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Analysis: Why the sudden turnaround?

OXFORD, Ohio – One of the more captivating things about hockey is how teams that appear dead on the frozen water at one point of a season can quickly reverse that negative trend.

The Miami everyone wanted to play in November and early December has made a significant move in the conference and PairWise the past month, as it won its fourth straight game on Saturday, 4-1 over St. Cloud State at Cady Arena.

The RedHawks (7-8-5) were in last place in the NCHC after their 10th straight non-win on Dec. 9 and dipped as low as 42nd out of 60 teams in the all-important PairWise Rankings, which determine at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament and seeding.

Thirty days later, Miami has shifted into a tie for fifth in the conference and is a point away from fourth. In theory the RedHawks could move as high as third with a pair of wins next week.

MU is up to 28th in PairWise and has much work to do to warrant at-large consideration, but the team is still up 14 spots in a month with plenty of hockey remaining against high-quality opponents.

So what’s the difference? A quick summary…

Health. A young Miami team already lacking a ton of depth couldn’t catch a break in this department the first 16 games. Carson Meyer, Louie Belpedio, Ryan Larkin, Jared Brandt and Josh Melnick – all major contributors on RedHawks Version 2016-17 – missed a combined 15 games with various injuries and illnesses. All are currently healthy now and playing at a high level.

Third-period turnaround. As documented previously, Miami was outscored, 14-3 during its 0-7-3 run in the third period. During their winning streak, the RedHawks have netted 11 goals in the last frame. Opponents: 2. They’re finishing stronger and appear in better shape than earlier in the campaign. Miami found ways to lose games it led the first couple of months and now is pulling them out late.

Power play. With plenty of minutes under its belt as a unit, the Belpedio-Melnick-Anthony Louis-Kiefer Sherwood-Meyer group has impressed with its puck movement, and after going six straight games without a goal on the man-advantage (0-for-19), Miami is 4 of 13 (30.8 percent) in the three contests since.

Melnick on fire. The sophomore scored one time in the first 16 games but has found the net in four straight, netting five goals and setting up another in that span. That includes two overtime winners and the tying goal on Friday. He wins the hardest-to-figure-out-how-he-scored award, as after watching his Saturday goal live and several more times on replay it was still unclear how the redirected the puck in. Both OT goals were highlight-reel quality but also required slow-mo.

Confidence in other forwards. Forgive if anyone is left out, but among freshmen, Gordie Green is getting better every game, so is Willie Knierim. Alex Alger is a solid fourth-line pest, and Karch Bachman has a great shot and better speed, and he has huge upside.

Defense is a little more stable. Miami isn’t quite where it was last season, but that’s because Matthew Caito and Taylor Richart were about as steady as it gets in the NCAA in terms of shut-down D-men. With their departure the returning blueliners are higher in the depth chart consistently facing better forwards, and it’s a tough adjustment. But Grant Hutton, who was so strong as a freshman, is becoming more consistent, and Grant Frederic continues to improve and has been better about staying out of the box. The RedHawks allowed 90 shots in a weekend series in Denver – remarkably tying both games – but has surrendered an average of just 24.0 in the eight games since and had outshot opponents in seven straight before Saturday’s game.

Sherwood is taking over portions of games. There are times now when no one can take the puck away from Sherwood, and he’s exponentially tougher to defend with his passing game evolving. His double-clutch before sliding a pass through to Green for Miami’s second goal on Saturday is a prime example: Teams can no longer play for that lethal shot from the left faceoff circle. The NCHC clearly has the scouting report on Sherwood’s happy zone, but he is moving around on power plays and inflicting damage elsewhere, having adjusted to the conference’s adjustment. And he scored the RedHawks’ first shorthanded goal of the year to open the scoring.

And of course, a little puck luck. As everything seemed to be going wrong for Miami, that intangible made things worse at times, as the RedHawks hit posts and were victimized by bad bounces. The Hockey Gods appear to be balancing things out recently, as opponents are drawing iron and not getting breaks they were the first couple of months.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. This corps scored a goal shorthanded, at even strength and on the power play. The forwards really didn’t generate a ton of chances, but they cashed in on the Grade-A opportunities. And St. Cloud State always seemed to have sticks and bodies in the shooting lanes. If we had to nit-pick, the bottom two lines didn’t do a whole lot and haven’t scored much all season. We could also mention that 12 forwards managed just 17 shots and a few were weak one at an idle goalie.

DEFENSEMEN: B. It’s been a gradual process, but the blueliners are getting beaten less often than in weeks past. The Huskies entered this weekend averaging nearly 3½ goals per game but had limited chances and just one marker in this game, thanks largely to this group. This was one of Hutton’s better games, and he added the cherry on top with the ENG in the final minute after intercepting the puck at center ice. Scott Dornbrock blocked five shots.

Ryan Larkin makes one of his 28 saves on Saturday (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Ryan Larkin makes one of his 28 saves on Saturday (Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

GOALTENDING: A. Notice how goaltending wasn’t mentioned before. The reason is that Larkin has been steady throughout, and without him Miami would not have seven wins. That said, he was even better than usual in this game, stopping 28 shots, with his lone blemish being a heat-seeking laser off a drop pass. Larkin faced some difficult shots but as is his MO allowed a very limited number of rebounds.

LINEUP CHANGES: Same six on D, same goalie, just one change up front. Carter Johnson was scratched for the first time this season in favor of Alger. With four straight wins and the team playing its best hockey of the season, the lineup card probably won’t change a whole lot.

