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Preview: CC no longer a pushover

WHO: Colorado College Tigers (5-3) at Miami University RedHawks (3-3).

WHERE: Cady Arena, Oxford, Ohio.

WHEN: Friday – 7:35 p.m.; Saturday – 7:05 p.m.

TV: None.

COLORADO COLLEGE RADIO: KRDO-AM (1240), KRDO-FM (105.5), Colorado Springs, Colo.

NOTES: Remember that Colorado College team that the NCHC beat up the first few years of the league’s existence?

You know, the team that the media kept saying was going to get better one of these days but has finished dead last in the league three of the first four seasons ?

Well, that day has arrived. And what’s scarier: Not a single CC player that has logged a game this fall is a senior.

The Tigers are just outside the USCHO’s top 20, having split in Vermont, swept Alaska-Anchorage, taken 1 of 2 at then-No. 17 New Hampshire and went 1-1 vs. North Dakota.

That’s not a doormat’s resume.

Colorado College has only outscored opponents by one goal, but the Tigers are 4-0 in one-goal games. So the Tigers are finding a way to win the tight games, an area in which Miami has improved so far this season.

Nick Halloran leads the conference in points (4-8-12), and Mason Bergh is tied for first in the NCAA in goals (7) and is tied with Gordie Green for second in the league with 11 points.

But this CC team hasn’t been particularly deep, as that duo has scored 46 percent of the team’s goals. Tyler Gooch is the only other Colorado College player with two goals – 11 others have one.

Among Tigers forwards, Trey Bradley has a goal and seven assists and Westin Michaud has scored once and picked up five helpers.

Colorado College has not gotten much offensive production from its defense. As a team, the Tigers have just two goals and seven assists from their blueliners.

CC has not been great on special teams, converting power plays at an NCHC-worst 12.5 percent clip and killing just 74.3 percent of man-advantage opportunities.

Miami defenseman Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The RedHawks are second in the NCAA on the power play at 34.3 percent and are tied for the Division I lead with 12 PPGs.

Defenseman Grant Hutton has five of those for Miami, tops in college hockey.

However, the Tigers have been excellent at drawing penalties, as they have been on the power play 48 times already.

Colorado College and North Dakota played each other last weekend in the first conference contests of the season. This weekend every NCHC team except UND will compete against league opponents.

With the Tigers rejuvenated, this conference gets that much tougher. The PairWise has the Tigers at 13 and Miami at 49.

Except for Cornell, every one of the RedHawks’ remaining opponents is ranked in the top 25.

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5-goal Maine first dooms Miami

A four-goal second period was crucial in Miami’s win on Friday.

A day later, a five-tally opening frame was the RedHawks’ demise.

Maine scored the first five goals and held on for a 6-3 win over Miami in a penalty-laden series finale on Saturday.

The two-game set saw 19 goals scored 115 penalty minutes assessed. The RedHawks (1-3) won the opener, 7-5, earning a weekend split.

It took the Black Bears (2-2) just 1:01 to register a marker. Eduard Tralmaks took a long neutral-zone pass, crossed the blue line along the boards, skated around a Miami defender and tucked the puck inside the far side of the net.

Just 1:21 later on a 5-on-3, Patrick Holway scored on a blast from the slot that snuck inside the post on the stick side.

At the 8:07 mark of the first period, Tralmaks fired a pass across the high slot to Brady Keeper, who ripped one past Miami goalie Ryan Larkin from the top of the faceoff circle.

Less than three minutes later, Patrick Shea shoveled home a slap pass from the side of the net off a feed by Holway.

Exit Larkin, as the standout had stopped just 7 of 11 shots. Enter Grant Valentine, who made his RedHawks debut.

With 2:13 left in the first frame, Maine again capitalized on a two-man advantage. A shot from Mitchell Fossier snuck through Valentine’s pads.

Larkin was back in net for the final two periods.

Miami did get one back before the first 20 expired. Defenseman Grant Hutton threw a puck toward the net, and it hit a stick or skate and caromed to a wide-open Phil Knies, who deposited it in the net for his first collegiate goal with five seconds remaining.

Midway through the second period, Maine’s Emil Westerlund sent a pass from behind the Miami net to a wide-open Tim Doherty, who skated around Larkin and tapped it home to make it 6-1.

