Miami has not won in six weeks, but its next loss will be its last of the season.
The RedHawks lost their NCHC Tournament first-round opener in their best-of-3 series, 5-4 in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth at Amsoil Arena on Friday and now face elimination in that series.
Miami’s path from here on out couldn’t be more clear: Win or go home. The RedHawks would need to win on Saturday and Sunday at No. 3 UMD then run the table in the semifinal and final of the league tournament in Minneapolis.
That would earn them a berth into the NCAA Tournament, which, of course, is one and out.
An unlikely scenario made more improbable considering the first half of the opening sentence. Miami is 0-8-1 in its last nine and 1-11-2 since Jan. 14.
To Miami’s credit, it took the third-best team in Division I to overtime in the Bulldogs’ home building on Friday despite missing captain Louie Belpedio and losing stud goalie Ryan Larkin in the second period.
The RedHawks led three times in the game (2-1, 3-2 and 4-3) but were unable to close out the win, a common theme in 2016-17.
Backup goalie Chase Munroe had not logged a minute in exactly three months, and after stopping just three of the first five shots he faced, he turned aside 26 of the final 28. He faced a shooting gallery in the final 20 minutes of regulation and overtime, and didn’t get a lot of help from his skaters defensively.
It would’ve been easy for this team to mail it in, considering the near impossibility of its task of winning this tournament.
But the RedHawks didn’t quit, and in a season that will likely go down as their worst in a quarter century, that’s an encouraging sign.
Crazy things happen in conference tournaments, and it would take a run that makes 2013-14 look tame just for Miami to return the position it was in three years when it came within a goal of advancing to the NCAAs despite a 12-19-3 regular season record.
The RedHawks have their backs against the boards but are playing with passion, and in Game 2 we’ll see if that’s enough to extend the season.
– No idea what Larkin’s injury is or how severe, but when a goalie leaves a game and doesn’t return he rarely returns the next night. Already Belpedio-less, that makes MU’s chances of advancing in this round even more remote. If there is a bright spot it’s that Munroe earned valuable conference tournament experience, and as we recall, Jay Williams was shaky early before finding his groove, as was Charlie Effinger before him.
– Scorers’ list from Friday boom: Ryan Siroky and Zach LaValle, in the bottom six of the forward list on the lineup card all season, both scored in this one. It was just their third and second goals of the season, respectively, although LaValle especially seems to have picked it up a notch recently. This is encouraging because Miami was able to hang without its go-to snipers finding the net, and also the lack of scoring from non-top six forwards has been well documented here.
– Scorers’ list from Friday bust: Josh Melnick hasn’t scored in seven games and Anthony Louis has been stuck on 13 goals for 13 games. Kiefer Sherwood was limited to one shot. Scoring from tertiary forwards is great, but the top players need to be top players in the playoffs for teams to advance.
– Yet another Gordie Green update. Hate to be redundant but Green has been the hottest forward on the team with seven points in four games and 11 in his last 10 – more than anyone else on the team.
– Speaking of points surges, two assists on Friday give Grant Hutton eight points in his last seven games. He picked up three helpers the first 28 games but has five in the last seven. On a team that has struggled mightily the past two months, it says a lot that a pair of underclassmen in Green and Hutton are two of the RedHawks’ top points producers. Green is a freshman and Hutton is a defenseman.
– Shots were close the first two periods: 14-12 UMD. Shots after: 27-10 UMD. Miami has now been outshot in 13 straight regulation periods. The RedHawks have allowed 474 shots while generating just 320 during their current 1-11-2 skid.
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami was able to erase a two-goal deficit early in the third period on Friday.
Unfortunately for the RedHawks, the next three markers would belong to No. 2 Denver.
The Pioneers beat MU, 5-2 at Cady Arena, sending Miami to its third straight loss and a 1-6-1 record in its last eight games.
The RedHawks (9-14-6) are also guaranteed a non-winning regular season for the third time in four years.
Despite Miami being outshot, 13-6 in the first period, the teams headed into the first intermission scoreless.
But Denver (21-6-4) finally broke through on the power play, as Evan Janssen twice tried to stuff the puck in the near side of the net, but after two denials by RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin, the puck shot out to Dylan Gambrell, who hammered it home 4:20 into the second period.
Just 72 seconds later on another man advantage, the Pioneers’ Will Butcher wristered one in from the blue line that was deflected away by Larkin, but Troy Terry batted it in out of the air. The play was reviewed for several and after initially being ruled the puck was played by a high stick, that call was overturned and the Pioneers went up, 2-0.
At the 4:15 mark of the third period, Miami’s Zach LaValle cut the lead in half when he stuffed the puck in the short side, as it somehow got through goalie Tanner Jaillet off a centering feed by Gordie Green from behind the net.
The RedHawks pulled even with 10:39 remaining when Jaillet gave up a huge rebound off an outside shot by Grant Hutton, who had stole the puck to keep it in the offensive zone seconds earlier, and Jared Brandt blasted it home.
LaValle’s goal was his first of the season, while Brandt’s was his first as a Miamian.