Cornell sinks Miami with late goals

Another late breakdown by Miami helped extend the team’s winless streak reach its highest total in over two decades.

The RedHawks led by two late in the second period but gave up four straight tallies, including three over a five-minute span, as they fell, 4-3 at Cornell on Friday.

That makes eight straight games without a win for MU, which last went that long without a victory Oct. 20-Nov. 24, 1995. The last time the RedHawks went winless for a longer stretch was near the end of the 1990-91 season.

Miami (3-7-4) went ahead by two goals before its collapse.

Josh Melnick centered a pass through traffic to Carson Meyer, who buried a wrister from the slot to open the scoring 5:57 into the first period.

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

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

With five minutes left in the second period, Ryan Siroky led a 3-on-2 and slid a pass to Grant Hutton, who buried a shot stick side from the high slot to make it 2-0.

But with 1:55 left in the middle stanza, Cornell’s Noah Bauld toe-dragged around Miami defenseman Grant Frederic and beat goalie Ryan Larkin to cut the RedHawks’ lead in half.

The Big Red tied it when Eric Freschi backhanded a pass to a streaking Beau Starrett, who slammed it home with 9:50 left in regulation.

Cornell (6-3-1) took the lead on another slam-dunk goal 73 seconds later, as uncontested Anthony Angello slammed home a centering feed from Mitch Vanderlaan at the top of the crease.

Trevor Yates tapped in a loose puck following a scramble in front of the crease to make it 4-2 with 5:02 to play.

Miami did trim the Big Red lead to one with 3:04 left as Karch Bachman chipped a backhand home off a feed by Hutton for his first collegiate goal.

The RedHawks’ last win was on Oct. 28 and their lone road victory was opening weekend in Providence, as they are 1-4-2 away from Cady Arena.

They have been outscored, 14-2 in the third period during their skid and have surrendered multiple goals in the final frame four times and three or more in three of those contests.

Hutton finished with a goal and an assist for his second career multi-point game and his first of 2016-17. He has points in three straight games.

Anthony Louis picked up an assist as he earned a point for the fifth consecutive contest.

These teams wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.

Analysis: Tie is pleasant surprise

Blog of Brotherhood doesn’t make predictions on games, and Friday was Exhibit A as to why that’s the case.

After losing five straight games – three of which were at home – Miami skated to a 1-1 tie against No. 1 Denver at Magness Arena, which is at an altitude of over 5,000 feet.

When we last left the RedHawks, they were drubbed in their own building by Nebraska-Omaha, 6-2 a night after blowing a 4-1 lead in what was ultimately a 6-4 loss.

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

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

In addition to proving that hockey is impossible to predict, we are reminded of another of the sport’s axioms, which is that goaltending is king and a dominant goalie can steal games. Miami was outshot, 39-21 including 15-3 in a first period that saw the RedHawks emerge with a 1-0 lead.

Granted Ryan Larkin didn’t pick up the win, but Miami had little chance if he didn’t stop 45 shots, 38 of which were official because they happened in regular and the legitimate overtime (the other seven were in five minutes of 3-on-3, which in itself is mind-blowing).

The RedHawks were still without captain Louie Belpedio on Friday and showed they are still capable of hanging with the best team in college hockey for 65 minutes.

That has to help this team’s confidence.

There was nowhere to go but up after the giant egg Miami laid last Saturday, and the RedHawks deserve a lot of credit for their significant ascension from six days earlier.

Other thoughts…

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

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

– It was hoped Belpedio would be back this week, but the lower-body injury that he is battling through cost him a fifth straight game. Miami is 0-4-1 without him. His return – whenever that is – will bolster the D-corps substantially and give coach Enrico Blasi more flexibility on his lineup card.

– Carson Meyer missed his third straight game. Hopefully with the off week for Thanksgiving next weekend, Miami will have both Meyer and Belpedio back when it resumes action at Cornell on Dec. 2. Meyer was starting to make a major impact, going 2-8-10 to lead all freshmen.

– There were three total power plays in this game – two for the RedHawks and one for Denver – and six combined penalty minutes assessed. No, really. Miami had averaged seven power plays and six penalty kills through its first 11 games. Neither team scored during the man-advantage, snapping a four-game stretch in which the RedHawks had allowed at least two PPGs. So that’s a positive.

– It was great to see Grant Hutton get a goal after an uncharacteristically poor showing last weekend. He did not register a goal his freshman year but has three in 12 games in 2016-17 and is arguably the top shut-down blueliner on the team.

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

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

– In the that-wouldn’t-have-happened-last-year department, how about Anthony Louis stripping a player to set up the Hutton goal? He’s always been a very good player but never was a major factor on D and along with Kiefer Sherwood has to be one of the top picks for most improved player.

– Believe it or not, this was just the third time this season Miami has blanked an opponent in the third period. Teams have outscored the RedHawks, 11-0 in the previous six third periods and Miami snapped a six-game streak in which it had been scored on in the final frame.

Miami ties top-ranked Denver

It’s a pretty safe bet to say that Miami was happy to have Ryan Larkin back.

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

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

Larkin was pulled from last Friday’s game with an injury and missed Saturday’s contest as a result, but returned to stop a career-high 38 shots as the RedHawks salvaged a 1-1 tie at No. 1 Denver on Friday.