The RedHawks cut the deficit to four with 3:47 left in that stanza, as Louie Belpedio teed up Grant Hutton from the center of the faceoff circle, and his blast beat Black Bears goalie Jeremy Swayman on the glove side.

Miami’s Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami pulled its goalie in the final minutes, and Hutton connected again when he whipped a wrist shot into the far side of the net.

Hutton finished with two goals and an assist, giving the blueline four markers and a helper for the weekend.

Knies ended the game with a goal and an assist, and Gordie Green picked up a pair of assists, giving him a 2-5-7 line for the weekend.

The RedHawks were 3-for-5 on the power play and were 7 of 10 for the series.

There were a pair of skirmishes after the outcome was no longer in doubt. Green, Carson Meyer and Rourke Russell were all assessed roughing minors after a pushing-and-shoving incident in the second period.

Belpedio and Keeper were given game misconducts for a dust-up midway through the third period, as 89 combined penalty minutes were dished out.

Miami returns home to face Connecticut in a weekend series on Friday and Saturday.

Analysis: Eerie parallels to Plymouth

A week after winning an exhibition against Team USA, 7-5 on the road, Miami beat Maine by the same score in its first regular season road game of the season on Friday.

The odds of winning back-to-back road games by that score are pretty long, but it gets weirder.

– Grant Hutton had never scored multiple goals in a game prior to last week. He netted two vs. the USNDT and two vs. Maine.

– Josh Melnick had never recorded three assists – or even three points – in a game. His line was 0-3-3 in both contests.

– Got one better: The last time Miami and its opponent had both found the net at least three times in the second period? Oct. 17, 2009. The RedHawks outscored the U-18 squad, 4-3 in the middle stanza last week. On Friday both teams connected three times in that frame.

And that wild game 5-5 road tie eight years ago to the date? Nope, it wasn’t against Maine, but it was at the closest Division I school to Orono – at New Hampshire, less than 200 miles away.

Winning a road exhibition had to instill confidence in a team that had gone so long between victories. Traveling over 1,000 miles to beat a Division I team is way better.

The freshmen have a win under their belt after an 0-2 start including a brutal ending to Game 2. The sophomores finally got back on the winning track after a seemingly eternal winless streak and the veterans needed the pick-me-up as well after a lack of success Miami’s past couple of seasons.

Other thoughts…

Miami’s Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

– Amazing how Grant Hutton went from a zero-goal freshman campaign to being one of the biggest defenseman scoring threats in recent history. He netted nine last season and has three in three games in 2017-18.

That’s 12 in 39 games. The rest of the RedHawks entire D-corps has the same number in that span.

Also, Hutton’s goals have all come on the power play, as he is in a nine-way tie for first in the NCAA in PPGs and among just three defensemen with three man-advantage tallies.

– Love seeing Karch Bachman score. He seems to create a scoring chance every time he’s on the ice, and he was rewarded with ice/power play time on the Kiefer Sherwood line. Here’s hoping he gets more time on the man-advantage and the penalty kill, where he held his own vs. Providence. He’s got great speed, a great shot and an active stick that creates turnovers. He could break out this season.

– We saw the Josh Melnick-Gordie Green chemistry in Plymouth, and that was on display again on the east coast. They were on the ice together for five of Miami’s goals, and one or the other was out there in each of the team’s seven markers.

– Casey Gilling: 16-4 in the faceoff circle on Friday. This is a very welcome stat, as it’s an area in which the RedHawks have struggled in recent years.

– On the flip side, Miami still has work to do defensively, as it has allowed 10 goals in six periods (albeit one of those games didn’t count), and it won’t score seven goals a game the rest of the season. Ryan Larkin faced 25 shots and allowed five goals last night, and his save percentage is just .857 thus far. His defense needs to help him see fewer high-quality chances, and he needs to stop more of the ones he does face.

Miami has Maine seeing Green

Miami made its first win in nearly nine months a memorable one.

Thanks to an explosive power play and career-best five points by Gordie Green, the RedHawks scored seven times in the first 40:08 and held on for a 7-5 win at Maine on Friday.

Miami forward Gordie Green (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The last time Miami (1-2) had ended up in the victory column was Jan. 28, as the team snapped a 12-game winless streak during which MU went 0-11-1.

The RedHawks had not scored seven goals in a game since Jan. 23, 2016, but Green’s feat was much more rare. The last five-point game by a Miamian was Nov. 30, 2013, when Austin Czarnik dished for five assists.

