BoB continues with its interview with assistant coach Nick Petraglia. Part I can be found here:
BoB: Obviously you’ve got some big shoes to fill on defense, losing three solid starters in Matthew Caito, Chris Joyaux and Taylor Richart. Can you talk about the incoming group of defensemen?
Petraglia: Yeah, so we have four new guys on the blue line – that’s half our D-corps – so there will be a lot of opportunity back there.
Grant Frederic – Coming in from Green Bay, he was a leader and a captain there, plays a really sound game at both ends of the rink. He’s big, he’s physical, he has a good stick, he takes pride in playing defense and making the right play. Offensively, he has a really good shot and release, and I think that offensive confidence is coming with him where he can chip in down there as well. But he’s just a very well-rounded player that’s probably very ready to contribute right away, and he’s coming in with a pretty good track record. He’s a mature guy, so he’ll have a big impact.
Bryce Hatten – Is a kid that is big, he has good feet for a big guy, really good stick, rangy, solid, simple defender that’s tough to play against. Coming off a year where he missed much of the season with an injury, and he’s worked hard to get himself back to 100 percent. He’s probably going to need a little time to get back into hockey shape and just feeling comfortable out there when we get to contact and really get going. But a talented kid that really takes pride in defending and not giving much up. Excited to see him transition to college hockey.
Chaz Switzer – Played three years in the USHL, I think he’s been committed the longest among this group on the back end. A lot of edge, physical, tough, left-hand shot which we haven’t had too many of those guys, so that’s helpful. And again, he understands his game and his role and he really likes to just plays defense and shut guys down.
We like the compete level there and the balance between those guys.
Jared Brandt – Older kid that was a captain in Minot last season with Christian Mohs and had a very successful career. He skates really well, has good poise with the puck, makes solid plays, was very successful on the power play. Another left-handed shot and a guy that can play both ends of the rink and comes in as a seasoned guy with a lot of maturity.
A balanced group, a little bit older – actually I think the whole class is older, Willie (Knierim) is the only true freshman – so we have guys that even though they’re freshmen have played a lot of hockey and are a little bit older, and typically it’s a little bit easier for those guys to transition to college hockey as opposed to 18-year-old kids that have just graduated from high school.
BoB: Is it by design with how the NCHC is structured, with everyone seemingly 6-feet-3, 220 pounds, to bring in older, more physically developed players on the blue line?
Petraglia: Well, it’s a case by case basis. I think the thing for us is it’s not age but it’s bringing in kids that are ready to play right away. So if a kid’s ready at 18 and he’s ready to come in and make an impact – that’s harder to find – typically it takes a bit of seasoning because college hockey is older and the development path and just the structure of it allows for extra years of development with the junior hockey landscape. Taking advantage of that time is something that’s beneficial to almost everybody. I guess it’s partially by design but for the most part it’s just making sure that guys come in when they’re ready to contribute, because we don’t want anybody coming in, sitting in the stands and struggling.
BoB: So goaltending. You have nine minutes and 39 seconds of experience returning in net, so can you talk about your goaltending group?
Petraglia: We’ve been here before with the way our tandems have worked, the guys staying in the same class, and that’s not something that’s held us back in the past actually. The last few times this has happened we’ve won the CCHA championship (in 2013) and the time before that we went to the national championship game and the time before that it was Charlie Effinger and Jeff Zatkoff, and they ran with it right away, and that team won a championship as well. Not to compare anybody but just saying that the structure of that is not something we’re afraid of or nervous about. We’re excited about the group coming in.
Ryan Larkin – Has been committed for a while and didn’t play last year because of injury except for a couple of games. High IQ, great poise and demeanor in net, and just a well-accomplished high-end goalie. The biggest thing for him is he’s really not coming in as a freshman because he enrolled and was here in January because of his injury – he has a full semester of Miami underneath his belt. He knows his teammates and he knows what the program is all about because he’s already lived it. Even though he didn’t play, he’s coming into the fall comfortable with his surroundings and has the confidence in his health, so he’s going to be a guy who obviously plays an enormous roll on our team. And it’s nice that’s coming in as a freshman that has some understanding of what things are really like at this level. Excited about him.
Chase Munroe – Big kid from Chicago, again, has a real calm demeanor in net. Fills a ton of space, tracks the puck well, understands the game. He’s a kid that we got a little later in the process, but somebody that has a high ceiling and a lot of potential and had a real solid season for the Minnesota Wilderness (of the NAHL).
Andrew Masters – Evan McCarthy is still going through some injury problems that he’s dealing with in rehabbing, so he’ll not be available for us for a while, and that’s why we had to go out and recruit another goalie after the season so we had the proper depth. Andrew Masters is a kid that had a very successful season last year in Georgetown (Ont.), was the goalie of the year in his league and one of the top goalies in the Canadian Juniors system, so it will be exciting to see what he can come in and show us.
But at the end of day, we’re looking for these guys to all work together and great teammates, and whoever’s name is called on Friday and Saturday nights to get the job done and help us win games, whoever that’s going to be.
BoB: You and Coach Brent Brekke both do recruiting for Miami, but as a former RedHawks goalie, do you handle more of the goaltender recruiting?
Petraglia: No, I don’t think it matters. Obviously it’s a position I played and something I’m passionate about. We all work together as a staff to make those decisions, and we’re always involved in making choices for who would be best for our program. Can’t say I can take full credit for that – it’s something that we all work together on.
BoB: Miami’s success in net has been something we’ve seen continuously over the past decade, including seasons like this one when the RedHawks have had two freshmen goaltenders. Is that something the coaching staff takes pride in?
Petraglia: Yeah, we take a lot of pride in that. I think that’s not just credit to the goaltending, but just the whole team in general. It’s a situation where everybody’s got to be on the same page and buy into playing a team game, and I don’t care how good of a goalie you are, if you don’t have a team that’s playing well and buying in in front of you, it’s going to be hard to stop pucks. We do take pride in that, our team defense and especially our penalty kill, which has been very successful over the course of time – Coach Brekke does a great job with that – but just the buy in of everybody is a key part to our program. If we’re going to have a problem in that area, that’s not a good thing. Any good team is going to have good goaltending and good, solid team defense.