Miami extended its winless streak to six games but it had lost its last five and was 0-4 against its first two NCHC opponents, neither of which were ranked.

The RedHawks (3-6-3), who received one point after DU won the sudden-death shootout, were outshot, 39-21.

Miami’s only goal came just 1:59 into the game when Anthony Louis stole the puck in the defensive zone, slid a pass to a streaking Grant Hutton, and the sophomore defenseman ripped one by goalie Tanner Jaillet on the stick side.

Denver (7-2-2) trailed by a goal after the first period despite leading on the shot counter, 15-3.

But the Pioneers tied it in the middle stanza. With 16:02 left in that frame, Troy Terry stole a Bryce Hatten defensive zone pass, went in alone and beat Larkin stick side to tie it.

The RedHawks generated 11 of their 21 shots in the second period.

After a scoreless third period and overtime, the game was officially ruled a tie. In the second OT for a conference point, Denver outshot Miami, 7-2 in the 3-on-3.

Henrik Borgstrom converted his sudden-death penalty shot but Kiefer Sherwood was denied.

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

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

Hutton’s goal was his third of the season after he did not record a marker in his first season with Miami.

Louis picked up the lone RedHawks assist, giving him helpers in three straight and points in nine of his last 10 games. He now has 102 career points, moving him into sole possession of 49th place on Miami’s all-time leaderboard.

The RedHawks remain in last place in the NCHC, as they picked up their first league point of the season.

These teams wrap up their two-game weekend series at 9:07 p.m. on Saturday.

Analysis: MU growth a work in progress

OXFORD, Ohio – The French phrase “comme ci, comme ca” applies perfectly to Friday’s game.

Miami and Maine skated to a 3-3 tie in the series opener and first game played between these teams in Oxford, and like many ties, the overall performance and the outcome was neither good nor bad for the RedHawks.

Here are some of the pros and cons from this contest from Miami’s perspective:

PROS

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

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

– Anthony Louis has been a good player since setting foot in Oxford, but he appears to have taken a major step up this season. He is playing solid defense, attacking loose pucks and eluding defenders, things he had not done regularly his first three seasons, and that extra effort resulted in a two-goal performance. The second goal especially was the result of beating a defender, something we had not seen him do often previously. He generated nine shots on Friday, many coming because of his hard work.

– Any nervousness from Louis Belpedio was a distant memory. Belpedio struggled early vs. Ohio State, perhaps under the burden of his newly-earned captaincy, but he was fantastic on Friday. He especially stood out quarterbacking the power play, as he puck movement in that capacity was exceptional.

– The man advantage deserves its own bullet point. Miami was only 1-for-8 but the aforementioned puck movement was excellent from the top unit.

– Kiefer Sherwood had seven assists all of last season, but he picked up his third and fourth of the season in this game. He was a feared goal scorer and started to take off in the second half of last season, but he is turning into an all-around force now as he shifts from the wing to center. His brilliant pass to Grant Hutton led to Miami’s first goal, and he picked up the secondary helper in the tying goal on the power play as the RedHawks thanks to solid puck movement in the offensive zone.

– The third line was excellent at puck possession. A pair of sophomores, Ryan Siroky and Zach LaValle, plus senior Justin Greenberg, were arguably Miami’s top threesome in this one, playing a grind-it-out game.

– The wide bodies were solid on the fourth line. Conor Lemirande was a force vs. Ohio State and looks a lot better with the puck this season as well as physically stronger. At 6-feet-6, that’s a scary concept if he continues to improve. Freshman Willie Knierim looked a lot more confident in this game than last week. Patience will be key for fans with Knierim, who is the youngest player on the team and still learning to play with his huge frame. He won’t score 25 goals this season, but watching him develop should be fun the next four years.

CONS

– Topping the list is that Maine didn’t look as good as Ohio State, and Miami still couldn’t come away with the win. True, process counts more than wins and losses at this point, but even with a young team, the RedHawks need to win games on home ice, and they have a pair of ties to open their Cady Arena slate.

Miami's Grant Hutton scores on this second-period shot (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Miami’s Grant Hutton scores on this second-period shot (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

– Turnovers were costly. Defenseman Chaz Switzer was stripped for Maine’s first goal and normally-solid fellow blueliner Grant Hutton couldn’t handle a deep puck in the third period, ultimately leading to the Black Bears’ final goal. Even reliable Josh Melnick couldn’t clear one in the second period and Maine scored later in the shift with tired Miami players caught on the ice.

– Too many long shifts in the D-zone. Kind of a corollary to the turnovers note, which were obviously a contributing factor, Maine possessed the puck in the offensive zone for extended periods far too often in this game.

Other thoughts…

– Overall this team is progressing well despite having half of its lineup consist of freshmen. The schedule will get tougher really soon, though, and Miami still has work to do if hopes to compete in the NCHC.

– Could’ve missed the memo, but the linesmen kicked players out of the faceoff circle at an alarming rate, and often it was difficult to see the cause.

– The faceoff thing was more noticeable because this game featured 72 faceoffs and largely lacked flow as a result. A lot of icing and off-sides, plus 13 penalties.

– Offensive zone faceoff, 1.0 seconds left in regulation, not sure why goalie Ryan Larkin wasn’t pulled. Almost every coach at this level or above puts a sixth attacker on in this situation.

