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Crash Cousin reveling in grinder role

OXFORD, Ohio – Very few 6-feet, 6-inch skaters end up as high-level forwards in hockey.

Manning left or right wing requires a certain level of speed and athleticism players that size often lack.

But in 2014, left wing Conor Lemirande pounced on the opportunity to fill that role with Miami alongside his cousin, Andrew Schmit.

And Lemirande has thrived as a grinder with the RedHawks since, dressing for 133 games and loving every shift.

“The moment I stepped on the campus I knew it was the right place,” Lemirande said. “Obviously with Andrew here, my cousin, I had some inside information, and he told me how nice it was and what a great opportunity it would be, so as soon as that was offered I couldn’t resist that.”

Conor Lemirande at the outdoor game at Soldier Field (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

The duo was informally nicknamed the Crash Cousins for Lemirande’s first two seasons, and at a combined weight of 500 pounds, that tandem often comprised two-thirds of Miami’s fourth line.

Size is a family tradition in Lemirande’s extended family, which is from Janesville, Wis. His father, Jeff, refers to himself as one of the smaller males in the clan at about 6-5.

Lemirande’s brother Logan is also in that height range.

Schmit is 6-5, about the same height as his father, Robb.

“It definitely makes it hard for family meals,” Lemirande said. “We’d have all the kids there, and the parents there. My dad would actually go to the farm and buy a full cow just for the year and get that going. He’d have pigs for all of us. We consumed a lot of food during the week, I can tell you that.”

Lemirande started hockey around age four, and he played baseball through eighth grade and football – a family staple – until his junior year.

With his girth, the temptation was there for at least one coach to try him on defense early in his career.

“I was a defenseman my pee wee year, and that was it,” Lemirande said. “I did a camp, and it was actually coach Bob Suter from Madison, and he told me, you know, I want you to try out at defense. I did it in his summer camp, and after that, I was like, you know, I like getting in on the forecheck, I like being that physical presence, and my coach the next year really liked that, so (forward) is where I stayed.”

He spent two seasons at in-state Madison on Under-16 and Under-18 teams before signing with the hometown Janesville Jets of the NAHL prior to 2011-12.

Lemirande logged 110 games over two seasons there, becoming team captain and tallying 32 points. He played against his brother, Logan, who was on Port Huron in the same league.

“Obviously that was a great opportunity to play in front of a crowd in Janesville,” Lemirande said. “It was pretty awesome.”

Scott Dornbrock and Conor Lemirande celebrate an NCHC Tournament win in 2014-15 (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

He was drafted in the USHL his second year at Janesville and ended up in Youngstown, where he scored seven goals and picked up 10 assists in 58 games.

From there it was south to Oxford, where Lemirande dressed for opening night of 2014-15, nine days after his 21st birthday. He was in the lineup for the team’s first 23 games and 36 overall that season, which culminated in an NCHC Tournament championship and NCAA berth.

“You know, that was an unbelievable opportunity to have that group of guys and be fortunate enough to go through that,” Lemirande said. “It’s one of those things that I’ll never forget, just the lifetime bond. That experience and having that feeling of playing on the biggest stage – that was a lot of fun.”

Lemirande’s lone goal that season came vs. Notre Dame in a Florida tournament, but as a sophomore, he would log the offensive game of his career.

In a Jan. 23, 2016 contest at Nebraska-Omaha, Lemirande slammed home a loose puck with four minutes left in the first period to give the RedHawks a 1-0 lead.

Miami was up 3-1 midway through the second period when Lemirande again found the net, this time banging home a centering feed by Alex Gacek. Just over three minutes later, he scored again on a double deflection that was also redirected by Schmit.

That completed the hat trick – including the game winner – with Schmit picking up primary assists on two of the goals.

Conor Lemirande celebrates a goal his junior season (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“That did happen,” Lemirande said. “(The first goal) I just found the back of the net – got a greasy one – and then the second one was a shot from about the dot lane, and then the third one was actually a shot from the point. Andrew had actually deflected it and then I re-tipped it again, so it was a double tip for a third goal. So Andrew was celebrating, we were both celebrating, happy, so obviously a great opportunity there. From a guy not getting a lot of points, to have that opportunity is kind of a fun thing.”