Miami opened the scoring with one second left on a power play, as Josh Melnick slid a pass from behind the boards to Gordie Green, who quickly hit Karch Bachman in the slot for a one-time, top-shelf blast 5:16 into the first period.

Just 19 seconds later, Green skated toward the net, eluded goalie Rob McGovern and tucked it into the corner of the net to make it 2-0.

Defenseman Grant Hutton buried a one-timer from the faceoff circle off a slot pass by Green, extending the RedHawks’ lead to three less than two minutes into the second period.

Miami’s Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Maine (1-2) got on the board on a wrister by Veli-Matti Tiuraniemi, and the Black Bears made it a one-goal game as a Mitchell Fossier shot hit a Miami skate and tricked over the goal line. Both goals came in a 91-second span midway through the second period.

Hutton made it 4-2 with a blast from the same spot as his first goal, as he slapped one through traffic with 7:27 remaining in the middle frame.

But Maine refused to go away. Fossier knocked down a pass at the top of the crease, move it to the top of his stick and bat it past RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin with 3:41 left in the second stanza.

That was the fifth marker of the period, and Miami would strike for two more in the closing minutes. A give-and-go between Green and Kiefer Sherwood ended with Sherwood shoveling one just under the crossbar from the side of the net with 2:16 left in the period.

And 1:10 later, Scott Dornbrock teed one up for Louie Belpedio in the high slot, as his one-time rip made it 6-3.

The RedHawks took their largest lead of the game with their final goal eight seconds into the third period. Carson Meyer stole a pass at the blue line and connected with Green, who went in alone and beat backup goalie Jeremy Swayman on the forehand.

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Maine pulled to within two on a slap shot from the blue line by Eduard Tralmaks and a head-hunting shot by Rob Michel.

Miami finished 4-for-5 on the power play as the RedHawks recorded four PPGs in a game for the first time since Jan. 25, 2014 vs. Colorado College.

Melnick ended up with three assists – his first career three-point game – and Hutton had never scored two goals as a RedHawk.

Sherwood and Belpedio also notched two points, both with a goal and an assist.

These teams wrap up their weekend series at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Preview: Miami at Maine

WHO: Miami University RedHawks (0-2) at Maine Black Bears (1-1).

WHEN: Friday and Saturday–7 p.m.

WHERE: Harold Alfond Sports Arena, Orono, Maine.

NOTES: Maine visited Oxford last season, and the RedHawks went 1-0-1, tying the opener, 3-3 and winning the finale, 5-0.

A Division I force through the late 2000s, the Black Bears have won 20 games just one time in the past 10 seasons, and that 23-win season in 2011-12 represented Maine’s lone NCAA Tournament appearance in that span.

The past three seasons have been particularly brutal for the Black Bears, as they have failed to reach the .400 mark, averaging just 11 wins.

Amazingly, Maine didn’t win a single road game in all of 2016-17, salvaging just four ties including one at Miami.

The Black Bears lost their top two scorers from last season in Blaine Byron and Cam Brown. Nolan Vesey, a Toronto draft pick and brother of New York Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey, is the team’s top returning scorer with 13 goals and 10 assists for 23 points.

Sophomore Chase Pearson, a Detroit selection, finished 14-8-22 in 2016-17 and has a pair of assists already this season.

The Black Bears have two other drafted players – G Jeremy Swayman and F Patrick Shea. Swayman is a freshman who gave up four goals in a losing effort in his debut. Shea, a sophomore, has dressed for both games this campaign.

Cedric Lacroix, Peter Housakos and Mitchell Fossier are all back this season, and each found the net vs. Miami last year.

Miami was swept at home by Providence two weeks ago and beat the U.S. Under-18 team, 7-5 in Plymouth, Mich., last Friday.

The RedHawks are looking for their first non-exhibition win since Jan. 28, having gone 0-11-1 in their last 12 games.

D Grant Hutton is 1-1-2, found the net nine times in 2016-17 and scored twice in Miami’s exhibition and has to be considered a credible threat to score from the blue line, which should create more space for his linemates.

The Gordie Green-Josh Melnick chemistry last week vs. the USNDT was undeniable, as Green scored twice – both times set up by Melnick, including a spectacular kick-pass-for-breakaway goal, and Melnick finished with three helpers.

Miami’s Carson Meyer (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

These types of long trips early in the season can help teams bond, and Miami will have played just one exhibition in 13 days entering this series, so the RedHawks have reason to come out strong.

