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ECHL report: Gacek excels in debut

Alex Gacek shuffled between three ECHL teams in 2016-17, but he finished seventh in rookie goals and ninth in points by a first-year player in that league.

Alex Gacek as a senior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Gacek, a 2016 Miami graduate, scored 26 times and dished for 26 assists en route to a 52-point rookie campaign with South Carolina, Orlando and finally Atlanta.

Gacek started the season with South Carolina but was traded to Orlando on Dec. 29. On March 7 he was acquired by Atlanta at the trade deadline.

Gacek ended the season with a plus-11 rating and his shooting percentage was 18.7.

OTHER ROOKIES: Matthew Caito played just 23 games with Toledo during the regular season, but the defenseman scored eight times and added six assists.

Caito picked up his first pro hat trick vs. Fort Wayne on Nov. 25 as part of a five-game stretch in which he found the net seven times.

Caito also played with Grand Rapids (AHL) for 13 games before returning to Toledo for the playoffs, racking up nine more points in 17 games. He logged eight games with the Walleye at the end of 2015-16 following Miami’s season.

Taylor Richart (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Defenseman Taylor Richart netted seven goals and picked up 13 assists in his first pro season.

Playing for Utah, Richart was limited to 48 games in 2016-17 but still finished second on the team in blueliner goals. He was tops among ex-Miamians in ECHL defenseman points with 20.

Defenseman Colin Sullivan made his pro debut with Atlanta this spring after wrapping up his season season in Oxford.

Sullivan earned his first career assist at Greenville on April 2.

LEADING AT INDY: Alex Wideman led all former RedHawks in ECHL points last season with 55.

Alex Wideman (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

He was tops on Indiana in assists (33) and shootout goals (3) and has already racked up 94 points in 128 games in the league.

Wideman played juniors in Indianapolis for two years prior to his Miami career, and now calls his former rink home.

MINORS MASTERTON: Alden Hirschfeld required season-ending brain surgery in 2015-16 but returned to post a career-high 49 points last season for Toledo.

Hirschfeld also set high marks in goals (23) and plus-minus (17).

After earning a promotion to AHL Grand Rapids, Hirschfeld collapsed on the bench as the result of a seizure on Jan. 8, 2016 and underwent a craniotomy on March 14, during which a malformation on his brain was removed.

MILESTONES: Gary Steffes needed two points to reach the 200 mark for his career entering the final game of the 2016-17 regular season.

His line in that contest: 1 goal, 1 assist, capped off by a clinching marker in a 4-2 win over Wichita.

Steffes also scored his 100th ECHL goal late last season and has rolled up 105 in four seasons in that league.

PLAYOFFS?! PLAYOFFS?!?! No former Miamian advanced to the championship series, but Kevin Morris and Matthew Caito both posted nine points as their respective teams qualified for the conference final.

Morris played 19 games with Manchester, scoring five goals and adding four assists, and defenseman Matthew Caito racked up a goal and eight helpers.

Dynasty team Allen was bounced in the second round, and Gary Steffes finished with three goals and three assists in that team’s postseason.

See also: BoB’s look at RedHawks in the NHL, as well as RedHawks in the AHL in 2016-17.

On deck: BoB takes a look at Miamians in other leagues.

A look at all RedHawks that appeared in ECHL games this season:

Regular season
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Alex Wideman Indianapolis F 70 22 33 55 -19 26
Alex Gacek Atlanta F 61 26 26 52 11 16
Alden Hirschfeld Toledo F 55 23 26 49 17 27
Gary Steffes Allen F 68 21 26 47 19 43
Kevin Morris Manchester F 66 16 20 36 9 93
Tyler Biggs Kalamazoo F 58 13 19 32 -14 42
Taylor Richart Utah D 48 7 13 20 -5 14
Chris Joyaux Tulsa D 54 1 14 15 7 22
Matthew Caito Toledo F 23 8 6 14 7 18
Will Weber Fort Wayne D 67 3 6 9 4 76
Devin Mantha Fort Wayne F 25 2 4 6 2 2
Colin Sullivan Atlanta D 6 0 1 1 -2 6
Justin Vaive Cincinnati F 1 0 0 0 0 0


Goalies

Player Team GP Min. W L GAA Sv% SHO
Ryan McKay Utah 7 288 2 3 3.53 .862 0
Connor Knapp Norfolk 14 774 2 10 3.65 .893 0
Jay Williams Orlando 10 364 1 3 3.95 .895 0

Playoffs
Skaters

Player Team Pos. GP G A Pts. +/– PIM
Kevin Morris Manchester F 19 5 4 9 26
Matthew Caito Toledo F 17 1 8 9 15
Gary Steffes Allen F 9 3 3 6 4
Alden Hirschfeld Toledo F 13 1 5 6 7
Tyler Biggs Kalamazoo F 7 0 5 5 8
Taylor Richart Utah D 3 0 0 0 2
Will Weber Fort Wayne D 8 0 0 0 4
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Analysis: When does the movie come out?