But that lead was short lived. With 6:04 left in regulation, Gambrell won an offensive zone to Butcher, who skated into the slot uncontested and fired one just under the crossbar to give Denver a 3-2 lead.
The Pioneers regained their two-goal lead when Janssen pitchforked a backhander toward the net, and it hit Gambrell at the top of the crease and popped over the shoulder of Larkin with 3:38 left.
It was 32 seconds later when Denver sealed it on an empty netter from Emil Romig.
In addition to clinching a non-winning regular season, Miami can finish no better than .500 in NCHC play, as it slipped to 5-10-4 in the conference. The RedHawks remain in seventh place, five points behind Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota.
These teams wrap up their weekend series at 8:05 p.m. on Saturday in a game that will be broadcast on ASN and carried by Altitude Network.
Miami broke out with seven goals on Saturday, and its scorers had a combined nine markers this season entering that game.
While it’s obviously insane to expect that kind of offense from second-, third- and fourth-line forwards on a regular basis, the RedHawks – at least for one night in a 7-3 win vs. Nebraska-Omaha at Baxter Arena – appeared to be over the forcefield-across-the-threshold-of-the-net blues that plagued them for many of their first 22 contests.
The reaction from 800 miles to east, behind a computer screen in a cozy back room, was 50 percent what-in-the-world-is-going-on-but-this-is-awesome and 50 percent it’s-about-time-some-of-those-shots-that-had-been-whistling-just-wide-or-off-posts-the-past-four-months-finally-found-twine.
The obvious question no one has the answer to is: Is the drought finally over or was this a three-hour reprieve?
Miami entered this weekend 53rd out of 60 in Division I in offense. The RedHawks aren’t that bad.
Miami scored seven times on Saturday, and only one of those was by a usual sniping suspect: Anthony Louis.
The RedHawks aren’t that good. No team is.
The word of the night, and the series, and the past nine days for that matter dating back to the Bowling Green win, is encouraging.
Two more words could determine how the rest of this season goes for MU: Secondary scoring.
Team leader Jack Roslovic, who had nine tallies this season, has one goal in his last 10 games. Josh Melnick is second overall with six but has one marker in 11 tilts.
Miami has still won three straight.
This team has seven excellent defensemen and two fantastic goalies. It doesn’t need to lead the NCAA in goals.
The RedHawks are now at 2.38 per game, up to 49th, and an average of 3.17 during their current 4-1-1 run. If they can come close to that clip, the back end should take care of the rest, and this could be a fun couple of months.
Only once in the past 11 games has Miami allowed more than three goals, so three should be enough most nights.
Back to the secondary scoring.
Could Kevin Morris could find the net a few more times during the stretch run like he did in both ends of this series?
Or is it a reach to suggest that Zach LaValle, who seems to get better every game, could start pumping in the occasional goal?
How about an occasion tally – not three a night, obviously – from wide-bodied Conor Lemirande, who showed an ability to use his hands to find the net and was able to tip in a shot while in the goalie’s face (with help from linemate and cousin Andrew Schmit, who picked up primary assists on two of his goals)?
The biggest question of this set is Sean Kuraly, since he has the potential to generate the most offense of this group.
Can he continue to play at the level he has the last three games, during which he has six points?
These don’t seem like outrageous questions to anyone who has seen this team frequently, and if the answer is “yes” to most, that goals-per-game average should continue to improve along with the team’s win total.
It was just one game, of course, but that’s on top of two other wins vs. highly-ranked teams, which has to have a confidence carryover for the entire team heading into a crucial four-game homestand and the second half of the NCHC slate.
– Miami did get a little sloppy with the big lead and could’ve finished better. Amazingly, the RedHawks were actually outshot overall, 30-27 after netting six goals on 12 shots in the second period.
– It was comical that when UNO scored late, the scoreboard operator initially gave the score to Miami, as the top of the screen read 8-2. Force of habit from the previous period, perhaps.
– Coach Enrico Blasi’s starting 19 were the same on Saturday as Friday. Evan McCarthy was still listed as the backup goalie.
– Speaking of Blasi, let’s give some credit to the coaching staff as well for this mid-season turnaround. Two weeks ago Miami was 6-11-3 and one point away from the NCHC cellar. Somehow they got this team to turn it around and win a couple of close games, followed by this not-to-close game.
– Segueing again, if Louis doesn’t score with two seconds left to beat Bowling Green last weekend, does Miami go into Omaha Friday and Saturday and pound the seventh-ranked team in Division I back-to-back nights on its own rink? Probably not?
Miami took out a half season of offensive frustrations on Nebraska-Omaha.
The RedHawks, who had not scored more than four goals in any game this season, struck for six in the second period alone in a 7-3 win over the No. 7 Mavericks at Baxter Arena on Saturday, completing a series sweep.
That extended MU’s winning streak to three games. Miami beat UNO, 3-1 on Friday following a 2-1 victory vs. Bowling Green last weekend. The RedHawks have lost just one of their last six games (4-1-1).
Sophomore forward Conor Lemirande, who had netted one career goal entering this contest, recorded the first Miami hat trick of the season.
Miami opened the scoring when senior forward Andrew Schmit passed a puck off the boards behind the net, and the carom came to Lemirande, who buried it from the side of the net with 4:02 left in the first period.