Miami and Maine have only played eight times, with the Black Bears leading the all-time series, 5-2-1.

Carson Meyer recorded four assists in last season’s series, and Louie Belpedio netted a pair of goals.

Miami tops USNDT in exhibition

PLYMOUTH, Mich. – Miami was held to three goals in its first two games against Providence last weekend.

But the RedHawks rediscovered their offense in their first road trip of the season in a 7-5 win vs. the U.S. National Development’s Under-18 team in an exhibition contest at Team USA Arena on Friday.

Miami forward Josh Melnick (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Gordie Green and Grant Hutton scored two goals each, and Josh Melnick led all scorers with three points, all on assists.

Miami (0-2) fell behind when Jack DeBoer banged home a rebound off a point-blank shot 9:19 into the first period.

The RedHawks would score the next four. Hutton ripped a one-timer off a cross-crease pass by Melnick with 8:34 left in the opening frame, tying the score.

Miami’s Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami went ahead when Hutton buried a shot with one second left in the stanza.

Melnick slid a pass through the slot to Green for a tap-in goal 3:45 into the second period, and Ryan Siroky scored an unassisted goal to extend the RedHawks’ lead to three.

But the USNDT tied it with three goals over a 9:25 span of the middle frame.

Zach LaValle put Miami ahead, 5-4, but Team USA rallied to tie the score again on DeBoer’s second marker of the night just over a minute into the third period.

Miami forward Gordie Green (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Finally, the RedHawks went ahead for good on the flashiest goal of the night. Melnick lost his stick but entered the offensive zone anyway, centering the pass to Green for a breakaway. Green buried his shot to make it 6-5.

Carson Meyer tapped in an empty netter with a second remaining to cap off the scoring.

Louie Belpedio and Phil Knies also picked up a pair of helpers for the RedHawks.

Jonathan Gruden, who is a Miami commit, dressed for Team USA and scored a goal.

Miami travels to Maine for a two-game series next weekend.

Miami loses in final second

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami played in 11 overtime games in 2016-17.

And while the RedHawks avoided their first extra session of this season on Saturday, it’s only because they allowed the decisive goal with a second remaining.

The Friars’ Kasper Bjorkqvist poked the puck home with 0.9 seconds to play as No. 11 Providence completed the weekend sweep of Miami with a 3-2 win at Cady Arena on Saturday.

Just 26 seconds into the game, RedHawks forward Carson Meyer was assessed a major penalty, and the Friars scored twice on the ensuing five-minute power play.

Providence (2-0) opened the scoring when Tommy Davis’ wrister from the blue line was turned aside by Miami goalie Ryan Larkin, Jason O’Neill corralled the loose puck and slid it through the top of the crease to Vimal Sukumarin for the slam-dunk goal 4:31 into the first period.

Only 26 seconds later, Josh Wilkins centered a pass from along the boards to Erik Foley for a one-time wrister that beat Larkin.

But Miami (0-2) came back.

Miami’s Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

A one-time rip by Grant Hutton off a feed by Scott Dornbrock found its way through traffic and in to make it 2-1 with 6:57 left in the second period.

Hutton skated the puck into the zone and behind the net before feeding Casey Gilling at the blue line. In similar fashion to Hutton’s goal, Gilling’s wrister snuck through multiple players and hit a Friars defender before hitting twine, tying the score with 13:31 left in regulation.

It was Gilling’s first career goal.

After all that work, Providence’s Ryan Tait deflected a pass in the slot, and after Larkin made the initial stop, Larkin knocked it under his pads to win it as time wound down.

Miami is 0-11-1 in its last 12 games, its longest winless streak since 1991. That skid 26 years ago was the longest in RedHawks history at 17 games.

In terms of chronology, this is now the program’s longest span without a win since its inception in 1978. Miami has not won since Jan. 28, which was 252 days ago.

The RedHawks head to Plymouth, Mich., for an exhibition vs. the Under-18 Team USA squad at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Miami resumes its NCAA schedule when it visits Maine on Oct. 20-21.

Analysis: Chances didn’t go Miami’s way

OXFORD, Ohio – Friday’s script could have had a different ending for Miami.

The RedHawks had two goals waved off, which was the final margin of defeat for in a 3-1 loss vs. No. 11 Providence at Cady Arena in the teams’ season opener.