OXFORD, Ohio – A movie could be made about this season, and it could be better than most sports flicks in recent history.

Hey, they’re making one about John Scott, aren’t they?

Miami shut out Colorado College, 4-0 at Cady Arena on Saturday to complete a series sweep of the Tigers on Senior Night and the final regular season home game of a number of players’ careers.

Need a solid plot?

A team that didn’t have enough offensive weapons (at least at the beginning of the year) takes on one of the toughest schedules in Division I and fails early – almost catastrophically so – posting a 5-9-2 first half, with the final two games being a pair of losses against one of the worst teams in college hockey in the Tigers.

The team is in utter turmoil, both on and off the ice, heading into Christmas break.

Then it seemingly gets worse as senior goalie Ryan McKay, who has had a stellar career in Oxford, is suspended indefinitely for an outburst as he leaves the ice.

That leaves the netminding reins to Jay Williams, who couldn’t get a starting gig in the USHL and has had to share the cage with McKay for almost all of four years.

Including 2015-16, when Williams was left in to allow seven goals in the season opener and then benched for almost the remainder of the calendar year, not picking up his first win until Jan. 3.

Following the GoalieGate loss, the team was 6-11-3.

The team has gone 9-3 since and somehow gotten itself into NCAA Tournament contention, capping its home slate with a pair of wins over Colorado College, the same team that Miami couldn’t beat in December.

The finale is played in front of one of the best Cady Arena crowds in recent history.

Enough drama?

How about Anthony Louis scoring with two seconds left to send Miami to a 2-1 win over Bowling Green?

Or a come-from-behind win against top-10 St. Cloud State in an action-packed 3-2 win at Cady Arena?

Or another key road win at BGSU after trailing 1-0 after the first period?

Or a beloved usher and huge Miami hockey fan suffering from Stage 4 cancer, coming back for that final home game in what was one of the most emotionally-powerful moments in recent memory in the northeast corner of Cady Arena?

Miami's seniors are honored before Saturday's game (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s seniors are honored before Saturday’s game (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

We’ve got the characters too, most notably seniors playing their final games with the RedHawks, and all at the top of their game.

There’s Williams, who was never considered good enough to start for any of his juniors teams, posting a sub-2.00 goals-against average since taking over in net exclusively.

He set two school records in that home finale, one for being the first goalie to post a double shutout in a weekend, another for longest consecutive shutout streak at nearly 150 minutes.

And believe us, his story is actually even better than that.

Insert shameless self-promotion: BoB has a feature coming out about Williams in a couple of days.

How about Taylor Richart, the bust-your-hind-quarters defenseman you just can’t help but love? At 5-feet-9 he had earn a spot on an NAHL roster and then a USHL roster before coming to Miami, where he had to overtake several other more highly-touted blueliners to crack the lineup every night and gets beat up like a pinata on a game-by-game basis.

Taylor Richart celebrates his second goal in an as many nights on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Taylor Richart celebrates his second goal in an as many nights on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

He can seeming do everything on the ice and has elevated his game more than just about anyone in his four years, but he simply hasn’t been a scorer in college.

Richart had one goal in 127 games prior to this weekend. All his did in his final two regular season home games is find the net in both and earn a first star in one contest and second in the other.

Rudy has nothing on Richart.

Or Sean Kuraly? The big power forward who is the son of Miami’s all-time leading sniper notched 19 goals last season but couldn’t find the net with a GPS the first half of 2015-16. After bearing the weight on the world on his shoulders, he had some of his captaincy duties whittled away so he could concentrate on making awesome happen on the ice again.

It’s safe to say he has, tallying 15 points in 12 games and anchoring the Columbus line comprised of the wily veteran and a pair of super-talented freshmen in Kiefer Sherwood and Jack Roslovic.

We can’t forget Alex Gacek who tore his patellar tendon off the bone prior to his Miami career, and how it took years for him to regain his confidence. It’s not even debatable that he is playing the best hockey of his career.

Same goes for Kevin Morris, the super-smart son of an AHL coach who has a 3.6 GPA and has posted six goals in 11 games after finding the net just eight times in his previous 96 contests.