GRADES

From left to right, Josh Melnick, Kiefer Sherwood and Anthony Louis celebrate a Louis goal (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

From left to right, Josh Melnick, Kiefer Sherwood and Anthony Louis celebrate a Louis goal (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

FORWARDS: B. This corps scored two of Miami’s goals and fired 29 shots, with Louis netting both markers and accounting for 9 SOG. Karch Bachman did take a bad penalty, firing an opponent’s stick down the ice. Overall the line chemistry seems to be improving.

DEFENSEMEN: C. Defensemen turnovers directly created two goals for Maine, which cannot be overlooked despite the blueliners’ overall solid play. Hutton scored a goal, balancing out him losing the puck, and Belpedio finished with six shots and picked up the primary assist on the tying goal.

GOALTENDING: B. Stopping 18 of 21 doesn’t look great on paper, but Larkin had zero chance on the second goal, the third was an absolute laser and the first was essentially a close-up breakaway. He controlled all of his rebounds and made a couple of high-quality saves.

LINEUP CHANGES: The only change was on defense: Grant Frederic played with Bryce Hatten sat. Frederic looks like he has potential, and his size is impressive, but he was a tough tentative in this one. That will hopefully go away with more playing time.

Miami stays hot on the road, tops BG

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Miami’s seven-game road losing streak seems like an eternity ago.

The RedHawks fell behind early before scoring the final four goals en route to a 4-1 win vs. Bowling Green at BGSU Ice Arena on Friday, extending their winning streak to three games away from Oxford.

MU’s last road loss came over two months ago at Colorado College.

Sean Kuraly.

Sean Kuraly.

Senior center Sean Kuraly netted the game-winning goal, the 12th of his career, as he moved into a tie for third place all-time on the Miami leaderboard, tying him with Andy Miele and Reilly Smith.

Kuraly finished with a goal and an assist, giving him four multi-point games in his last six contests and 12 points in his last eight (4-8-12).

In the first minute, Miami senior goalie Jay Williams was forced to stop a breakaway after a stretch pass.

With 8:18 left in the first period, BGSU (16-10-6) took the lead when Brent Tate tipped home a blue-line wrister from Sean Walker in the closing seconds of a power play.

But the second period was kind to the RedHawks once again.

Miami (12-13-3) tied it when junior forward Anthony Louis roofed a shot from the side of the net on a two-man advantage with 7:23 left in the frame.

Less than three minutes later, Kuraly tipped in a change-up wrister from the blue line by sophomore defenseman Scott Dornbrock to put the RedHawks ahead for good, 2-1.

That was the sixth goal in a row Miami had scored in the second period. Fortunately for the RedHawks, they bucked that trend in the final stanza.

Freshman forward Kiefer Sherwood banged home a loose puck with 6:09 left in regulation to give Miami a two-goal lead.

Senior defenseman Matthew Caito iced it with an empty netter in the closing minutes.

Kuraly has scored four times in his last six games, and Sherwood netted his fourth in seven. Louis has pumped in four in eight games.

Caito scored his 16th career goal, moving him into seventh on the school’s career leaderboard, tying him with 1996 graduate Pat Hanley.

Freshman defenseman Grant Hutton recorded his first multi-point game, tallying a pair of assists. He has four helpers in his last three games after picking up just one through 25 contests.

Freshman forward Josh Melnick has recorded a point in eight of nine games, finishing with one assist.

Senior goalie Jay Williams stopped 21 shots to earn the win, the 43rd of his career. He is three away from Connor Knapp for fourth place all-time at Miami.

The RedHawks jumped to a tie for 19th in the PairWise rankings with the win. They would likely need to be in the top 13 to be a safe bet for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Nebraska-Omaha won on Friday, moving into a tie with Miami for fifth place in the NCHC standings, and the Mavericks have a game in hand over the RedHawks.

Miami is off until next Friday, when they travel to Kalamazoo, Mich., for a series at Western Michigan.

MIAMI 0-2-2–4
at BGSU 1-0-0–1
First period–1. BGSU, Tate 4 (Walker, Bednard), ppg, 11:42.
Second period–2. Mia., Louis 7 (Melnick, Belpedio), ppg, 12:37; 3. Mia., Kuraly 6 (Dornbrock, Hutton) 15:15.
Third period–4. Mia., Sherwood 7 (Kuraly, Roslovic) 13:51; 5. Mia., Caito 4 (Hutton), eng, 18:13.
Power plays–Miami 1 for 7; Bowling Green 1 for 4. Shots on goal–Miami 16-14-19–49; Bowling Green 8-7-7–22. Goalies–Miami, Williams (21 of 22 shots saved); Bowling Green, Nell (45 of 49). Referees–Tommy Albindia, Brett Klosowski. Linesmen–Andrew Hempel, Frank Hempel. Attendance–4,025. Time–2:16.

Analysis: Yeah, it was bad, but it was 1 game

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami has built a reputation for being one of the toughest teams to score on in college hockey.

Providence appears to be the RedHawks’ defensive kryponite.

The Friars beat Miami, 7-3 at Cady Arena on Friday, giving them 14 goals in two games vs. Miami, which likely can’t wait to play anyone else after losing to PC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to end its 2014-15 season.

With the lopsided score, it’s easy to say the defense and goaltending let the RedHawks down, and oh by the way, that’s supposed to be the team’s strength heading into this season, and while that isn’t completely untrue, as much credit belongs to Providence in this game.