The net seemed to double in size once the middle stanza began.
Senior center Sean Kuraly centered a puck from along the boards to classmate and forward Kevin Morris, who one-timed one home from the slot 42 seconds into that frame.
Kuraly made it 3-0 just over two minutes later when he slammed home a one-touch pass from Morris at the inside edge of the faceoff circle.
The Mavericks cut the lead to two when Ryan Galt played a puck on net, and when RedHawks senior goalie Jay Williams did not handle it cleanly, Mason Morelli jammed it home with 11:54 left in the period.
Lemirande answered, taking a pass from senior forward Alex Gacek from the corner and beating UNO goalie Kirk Thompson on the stick side midway through the period.
Lemirande completed his hat trick with 6:58 to play in the frame, tipping home a Schmit shot from the blue line to give Miami a 5-1 lead.
The RedHawks would add two more tallies in the next three minutes. Junior forward Anthony Louis ripped a cross-crease pass from Kuraly past Thompson, and Kuraly set up a goal by forward Zach LaValle.
Kuraly slid a pass from behind the net to the wide-open freshman in the shot, and LaValle wired it past Thompson on the blocker side to cap off Miami’s scoring.
Nebraska-Omaha did add a pair of scores on slap shots from the blue line to cut the final deficit to four.
It was the first six-goal period for Miami since Feb. 26, 2010 vs. Ohio State.
Kuraly finished with a career-best four points (1-3-4), and his three assists tied a career high.
Lemirande became the only active RedHawk with a hat trick in his career. This season, no one on the team had scored more than one goal in any game.
In its last six games, Miami has scored 18 second-period goals vs. UNO, including 12 in its last four. The last time the RedHawks netted at least seven goals in a game was Dec. 5, 2014 vs. Nebraska-Omaha in Oxford.
Lemirande now has six career points, with four coming against the Mavericks.
LaValle finished with a goal and two assists, Morris notched a marker and an assist and Schmit ended the night with a pair of helpers.
LaValle had never recorded more than one point in a game, and it was the second career two-point tilt for Schmit.
With the three points on Saturday and six for the weekend, MU vaulted Western Michigan and moved into a tie for fifth with UNO at 16 points in the NCHC standings. The RedHawks also improved to 20th in the PairWise rankings.
Miami opens a four-game homestand with a two-game series vs. Denver on Jan. 29-30.
OXFORD, Ohio – Last Sunday, hopes were that Miami’s win over RPI was a momentum builder, as it scored three times in the third period for a boost heading into the heart of league play.
But it was business as usual for the RedHawks, Version 2015-16 on Friday, as once again they failed to hold a late lead and ended up tying Minnesota-Duluth, 1-1 at Cady Arena.
This time it was an equalizer by Tony Camenaresi with 5:38 left on a laser from the right faceoff circle.
It was the sixth straight NCHC game that Miami has given away valuable league point/points in the third period.
That bears repeating: In its last six conference games, the RedHawks have squandered at least one league point in the third period, many of which were lost late in the final stanza.
Let’s assume for a second that Miami had six more points. The team has given away two and three points in some of these contests (Friday it was just one, as the RedHawks won the 3-on-3), but add six points to its total.
That would give it a total of 16, good enough for third place in the NCHC. Plus instead of 6-10-3 – the RedHawks’ current record – it would be closer to 8-8-3, which would put Miami on the PairWise bubble with its brutal strength of schedule.
Instead the RedHawks have 10 and are mired in seventh place.
And yet, with all of the bad things that have happened to Miami this season, the team is just five points out of that No. 3 seed.
The team that holds that spot? UMD. So a win on Saturday would pull the RedHawks within two of the Bulldogs.
The top two seeds are off the board, as North Dakota and St. Cloud State are both 12 points ahead of the field. But home ice? Even at 2-7-2 in league play, Miami has every chance to get back into the race and earn home-ice advantage in the NCHC Tournament.
And unless the team’s record improves dramatically and quickly, home ice will be critical as the RedHawks hope to make the NCAA Tournament.
But none of these good things will happen for Miami if it can’t figure out how to maintain third-period leads.
– The RedHawks’ power play continues to have zero to do with power. Miami is 0-for-16 in its last six games and has allowed two shorthanded goals in that span for a net of minus-2 goals on the man advantage. That’s a special kind of bad. Not coincidentally, MU has scored two goals or fewer in five of those six games.
– Actually, the power play was so bad that Minn.-Duluth gained momentum on Miami’s first chance. The RedHawks were dominating early in the second period, but after doing zip on that opportunity, the Bulldogs controlled the pace the rest of that stanza and were the better team the rest of the way. Play was pretty even in the first period.
– Some perspective: UMD has a good team with excellent goaltending and talented forwards. It’s head-scratching that the team is 7-7-4, especially with so many key players back from last season. This team is poised for a second-half run, making Saturday’s game even more important for both squads.
– The attendance for this game was 1,743. When does this J-term end again?