Same goes for Chris Joyaux, who has been so steady on the blueline since joining the team in the fall of 2012.

Same goes for transfer Andrew Schmit, who has gotten to play with his cousin, Conor Lemirande, forming the Crash Cousins line. He is one of the team’s most punishing hitters in recent history but has just eight penalty minutes in 2015-16.

And there’s Michael Mooney, who works so hard when he does get in the lineup and has saved this team’s bacon when it had battled injury woes with his ability to move into any position.

Matthew Caito wasn’t able to play on senior night, coincidentally missing just the second and third games of his Miami career, making the double shutout even more impressive.

It’s unlikely his season is over, and one of the steadiest two-way defenseman to dress for this team since Andy Greene must return for the RedHawks to have any realistic chance at an NCAA run.

BoB won’t forget McKay, whose .917 career save percentage is the fourth-best in school history, and his 1.39 goals-against average as a freshman is easily the best of any goalie to don the pads in Oxford.

Don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes here and not trying to take a side for that reason or stir anything up, but it’s shame how his Miami career has likely ended, without the benefit of taking a victory lap for his final regular season home game.

Good luck topping that, Hollywood.

Kuraly said at intermission on Saturday that this class hopefully has a couple more memories to make before its players go their separate ways to pursue their dreams, both on and off the ice.

The way this big screen-worthy regular season has gone, fans have to feel like the script has several more scenes to be written.

Even if that’s not the case, it’s been an Oscar-worthy story that’s played out the past couple of months.

Other thoughts…

– For five periods this weekend, Miami played decent hockey, good enough to outscore CC. The RedHawks finally got it right in the sixth and final frame, scoring three unanswered goals on 22 shots, as the puck seemed to spend half of that stanza in the Colorado College goal crease. A plus-7 goal differential is great, but a more skilled team would’ve buried some of its ample chances this weekend.

– A night after racking up nearly 14 minutes of power play time vs. 93 seconds for Miami, it’s mind blowing that Colorado College took 14 minutes in first-period penalties for dust-ups with officials, including contact with a linesman.

– It was listed at 3,155, but the crowd at Cady Arena on Saturday seemed larger and was certainly rocking, despite, well…OK…enough with the music bashing – it’s gotten a little better. If Miami does get back to Cady for a series against Minnesota-Duluth, we will need loud fans at the game. Forget spring break…doesn’t having the campus and the Oxford bars to yourselves with a best-of-3 hockey series sound more appealing?

– Miami graduate Nick Brunker did play-by-play for this game and was fantastic, to the surprise of no one who has ever heard his broadcasts. Few have worked harder to advance their broadcast media careers, as Brunker actually got kicked out of the press box of a Cincinnati Mighty Ducks game as a high school student for trying to perfect his craft and record his own calls when there wasn’t ample room, and he later excelled as the PxP guy for the Cincinnati Cyclones.

GRADES

FORWARDS: A. Zach Lavalle won a battle along the boards that ultimately led to Richart’s goal, opening the scoring. Roslovic’s beautiful centering pass led to Morris’ laser one-time finish. Not sure if Kuraly intentionally tipped a pass to Sherwood for Goal No. 3 or if it was inadvertent – we’ll call it deliberate, we’re feeling generous – but what a play. Freshman Josh Melnick (this deep into a write-up this is really Melnick’s first reference?) won a boards battle to get the puck to neutral ice then stole a pass and fed it to Louis for the ENG. Lots of offensive positive here.

DEFENSEMEN: A-. Good work without it two-way leader in Caito. If we had to nitpick, this group did turn it over a couple of times early but seemed to tighten up late, even as Colorado College started taking more chances in the third period (thus the 10 shots in the final 20 minutes for CC). Richart not only scored, he gloved a puck down and shuffled it ahead quickly to Roslovic, leading to the Sherwood goal. Apparently there’s nothing Richart can’t do right now.

Jay Williams makes one of his 24 saves on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Jay Williams makes one of his 24 saves on Saturday (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

GOALTENDING: A. Not as many difficult saves for Williams as on Friday, but this is a weekend the senior will likely tell his grandchildren about. Fifth-five shots, 55 saves in 120 minutes, including 24 of 24 in this one. His rebound control was excellent again, and the TV color guy mentioned that as well. It’s only the third time a Miami goalie has posted back-to-back shutouts and the first time one has blanked a team twice in a weekend. Williams’ shutout streak is now 148:52, the longest in team history. Cody Reichard held the previous mark at 141:41. David Burleigh also posted back-to-back zeroes and went 136:05 between goals against.

