that we can score on any goalie out there.” Um, of course, UND took four of six points from UNO last weekend in Grand Forks with the Mavericks securing a shootout win on Friday to avoid a series sweep. During the weekend, the Mavericks scored just four goals so it wasn’t like they were proving to be a true “scoring team.” We’ll see what happens this weekend against Miami’s 12th ranked scoring defense.
On the blueline, Omaha is powered by junior Brian Cooper (2-5-7) and Ian Brady (2-3-5). They aren’t flashy, but the team defense numbers speak for themselves as they are obviously helping Ryan Massa in a big way.
Overall, this is one of the smaller teams that Miami will face in NCHC play. I’d like to see them throw their combination of speed and size at Omaha to wear down the defense and make it very tough on smaller Maverick forwards like Ortega (5’8″ = Hobbit?), Guentzel, Dominic Zombo, Tyler Vesel and Jake Randolph who are all under six feet tall. Let’s get the Crash Cousins on the forecheck and Scott Dornbrock, and possibly, Colin Sullivan in our zone taking the body and making it hard to get to the scoring area, force turnovers and lead to transition opportunities.
Yeah, that’d be my approach if I were Miami head coach Enrico Blasi.
Omaha has been very good on the road this season going 5-1-2 so far. But, Miami is 7-1 at home. I think Miami owes Omaha a little “adjustment” and I really like how we match up against a younger, smaller opponent. I think we get some revenge this weekend.
In a battle of top 10 teams, the seventh ranked Miami RedHawks outlasted second ranked North Dakota in Grand Forks by a 3-2 score.
The RedHawks (8-3, 4-1 NCHC, t1st) were once again led by the tandem of junior forward Sean Kuraly (2-1-3) and junior net minder Jay Williams (21 saves) as Miami has now won three in a row for the second time this season. For Kuraly, it was his sixth game-winning goal. Miami has eight wins on the season. That’s a pretty amazing stat this early in the year. And, for Williams, it was his eighth win of the season as he pushed his record to 8-1 as Miami’s primary keeper of the crease so far this season. Michael Parks and Drake Caggiula scored for North Dakota (7-2-1, 2-1 NCHC, t4th).
This game featured a total of 20 penalties (12 by Miami) including game misconducts to UND’s Colten St. Clair and Miami’s Matthew Caito each for grasping the facemask during a first period scrum that was essentially started when Miami senior forward Blake Coleman was called for goaltender interference at 16:45.
The teams settled down after that and played hard throughout the remainder of the night.
Miami opened the scoring in the first period by striking quickly for two goals to take a 2-0 lead. Junior forward Alex Gacek scored at 3:09 after an offensive zone
face-off when he pounced on a puck in the corner and beat UND junior Zane McIntyre inside the post. Kuraly and Anthony Louis assisted on Gacek’s first goal of the season.
Sean Kuraly was involved again scoring his 8th goal of the season when he and Gacek executed a 2-on-1 to perfection while shorthanded. Gacek brough the puck up the left wing and moved the puck to Kuraly who easily beat McIntyre to give the RedHawks a 2-0 lead with 15:45 left in the first period.
North Dakota would get on the board late in the period, but Miami carried a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Striking quickly, UND’s Drake Caggiula tied the game shorthanded just 1:22 into the second period. But Kuraly would strike again for Miami on the power play at 6:50 when he was the recipient of a perfect bounce of the back wall following a point blast by freshman defenseman Scott Dornbrock and he quickly beat McIntyre who was recovering from the point shot.
In the third, Miami simply packed it in. I might say they packed it in a little early as the ice was tilted in UND’s favor. However, Miami blocked several good UND shots and though Jay Williams was credited with only five saves, it seemed that he was busier than that as North Dakota pushed for an equalizer they would not find.
In his postgame press conference, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi was pleased with his team’s overall effort on the night.
“We came to play tonight,” he said. “I thought we got a pretty good team effort from everyone. This was one of those games we knew would come down to the wire and our guys sacrificed their bodies all night, especially at the end, to get the job done.”
Miami was close to putting the game away late in the third.
With UND’s Zane McIntyre to the bench for the extra attacker, Miami did a good job of moving the puck quickly and getting clears. Junior Riley Barber and senior Austin Czarnik both had looks at the open net, but somehow UND got bodies in front of the net and kept the puck out.
