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