LINEUP CHANGES: It was the same 19 as Friday for the RedHawks. Caito, Schmit and Loe missed their second straight games, while Colin Sullivan, Mooney and Ryan Siroky dressed for the second consecutive night.

Analysis: Miami thrived on special teams

OXFORD, Ohio – Somehow Miami managed to score twice on special teams despite having just 1:33 of power play time vs. 13:49 for Colorado College.

Miami's Jay Williams (right) and Taylor Richart (left) both starred in Friday's win (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Jay Williams (right) and Taylor Richart (left) both starred in Friday’s win (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Those goals propelled the RedHawks to a 3-0 win over the Tigers on Friday, their second shutout of the season and the first of 2015-16 for senior Jay Williams.

A defining moment for Miami (14-14-3) came midway through the third period, when junior forward Anthony Louis was assessed an interference major and game misconduct.

Teemu Kivihalme was also given a minor on the ensuing skirmish, setting up a 4-on-4. But senior defenseman Chris Joyaux went to the box for slashing 49 seconds later, setting up a 4-on-3 for 1:11 followed by a 5-on-3 for 49 seconds.

Nine of Colorado College’s shots came during this sequence, and Williams stopped them all. MU was 7-for-7 on the PK and is second in Division I at 92.9 percent.

It was the second interference major of the game for Miami, as sophomore defenseman Scott Dornbrock was also sent off for that infraction in the second period.

RedHawks senior defenseman Scott Richart buried a shorthanded goal during that extended penalty kill.

By the way, Miami had taken one major penalty all season entering this game.

Not a fan of criticizing officiating, but it was brutal in this game.

For the power plays to be 7-2 favoring a less-skilled team including a pair of majors is lunacy for a Miami team that does not have a reputation for dirty play.

The RedHawks came into this weekend averaging 8.0 penalty minutes a game, in the bottom 10 in all of Division I.

They should’ve just called the Dornbrock penalty what it really was: A Hitting Too Hard Major.

Maybe it was interference. Maybe. As in: A minor penalty. But as someone who thinks interference should be called more in hockey, it’s something I watch for, and there were several better examples of that infraction both ways that could’ve been called prior to Dornbrock’s major.

Didn’t see Louis’ hit – it was along the boards. But when a player stays down for a minute and none of his teammates come to his rescue and the trainer watches him lay motionless it’s pretty safe to say he’s pandering for a call. Which he got.

Physicality isn’t a big part of Louis’ game, and the player he hit was twice his size.

For the record the interference major was introduced prior to 2014-15 as an option for officials if someone gets laid out away from the play, so from a rules standpoint it’s a valid call.

These specific examples didn’t rise to that definition though. We’re talking borderline minors, and the first one didn’t really even look like that.

In the third period it looked like the refs were going to swallow their whistles, as they led several would-be penalties against both teams go.

Then Conor Leminande, interference, 8:46? Yeah, OK.

Right after that expired the Louis debacle which could’ve been a game changer, and in a way it was, just not in favor of the team with the man advantage(s).

Miami goalie Jay Williams (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami goalie Jay Williams (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

And that’s the bottom line: Miami turned a negative – miserable officiating – and made it a positive. Taylor Richart shorthanded goal, Jay Williams about 90 saves in the third period.

Miami did what a good team should do: Win even when things out of its control go against it.

Other thoughts…

– All of the above said, the RedHawks really didn’t play that well. Colorado College (6-24-1) only has one decent scorer – Hunter Fejes – and Miami did a good job of containing him. The Columbus line was very good but none of the others could get much going. The Tigers are allowing 35 shots per game and Miami finished with 26. Granted it doesn’t help when you’re shorthanded for a quarter of the game.

Miami defenseman Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami defenseman Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

– Senior Matthew Caito was out of the lineup for the second time in his college career. He suffered an upper body injury last Saturday but looked fine when he was walking around before the game. Caito has played in 159 games and is nine away from cracking the top 10 on Miami’s career leaderboard. The RedHawks absolutely need him in the lineup for the NCHC Tournament.

– Coach Enrico Blasi almost took a tumble during the Louis skirmish, as he was leaning forward when the action came over the bench, knocking him back. Fortunately he caught himself before taking a potentially nasty spill.

– The UNO loss was nice on Friday but Minnesota-Duluth really needs to lose to St. Cloud State on Saturday. If UMD wins Miami would have to sweep in Duluth to earn home ice.