“Our penalty kill did a good job of blocking shots tonight,” Blasi said. “Jay also made saves when we needed him to. Sean’s line got the bounces and took advantage, but this was a good team win from top to bottom. We had good performances from everyone tonight, but we know they are going to come out hard again tomorrow and we’ll have to be ready.”
The RedHawks will go for their first-ever sweep of North Dakota tonight at 8:07 PM. The game might be on Fox College Sports and will definitely be available via NCHC.tv. Greg Waddell will have the Miami call at Miami All-Access, 1490-AM WKBV and via the Tune In app on your smartphone.
– UND saw the return of both sophomore defenseman Paul LaDue and senior Mark MacMillan to the lineup after playing games about their availability all week.
– Miami once again hit the 30 SOG mark firing away, especially during the first and second periods when they rang up 15 and 11, respectively. But, the four shots in the third period was an indicator of just how much control of the game UND seized as Miami held on for the victory.
– The RedHawks held UND to just 23 SOG after blocking a whopping 19 North Dakota shots. Can anyone say “hot tub?”
– With the win, Miami snapped UND’s 8-game unbeaten streak since dropping their opener 5-1 to Bemidji State.
– Miami snipers Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber were held off the scoresheet last night seeing a rare goose egg thrown at them by the UND defense. However, Barber led Miami with 5 SOG.
– Miami announced before Friday’s game that sophomore Trevor Hamilton has elected to leave the team and return to junior hockey. Not sure if that means USHL or if he’s going to try the CHL, but based on his play at Miami, I can’t believe the CHL would be interested. If the early lines were any indicator, he wasn’t likely to play much this season, but shortsightedness (e.g., get your damn education — unless there are other college aspirations) appears to have claimed another one.
After a week off due to #lifeandstuff, we’re back with a preview of this weekend’s huge NCHC series against North Dakota in Grand Forks.
In what is shaping up as one of the biggest series of the season thus far, #7 Miami (7-3, 3-1 NCHC) visits second ranked North Dakota (7-1-1 , 2-0 NCHC) hoping to avenge last season’s dismal sweep at the hands of Gang Green. As you may recall, that series in February featured a 9-2 UND romp a night after Miami dropped a close 3-2 decision at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Miami trails the all-time series against North Dakota by a 2-5-1 margin and has never won at “the Ralph.” However, Miami did pick up the program’s first two wins over UND by beating them once in Oxford and also in Minneapolis in the league tournament semifinal 3-0 last season going 2-3 against the green and white.
In his 11th season behind the bench of his alma mater, UND head coach Dave Hakstol (260-133-40) has compiled
a resume that almost anyone would dream of. Hakstol has led UND to six Frozen Fours, has captured four WCHA Final Five playoff titles, two WCHA regular season championships and has taken UND to the NCAA tournament in each of his 10 previous seasons as head coach.
When you’re the head coach of the 7-time national champions with the largest and most vocal fan base in the nation, and that program hasn’t won a national title since 2000, the natives can be a little harsh on you. Hakstol has endured cat calls demanding his firing in seemingly every season that I can remember simply because he hasn’t won the big one…yet. As a Miami fan, I think we can all relate having been so close to a national title in 2009 and then returning to the Frozen Four a year later only to experience even more disappointment. As successful as Enrico Blasi has been at Miami, he like Hakstol, has yet been unable to get his program over the hump. With that sort of success, however, I think Hak deserves a break even if he can be one of the most childish fellas you’ll see behind the bench of a collegiate sports program.
Interestingly, Blasi will be speaking alongside Hakstol at UND’s Fan Luncheon tomorrow at noon CST. I’ve always sensed good competitive tidings between the two men and I think anything each can do to further the growth of college hockey and the NCHC can only be a good thing. Plus, they’re two Canadian boys so there’s that.
After dropping its first game of the season at home to Bemidji State, North Dakota has run off an eight game unbeaten streak including a sweep of Wisconsin (0-6) last weekend in Madison. In addition to the Badgers, who are awful (as is the Big 6), UND has beaten the likes of Bemidji State, Air Force (who just lost to UAH) and Colorado College (twice – sweeping them just like Miami did last weekend). The only quality win UND has to date is a 6-1 thrashing of Providence in Grand Forks. Interestingly, the Friars came back the next night to tie UND so their schedule has been light at best so far in the season.