The Friars were seemingly able to pick the corner of the net at will, and when they had opportunities, they did not miss.

Maybe it’s just because of the optimism of opening night, but this game seemed more like a team that is better right now played a nearly perfect game than Miami laid an egg on home ice to start 2015-16.

The first and third goals the Friars scored were perfect shots in the corner of the net. The second was on a penalty shot that was awarded even though it didn’t look like PC’s skater had a clear step breakaway.

The RedHawks got back to within one, but Providence put up four more in a row, as Miami sometimes has a tendency of not being able to stop the bleeding in games like this.

Overall this still looks like a good MU team. One loss doesn’t change that, even though it was lopsided, and of course it’s magnified because it was the season opener.

A few other thoughts on the game, trying to stay in line with the insert optimism theme:

– OK, one negative that needs to make it into prose is that Captain Kuraly didn’t play particularly well in this game. Sean looked like he may have been banged up or fighting an illness, as he appeared out of breath at times and hunched over. Defenses will pay much more attention to him this season with Czarnik-Barber-Coleman gone, and the 19-goal scorer from 2014-15 will need to step up if he hopes to match that goal total this season.

– Obviously Jack Roslovic, a first-round draft pick, was studly. He scored the first goal of the season, whipping it jai alai style into the net off a power play centering feed. Clearly Roslovic is going to be an offensive beast this season.

Miami's Jack Roslovic.

Miami’s Jack Roslovic.

– There’s a ton to like about Josh Melnick, who may have been better than Roslovic in this game. Melnick set up the Roslovic goal, scored one of his own and made a couple of great plays on the penalty kill. It speaks volumes about how much confidence Coach Enrico Blasi has in him that he’s on the first power play and first PK unit. From a purely Miami hockey fan perspective, Melnick not being drafted means he will likely spend four years in Oxford, and that will be fun.

– None of the other freshmen forwards stood out, bad or good. That’s OK. It was their first game. The chemistry will come. None looked lost on the ice. Roslovic and Melnick will obviously make up some of the void left by the departing forwards, and in theory the veteran defense and goaltending should make these players’ transitions easier, as the coaches can concentrate on helping develop them, and the team shouldn’t need to score as much to win. Friday didn’t exactly advance that theory, though.

It a tough way to start the season, but it was only one game. Time to move on. Some good things happened Friday, and it will get better.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. It was a pretty good night for this group. Melnick was awesome, Roslovic is going to be excellent, and senior Alex Gacek and junior Devin Loe also played really well. The latter two are what Miami needs: Veteran players who weren’t studs to step up. Gacek played his best hockey the second half of last year, and Loe has looked very good at times when given the opportunity, and with a short stash of reserves, he should have a chance to earn plenty of ice time this season.

DEFENSE: C-. As usual, this is the hardest area to grade, and with the lamp getting lit seven times, it makes it tougher to grade higher. Freshman Grant Hutton did some really good things and looks like he has a lot of potential, but he also let a player cut in for the breakaway on which he was called for the penalty shot that resulted in the second PC goal. He allowed another player to cut in for an odd-man chance later in the game. But he looks big, strong, smart and agile for his size, and he should turn into a solid defenseman. Colin Sullivan’s goal was a thing of beauty, which gets the grade above the ‘D’ range.

GOALTENDING: D. Like we said, Goals 1 and 3 for PC were just wired. The second goal was a penalty shot, and except for a big rebounds, Providence had very good looks on the rest and did not miss. Not a fan of ever allowed a goalie to give up seven, whether it’s his fault or not, so it would’ve been nice to see him lifted earlier to his confidence doesn’t take a bigger hit. Ryan McKay stopped one shot in relief and will almost certainly start the series finale.

LINEUP: The odd men out for this game were forwards Andrew Schmit and Justin Greenberg, and defenseman Chris Joyaux. Greenberg is banged up, and we’ll see how the defense is handled moving forward. Joyaux played well at the end of 2014-15, so we’ll see how much patience Blasi is going to have with Hutton. Knowing Blasi, he’ll probably rotate which blueliner sits, with Louie Belpedio, Matthew Caito and Taylor Richart likely being the three with job security at this point.

Q&A with Miami’s Nick Petraglia, Part II

On Monday the Blog of Brotherhood published Part I of an interview with Miami assistant coach Nick Petraglia, which ran here:

Here is the conclusion of that conversation.

2BoB: Another forward coming in is Ryan Siroky (Sir-OH-key). BoB saw him a couple of seasons ago with Green Bay and he looked like he had some talent but was 17 and raw at that point. He went 14-19-33 last year, including 1-7-8 in the playoffs after being traded to Muskegon.

PETRAGLIA: High-character kid, power forward, responsible. In the last year, year and a half, he has become very versatile in terms of being able to play different positions up front. He was recruited as a winger but was moved around in different teams’ lineups and learned how to play center, so that versatility is very important for us to be able to use him in different spots. He’s a kid that works hard, he has the ability to score goals – he has a little bit of offense to him, has a scoring touch in tight. He’s a complete player that is responsible and can contribute meaningful minutes to our team.

BoB: Next would be Zach LaValle (la-VAL). LaValle had a big year in the NAHL, going 20-41-61 for Janesville.

PETRAGLIA: He was a very successful three-sport, all-state athlete in Minnesota. I would say his strengths are his hockey sense and his playmaking. He had a really good year leading the team in scoring, and (Janesville) set a league record for wins and points and they ran away with the league, and he kind of league the way offensively. He’s a smart, playmaking forward, and he’s a guy that can probably play center and wing for us as well.