– Saturday’s game will be on DirecTV Ch. 608 in retina-burning standard def.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C-. First line was solid, after that, comme ci comme ca. As mentioned, Colorado College is allowing 35 shots a game, and this corps just didn’t generate the type of chances it should have against the league doormat. Louis looked a step behind before being sent to the showers early. Kiefer Sherwood seemed to have picked up that speed Louis didn’t have, as the puck seemed to follow him all night. He’s proving absolutely deadly from the left side of the slot, where he buried his power play goal.

DEFENSEMEN: B-. This group seemed a little out of sorts without Caito in the lineup, as the pairings obviously had to be adjusted. Richart was outstanding, thriving in his PK role. Chris Joyaux had an outstanding first period but turned one over in the third for a breakaway and took a penalty trying to defend the player that stripped him. Louie Belpedio didn’t have a great game and may be suffering from the effects of playing in Europe over Christmas break. Colin Sullivan had one bad turnover but was solid otherwise.

GOALTENDING: A+. The easiest grade to give all season. Williams was simply unbelievable, especially under intense fire in the third period. The goalie’s best friends – the posts – helped him out a couple of times, and the net mysteriously came off its moorings multiple times to squelch scoring threats. Still not sure how he stopped a one-time shot from point-blank range in the final stanza, and Colorado College kept the puck alive and missed the empty net. Great game plus a little luck equals shutout.

Miami's Michael Mooney (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Michael Mooney (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

LINEUP CHANGES: So Blasi shook things up a little up front. Michael Mooney played for the first time in 11 games, and Ryan Siroky also saw action after being scratched for three straight. Andrew Schmit sat for just the fifth time this season, and Devin Loe was also out after playing in four in a row. Sullivan was in for Caito on defense. Goalie Ryan McKay was not dressed for 11th straight contest.

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.

Richart is Miami’s black and blueliner

OXFORD, Ohio – While Taylor Richart’s presence in Miami’s lineup seems like a given on a nightly basis, there was a point when he pondered whether he had a shot at making it to this level.

Undersized for a defenseman at 5-feet-9, the senior went from having to try out to make an NAHL team to logging 122 games at the Division I level for the RedHawks and becoming one of their most dependable and toughest stay-at-home blueliners.

Taylor Richart as a freshman (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Taylor Richart as a freshman (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

“He comes in, works his (butt) off every day, he really attacks it – practice, workouts, whatever it may be – real detail oriented, and he makes sure does all of the little things right,” goalie and classmate Jay Williams said. “He wants to do everything he can in his power to make sure he’s ready (for games), and obviously you’ve seen the results: For the past two years he’s been one of our best, most consistent players on our back end.”

Richart was born and still lives in Blaine, Minn., a northern suburb of Minneapolis, and was a rink rat practically from birth. His father, Scott, played for the University of Minnesota and still coaches youngsters.

Richart learned how to skate at a small park a couple of minutes from their home as a toddler and was a natural on the ice.

“Even when I was two years old I would put a pair of skates on and walk around the house,” Richart said. “Everything in my house is hockey since my dad grew up around hockey.”

Prep hockey is huge in Minnesota, and Richart helped Blaine High School qualify for the state tournament twice, including a third-place finish in 2009. He was named to the all-conference team in 2010.

Richart at the outdoor game in Chicago in 2013 (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Richart at the outdoor game in Chicago in 2013 (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

But at that point, he didn’t see a lucrative future for himself in the sport and considered non-scholarship competition.

Richart also patrolled second base and shortstop growing up, and he thought he could play hockey in the winter and baseball in spring if he went to a Division III school.

After his senior year of high school, Richart received a call from an acquaintance that offered him a tryout for NAHL Aberdeen. Richart not only earned his way onto that team, he logged 53 games, scoring twice and dishing out 10 assists.

He worked as hard as anyone on the ice, impressing so much that he joined a USHL team the following season and went 7-9-16 for Fargo.

“His work ethic is really something that’s above and beyond,” senior defenseman Matthew Caito said. “Everything he does, he does 100 percent and he gives it his all, and guys really follow him, and we feed off of that. His intensity and work ethic in practice is amazing to watch. He’s one of my good friends, but I’m not just saying that because he is. It’s true – he’s one of our great leaders.”

Richart was preparing for a third season in juniors when a late defection left Miami short a defenseman. He came to Oxford for a visit and fell in love with the campus.

“That year we had (Steve) Spinell and (Joe) Hartman and (Garrett) Kennedy and (Matthew) Caito obviously with (Joyaux) and Ben Paulides – a year older,” RedHawks coach Enrico Blasi said. “So we needed him to come in right away and compete for playing time and he did that.”

Richart as a sophomore (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Richart as a sophomore (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Richart proved himself ready for that challenge right away as well.