– Was that actual rock music we heard in the second period? No kidding: An assortment of mostly standard rock selections was played in that frame before the powers-that-be returned to the same miserable crap fans have become accustomed to hearing. Hey, at least there was no Village Idiots or Neil Diamond in this game that normally makes hockey traditionalists want to jam ice picks through their ear drums.
– Per the NCHC, it looks like Miami will don its red jerseys for home games the rest of the season. Not sure what the point of changing that up is.
FORWARDS: D. This corps combined for one point (assist by senior Andrew Schmit) and managed a whopping 20 shots in 65 minutes. Freshman Jack Roslovic looked either disinterested or tired late, and with few offensive weapons this team needs him to be focused at all times. The Crash Cousins line, with Ryan Siroky, played well together, with sophomore Conor Lemirande also playing a role in Miami’s lone goal. The Zach LaValle-Kiefer Sherwood duo appears to be building chemistry, and the pair of freshmen will hopefully evolve together for the next three-plus years.
DEFENSEMEN: C-. Too many odd-man rushes, too many unnecessary icings. Not a typical shut-down effort from this group, although Coach Enrico Blasi did shake up the pairings as Louie Belpedio returned, which may have affected chemistry. Senior Matthew Caito took a 4-on-4 shot from the faceoff circle that whistled wide, and that’s how UMD scored its lone goal. That shot has to be on net, and he’d probably be the first to admit that, although he was his typical solid self otherwise. Grant Hutton has been a defensive staple in his freshman year but struggled in this game. He looks like a natural right D-man and was a little awkward on the left side. Chris Joyaux did score the team’s lone goal, which elevates this group out into the ‘D’ range.
GOALTENDING: A. There’s the hockey cliché of stealing a win, but can a goalie steal a tie? Jay Williams stopped 36 shots, and it was practically a shooting gallery his way the final 25 of regulation. There wasn’t one signature save on the night, but he was strong the whole game and was excellent at controlling his rebounds. His best effort of the season by far. The one goal was an absolute rip ticketed for the corner of the net. Without Williams, this game goes in the loss column for Miami.
LINEUP CHANGES: Up front it was Devin Loe out and Conor Lemirande in on Friday, perhaps because of the ultra-physical nature of UMD. With Belpedio returning from the World Juniors, he was back on the blue line after playing in Finland this week. His presence relegated fellow defenseman Colin Sullivan to the scratch column despite his strong play last weekend. Williams was in net for the second straight game, and he certainly has earned at least a split of playing time with Ryan McKay, who will probably start on Saturday.
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami improved to 3-1-1 after a 1-0 win at St. Lawrence on Oct. 23.
The RedHawks have recorded two victories since, posting a 2-9-1 mark in the past 71 days, including a 3-2 loss to RPI at Cady Arena on Saturday that extended the team’s winless streak to seven games.
Although this weekend’s games are non-conference, Miami’s situation gets more dire with each loss. Now 5-10-2, the RedHawks’ PairWise ranking is 31st, a long way away from any kind of consideration for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
On Saturday, Miami actually played pretty well. The team dominated the first few shifts, culminating in an early goal. The RedHawks were very good for large stretches of the second period as well.
They hit at least four posts.
It was the type of loss that, if Miami had played well overall the first three months, could be written off. Even the best college hockey teams don’t win every night.
But teams that are four games below .500 don’t have that luxury. Because of the deep hole the RedHawks have dug themselves, every game from here through March is paramount.
The tough schedule will give Miami leeway, but the team still has to win often against that tough schedule. The RedHawks play 14 conference games plus Sunday’s game against RPI (tied for 15th in the PairWise) and a home-and-home vs. Bowling Green (ranked 18th).
And losing repeatedly in dramatic fashion can’t help this team’s psyche.
Miami needs to finally score more than three goals, something it has yet to accomplish this season. Or win a game in the last minute.
Or get in a galvanizing skirmish. Nothing that would warrant mass suspensions, mind you, just something, ANYTHING, to help boost confidence and get this team on track.
The RedHawks lack offensive fire power this season, no doubt, but they don’t lack talent, and there’s no reason for them to have wins in fewer than one-third of their games thus far.
– Miami’s 6-on-5 in the closing minutes was disappointing. Once the players got set up in the offensive zone they stood there and passed the puck among themselves repeatedly. No movement anywhere. And then they wondered why there were no open shooting lanes.
– It’s frustrating to see RPI come in boasting one 10-goal scorer and have him net for the Engineers’ first two goals. It’s no secret Riley Bourbonnais is the team’s best offensive weapon, and Miami was unable to slow him down. One could say the same about RPI vs. Jack Roslovic, who scored once and set up the other Miami goal.
– Bourbonnais’ first goal came shorthanded and was a momentum killer for the RedHawks. Miami was up, 1-0 late in the first period with a chance to extend its lead via the power play, but Bourbonnais’ breakaway goal tied it and the RedHawks never led again.
– On a positive note, this was one of the best games Anthony Louis has played all season. His pass to Jack Roslovic for Miami’s slam-dunk second goal was a thing of beauty. Louis was better in the second half of both his freshman and sophomore seasons, and Miami needs his offense now more than ever.