BoB: Another player who was a big points producer in juniors is Josh Melnick. At 5-feet-7 and with a line of 14-48-62 with Youngstown of the USHL, that looks like the scoring line of a playmaking center.

PETRAGLIA: Yes, that’s exactly what he is. He is one of the best passers that we could’ve found. He knows how to set the table, he knows how to run a power play, and again, hockey sense. Really, really smart, really smart and reliable, he can fly, he can make plays at high speed. He could probably shoot the puck a little bit more, but he really knows how to step guys up and make plays and produce offense, and he’ll be a guy that we think will transition very nicely into college hockey and make an immediate impact.

BoB: Kiefer Sherwood. Here’s a guy that absolutely blew up last season. He scored 29 goals and set up 27 more in his third season with Youngstown. What is your impression of him?

PETRAGLIA: He did (score a lot) in midgets and that’s where we recruited him from. Again, looking at what we’re replacing and what we’re bringing in, you lose a shot like Riley Barber – and by no means am I expecting Kiefer to come in and score 20 goals, it could happen but you don’t want to put that kind of pressure on a kid – this is a kid that can just shoot the puck and score goals. His one-timer is incredible. He’s got a really quick release, a hard and heavy shot, he can really skate. So when you look at the list of guys we’re bringing in, we’ve mentioned a few playmakers, this would be a goal scorer, a guy that can score and get up and down the ice and make a difference.

BoB: The final forward is a University of Maine transfer, Ryan Lomberg. He played two seasons with the Black Bears, going 18-14-32 in 66 games and sat out last season, joining Youngstown where he went 24-19-43. He will be a junior this year, and he did have an off-ice incident that led to his departure from Maine. Can you talk about bringing in a player with two years of collegiate experience on a team that lost a lot of forward talent?

NOTE: Lomberg pled guilty to a disorderly conduct charge last summer stemming from a fight several months prior, for which he was originally charged with assault.  

PETRAGLIA: He’s a kid very similar to Blake Coleman. Difficult to play against, can play in all situations. Very, very gritty and hard-nosed, can score, can make plays, but he’s a player that the other team notices and they don’t want him on the ice. And he’s an outstanding kid. Had a situation at Maine that was obviously tough for him to deal with but we can definitely speak to his character and say that he’s a really good person that’s learned from his mistakes and deserves a second chance. Still some eligibility issues with the NCAA in regards to his transfer, so we’re not quite sure if he’s going to be ready for us in the first half or if we’re going to have to wait until January. If we have to wait until January, we’ll get through it and he’ll be a big part of our team whenever the NCAA says that it’s OK.

BoB: So, worst-case scenario, he can come in this January as a junior and still play his entire senior season in 2016-17?

PETRAGLIA: That’s correct. Worst-case scenario…he can play (vs.) RPI, Jan. 2.

BoB: With all of the forward spots that are open from last season (7 – Czarik, Coleman, Murphy, Wideman, Mullin, Barber, Doherty), the spots are there for these incoming players to win starting jobs right away. Is that accurate?

PETRAGLIA: Yeah, and that’s how we’ve always recruited. We want to bring in guys to fill roles and we bring them in when they’re ready to contribute. No different than when Austin Czarnik came in, Austin Czarnik replaced Carter Camper…and Austin Czarnik was our leading scorer and No. 1 center for four years. And now Austin’s gone.

(At center), Sean (Kuraly) coming back, and what he brings to our team and the impact he’s going to have on the ice is huge. I don’t want to say who our No. 1 center is going to be, who knows? You could argue whomever. But Sean’s going to be a huge piece of our puzzle, and Jack replaces Austin and kind of fills that role. So you can see the different skill sets and the different elements that the (incoming) guys bring to the table. They’re brought here for a reason and hopefully they’re ready.

BoB: You mentioned Sean Kuraly a couple of times. He takes over the captaincy from Czarnik. Fans can see how hard he works and much of a force he’s become since coming to Oxford, but can you talk about the type of leader he is, which is something many people don’t see?

PETRAGLIA: He just gets it. First of all, he is the poster child of how to carry yourself, the perfect example of a human being in terms of humility, caring for other people, caring for his teammates, his selflessness. He’s so passionate and he works so hard. I think that’s one thing that people who don’t know Sean Kuraly that come to watch us play – I’m sure that if you’re watching that, oh, look at Sean Kuraly. Look how hard that kid works. He brings his best every single shift, and it’s not just on the ice. He brings his best in the classroom, he brings his best in terms of his attention span in a meeting, when he’s talking to his friends and his teammates. More than anything, he is respected by every single person in our program. If you were to take a poll, I’ll bet every single person in our program would vote him as our captain. It would probably be unanimous.

BoB: You have one defenseman coming in, who is Grant Hutton. He has bounced between the NAHL and the USHL and had an excellent playoff year with that tremendous Janesville team. He’s 6-feet-3, so can you talk about how he fits in to this team?