And for Miami, if there ever was a weekend to face UND, it might be this one as the injury bug has really struck Gang Green.
Already without standout sophomore blueliner Paul LaDue (3-5-8) who injured a leg last Friday and did not suit up for Saturday’s game against Wisconsin, UND will also be without the services of uber freshman Nick Schmaltz (1-7-8) who was named the NCHC rookie of the month for October.
Adding to UND’s injury woes, Miami killer senior Mark MacMillan has been out of the lineup for the past four games but yesterday, UND beat reporter Brad Schlossman hinted that maybe MacMillian (5-2-7, 5 games) might be ready for Friday night’s game — and just in time if you’re a UND fan.
Aside from MacMillan and Schmaltz who were off to great starts, UND is led by elusive forwards, junior Drake Caggiula and senior Michael Parks, both 3-8-11 in 9 games. Gone are both Rocco Grimaldi and captain Dillon Simpson from last year’s Frozen Four squad while junior Jordan Schmaltz (1-4-5) leads the blueline taking over a leadership role for the green and white.
Overall, it’s a very deep and talented roster that Dave Hakstol has assembled. A glance at the roster shows this is not an overly big UND lineup, but most of the skaters hover around 6′ tall which will still be challenging for some of Miami’s smaller forwards like Anthony Louis, Alex Wideman and Cody Murphy. But, I think Miami matches up much better than last year with the additions of Andrew Schmit, Conor Lemirande and Scott Dornbrock. With those three plus Kevin Morris patrolling the ice, Miami should not go into the Ralph feeling intimidated one bit.
In net, UND returns junior Zane McIntyre (formerly Zane Gothberg) who has started right where he left off last year sporting a sterling 7-1-1 record with 1.94 GAA and .927 save percentage. But, Miami has gotten to McIntyre beating him in Oxford and also at the Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis. In fact, McIntyre’s GAA against the RedHawks is around 3.33 and he was rocked by the RedHawks early last year and again in the NCHC semifinals in March. That said, McIntyre is an outstanding goaltender and to beat him, Miami will have to continue to generate shots and quality chances from throughout the lineup as they have versus nearly every opponent so far this season.
These are two good teams. With UND’s injury situation, it’s hard to see them sweeping Miami, but if any team can dig deep and get it done on home ice, it would be the green and white. On the other hand, because of the injuries I really want to pick a Miami sweep. All that said, I’ll take a split with Miami picking up another NCHC road win.
Both games can be seen on NCHC.tv and Saturday’s game will be carried nationally on Fox College Sports. Greg Waddell will have the Miami audio call at Miami All-Access and he can also be heard via the Tune-in app on your smartphone. Twitter, smartphones and the interwebs have been godsends to college hockey.
Ok, so it wasn’t a great opener for #10/#11 Miami as they dropped a non-conference game at unranked Bowling Green. Here are a few thoughts on the game. I didn’t have the opportunity to watch the game, but I was able to listen to most of the BG radio call.
1. The lineup – We knew the defense corps would look drastically different, but I did not expect to see regulars Matt Caito (upper body injury) and Matt Joyaux on the bench. That said, we talked about the depth on the blue line this year. They’re not all going to be able to play each night. I don’t know the severity of Caito’s injury, but hopefully he’ll be back in there on Sunday. From what I heard, it sounded like Miami got some physical play out of freshman Scott Dornbrock. Other than that, and the Paulides goal, there wasn’t much said about the Miami D except their continued struggles with the puck in front of their own net.
Up front, Blasi went with the jumbo 4th line last night and not surprisingly, BG head coach Chris Bergeron matched him with his first line including Adam Berkle and Dan DeSalvo. Not sure that’s what we want to see. Unless those guys can skate with first-liners, putting them out there on the road is going to almost always draw the other team’s first line. Blasi will be better suited getting those guys on the ice at home when he has the last change.
2. BG seemed to dictate play – The Falcons seemed hungrier and outworked the RedHawks, something that head coach Enrico Blasi said could happen earlier in the week. But, I think the coach has to be concerned that the overall compete level was not where he wanted it.
3. Ryan McKay was solid – Two power play goals against and a broken play goal that he could do little to stop. Other than that, McKay was really solid last night making 35 saves. It’s a great sign that he’s dialed in early and as Miami improves around him, we could be in for good things from the junior looking to revert to his form from his freshman year.