Miami turns external expectations into motivation

By this point, most college hockey fans know what the 2009-10 Miami RedHawks endured, but it bears repeating, in brief.

• Lost the 2009 NCAA championship game in overtime, after leading by two goals going into the last minute.

• Lost a dear friend, 21-year-old team manager Brendan Burke, to a car crash in February.

• Watched their head coach endure a painful divorce that he spoke of frankly and publicly — and movingly — at the end of the season.

How did Miami respond? By running away with the conference and a second consecutive trip to the Frozen Four, a trip that required them to beat the then-hottest team in the country in NCAA play to advance.

And so it is with complete sincerity and zero chutzpah that head coach Enrico Blasi delivered these lines to the media before the season began:

“We’re very appreciative that the media picked us No. 1 and the coaches picked us No. 2. It gives us an opportunity to put a little pressure on our team and focus on what people expect us to be like.”

It is time for Miami to measure itself against expectations, something that Blasi would have balked at just a couple of seasons ago. This RedHawks program is now a team in the spotlight. Having two recent assistant coaches chosen to head other CCHA programs doesn’t do anything to keep Miami off anyone’s radar, either.

In short, the RedHawks have arrived, completely. What’s worse for the CCHA is they’ve brought a bunch of guys with them who have been along for the ride.

From goal out, this team is loaded. “Both Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard … are tremendous young men,” Blasi said. “They work extremely hard. They’ve had a great summer. Both of them are going to play. I’m not sure what the rotation is going to be like. As we know, things happen from week to week. Expect to see both of them and I can tell you that the coaching staff will probably have the last say in who plays.”

Miami’s defense, first in the nation last year, returns seven players. The RedHawks offense loses only three players who contributed goals; in other words, Miami returns 106 of its 147 goals scored last year.

Carter Camper, Andy Miele, Pat Cannone, Reilly Smith — the list goes on and on. The RedHawks are a threat from any spot on the ice, dangerous in every situation.

“We have a very veteran team, which should help us down the road,” Blasi said. “I think that the fact that we are a veteran team we can spend a little more time on special teams and skill development which ultimately will hopefully help us in producing more wins and maybe the big win at the end.”