Miami’s Grant Hutton lays out a big hit in the first period (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

After the teams traded goals in the first period, Miami appeared to have taken a second-period lead when Gordie Green roofed one on a breakaway.

But the replay showed that the puck never entered the net, hitting the crossbar and kicking straight out.

Right after the Friars’ third goal, the RedHawks’ Kiefer Sherwood went in alone and appeared to have tucked the puck under goalie Hayden Hawkey.

Initially called a goal, the tally was taken off the board after it was ruled Sherwood interfered with Hawkey while driving the net.

That last one was tough to digest, as Sherwood skated in diagonally and Hawkey moved up to the top of the crease to challenge the shooter when the alleged contact occurred.

Providence also took a penalty on the play, so had the RedHawks scored, it would have cut their deficit to one and they would have had tons of momentum heading into the ensuing power play.

Not in any way saying Miami got screwed. The Friars looked every bit an 11th-ranked team.

Other thoughts…

– Miami started seven freshmen – Phil Knies, Casey Gilling, Austin Alger, Ben Lown, (redshirt) Christian Mohs at forward and Alec Mahalak and Rourke Russell on defense.

Knies (pronounced ‘nighs’) impressed with his stickhandling, Alger, well, he scored the RedHawks’ only goal, and Mohs looked more confident than most coming off a season-ending knee injury.

Russell looks like a natural agitator who is on course to become a fan favorite. Mahalak is raw but worked hard on Friday and appears to have a lot of upside.

– Miami was down two with three minutes remaining and possessed the puck in the offensive zone for a minute but waited until under 2:00 before pulling Ryan Larkin. In today’s game the goalie needs to come out earlier in a two-goal game.

– The RedHawks donned ‘You Can Play’ jerseys in honor of Brendan Burke, who passed away 6½ years ago. Classy move by Miami to remember the former student manager.

– Speaking of passing away, usher Howard Jackson passed away this off-season after an extensive battle with cancer. He was a mainstay at the top of sections 11/12 since the rink opened.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C-. Only one goal but this corps generated some excellent chances against a top-echelon team. There was a lot of good passing and a lot of bad, which is not unexpected in early October. Coach Enrico Blasi wasn’t afraid to use three freshman forwards on his second power play unit.

DEFENSEMEN: C+. It seems like Providence had fewer A-plus chances than most Miami opponents did last season. The new guys, while on the smallish side, both seem like they can move the puck pretty well and aren’t afraid to play physically.

GOALTENDING: C+. Larkin stopped 27 of 30 shots for a .900 save percentage. The first goal was on a quick release from pretty close and the last one was definitely stoppable. As usual Larkin made a couple of outstanding saves to keep Miami in it.

Season preview III: The predictions

BoB grades forwards, defensemen and goalies after each home game.

So why not give preseason grades for each position?

Miami lost three players from 2016-17 but has added six – seven if you count reshirt freshman Christian Mohs – so BoB takes a look at each position heading into this season.

FORWARDS: C. The RedHawks were well below average in scoring last season, and they should be improved from 2016-17 overall. That said, depth beyond the team’s top two lines is still a question mark.

Miami’s Louie Belpedio (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

DEFENSEMEN: C-. Again, lots of question marks after the first pairing, and Louie Belpedio has been banged up multiple times. Grant Hutton is the best shut-down defenseman on the team, and the final four spots are all up for grabs with Jared Brandt transferring to Niagara.

GOALTENDING: A. Ryan Larkin was named team MVP by the team back in April, as he faced a Grade-A chance shooting gallery much of the season. His health is key in 2017-18. Larkin missed several games due to injury and was out for the end of the team’s playoff series vs. Minnesota-Duluth.

OVERALL PLACE OF FINISH: 4th. Miami finally earns a home series in the conference tournament after heading to the road back-to-back seasons. Both the offense and defense improve and Larkin is stellar in net.

Season preview II: The lineup

Of the 23 players who dressed for Miami last season, 19 will back in the same sweaters this fall.

But that doesn’t mean the RedHawks didn’t lose any talent from 2016-17.

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

Anthony Louis wrapped up his college career as the team’s top point producer his senior year. Also departed are Justin Greenberg, who was a solid penalty killer, and Colin Sullivan, a two-way defenseman that could also move up to forward.

Jared Brandt is also gone after a solid freshman campaign that saw him ascend to the top pairing.