That was the last three-goal game recorded by a Miamian.

Lemirande was limited to a goal and an assist his junior season, but his 2017-18 line is 1-4-5, already a career high in helpers and points.

Of those helpers, two came in a win at Bowling Green on Nov. 24, his only career multi-assist contest.

Captain and senior defenseman Louie Belpedio roomed with Lemirande freshman year and currently lives across the hall from him.

“He’s kept the same role throughout those four years here, but as he’s progressed he’s done a way better job,” Belpedio said. “He’s done a great job for himself and his team and I’m happy for him.”

Conor Lemirande as a senior (photo by BoB).

For his career, Lemirande has scored six times and set up eight more scores, but most of his contributions do not appear on a scoresheet.

“I think he’s a really good role player,” Belpedio said. “He comes to the rink with the right attitude every day and he knows what he’s supposed to do on the ice to be successful. He’s obviously not looked to to score goals but he’s looked to to do all the little things right and be solid defensively, and in my opinion he’s been our most consistent guy all year. So my hat’s off to him.”

Lemirande has also gained additional minutes as he has been added to a penalty killing role this season.

Conor Lemirande cuts down a Bowling Green player his senior year (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Forwards at his size are unusual enough, but it’s even less common to see 250-pounders up front when their teams are shorthanded because four skaters have to defend five on the PK.

“He’s a bigger guy, obviously takes up a lot of shot lanes, he’s got a long stick so that helps a ton,” Belpedio said. “He’s worked for everything he’s gotten…that’s the type of kid he is and he’s a huge part of our team.”

His additional ice time on the PK is a direct result of his overall evolution on the ice. Defenseman Scott Dornbrock has played with Lemirande for four years and has also been his roommate the entire time the pair has been in Oxford.

“He’s progressed a ton over his three years – he’s (been) one of our best forwards all year,” Dornbrock said. “He allows our top-line guys to go out there and do what they do because he goes out there the shift before and really grinds down the team. People are watching out when he’s on the ice because they obviously don’t want to get hit. It definitely gives us an advantage to have him out there because he’s always moving his feet and always getting in people’s faces.”

As in any sport, more versatility equals more playing time.

“(I’m) working every day to be who I am to give my best to being that physical presence, be that guy that can be relied upon and trusted in different situations,” Lemirande said.

Said Belpedio: “For a big guy he moves extremely well and he’s always doing little things to get his feet faster. He’s worked on his skating, and it’s paid off a ton in his four years here.”

As a defenseman, Dornbrock frequently battles with Lemirande in practice. Through that experience, Dornbrock has learned how to handle the giant on skates in 1-on-1 battles.

“Most of the time I don’t even hit him because I know that I’m not going to get through him,” Dornbrock said. “So I always just stay on the outside of him and wait for him to make a mistake.”

Conor Lemirande talks to an official (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Lemirande’s positivity at the rink is another tangible attribute, Belpedio said, and his attitude is infectious.

“He’s just awesome to be around,” Belpedio said. “He generates energy for everyone else on the bench, and he says the right things at the right times and he fits perfectly into his role.”

And Lemirande’s personality extends off the ice.

“He’s one of my best friends – I have a lot to say about him,” Belpedio said. “He’s probably one of the nicest kids I’ve ever met. He’s always doing the right thing, and he’s one of those people you want to surround yourself with, whether it’s a serious situation or you’re just joking around. He’s just a good person to be around. He’s awesome. If the world was filled with Conors it would be a much better place.”

Said Lemirande: “I like to have a smile on my face, I like to be positive all of the time, bring that good attitude. It’s fun to be around ‘Lou’ and Scotty – we were living together my freshman year, all three – being around the guys, it’s such a blessing, and being grateful for the opportunity we have here. Just helping everybody out, if somebody calls you and needs you, (being the) first guy there, that kind of thing.”

Lemirande’s last two homes games will be this weekend, and he is set to graduate in May.