PETRAGLIA: Grant is a kid that’s built off of work ethic. He’s very strong, very well conditioned, great athlete. Obviously he has some size, and one thing about him – he can shoot the puck and he has a little bit of offense – but more than anything he takes great pride in playing D and shutting down the other team and keeping the puck out of his own net. He’s a player that hates to get scored on more than anybody I’ve ever met. It really bugs him, and obviously that’s a very important attribute to have on your team is a guy that really takes pride in taking care of his own end and defending, and that’s what Grant Hutton does. Another kid (with) great character from Indy, just down the road, so a semi-local kid that grew up loving Miami. (He’s) excited to be here and we’re excited to have him.

BoB: With Ben Paulides graduating and Colin Sullivan, who played very well when he was healthy last season, in the mix, it looks like there are going to be battles for those final couple of defenseman spots in the lineup each night.

PETRAGLIA: So with Mooney, you mentioned having a roster of 25, it gives us comfort knowing we have a guy like him that can play both positions as necessary based on the way things are going. But you mentioned the competition and that’s absolutely true, competition makes everybody better, it makes our team better, and we’re really happy with the makeup of our D-corps and the different elements and the competition that’s back there. We thought the guys did a real good job last year, playing both ends and taking care of the D-corps, so to have the majority of them back, and losing Ben Paulides, who did a good job for us. Grant comes in and has a similar skill set, defends in the same way that Benny did in terms of being a defensive defenseman, so we’re hoping for our D-corps to once again have a solid year, be a big part of our team.

BoB: Miami is bringing in another goalie in Evan McCarthy. He has been decent in the NAHL the past two seasons, so can you talk about him coming in with two other established goalies already with the RedHawks?

PETRAGLIA: So Evan’s coming into a situation where we obviously have two seniors who have played every minute for the last three years, and we’re going to expect a lot out of them, so he’s going to have an opportunity to compete and learn and be a part of that for a year. A year from now we’re going to expect Evan to step up and compete for a spot. We have a kid coming in who I’m not allowed to talk about until he signs his (Letter of Intent), but just having the competition that position, Evan’s going to have the opportunity to compete for playing time for four years. This year will be a little tougher for him because he’s got two seniors (in front of him), but after that it should be a good opportunity for him to battle it out. He’s a good that is extremely bright, very, very good student – he was valedictorian of his high school in Colorado – has a great work ethic. He has good size, he fills the net well, has a good skill set, so it will be a really good opportunity for him to learn the college game and adapt to this level of play and just get used to it before Ryan (McKay) and Jay (Williams) both graduate.

I’ve got one other thing to say, because it’s really important: Anthony Louis and Louie Belpedio. I would expect both of them to take huge steps this year. They were both great for us last year, but in terms of developing into elite college players, I think both of those guys are ready to take that step. When you talk about the guys that are leaving and trying to fill voids, both of those guys are totally capable of stepping up, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Anthony Louis light it up.

John Lachmann writes for WCPO.com, the Northern Kentucky Tribune, Tristatefootball.com and GetSportsInfo.com. You can follow him at @rednblackhawks.

Q&A with Miami’s Nick Petraglia, Part I

Nick Petraglia is entering his sixth season as an assistant coach at Miami, but he has been around the program since he was 18.

PetragliaHe was a goalie for the RedHawks in 2000-01 and 2001-02 under current head coach Enrico Blasi, and was a volunteer assistant coach for three seasons before becoming the director of hockey operations at Miami.

Two of his main current responsibilities for the RedHawks are working with the goalies and serving as a recruiting co-coordinator.

Because he watches the incoming players extensively before they come to Oxford, the Blog of Brotherhood talked to him about how the newest crops of RedHawks and the state of the roster, as well as other off-season topics.

BoB: So what is the coaching staff doing at this point to prepare for this fall?

PETRAGLIA: Preparation started probably a couple of weeks after the Frozen Four last year. Really, just recapping last season, seeing what the makeup of our team was going to look like, establishing a new identity, leadership, addressing areas that we needed to improve. That all occurred at the end of last season, and then when the guys were around for summer session, they put in a lot of hard work, just getting off on the right foot in terms of training and their summer preparation. Right now, we’re just kind of recapping those topics that we covered in the spring, and then the next two weeks we’ll spend a lot of time meeting and planning our preseason in terms of what our practice is going to look like, what our schedule is going to look like, making sure we’re making the most of our time because we have to be pretty efficient with the NCAA restrictions that are in place in the preseason in terms of hours. So really at this point it’s just putting the plan in place and making sure we’re ready to go and we’re prepared to we can execute that plan when the guys are here.

BoB: Miami lost a lot of really good forwards from last season (Austin Czarnik, Blake Coleman, Riley Barber, Cody Murphy, Alex Wideman). Is the biggest concern heading into 2015-16 this team’s ability to put the puck in the net?

PETRAGLIA: I wouldn’t call it a concern, just part of our job in recruiting is to know what we’re losing and to replace it. So while obviously a few players that have those abilities have left, we feel like we’ve replaced it with guys who can fill those roles. Obviously with freshmen, there’s going to be a natural learning curve, but we’re really excited about what we have coming in with some of the new guys to carry to load. And then on top of that, as guys get older and new opportunities are available, you always look for some returning players to step up and take up their role and fill some of that void left by graduating seniors or in this case even Riley Barber, who left a year early. I think we have a lot of firepower, we have good balance – skill and speed – and hopefully that will translate to production. I wouldn’t say we’re concerned but it’s definitely something we’re going to have to find the right chemistry and work at, make sure we’re living up to the standards that we’ve set.

