In Oxford, Ohio, the first RedHawk (nee Redskin) alumnus to return as head coach is preaching a sermon he’s justifiably perfected during his brief tenure.
“I think for us consistency has got to be number one,” said Enrico Blasi. “In this league, you can’t go three to four games without winning. It just puts you back in the pack and you’re looking up and there’s no way out.
“I figure if we can be consistent all year long, we’ll be right there in the hunt for home playoffs.”
Consistency may be tough to find for Miami this season, as the RedHawks welcome 11 new faces to campus, including three transfers. “We’re excited about our freshmen,” said Blasi, “but as you know freshmen are freshmen, and you never know what’s going to happen.”
A Leap Of Faith
With a record of 9-17-2 in CCHA play last season, maybe it’s not such a bad thing that Miami graduated so many seniors. That was a squad that finished -134 in league plus/minus, that was outscored 121-89 in overall play.
Perhaps a leap into the territory of the unknown with a young team will bring new enthusiasm to RedHawk hockey. Perhaps spreading leadership duties equally among four veterans will do the trick as well.
Seniors Nick Jardine, Matt Medvecz, and Chris Knupp, and junior Derek Edwardson will each shoulder the responsibilities of being captain.
“The strong bond that exists between these four has led me to not declare just one as the captain, but given all four equal leadership responsibilities,” said Blasi. “This is exactly the type of group effort that we are looking for from our team this season.”
Jardine is a natural leader, having come to the RedHawks as a pure walk-on three seasons ago and proving himself along the way.
Blasi is also looking to junior Greg Hogeboom to provide a spark offensively. “I think [he] took a real good step last season as a sophomore,” said Blasi. “He had a great first half, and then had mono in the month of February and it really set him back, but he was drafted this summer and I think he’s excited to get going again. We’re going to look to those two guys to lead the way offensively.
Blasi added, “I think on the back end we’ve added some speed in a young man by the name of Ben Tharp. He’s a transfer from Minnesota, so hopefully he can add an element that we haven’t had for a while in Miami.”
Keeping The Faith
One constant for the RedHawks has been the play of goaltender David Burleigh. “We’re really excited about his senior season here,” said Blasi. “He has something to prove. He feels like he let the team down a little bit last year at times and we know that’s nonsense, it’s a team game, but he’s taken it upon himself to lead the way.”
The idea that Burleigh disappointed his team last season is nonsense, as Blasi said. With a solid .900 save percentage in league play, Burleigh saw his share of shots on average (24.93) and was fifth in conference play in saves (673).
Miami was 10th overall (ninth CCHA) in goals allowed per game last season, and 11th in overall and conference goals scored per game. Clearly, any problems the RedHawks found after their 6-3-1 start last season cannot be attributed to David Burleigh.
The Speed Of The Known Universe
Blasi is correct in welcoming the speed of Tharp to his squad. In fact, it’s not just speed that Miami needs but clear-headedness on the ice, something that can result in players moving when and where they need to be moving, rather than merely taking up space in position.
Other things to ponder: Blasi has added Jeff Blashill, former Ferris State goaltender and FSU assistant, to his coaching staff, a positive move.
Blasi is also a Buffalo Bills fan, so he knows a thing or two about faith.
Miami fans, repeat this daily: “We will continue to make Goggin Arena a rockin’ barn.”
Miami players, repeat this hourly: “Feet must move. Feet must move.”