– The listed attendance was 1,809 with the students out for the J-term, and that seems pretty generous. Unfortunately Miami has a lot of home games this month and won’t have a student section behind it. That figure could drop substantially on Sunday, going against the final week of the NFL’s regular season.
FORWARDS: B-. Louis and Roslovic were Miami’s best forwards and freshman Josh Melnick wasn’t far behind. This unit was very good at times and ineffective others. Same problem this team has faced all season: Miami has been unable to generate offense from its deeper lines.
DEFENSEMEN: A. RPI manged just 17 shots. Colin Sullivan has been the odd man out a lot this season, but he was very solid on D. Bad year overall for Miami or not, senior Matthew Caito has saved his best season for last, although he ended up in the penalty box twice. And this unit was without sophomore standout Louie Belpedio, who is at the World Juniors in Finland.
GOALTENDING: C-. Senior Ryan McKay just didn’t look like he seeing the puck that well all night. He made one spectacular save, stacking the pads on a point-blank shot, but he stopped just 14 of 17 overall. The first goal was a good shot on a shorthanded breakaway, but he still got beat. The second goal was pretty soft, hitting his glove and popping in, and the third he had no chance on.
LINEUP CHANGES: Freshman Zach LaValle was back in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 13 with his upper-body injury. Freshman Ryan Siroky and junior Devin Loe were scratched, and Belpedio was obviously the missing D-man. Belpedio will miss Sunday’s game, and the smart money is on him being available next weekend.
OXFORD, Ohio — Miami’s youth continued to shine offensively on Saturday.
Freshmen scored all three of the RedHawks’ goals in a 3-1 win over Ohio State at Cady Arena in the series finale, a night after edging the Buckeyes in Columbus.
Forwards Josh Melnick, Jack Roslovic and Zach LaValle all found the net in the win, Miami’s sixth straight in its all-time series vs. OSU (0-4).
Roslovic set up Melnick’s goal to open the scoring when he whipped a cross-ice pass for a one-timer on the power play with 7:49 left in the first period.
Like Friday, after the RedHawks (2-1-1) took the initial lead, Ohio State tied it. A wrist shot from just inside the blue line by Mason Jobst eluded Miami senior goalie Ryan McKay 5:11 into the second period to make it 1-1.
Roslovic put the RedHawks ahead for good when he beat two defenders and roofed a shot with 6:04 left in the middle stanza. Melnick picked up the lone assist on that goal after a steal in the neutral zone.
LaValle jammed a rebound home off a shot by Kiefer Sherwood – another rookie – with 17:55 to play in regulation, sealing it. That goal also came on the man advantage, on which Miami finished 2-for-5.
Melnick and Roslovic finished with a goal and an assist each, as they are tied for the team lead with five points apiece.
Of the eight individual points earned by Miami in this game, six were by freshmen – two each by Melnick and Roslovic and one apiece by LaValle and Sherwood. Junior forward Anthony Louis and senior defenseman Matthew Caito also picked up assists.
Louis finished with nine of the RedHawks’ 41 shots.
McKay stopped 27 to earn the win for the second straight night.
The RedHawks’ first significant road trip of the season is this weekend, as they travel to St. Lawrence for a two-game set. Both games will be at 7 p.m.
Following those games, Miami travels to St. Cloud State to open NCHC play on Oct. 30-31.
On Monday the Blog of Brotherhood published Part I of an interview with Miami assistant coach Nick Petraglia, which ran here:
Here is the conclusion of that conversation.
BoB: Another forward coming in is Ryan Siroky (Sir-OH-key). BoB saw him a couple of seasons ago with Green Bay and he looked like he had some talent but was 17 and raw at that point. He went 14-19-33 last year, including 1-7-8 in the playoffs after being traded to Muskegon.
PETRAGLIA: High-character kid, power forward, responsible. In the last year, year and a half, he has become very versatile in terms of being able to play different positions up front. He was recruited as a winger but was moved around in different teams’ lineups and learned how to play center, so that versatility is very important for us to be able to use him in different spots. He’s a kid that works hard, he has the ability to score goals – he has a little bit of offense to him, has a scoring touch in tight. He’s a complete player that is responsible and can contribute meaningful minutes to our team.
BoB: Next would be Zach LaValle (la-VAL). LaValle had a big year in the NAHL, going 20-41-61 for Janesville.
PETRAGLIA: He was a very successful three-sport, all-state athlete in Minnesota. I would say his strengths are his hockey sense and his playmaking. He had a really good year leading the team in scoring, and (Janesville) set a league record for wins and points and they ran away with the league, and he kind of league the way offensively. He’s a smart, playmaking forward, and he’s a guy that can probably play center and wing for us as well.
BoB: Another player who was a big points producer in juniors is Josh Melnick. At 5-feet-7 and with a line of 14-48-62 with Youngstown of the USHL, that looks like the scoring line of a playmaking center.
PETRAGLIA: Yes, that’s exactly what he is. He is one of the best passers that we could’ve found. He knows how to set the table, he knows how to run a power play, and again, hockey sense. Really, really smart, really smart and reliable, he can fly, he can make plays at high speed. He could probably shoot the puck a little bit more, but he really knows how to step guys up and make plays and produce offense, and he’ll be a guy that we think will transition very nicely into college hockey and make an immediate impact.