BoB: Is off-season at Miami easier for you and the other hockey coaches because you’ve been together so long? Coach Enrico Blasi is entering his 17th season, Coach Brekke has been there for almost a decade and you’ve been with the program since you were a teenager and are in your sixth season in your current role as an assistant.

PETRAGLIA: I think as a the years go on we become more and more cohesive as a staff, and I would also say that as a program, that includes our relationships between the staff and the players as well. Just having everybody on the same page, knowing what our standards are and buying in and working toward the same goal. So our summer discussions as a staff and the planning that’s in place: I think there’s a lot of chemistry in that area. We definitely have discussions where we’re trying to figure things out and think of new ways to do things, and we’re always trying to get better, but I would say that the quality of our relationships and where we’re all at personally really helps with that because we really are one big family, and it’s fun to show up every day and work with people that you care about and that you love and that you can really get along with and not only have a great relationship but a productive one where you can talk things out even when things are tough, and talk things out and come to an agreement as one.

BoB: In looking at your roster, last year at this time you had 28 players. Right now there are 25 listed, which is the smallest roster I can remember this team having. A couple of guys aren’t coming back that you probably expected to see here this fall, but how do you feel about having list 25 players on the roster right now?

PETRAGLIA: We feel OK with it. We were a little surprised about Jimmy Mullin moving on. Obviously he graduated, but (he) has an opportunity at Minnesota State…so that would’ve been 26. But 25, we feel good about. We feel really good about our senior class. Outstanding group of people that have been through a bunch of good times but some tough times as well, so they’ve seen both sides of it, and the leadership starting with Sean Kuraly, who’s going to be a tremendous captain for every reason you can list. Not only that but his support group is really, really good. The character that’s in that senior class is really going to lead the way for our team and sets the bar high for us. So we really couldn’t be more excited about that senior class taking charge of this team.

BoB: Two defensemen that were on the roster last year at this time, Matt Joyaux and Trevor Hamilton,  decided mid-season to pursue opportunities with other teams. Nothing against them, they did what they had to do to further their hockey careers, but a player like Garrett Kennedy a few years ago was willing to not dress for two years before getting his shot on the ice and ended up being a solid contributor his final two seasons. With college hockey becoming more competitive and more of a business than ever, do you envision this current scenario is going to become more of a reality or do you feel last season was an aberration?

PETRAGLIA: I really hope that’s not the reality – that’s a really tough question to answer because everything is a case-by-case basis. In those situations, it was a tough situation for both players, they found themselves out of the lineup more than they would like and felt that they would have better opportunities to play more elsewhere, and that was the reason for leaving. I think they both really did love Miami and enjoyed the overall experience, but it came down to playing opportunity. It’s disappointing to see that happen because there are other examples where players find themselves in that situation and they work hard and they work themselves out of it and find themselves in the lineup every single game, and that’s what you would like to see because unfortunately someone’s got to sit out each night, not everybody can play. So I hope that’s not the reality, but it is the nature of the business when you’re trying to put yourself in a position to succeed and play as much as possible. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out for whatever reason and people move on. That was tough, in the middle of the season, for that to happen, but both kids handled it well, left on good terms in terms of not having any animosity, it was handled rather professionally, and we all got through it.

BoB: Overall, looking at the dynamic of the team, you lost a 5-feet-6 and a 5-feet-7 guy and are only bringing in one smaller player. The lone incoming defenseman is 6-feet-3. So it looks like you’re going to have a little more size this season.

PETRAGLIA: I know going back a year ago, after 2013-14, we felt like we needed to get bigger. We added Lemirande, Dornbrook, Sullivan. We felt like we needed that size and strength. And at this point we feel like we’ve got a pretty balanced lineup where I don’t think size is an issue. Naturally, we’re going to have some smaller players that bring certain skill sets to the table. The size of this year’s class is probably average to normal.

BoB: The incoming player who has commanded the most hype is forward Jack Roslovic. He was picked in the first round, 25th overall by the Winnipeg Jets this summer. In 25 games for the U.S. National Development Team, he had 11 goals and 27 assists, plus he went 6-5-11 in seven games for the U.S. Under-18 Team in its gold medal effort. He played in an exhibition at Cady Arena last season, and BoB saw him again in Ann Arbor last winter and his talent level looks off the charts. Especially with all of the key forward losses, the RedHawks are going to need someone who can jump in and contribute right away. Can you talk about him and what he brings to Miami?

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PETRAGLIA: Jack is a special player. Obviously there’s going to be a lot of expectation and a lot of pressure just because of where he was drafted, where he’s coming from. He’s very highly touted. But the one thing I will say about Jack is he’s very, very grounded. For all that’s been through and what he experienced this summer, he’s got a really good head on his shoulders. He can do everything. He’s got decent size, he’s strong on his skates, his playmaking and offensive instincts are incredible. Very, very good hockey sense. He can do it all, and he’s one of those guys that we’re going to expect to be ready right away. Obviously there will be a little bit of a transition, but he’s already played in some college games (in exhibitions), he’s played in big-time environments, and we’re going to lean on him pretty heavily to produce right away, and we don’t see him having any big issues other than normal growing pains.

Check back on Wednesday for Part II and the conclusion of our conversation, as Petraglia dissects the rest of the incoming recruits and talks about the players he expects to take major steps forward this fall.

John Lachmann writes for WCPO.com, the Northern Kentucky Tribune, Tristatefootball.com and GetSportsInfo.com. You can follow him at @rednblackhawks.