Two years after trying out to make an NAHL team, Richart was in the lineup for an elite Division I school. He played 40 of 42 games as a freshman, went plus-2 with four assists and was fourth on the team with 49 blocked shots.

“From Day 1 he’s had that hockey IQ, and it’s obvious – if you watch him play you can see it,” Caito said. “It’s great how he’s always in the right position at the right time.”

A concussion essentially ended Richart’s season after 24 games as a sophomore. Despite the short year, he managed five assists and still blocked 36 shots while taking just one minor penalty.

With more freshmen coming in for his junior season, Richart again had to work his way into the lineup. After being scratched for the first five contests of 2014-15, he hit the ice for the final 35.

“I knew coming into the year I was kind in an odd spot because we had a lot of guys coming in as well, so I knew I had to work my butt off when I came to the rink every day,” Richart said. “Positive attitude, just kind of wait for chance, and when the chance came I grabbed it and ran with it.”

Richart netted his only career goal that season in a 3-0 win over Cornell on Dec. 29, 2014. He piled up 45 more blocks, finished plus-5 and took just three minors.

In 23 games this season, Richart leads team with 46 blocked shots – 11 ahead of any other RedHawk. – and he has three assists.

“The last couple years he’s done a tremendous job, really working hard to bring everything else along,” Williams said.

Richart as a junior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Richart as a junior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

He also won the team’s hardest shot competition prior to this season.

“He’ll tell you that his shot’s gotten a little harder, but I don’t know about that,” Williams said. “They clocked it before the season but it might have been in kilometers.”

Said Blasi: “He came in his freshman year, kind of struggled sophomore year – which is not uncommon for guys – toward the end of his sophomore year started to come out of it and had a real solid year last year and he’s been pretty good this year. Those are always the good stories when the guys work themselves into the lineup and contribute and are mainstays.”

He also has just four penalty minutes, giving him 12 PIM in 90 games since the start of his sophomore season, a marvel considering his stay-at-home role.

Richart has a goal and 16 assists for his career, but points are a deceiving stat for a player in his role, and his total does not reflect the obvious improvement in his game since he first set foot on the ice at Cady Arena in 2012.

“His sound plays with the puck,” Caito said. “When he was younger, he kind of forced pucks a little bit just like everyone does when they first come into college. Now he’s really harnessed in on making the simple plays and realizing that plays lead to bigger opportunities for us. His defensive play is amazing right now.”

Having a father who played at the college level and still coaches has helped Richart become a smarter player as well.

“He knows the game very well, and as a smaller guy you have to know the game a little better,” Blasi said.

Richart uses the hockey smarts he father instilled in him to overcome the size deficit he faces when he dresses for games against ultra-physical NCHC opponents.

Richart grimaces after blocking a shot (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Richart grimaces after blocking a shot (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

“You’re not going to out-muscle guys – you’ve just got to be smart,” Richart said. “Know the game, know your strengths and weaknesses. Just make strong plays. I know I’m not going to be the bigger guy, and that’s part of the reason why I kind of got overlooked, because I’m smaller, but I always knew I was going to have to out-think someone rather than rough them up.

“That kind of comes from my dad. He taught me to block shots, and he always told me that’s a big part of the game, being a defenseman, so that’s kind of what I prided myself on, blocking shots, taking hits, making plays, being a tough player. Your teammates look up to you when you do that as well, because they see that you’re sacrificing your body for them.”

If there was a statistic for penalty minutes drawn vs. penalty minutes taken, Richart would have to be high on the Division I leaderboard. He has drawn boarding majors numerous times in his career and has rarely missed a shift despite taking some brutal-looking hits.

“He’s got to set an NCAA record for being on the receiving end of hits from behind,” Williams said. “Obviously every time it happens it’s scary and it’s dangerous plays usually, and your No. 1 concern is thankfully he’s OK and his health and his safety. But drawing penalties is the result of hard work and moving your feet and doing the right things, and playing disciplined but playing with an edge and aggressive, so I think that’s kind of a testament to how he plays and how hard he works out there.”

Said Blasi: “He puts himself in that situation where he’s competing so hard for pucks that he’s going to take some punishment. As a smaller guy that’s just the name of the game – you’re just going to have to take it and move on.”

Besides the concussion, Richart said he has broken fingers a couple of times, fractured a foot on multiple occasions and has received countless stitches.

He also bruised a lung earlier this season and required medical treatment as he was coughing up blood. Richard missed just two games for the latter, the only times he has not been in the lineup in 2015-16.