BoB: Kiefer Sherwood. Here’s a guy that absolutely blew up last season. He scored 29 goals and set up 27 more in his third season with Youngstown. What is your impression of him?
PETRAGLIA: He did (score a lot) in midgets and that’s where we recruited him from. Again, looking at what we’re replacing and what we’re bringing in, you lose a shot like Riley Barber – and by no means am I expecting Kiefer to come in and score 20 goals, it could happen but you don’t want to put that kind of pressure on a kid – this is a kid that can just shoot the puck and score goals. His one-timer is incredible. He’s got a really quick release, a hard and heavy shot, he can really skate. So when you look at the list of guys we’re bringing in, we’ve mentioned a few playmakers, this would be a goal scorer, a guy that can score and get up and down the ice and make a difference.
BoB: The final forward is a University of Maine transfer, Ryan Lomberg. He played two seasons with the Black Bears, going 18-14-32 in 66 games and sat out last season, joining Youngstown where he went 24-19-43. He will be a junior this year, and he did have an off-ice incident that led to his departure from Maine. Can you talk about bringing in a player with two years of collegiate experience on a team that lost a lot of forward talent?
NOTE: Lomberg pled guilty to a disorderly conduct charge last summer stemming from a fight several months prior, for which he was originally charged with assault.
PETRAGLIA: He’s a kid very similar to Blake Coleman. Difficult to play against, can play in all situations. Very, very gritty and hard-nosed, can score, can make plays, but he’s a player that the other team notices and they don’t want him on the ice. And he’s an outstanding kid. Had a situation at Maine that was obviously tough for him to deal with but we can definitely speak to his character and say that he’s a really good person that’s learned from his mistakes and deserves a second chance. Still some eligibility issues with the NCAA in regards to his transfer, so we’re not quite sure if he’s going to be ready for us in the first half or if we’re going to have to wait until January. If we have to wait until January, we’ll get through it and he’ll be a big part of our team whenever the NCAA says that it’s OK.
BoB: So, worst-case scenario, he can come in this January as a junior and still play his entire senior season in 2016-17?
PETRAGLIA: That’s correct. Worst-case scenario…he can play (vs.) RPI, Jan. 2.
BoB: With all of the forward spots that are open from last season (7 – Czarik, Coleman, Murphy, Wideman, Mullin, Barber, Doherty), the spots are there for these incoming players to win starting jobs right away. Is that accurate?
PETRAGLIA: Yeah, and that’s how we’ve always recruited. We want to bring in guys to fill roles and we bring them in when they’re ready to contribute. No different than when Austin Czarnik came in, Austin Czarnik replaced Carter Camper…and Austin Czarnik was our leading scorer and No. 1 center for four years. And now Austin’s gone.
(At center), Sean (Kuraly) coming back, and what he brings to our team and the impact he’s going to have on the ice is huge. I don’t want to say who our No. 1 center is going to be, who knows? You could argue whomever. But Sean’s going to be a huge piece of our puzzle, and Jack replaces Austin and kind of fills that role. So you can see the different skill sets and the different elements that the (incoming) guys bring to the table. They’re brought here for a reason and hopefully they’re ready.
BoB: You mentioned Sean Kuraly a couple of times. He takes over the captaincy from Czarnik. Fans can see how hard he works and much of a force he’s become since coming to Oxford, but can you talk about the type of leader he is, which is something many people don’t see?
PETRAGLIA: He just gets it. First of all, he is the poster child of how to carry yourself, the perfect example of a human being in terms of humility, caring for other people, caring for his teammates, his selflessness. He’s so passionate and he works so hard. I think that’s one thing that people who don’t know Sean Kuraly that come to watch us play – I’m sure that if you’re watching that, oh, look at Sean Kuraly. Look how hard that kid works. He brings his best every single shift, and it’s not just on the ice. He brings his best in the classroom, he brings his best in terms of his attention span in a meeting, when he’s talking to his friends and his teammates. More than anything, he is respected by every single person in our program. If you were to take a poll, I’ll bet every single person in our program would vote him as our captain. It would probably be unanimous.
BoB: You have one defenseman coming in, who is Grant Hutton. He has bounced between the NAHL and the USHL and had an excellent playoff year with that tremendous Janesville team. He’s 6-feet-3, so can you talk about how he fits in to this team?
PETRAGLIA: Grant is a kid that’s built off of work ethic. He’s very strong, very well conditioned, great athlete. Obviously he has some size, and one thing about him – he can shoot the puck and he has a little bit of offense – but more than anything he takes great pride in playing D and shutting down the other team and keeping the puck out of his own net. He’s a player that hates to get scored on more than anybody I’ve ever met. It really bugs him, and obviously that’s a very important attribute to have on your team is a guy that really takes pride in taking care of his own end and defending, and that’s what Grant Hutton does. Another kid (with) great character from Indy, just down the road, so a semi-local kid that grew up loving Miami. (He’s) excited to be here and we’re excited to have him.
BoB: With Ben Paulides graduating and Colin Sullivan, who played very well when he was healthy last season, in the mix, it looks like there are going to be battles for those final couple of defenseman spots in the lineup each night.