Joining the RedHawks for 2017-18 will be a class of seven, consisting of five forwards and a pair of defensemen.

That’s a net gain of four, so Miami should have ample depth heading into this season, which has been an issue at time the past couple of years because of injuries.

BoB breaks down how the RedHawks Version 2017-18 breaks down positionally.

FORWARDS

Two starters are out (Louis and Greenberg) and five are in.

That means solid depth and lots of fierce, healthy competition for lineups spots each night on a team that struggled to produce offense after the first two lines.

Miami returns 11 forwards, which means at the very least one of the newbies will be dress each night.

Several of the freshmen have put points on the board in juniors, and Coach Enrico Blasi has a reputation for throwing young players into the mix immediately, so there is definitely plenty of opportunity for the newbies to carve themselves regular starting spots.

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Four returning RedHawks recorded at least 20 points last season – Kiefer Sherwood, Josh Melnick, Carson Meyer and Gordie Green. Sherwood was second in points only to Louis (14-24-38), and Melnick went 9-18-27 as the team’s top defensive forward.

Meyer admirably missed just four games while suffering through mono, going 10-16-26 as he noticably ran out of gas down the stretch. Green turned it up as the season went on, as he had seven goals and eight assists the final 18 games of 2016-17.

What Miami needs is more production from the remaining eight spots.

Zach LaValle went 2-9-11 and big Willie Knierim scored four goals and seemed to be adapting well to the college game. Karch Bachman has tons of speed and a great shot, and hopefully that will translate to more success for the talented Florida Panthers draft pick.

That’s seven guys that should start for sure each night.

Of the returning forwards, Ryan Siroky has become a strong penalty killer but doesn’t produce much offense. Carter Johnson played on the fourth line and managed three points in 35 games.

Conor Lemirande is huge at 6-feet-6 but has just nine points in 103 games.

Alex Alger played in 21 games and was an energy forward but finished with just one assist in 21 games.

Those five spots would appear to be less secure on a team looking to generate more offense.

It’s an intriguing unit. Austin Alger, Philip Knies and Casey Gilling were all scorers in the USHL and could press all of the above for their jobs.

Miami was 45th out of 60 Division I teams in goals per game last season (2.53), and the RedHawks need to put the puck in the net more in 2017-18 if they hope to have success this season.

DEFENSEMEN

This was a facet of the game in which Miami struggled in 2016-17, and two mainstays from last season and gone in Jared Brandt and Colin Sullivan.

Brandt transferred to Niagara and Sullivan graduated.

Captain Louie Belpedio was limited to 24 games due to various injuries and although he was not 100 percent when he did play, he racked up six goals and 11 assists for 17 points, the best scoring rate of his career.

Miami’s Grant Hutton (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Grant Hutton is back for his junior season, and while he has been a shutdown-type D-man in his two seasons in Oxford, he scored nine goals in 2016-17.

Scott Dornbrock went 3-10-13 last season and is one of the team’s best hitters.

The other three returning blueliners are all sophomores – Grant Frederic, Chaz Switzer and Bryce Hatten.

Frederic finished with three points in 2016-17 and needs to be more physical this season, as he is 6-3-201. Switzer got better as last season went on, and tallied a goal and an assist in 23 games.

Hatten dressed just 11 times and did not record a point, but a major injury in 2015-16 stunted his performance, and he could take a huge step forward this season.

The freshmen are Alec Mahalak and Rourke Russell, who should challenge for starting spots right away.

Mahalak is more of an offensive-minded blueliner, tallying 26 points in 59 NAHL games, and Russell has a reputation for shutting down opponents.

Two defensemen will have to sit each night, so that should up the ante for everyone involved each practice.

GOALTENDING

At the banquet this spring, Ryan Larkin won the MVP award despite being a freshman.

Miami goalie Ryan Larkin (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

That’s pretty much all you need to know about Miami’s goaltending.

Larkin logged 1,946 minutes last season, going 8-16-7 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.

Those numbers are mediocre until considering the quality of shots Larkin faced in 2016-17. Miami only won nine games last season but that number would be lower if Larkin hadn’t been in net.

He was banged up a couple of times last season, most notably during the RedHawks’ NCHC playoff series, so hopefully he can stay healthy in 2017-18.

Chase Munroe went 1-4 with a 4.25 GAA and .861 save percentage, but he sat much of the year and was under fire when he did hit the ice.