“A couple of times I’ve gotten stitches this year and last year and just put some glue on it and repair after the period so I don’t miss time,” Richart said.

Richart as a senior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Richart as a senior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Whenever Richart has to visit a doctor, the paperwork heads north to his parents.

“My mom always gets the bills, an X-ray here, an X-ray there, there’s probably a stack about 20 deep,” Richart said. “They always joke that when I get an X-ray they know me by name there – I have a little VIP section where I go in.”

Caito is one of Richart’s best friends, and he said that Richart has earned the nickname The Deputy because of his militaristic routine.

“He’s real strict about his schedule and he gets all upset if you mess with it,” Williams said. “Kind of the iron fist.”

Richart has a 3.3 grade-point average as a sports leadership management major and will graduate this spring. He want to continue playing hockey in the professional ranks beyond this season but is currently focused on his final collegiate games as he wraps up his last few months in Oxford.

“The coaching staff, the guys – this place is just unbelievable,” Richart said. “Even the first time I came for my visit in the summer when no one was here, I knew this was the place for me. Everything is set up for you to succeed – the professors want you to succeed, the coaches want you to succeed, not only on ice but they want you to grow as a person. They care about you and they have so much respect for you. I’ve made some of the best friends I’ll have for life here. It’s been an unbelievable experience.”

Blue line is Caito’s institute

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.

Matthew Caito confronting a Notre Dame player as a freshman (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito confronting a Notre Dame player as a freshman (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

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.

Matthew Caito as a freshman (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito as a freshman (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

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.

Matthew Caito at the outdoor game at Soldier Field in 2013 (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito at the outdoor game at Soldier Field in 2013 (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

“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.”

Matthew Caito as a sophomore (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito as a sophomore (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

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.

Matthew Caito as a junior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito as a junior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

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.

Matthew Caito and Taylor Richart celebrate after winning the NCHC championship in 2015 (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito and Taylor Richart celebrate after winning the NCHC championship in 2015 (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

“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.”

Matthew Caito as a senior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito as a senior (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

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.”

Late goal lifts Miami over No. 7 UNO

Miami’s power play could not have picked a better time to break out of its funk.

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Senior defenseman Matthew Caito ripped home the decisive goal late in the third period as the RedHawks took down No. 7 Nebraska-Omaha, 3-1 at Baxter Arena on Friday.

The win snapped a seven-game road losing streak for Miami and vaulted the RedHawks into a tie for 23rd in the PairWise rankings, which determine qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.

There was no flow in a first period that ended scoreless.

Early in the second period, Miami freshman forward Zach LaValle appeared to open the scoring with a behind-the-back backhand that slid into the net. It was ruled a goal on the ice but was reversed by the officials, claiming LaValle interfered with the goaltender.

But the RedHawks (8-11-3) kept the pressure on, and classmate and fellow forward Kiefer Sherwood bounced off a defender, seized the puck and whipped a wrister home from the slot after skating in from along the boards with 6:13 left in the middle frame.

The Mavericks (15-7-1) tied it 3:32 into the third period when a wide-open Austin Ortega ripped a one-timer into the net off a pass through the crease.

Miami junior forward Anthony Louis won a battle along the boards with a strong stick, skated to the side of the net and threaded a pass through the slot to the top of the opposite faceoff circle, where Caito blasted the go-ahead goal into the top of the net with 2:03 left.

Senior forward Kevin Morris added an empty netter with 27 seconds remaining to cap the scoring.

Caito finished with a goal and an assists, and senior goalie Jay Williams stopped 27 shots, including a grade-A chance on a one-timer from point-blank range, to earn his third straight win and the RedHawks’ second overall as well.

Louis now has four points in his last three games (1-3-4), and freshman Josh Melnick also has a three-game point streak, picking up a helper in each.

MU entered this game 1-for-20 in its last eight games on the man advantage.

The RedHawks moved to within a point of Western Michigan for sixth place in the NCHC standings and are three back of the Mavericks, meaning Miami could catch UNO with a win in Game 2 of the road set.

The teams wrap up the series in Omaha at 8:07 p.m. on Saturday.

Analysis: MU succeeding without vet scoring

OXFORD, Ohio – A 2-1-1 record to start the season with one point from Anthony Louis and Sean Kuraly you say?

As Miami fans, yeah, we’ll take it.

The RedHawks’ two top returning scorers are off to slow starts offensively, but the RedHawks (2-1-1) swept Ohio State this weekend, 3-2 in Columbus and 3-1 in Oxford the following night with five of its goals coming by freshmen.

Rookies have potted seven of 11 Miami goals for the season. Four of the five freshmen forwards have found the net in the team’s first four games.