He has a 3.4 grade-point average, earning him All-NCHC Academic honors this season, and he is majoring in sports management. Lemirande has already completed his core classes and is down to electives.

“It goes by quick, and you want to tell everyone how fast it goes,” Lemirande said. “What a great opportunity we have here, being a part of the (hockey) program and at the school. I wouldn’t change a thing. Being there every day and being around the guys is something that I’ll never forget. I’ll share with my kids how special that opportunity is.”

 

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Atypical path to D-I for Dornbrock

OXFORD, Ohio – A season before joining the Miami hockey team, Scott Dornbrock considered quitting the sport he loves.

After spending one year with Minot of the NAHL, he was told prior to 2013-14 that he would be playing in the USHL, the primary feeder league to the NCAA.

But when the defenseman inquired about living arrangements, he was informed he had not made the team since its allotment of 20-year-olds was used up.

That meant accepting returning to Minot as an overager.

“It was kind of an uneasy situation when I called and asked for housing information when they said, yeah sorry, you’re not coming here,” Dornbrock said. “When I made that phone call I was kind of heartbroken, and I didn’t know if I wanted to keep doing it just because I felt like I’d worked so hard to get back into the USHL.”

The NAHL is a slightly lower-level league than the USHL and doesn’t see as many players join NCAA teams on scholarship.

Rather than sulk, Dornbrock returned to Minot where he was named assistant captain. He scored seven goals and notched 17 assists for 24 points, his best numbers to date in all three categories.

That season vaulted him to a starting job at Miami, and the senior has dressed for 132 games in his four seasons in Oxford, tallying 34 points including six goals.

“I didn’t have any problem going back to Minot, but in the end it really helped me realize that playing in the USHL wasn’t the only way you could move forward,” Dornbrock said. “Going back for my second year in Minot helped out a lot more than it would’ve if I went to the USHL.”

Dornbrock, from Harper Woods, Mich., on the northeast side of Detroit, started skating when he was three and playing organized hockey by five.

He tried baseball, basketball and golf – even freshman football for half a season – but decided to concentrate on hockey.

Unlike most Miamians who go the midgets-to-juniors route, Dornbrock played three seasons with his high school team, skating with former standout Andy Miele’s brother, Shawn Miele.

“It made me realize how much I wanted to play hockey after high school and after junior hockey,” Dornbrock said.

He was already weeks from his 18th birthday when he suited up for Omaha of the USHL. Dornbrock logged 35 games there, dishing for five assists and compiling a plus-13 rating.

Scott Dornbrock at the outdoor game at Soldier Field his freshman year (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“It was unbelievable,” Dornbrock said. “I stayed with a great family and it was like here – a small group of players – and there were three of us that went to high school together, so we were a really tight-knit group. It was just a very good experience.”

Dornbrock hoped to return, but his style didn’t mesh with the new coaches’ system, and he was one of the last players Omaha cut that preseason.

So he took a demotion to Topeka of the NAHL. Dornbrock played 12 games and picked up three assists there before being traded to Minot, where he added 11 more helpers.

“I would say that I definitely developed there,” Dornbrock said. “I got a lot of power play time and it just developed me offensively.”

Combined with his 7-17-24 line his overage season, Dornbrock finished his 91-game Minot career with seven goals, 28 assists, 35 points.

Scott Dornbrock lays out a North Dakota player his freshman year (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB.com)

“I loved Minot, I try to go back almost every summer to visit the billet family that I lived with there,” Dornbrock said. “It was a great experience. Pretty cold, but I loved it up there. I would say that besides Omaha that was my favorite place that I’ve been.”

During that pivotal 2013-14 season, Dornbrock visited Oxford, and having been teammates with Shawn Miele, he talked to his brother Andy Miele, who was having photos taken on campus with his recently-won Hobey Baker trophy.

After that conversation, Dornbrock decided to commit to Miami, where he was roomed with fellow current senior Conor Lemirande.

The two had never met.

“Obviously through mutual friends we figured out who each other were,” Lemirande said. “And you get to know him really quick when you’re in the same dorm with him.”

The tandem has roomed together all four years at Miami.