PETRAGLIA: So with Mooney, you mentioned having a roster of 25, it gives us comfort knowing we have a guy like him that can play both positions as necessary based on the way things are going. But you mentioned the competition and that’s absolutely true, competition makes everybody better, it makes our team better, and we’re really happy with the makeup of our D-corps and the different elements and the competition that’s back there. We thought the guys did a real good job last year, playing both ends and taking care of the D-corps, so to have the majority of them back, and losing Ben Paulides, who did a good job for us. Grant comes in and has a similar skill set, defends in the same way that Benny did in terms of being a defensive defenseman, so we’re hoping for our D-corps to once again have a solid year, be a big part of our team.
BoB: Miami is bringing in another goalie in Evan McCarthy. He has been decent in the NAHL the past two seasons, so can you talk about him coming in with two other established goalies already with the RedHawks?
PETRAGLIA: So Evan’s coming into a situation where we obviously have two seniors who have played every minute for the last three years, and we’re going to expect a lot out of them, so he’s going to have an opportunity to compete and learn and be a part of that for a year. A year from now we’re going to expect Evan to step up and compete for a spot. We have a kid coming in who I’m not allowed to talk about until he signs his (Letter of Intent), but just having the competition that position, Evan’s going to have the opportunity to compete for playing time for four years. This year will be a little tougher for him because he’s got two seniors (in front of him), but after that it should be a good opportunity for him to battle it out. He’s a good that is extremely bright, very, very good student – he was valedictorian of his high school in Colorado – has a great work ethic. He has good size, he fills the net well, has a good skill set, so it will be a really good opportunity for him to learn the college game and adapt to this level of play and just get used to it before Ryan (McKay) and Jay (Williams) both graduate.
I’ve got one other thing to say, because it’s really important: Anthony Louis and Louie Belpedio. I would expect both of them to take huge steps this year. They were both great for us last year, but in terms of developing into elite college players, I think both of those guys are ready to take that step. When you talk about the guys that are leaving and trying to fill voids, both of those guys are totally capable of stepping up, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Anthony Louis light it up.
John Lachmann writes for WCPO.com, the Northern Kentucky Tribune, Tristatefootball.com and GetSportsInfo.com. You can follow him at @rednblackhawks.
Nick Petraglia is entering his sixth season as an assistant coach at Miami, but he has been around the program since he was 18.
He was a goalie for the RedHawks in 2000-01 and 2001-02 under current head coach Enrico Blasi, and was a volunteer assistant coach for three seasons before becoming the director of hockey operations at Miami.
Two of his main current responsibilities for the RedHawks are working with the goalies and serving as a recruiting co-coordinator.
Because he watches the incoming players extensively before they come to Oxford, the Blog of Brotherhood talked to him about how the newest crops of RedHawks and the state of the roster, as well as other off-season topics.
BoB: So what is the coaching staff doing at this point to prepare for this fall?
PETRAGLIA: Preparation started probably a couple of weeks after the Frozen Four last year. Really, just recapping last season, seeing what the makeup of our team was going to look like, establishing a new identity, leadership, addressing areas that we needed to improve. That all occurred at the end of last season, and then when the guys were around for summer session, they put in a lot of hard work, just getting off on the right foot in terms of training and their summer preparation. Right now, we’re just kind of recapping those topics that we covered in the spring, and then the next two weeks we’ll spend a lot of time meeting and planning our preseason in terms of what our practice is going to look like, what our schedule is going to look like, making sure we’re making the most of our time because we have to be pretty efficient with the NCAA restrictions that are in place in the preseason in terms of hours. So really at this point it’s just putting the plan in place and making sure we’re ready to go and we’re prepared to we can execute that plan when the guys are here.
BoB: Miami lost a lot of really good forwards from last season (Austin Czarnik, Blake Coleman, Riley Barber, Cody Murphy, Alex Wideman). Is the biggest concern heading into 2015-16 this team’s ability to put the puck in the net?
PETRAGLIA: I wouldn’t call it a concern, just part of our job in recruiting is to know what we’re losing and to replace it. So while obviously a few players that have those abilities have left, we feel like we’ve replaced it with guys who can fill those roles. Obviously with freshmen, there’s going to be a natural learning curve, but we’re really excited about what we have coming in with some of the new guys to carry to load. And then on top of that, as guys get older and new opportunities are available, you always look for some returning players to step up and take up their role and fill some of that void left by graduating seniors or in this case even Riley Barber, who left a year early. I think we have a lot of firepower, we have good balance – skill and speed – and hopefully that will translate to production. I wouldn’t say we’re concerned but it’s definitely something we’re going to have to find the right chemistry and work at, make sure we’re living up to the standards that we’ve set.
BoB: Is off-season at Miami easier for you and the other hockey coaches because you’ve been together so long? Coach Enrico Blasi is entering his 17th season, Coach Brekke has been there for almost a decade and you’ve been with the program since you were a teenager and are in your sixth season in your current role as an assistant.