Miami's Jack Roslovic (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Jack Roslovic (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Beyond Jack Roslovic, it was unclear entering the season how much newbies would contribute offensively to a forward corps that had lost Austin Czarnik, Riley Barber and Blake Coleman among others. But at least for two weekends, the answer is significantly.

Overall, Miami hasn’t set the world on fire from a scoring perspective, averaging 2.75 goals per game. But the RedHawks missed several Grade A scoring chances in the first period alone on Friday and had multiple chances on Saturday it should’ve cashed in.

MU finished the finale with 41 shots on goal and missed the net a number of times.

There is cause for optimism regarding this team’s offensive potential. The RedHawks are holding their own during what most knew would be a transition process with numerous new faces taking over the jobs of established studs.

If they have been able to hold their own during their growing pains without contributions from Kuraly or Louis, just wait until those two hit their strides.

And they will hit their strides, hopefully very soon.

Other thoughts on Saturday:

– This was the best all-around game Roslovic has played. He engaged in battles along the boards and was generally more of a presence on the ice than in the previous games. Roslovic also showed more of ability to make defenders look silly as he can seemingly skate around them at will, a feat made even more amazing considering he is still just 18. That won’t fly at higher levels, or even against better college opponents, but he is certainly showing everyone why he was a first-round pick this summer.

– Sherwood seems to get better every game. He blew up in the USHL last season, scoring 29 goals after netting 13 the previous season, so hopefully that will translate at this level – it certainly did on Friday when he picked the top corner on his first college goal. And it looks like he could do more, as he engages physically and appears capable of playing both ways. Josh Melnick and Roslovic have been the obvious standouts early, but Sherwood looks like he may develop into a very good player for Miami as well.

– The power play was 1,000 percent better on Saturday than Friday. Yes, Miami went 2-for-5, but beyond that, the puck movement was outstanding and the communication appeared much improved. The first unit could be devastating to opponents this season with Roslovic-Melnick-Louis-Kuraly-Belpedio, and its makeshift second unit scored the final goal on Saturday, with Zach LaValle finding the net.

– Miami’s four-game road stand will be difficult but should provide a bonding opportunity and could make the team better overall. At least the RedHawks get their feet wet on a real road trip – not like Ohio State, which was an up-and-back drive with more Miami fans than OSU fans in attendance – before opening conference play in two weeks.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B+. At this point of the season, improvement is more vital than results, and the improvement is there. The freshmen are getting better. Louis played well but only had a point, and many more will follow. Kuraly has struggled at times early but appears ready to break out. If either Kevin Morris or Alex Gacek ever find the net they may be unstoppable – both have done everything right except finish in the first four games. Overall, this unit fired a ton of shots and missed the net a bunch more. They played pretty well defensively as well, but the competition will get a lot stiffer very soon.

DEFENSEMEN: A. This unit made mistakes the first three games, and many were costly. That really didn’t happen on Saturday. We mentioned Louis and Kuraly and how they will get going eventually, and Louie Belpedio belongs on that list as well. His best hockey is yet to come. Senior Matthew Caito was outstanding, as he shut down seemingly every OSU threat on his watch, and classmate Chris Joyaux is playing some of the best defense of his career right now. Like with the forwards, the process is in place, which is very encouraging, and the opponents will get better from this point forward.

Miami goalie Ryan McKay (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami goalie Ryan McKay (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

GOALTENDING: A. Senior Ryan McKay hasn’t played a lot of back-to-back nights, but he shined in this one. He appeared to be screened on the only goal against, and he had to shut down a couple of high-percentage chances, including a breakaway. McKay finished 27 of 28 (.964) on the night and 52-for-55 (.945) on the weekend. This team’s prospects are a lot higher if McKay can continue to play at this level.

LINEUP CHANGES: Senior Michael Mooney was back in at forward on Saturday, replacing junior Devin Loe, who did not have a point in his first three games. On defense, sophomore Scott Dornbrock was scratched for the second time this season, as junior Colin Sullivan returned to the lineup sheet. McKay started for the third straight game.

2015-16 Miami season preview

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.

FORWARDS

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.

Sean Kuraly.

Sean Kuraly.

“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.”

DEFENSEMEN

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.

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

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.

GOALIES

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.

Williams2

“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.”

Top 10 stats to track 2015-16

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.

Sean Kuraly.

Sean Kuraly (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

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.

Enrico Blasi.

Enrico Blasi (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

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.

Anthony Louis.

Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

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.

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

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.

Jay Williams.

Jay Williams (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

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.