“Scotty’s a good guy, he likes to have a lot of fun,” Lemirande said. “We’ve had a lot fun times.”

They also previously roomed with captain Louie Belpedio. Belpedio now resides across the hall from the duo.

“(Scott’s) probably the funniest kid I’ve ever met – he’s hilarious,” Belpedio said. “He’s a dummy, too – I mean that in a good way. I look at him and laugh, and that’s all I’ll say about that. He’s awesome. Another one of my best friends, and I spend of time – the three seniors, we have to stick together – and never a dull moment.”

Upon arriving in Oxford, Dornbrock was thrust into the lineup immediately. He played in 36 games as a freshman, notching two goals and earning six assists.

“He really took initiative coming in and said ‘I’m going to make the most of my opportunity’, and he really did, he grasped that,” Lemirande said. “Being that simple, puck-moving defenseman that we need him to be, and his presence on the ice when he’s at the top of his game is there. And we really rely on him to make those plays.”

While it took Dornbrock until his third season of juniors to score a goal, he found the net 10 games into his freshman campaign vs. Colorado College.

But he has established his niche as a shut-down defenseman who can carry the puck and rip a glass-shattering slap shot when necessary.

Scott Dornbrock and Conor Lemirande celebrate an NCHC Tournament win in 2014-15 (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

“He’s a shut-down defenseman, he skates really well too,” Belpedio said. “He’s smart, you can use him in all situations, honestly. He’s not looked to as a power play guy but he’s been on our power play a couple of times. He’s pretty versatile with the things he’s able to do, and I think if he keeps it up he’ll have a good rest of his career here at Miami and carry that into his pro career.”

Belpedio is also a physical blueliner, but he is listed at 6-0, 198 pounds, three inches shorter and 32 pounds lighter than Dornbrock.

“I think it’s different between he and I – he obviously can use his body a lot better than me – he’s a lot bigger than I am,” Belpedio said. “So I think I have to use my stick and use my skating and try to be as physical as possible to try and separate the guy from the puck. Where as Scott, if you have your head down he’s probably going to kill you. That’s awesome to have a guy like that on your team, especially because it creates energy.”

Dornbrock celebrates a goal vs. Maine his junior season (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Dornbrock would score twice and pick up six assists his freshman campaign to accompany a plus-4 rating, That season, Miami finished second in the NCHC and won the conference championship.

“That was definitely one of the best teams I’ve ever been on,” Dornbrock said. “Obviously we had a lot of high-end guys that decided to come back, like (Austin) Czarnik, (Blake) Coleman, (Riley) Barber. You know, that was just a really fun experience and that was probably my favorite hockey moment so far.”

In his collegiate career, Dornbrock has missed just 10 games. He went 0-6-6 as a sophomore and tallied three goals and 10 assists his junior year – his best as a RedHawk offensively.

But his calling card is his physical style of defense. As a forward, Lemirande often matches up with the 6-feet-3, 230-pound blueliner in practice.

“I get to battle with him in practice a lot, and that’s a lot of fun – having another big guy battling in front of the net,” Lemirande said. “He’s hard to play against and that’s what makes it fun. You’re working to get better, he’s working to get better, so pushing each other is something that I’ll always remember about Scotty.”

He was second on Miami in blocked shots in both his freshman and sophomore years, rejecting a total of 88 those seasons, and he led the team in 2016-17 with 47.

And while Dornbrock plays a physical brand of hockey, he has kept his penalty minutes to a minimum. He was whistled for 37 PIM as a freshman but has just 49 the last three seasons combined.

“Being a bigger guy, refs always have their eye on you,” Lemirande said. “The game’s not stick lifting, big hits anymore, you’ve got to play simple, you’ve got to play smart and he’s real good at that – staying out of the box – which is crucial.”

Dornbrock gets into defensive position his senior year (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Said Belpedio: “He’s really smart with that. I think the only time it really gets iffy is because he’s so big it looks worse than it actually is. But he’s not the type of kid that would try to hurt you in a dirty way. Obviously he wants to run you through the boards, but he’s clean about it, he’s smart about it, and he’s really good at it, so it’s something you’ve got to be aware of every time you’re on the ice with him.”

