Top scorers gone, but Miami still appears strong all around

Past predictors

After back-to-back Frozen Four appearances in 2009 and 2010, Miami was eliminated in the first game of the 2011 NCAA Northeast Regional after looking unstoppable in the second half of the season. The RedHawks had captured their first CCHA tournament title a week earlier by demolishing Western Michigan, another team that was rolling.

The loss was the first for the RedHawks in 14 games, their fourth of the calendar year. During their 13-game unbeaten streak, the ‘Hawks had outscored their opponents 55-21. Their season ended with a 3-1 loss to New Hampshire.

“We’ve been playing on a such a high for so long,” said head coach Enrico Blasi. “We weren’t ready to play. But let’s not take anything away from this senior class.”

Those seniors included Hobey Baker Award winner Andy Miele as well as Carter Camper, Pat Cannone and Justin Vaive, who netted 66 of Miami’s 146 total goals, or just a hair over 45 percent.

The departure of all that firepower is a bit daunting, but don’t think that the RedHawks aren’t capable of reloading — or that a superb run to a conference title is what they’ll remember most from last season.

Good omens

Perhaps the best news for RedHawks fans is that Miami’s dynamic goaltending duo of Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard returns for one last season. Each had a save percentage number that was slightly down last season from the year before, but no one wants to face either of them in net.

“They are a huge part of our program,” said Blasi. “They have won a lot of games back there. Nothing has really changed at this point.”

The two have split time nearly evenly in their three years in Oxford, and Blasi doesn’t think that’s going to change. “As coaches we can only do what they allow us to do and right now they are allowing us to play both of them,” he said. “They are unbelievable as far as preparation. They are focused and ready to go and we will have to make decisions from week to week.

“I think we have proven in the past that we are not afraid to go with either one at a particular time. They make our job difficult and yet they help each other as far as challenging themselves. It’s a pretty good, healthy competition they have going.”

What spells doom?

It’s hard to say what could spell doom for a team as talented as Miami. Reilly Smith returns as the team’s leading scorer — he was one of the top four scorers in the country last season — and the RedHawks return many offensive threats.

“We have a cast of veteran forwards that will look forward to hopefully stepping up and provide more offense,” said Blasi. “Guys like Curtis McKenzie, Alden Hirschfeld and Trent Vogelhuber are guys that are proven now and will now have some more ice time that maybe they haven’t had in the past. Its an opportunity for them to step up.”

With depth at every position, perhaps the only thing that can sink the RedHawks is the RedHawks.

About the RedHawks

2010-11 overall record: 23-10-6

2010-11 CCHA record: 16-7-5-2 (third)

2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): Second

Key losses: Forwards Carter Camper, Pat Cannone and Andy Miele

Players to watch: Forwards Alden Hirschfeld and Reilly Smith; defensemen Will Weber and Chris Wideman; goaltenders Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard

Impact rookie: Forward Blake Coleman

Why the RedHawks will finish higher than the coaches poll: Sure, the RedHawks lost three of the nation’s top four scorers, but don’t think that this team can’t reload immediately — and don’t forget about that tandem in goal.

Why the RedHawks will finish lower than the coaches poll: The only thing that can undo the RedHawks is the RedHawks.



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