“It’s a competitive league,” says Miami head coach Enrico Blasi. “You have to be consistent on a daily basis. You can’t get too high, and you can’t get too low. You could throw all the teams up in the air and you never know who is going to finish first or 12th and that’s a tribute to all the guys here and the teams they produce on a yearly basis.”
It’s also an eloquent way of saying absolutely nothing.
The RedHawks are one of the slipperiest teams in the league, difficult to define and nearly impossible to predict. Last year, Miami came out flying with a dozen wins in the first two months, games in which the RedHawks outscored opponents 70-25.
But back-to-back road losses against permanent clustermate Ohio State at the start of December derailed the ‘Hawks and what was once a promising season ended with a first-round, home-ice, best-of-three disappointment, as Notre Dame knocked off Miami in the CCHA playoffs.
You can’t get too high. You can’t get too low.
Miami returns a good squad, led by its captain, senior forward Derek Edwardson, who spent the 2002-03 season benched with a knee injury. Add to the mix Greg Hogeboom, explosive on the power play, Mike Kompon, as good a forward as any in the league, and defensive standout Andy Greene, and there is enough talent to turn a few heads.
Gone is David Burleigh, an inconsistent but sometimes brilliant netminder. Two newcomers, Brandon Crawford-West and Steve Hartley, will likely vie for the starting position in net, in spite of the presence of senior Nick Petraglia. Early scouting gives Hartley the job.
“We return all of our defensemen from a year ago, which is a good thing for us because we have three young goalies that are unproven,” says Blasi. “We are excited about the year and we’re ready to get going.”
Miami starts its season by defending its title in the second annual Lefty McFadden Tournament in Dayton, Ohio. Last year, Miami got past Air Force and Bowling Green to win; this season, the RedHawks face St. Lawrence the first night and either Ohio State or Denver the second, stiffer competition that should give an early sign or two about the chances of this Miami squad.
The RedHawks face a tough schedule, paired as they are with Ohio State in that Big Ten cluster that features Michigan and Michigan State as well. That alone may be the undoing of Miami this season. Of course, each team in that cluster may take a hit simply because of the competition.
Watching the RedHawks is like watching reality television — entertaining, unpredictable, and guaranteed to provide a little drama.
Mike Kompon, Greg Hogeboom, Todd Grant. Put these three together on the ice — as a fixed line or on special teams — and watch the highs get higher.
Will the real Miami RedHawks please stand up? Just exactly where is the problem here? Is it player chemistry? Team unity? Leadership? Coaching?
For the past four seasons, the RedHawks have bowed out of the CCHA playoffs during the first round, twice losing best-of-three series on their own turf in Goggin Arena. Miami hasn’t made an appearance in Detroit since the 1996-97 season, the year Miami challenged Michigan for the regular-season title, in the days of Mark Mazzoleni.
Blasi, now in his fifth season, fields a team this year completely of his own making. No matter how noncommittal Miami’s head coach is when discussing his team, the 2003-04 RedHawk record will speak volumes.