In his time with the RedHawks, Dornbrock has gotten much smarter about positioning, cutting down the angles at which opposing would-be offensive threats approach the net.

“He’s definitely smarter – I think that comes with the role he’s in – he’s definitely played a lot more as he’s progressed,” Belpedio said. “I think, just from that experience he’s grown a ton – I guess you could say that about anyone as you get older, I guess – but Scott’s done a really nice job with it.”

Dornbrock talks with a referee during his final year in Oxford (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

Through 26 games this season, Dornbrock has a goal and six helpers, giving him a line of 6-28-34 in his four years at Miami. He has 170 blocks.

After hanging up the skates, Dornbrock said he’d like to coach or follow his restaurant-owning uncle’s path and become an entrepreneur.

Another possibility is consulting. Specifically, said he would like to help former hockey players find career paths after retirement from the game.

Dornbrock will graduate in May with a degree in sports leadership and a minor in management – he has a 3.0 grade-point average – and he has made life-long friends at Miami.

“He’ll be standing up at my wedding, that’s for sure,” Lemirande said.

On the ice, he has logged over 130 games played including an NCHC championship game and NCAA Tournament contest.

All that less than five years after nearly giving the game up.

“It’s been amazing – it’s the best experience that I’ve ever had in my life,” Dornbrock said. “Being able to have so many close teammates, I haven’t had that anywhere else where I’ve stayed in contact with pretty much every single one of my teammates. Being able to pick up the phone and call a teammate and (pick up) right where you left off.”

Later this week we feature the career of F Conor Lemirande.

 

Analysis: Good job preserving lead

OXFORD, Ohio – The last 50 minutes might not have been the most exciting in Miami history, but with the RedHawks allowing 17 goals the first four games, the shut-down hockey over the final two and a half periods was welcomed.

Miami scored three times in the first 10 minutes and coasted to a 3-0 win over Connecticut on Friday.

The RedHawks held the Huskies to 11 shots over the final two periods – in other words they did an excellent job of preserving the lead.

This weekend’s games are so important because the NCHC season begins next weekend for Miami, which doesn’t want to enter league play under .500.

Posting a winning record in this conference is hard enough, the RedHawks don’t need the additional burden of chasing victories against top 10 teams.

Whatever position in which Miami finds itself during NCHC play, this game had to help the RedHawks gain confidence in their ability to hold a late lead.

As exciting of a sport as hockey is to watch, sometimes an unsexy period or two are good for a team.

For Miami, the final 40 minutes of defensive, grind-it-out hockey were exactly what it needed.

Other thoughts…

– It must’ve been in Miami’s scouting report to throw the puck at the net from the left side of the blue line. Scott Dornbrock did this twice early in the first period: Once Carson Meyer tipped home a goal and the other time Dornbrock’s shot got all the way through.

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

– Boy did Ryan Larkin need a solid performance. The sophomore entered the weekend with an .840 save percentage and a goals-against average well north of 4.00. He also wasn’t bombarded with A-plus scoring chances. Hopefully with this win Larkin’s confidence sores. So does the confidence of his teammates in Miami’s goaltending, because when the skaters don’t have faith in the guy between the pipes, it can takes players out of their game.

– The only downer is that as many NHL draftees as Connecticut has, it wasn’t a very impressive squad. At least it wasn’t very impressive in this game. The Huskies didn’t have much of an offensive punch, and they lacked a high level of team speed. One doesn’t get the feeling UConn is going to compete for a Hockey East title.

– Realized recently that only one or two file photos are loaded for some of Miami’s newsmakers, so BoB (read here: I) promise to add some very soon.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B-. Not a bad effort. There was nothing doing after the top two lines, really, as forwards not named Gordie Green or Kiefer Sherwood combined for just nine shots. Coach Enrico Blasi has never had any fear of throwing freshmen into the penalty kill, and Casey Gilling et al are doing a solid job. Both goals were sweet to watch: Meyer re-directed one from the slot and Green one-timed a thread-the-needle pass from Josh Melnick for the other marker by this corps.

