Preseason Top 16: #14 Miami
Miami was once again one of the preseason favorites to make the Frozen Four, but finished 4th in the CCHA (though they did allow fewer goals than any other team in the conference). Miami made the CCHA tournament semifinals, but lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to UMass-Lowell.
It was the best of times….
When Miami finished the regular season with a six game winning streak. The last four of those were wins over Ohio State and Michigan State that helped the Redhawks to their fourth place finish in the league. The winning streak stretched to 8 with two wins over Michigan State in their first CCHA playoff series.
It was the worst of times…
Miami struggled out of the gate, going just 2-6 in their first 8 games. Miami had a two game winning streak against Bemidji State and Colgate in their second and third games of the season, but lost the other games of those two series and were swept by Ferris State and Lake State to start CCHA play.
The Coach - Enrico Blasi (Miami '94)
Blasi captained Miami's 1994 team and after being George Gowzdecky's assistant at Denver he returned to Miami to become the school's first ever alum to serve as head coach and also the youngest coach in the country. All he's done is turn Miami into one of the best programs in the country, making the last seven NCAA tournaments and was an overtime goal away from winning the 2009 national title. Blasi was the 2006 national coach of the year and is a four time CCHA coach of the year. He also does a lot of tremendous work as an advisor for You Can Play, a great organization fighting homophobia in sports.
Notable Current NHL Alumni
Players to watch
With Reilly Smith gone to the NHL and Tyler Biggs gone to the CHL Miami has a few holes to fill. It's going to be up to a trio of Sophomores to carry most of the load. Though he had the fewest goals of the three, Austin Czarnik (10-27--37) is the most widely heralded. Due to some size issues, Czarnik has been passed over in two NHL drafts despite having pretty much every other skill required of an NHL forward. He will make a nice free agent signing for some team, possibly as soon as next summer.
Jimmy Mullin is a bit older, as he'll be a 21 year old Sophomore, but he had 11 goals for the RedHawks last year with only 1 of those coming not at even strength.
Blake Coleman, a 3rd round pick of the Devils in the 2011 draft, actually was second on the team in goals as a Freshman and led the RedHawks in game winning goals with three.
On the blueline, Miami doesn't have many offensive stalwarts, but with them only losing Will Weber and Cam Schilling to graduation they should have a deep, veteran group that will again be among the best in the CCHA. And good thing too, as both Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp, Miami's goalies who spent basically equal amounts of time in net over the last couple seasons, have graduated.
The RedHawks have a gigantic class coming in, so we'll just touch on a couple of the headliners:
Riley Barber (1994) was the first overall pick in the 2010 USHL Futures Draft, although he only had 14 goals in 57 games with Dubuque in 2010-11 and then 5 in 24 games with the NTDP last year. He hasn't posted huge numbers yet but over the course of his career he should make quite an impact in Oxford.
Ryan McKay (1992) will be an important member of the RedHawks next year, as the former Green Bay Gambler could be Miami's starting goalie relatively quickly. He shared the USHL Goaltender of the Year award with Fargo's Zane Gothberg, posting a .920 save percentage, helping to lead the Gamblers to the league's best regular season record.
Marc Hagel captained Princeton last year and scored 7 goals and added 11 assists playing in all 32 games for the Tigers. He will be immediately eligible for the RedHawks and will help provide some veteran leadership for a club needing some.
Jay Williams (1993) is Miami's other goalie recruit. The Virginia native played with Waterloo and Sioux Falls of the USHL last year and although he didn't have the same type of stats that McKay did he also played behind much worse teams and scouts are still very high on his skills.
Non conference series to watch:
In a rare relatively late season nonconference tilt the RedHawks will travel to Madison to take on Wisconsin, who should be in contention for a top 4 finish in the WCHA and (spoiler alert) will be featured a bit later in the rankings.
I'm not sure what to make of Miami this year. They don't have the talent they did in years past, but they should have a good veteran blueline and that will help both new goalies get acclimated to college hockey. Someone will have to step up up front but this being Miami of course someone will. They have made the last seven NCAA tournaments and I think they'll make this one their eighth in a row.