PETRAGLIA: I think as a the years go on we become more and more cohesive as a staff, and I would also say that as a program, that includes our relationships between the staff and the players as well. Just having everybody on the same page, knowing what our standards are and buying in and working toward the same goal. So our summer discussions as a staff and the planning that’s in place: I think there’s a lot of chemistry in that area. We definitely have discussions where we’re trying to figure things out and think of new ways to do things, and we’re always trying to get better, but I would say that the quality of our relationships and where we’re all at personally really helps with that because we really are one big family, and it’s fun to show up every day and work with people that you care about and that you love and that you can really get along with and not only have a great relationship but a productive one where you can talk things out even when things are tough, and talk things out and come to an agreement as one.
BoB: In looking at your roster, last year at this time you had 28 players. Right now there are 25 listed, which is the smallest roster I can remember this team having. A couple of guys aren’t coming back that you probably expected to see here this fall, but how do you feel about having list 25 players on the roster right now?
PETRAGLIA: We feel OK with it. We were a little surprised about Jimmy Mullin moving on. Obviously he graduated, but (he) has an opportunity at Minnesota State…so that would’ve been 26. But 25, we feel good about. We feel really good about our senior class. Outstanding group of people that have been through a bunch of good times but some tough times as well, so they’ve seen both sides of it, and the leadership starting with Sean Kuraly, who’s going to be a tremendous captain for every reason you can list. Not only that but his support group is really, really good. The character that’s in that senior class is really going to lead the way for our team and sets the bar high for us. So we really couldn’t be more excited about that senior class taking charge of this team.
BoB: Two defensemen that were on the roster last year at this time, Matt Joyaux and Trevor Hamilton, decided mid-season to pursue opportunities with other teams. Nothing against them, they did what they had to do to further their hockey careers, but a player like Garrett Kennedy a few years ago was willing to not dress for two years before getting his shot on the ice and ended up being a solid contributor his final two seasons. With college hockey becoming more competitive and more of a business than ever, do you envision this current scenario is going to become more of a reality or do you feel last season was an aberration?
PETRAGLIA: I really hope that’s not the reality – that’s a really tough question to answer because everything is a case-by-case basis. In those situations, it was a tough situation for both players, they found themselves out of the lineup more than they would like and felt that they would have better opportunities to play more elsewhere, and that was the reason for leaving. I think they both really did love Miami and enjoyed the overall experience, but it came down to playing opportunity. It’s disappointing to see that happen because there are other examples where players find themselves in that situation and they work hard and they work themselves out of it and find themselves in the lineup every single game, and that’s what you would like to see because unfortunately someone’s got to sit out each night, not everybody can play. So I hope that’s not the reality, but it is the nature of the business when you’re trying to put yourself in a position to succeed and play as much as possible. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out for whatever reason and people move on. That was tough, in the middle of the season, for that to happen, but both kids handled it well, left on good terms in terms of not having any animosity, it was handled rather professionally, and we all got through it.
BoB: Overall, looking at the dynamic of the team, you lost a 5-feet-6 and a 5-feet-7 guy and are only bringing in one smaller player. The lone incoming defenseman is 6-feet-3. So it looks like you’re going to have a little more size this season.
PETRAGLIA: I know going back a year ago, after 2013-14, we felt like we needed to get bigger. We added Lemirande, Dornbrook, Sullivan. We felt like we needed that size and strength. And at this point we feel like we’ve got a pretty balanced lineup where I don’t think size is an issue. Naturally, we’re going to have some smaller players that bring certain skill sets to the table. The size of this year’s class is probably average to normal.
BoB: The incoming player who has commanded the most hype is forward Jack Roslovic. He was picked in the first round, 25th overall by the Winnipeg Jets this summer. In 25 games for the U.S. National Development Team, he had 11 goals and 27 assists, plus he went 6-5-11 in seven games for the U.S. Under-18 Team in its gold medal effort. He played in an exhibition at Cady Arena last season, and BoB saw him again in Ann Arbor last winter and his talent level looks off the charts. Especially with all of the key forward losses, the RedHawks are going to need someone who can jump in and contribute right away. Can you talk about him and what he brings to Miami?
PETRAGLIA: Jack is a special player. Obviously there’s going to be a lot of expectation and a lot of pressure just because of where he was drafted, where he’s coming from. He’s very highly touted. But the one thing I will say about Jack is he’s very, very grounded. For all that’s been through and what he experienced this summer, he’s got a really good head on his shoulders. He can do everything. He’s got decent size, he’s strong on his skates, his playmaking and offensive instincts are incredible. Very, very good hockey sense. He can do it all, and he’s one of those guys that we’re going to expect to be ready right away. Obviously there will be a little bit of a transition, but he’s already played in some college games (in exhibitions), he’s played in big-time environments, and we’re going to lean on him pretty heavily to produce right away, and we don’t see him having any big issues other than normal growing pains.
Check back on Wednesday for Part II and the conclusion of our conversation, as Petraglia dissects the rest of the incoming recruits and talks about the players he expects to take major steps forward this fall.
John Lachmann writes for WCPO.com, the Northern Kentucky Tribune, Tristatefootball.com and GetSportsInfo.com. You can follow him at @rednblackhawks.