DEFENSEMEN: A. This group not only held its own defensively, helping hold Connecticut to 19 shots and very few of high quality, it is also chipping in on offense regularly. Grant Hutton’s five goals are well documented, and he and Louie Belpedio racked up 10 shots on goal between them. Dornbrock scored on a beautifully-placed wrister. The freshmen are playing somewhat conservatively but aren’t making mistakes. Four shots allowed in the third period with a three-goal lead is pretty much optimal.

GOALTENDING: A. There were only a few good scoring chances for UConn, but Larkin looked his old self, playing technically sound but with lightning reflexes and top-notch instincts. Most of the Huskies’ good chances came early, and Larkin made the necessary stops late to preserve the shutout. His rebound control was outstanding as well.

LINEUP CHANGES: On defense, Mahalak was back in the lineup after being scratched for the finale in Maine. Up front, Zach Lavalle and Ben Lown returned the ice, as Alex Alger and Christian Mohs did not dress.

Miami shuts out Connecticut

OXFORD, Ohio – Arriving late for Miami’s inaugural game against Connecticut would have been ill-advised.

The RedHawks scored three goals in the first nine-plus minutes and Ryan Larkin stopped all 19 shots he faced in a 3-0 win over the Huskies at Cady Arena on Friday.

Miami’s Scott Dornbrock (photo by Cathy Lachmann/BoB).

At the 3:52 mark of the first period, Miami’s Scott Dornbrock wristed a shot from the blue line that Carson Meyer redirected from the slot and into the net.

Just 1:36 later, Dornbrock lit the lamp from near the same spot off a drop pass by Casey Gilling, extending the RedHawks’ lead to two.

With 10:53 left in the opening stanza, Gordie Green buried a shot from the slot on a one-timer, as Josh Melnick fed him a pass from along the boards through traffic.

That was it for the scoring despite both teams having four power plays.

Huskies goalie Adam Huska left the game late in the third period after going down awkwardly, appearing to suffer some type of lower-body injury. He was replaced by Tanner Creel, who stopped both shots he faced.

Green now has eight points on the season, taking solo control of first place on the team.

Dornbrock finished with a goal and an assists, his third career two-point game and his first with a 1-1-2 line.

It was Larkin’s second career shutout, with his other coming against Maine on Oct. 22.

The teams wrap up their weekend series at 7:05 p.m. tonight.

2014-15 Preview: The new guys

Yesterday, we provided our review of the returning letterwinners from last year’s Miami club that finished dead last in the inaugural NCHC regular season but just a goal away from a Frozen Faceoff championship. Now, let’s take a look at the new guys who will be called upon to do two specific things.

  1. Shore up the defensive corps that were so poor a year ago. Remember, despite having the top two scorers in the league

    A goal, a helmet-less Ryan McKay and no defenseman in sight. (photo: Bradley K. Olson)

    (senior captain Austin Czarnik and junior Riley Barber), Miami won just six league games and continually hung junior goaltenders Ryan McKay and Jay Williams out to dry.

  2. Add “Miami size” back into the lineup.

Defense

To address the defense, welcome 7th round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens and Boston College transfer, junior Colin Sullivan and highly regarded 3rd round pick of the Minnesota Wild, freshman Louie Belpedio.

Boston College transfer, Colin Sullivan, should contribute immediately on Miami’s blue line. (photo: Getty Images)

Colin Sullivan’s journey to Oxford is an interesting one. As you may know, Miami is the third collegiate program to which Sullivan has committed since his initial declaration to play at Yale beginning in the fall of 2013. However, the New Haven Register has reported that Sullivan agreed to play a season of junior hockey before enrolling at Yale and that Sullivan decided against it wanting to play college hockey immediately at the beginning of the 2012 season. With Yale’s incoming class having been filled, Sullivan re-opened his recruitment landing at Boston College. After scoring just one point in 32 games as a freshman with the Eagles in 2012-13, Sullivan who according to the Register had fallen out of BC’s top six, left the school just before the season started in October 2013 and played for Green Bay of the USHL last season. There, Sullivan had two goals and six assists in 41 games for the Gamblers. Sullivan brings size (6’1″ 205) and an impressive resume of prep hockey starring in the northeast. Here’s hoping Colin can recapture his game and elevate Miami’s top six back to where we are accustomed to seeing them.

