Earlier this morning, the Miami RedHawks, champions of the NCHC, learned their NCAA region and opponent. The RedHawks will travel to Providence, R.I. to take on Providence College of Hockey East in a first round East Region game. Miami is no stranger to going east to face HEA opponents as they have done so countless times taking on the likes of UMass-Lowell, UNH and BC over the past 10 years. Unfortunately, the majority of those contests have turned out poorly for Miami as they have been skated out of the rink.
But, that’s what’s so intriguing about this draw.
Head coach Enrico Blasi built this team to compete against HEA teams. Smallish, fast forwards who can possess the puck, get out in transition and put pressure on the forecheck are hallmarks of this squad, and seemingly, what’s been done to Miami over the years. And, this year, Blasi added more size with the Crash Cousins and the addition of Scott Dornbrock on the blueline.
Simply put, this team is built to win against teams big and small. And, since you can’t do anything about the draw. Go east and win the region. If there was ever a year that Miami would get over this hump, it’s this year with this team of veterans.
Honestly, the bracket is pretty good for Miami.
Consider Providence. The #15 overall seed should be playing the #2 overall seed. Sure, we’re playing them in their town, but Providence doesn’t have any kind of fan base. The crowd will not be an issue and Miami has gotten used to traveling after two seasons in the NCHC. We should be playing the #13 overall seed, Yale, but at least on paper, may have gotten a break. Providence has great goaltending, but Miami faces great goaltenders each and every weekend in the NCHC. This team should be ready.
Also consider the other half of the bracket…BC and Denver. We know all about Denver and have beaten them 3-of-5 times this year. We’re a much faster team than the Pioneers and their goaltending is suspect. As for BC? It’s not a great BC team with average goaltending and not the teams of the past with guys like Gaudreau, Gerbe, Kreider and others that were elite college players.
This is a region that Miami can win, but the RedHawks are not without their faults.
Miami will be missing the services of NCHC tournament MVP, Blake Coleman, for the first round match against Providence. And, who knows the injury status of junior sniper Riley Barber, who’s play has been outstanding the last month of the season. Last we saw Barber, he was being helped on and off the ice with a large ice bag on his left knee. Clearly not a good sign, but let’s hope for the best. I’m sure we won’t know his status until very late in the week. If those two guys are out, it’s on the other leaders to step up. Also concerning is Miami’s goaltending. I’d say it’s been average of late. Clearly the RedHawks will ride Jay Williams, but if I had to take Williams or Providence’s Jon Gillies to win this game, all else notwithstanding, I’d have to say I’d take Gillies. He’s a proven stud in the Friars net.
So, Miami fans. A lot to celebrate this season. Let’s hope the boys have four more W’s in them.
Love and Honor!
More to come this week.