Louie Belpedio (5’10” 193) is a “can’t miss” college prospect who last season led all USNTDP defensemen with five goals and was the second-leading scorer from the blue line with 15 points playing in all 26 games for the red, white and blue. Belpedio,

Freshman Louie Belpedio is a highly regarded defenseman from Illinois. (photo: Tom Sorensen)

who is just the latest highly regarded Chicago-area prospect to commit to Miami, captained Team USA to a gold medal in the Under-18 World Junior Championship in Finland in April notching two assists and a +3 rating in seven games. We expect big things from Belpedio over the course of his Miami career.

Size

Cue the music!

The 2013-14 season might best be remembered by the phrase, “they’re small, but Rico is trying to match up better against Hockey East schools.”

Well, if that was indeed true, it backfired big time.

The smallish RedHawks were routinely pushed around by the bigger squads of the NCHC, and even when matching against smaller, faster teams, deficiencies in physicality were apparent. Yet, there’s no question the current roster is probably the fastest group Miami has ever put on the ice, but with the addition of 6’5″ Nebraska-Omaha transfer, junior forward Andrew

At 6’6″, freshman forward Conor Lemirande is the tallest RedHawk since Justin Vaive.

Schmit and his “crash cousin” (I’m trademarking that one right now), 6’6″ freshman forward Conor Lemirande and the addition of 6’3″ freshman defenseman Scott Dornbrock, Miami returns to the days of Will Weber, Justin Vaive and Joe Hartman. I’m sure you’ll remember that size has always been a Miami hallmark throughout head coach Enrico Blasi’s tenure.

And, while I’m suggesting this new size means more physical play, I’m not going to negate the impact these three will make in other ways though Schmit has just one collegiate goal and 30 penalty minutes in 38 career games (but another 19 goals and 188 PIM in 105 games in the USHL) and Lemirande had 7 goals and a whopping 139 penalty minutes in 58 games for the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL last season. As for Dornbrock, he had a more “typical” line with the NAHL’s Minot Minotaurs notching 7-17-24 and 41 PIM in 59 games from the blue line.

With Miami’s depth, it will be interesting to see if these three are in the lineup on a nightly basis. Of the three, I think Schmit will see the most ice time given his familiarity with the program as he was in the press box with the team all of last year sitting out following his transfer. I think Schmit will add size, toughness and leadership to a club that last year at times seemed to lack all three. Because, if it means anything based on our Twitter (@schmittythedog) interactions with him, he seems like a quality guy

Something's fishy here.

Something’s fishy here.

that we’re rooting for. We also believe he secretly loves “The Bachelor,” or perhaps something even better, but that has not been confirmed. We expect full disclosure soon.

Projected Lineup

Having not seen the team practice this season, and having not even played an exhibition yet, here’s our guess at how Miami will lineup when the puck drops for real on October 10 at Bowling Green.

Offense

Coleman – Czarnik – Murphy

Louis – Kuraly – Barber

Wideman – Morris – Doherty

Schmit/Mooney – Greenberg – Gacek

Other forward possibilities: Devin Loe, Lemirande – Actually, when you look at the roster like this, Jimmy Mullin’s injury really hurts the depth at forward. While I do not think we’ll be seeing Conor Lemirande on opening night, it’s completely reasonable to expect to see him soon, especially if there is any other injury concern. With the depth at defense, and the lack of it at forward, Michael Mooney’s move to forward makes even more sense now.

Defense

C. Joyaux – Caito

M. Joyaux – Sullivan

Belpedio – Hamilton

Other defense possibilities: Taylor Richart, Dornbrock, Ben Paulides – Rico will have his work cut out getting ice time for everyone but the depth here is dramatically better than last year when you figured his best play was to shift Matt Caito for 60 minutes and and take his chances.

So, there you are. The new guys. Welcome all to The Brotherhood and best of luck this year!

What do you think the opening night lineup will look like?