Thursday, July 16, 2015

Know Your Enemy: Miami

It's something of a benchmark on the offseason when WaP presents its final non-conference opponent for Know Your Enemy, and, well, that week has now arrived. The Engineers will close out their non-conference schedule with a another very tough series against Miami, this one taking place in Ohio. The RedHawks have more than had RPI's number over the last few games in this series. They've won seven in a row against the Engineers, and have won the last six games by a combined score of 28-8. It's going to be hard to see that improving to any great degree on the road against a stacked and experienced squad that could be among the favorites for winning it all.

Miami
Nickname: RedHawks
Location: Oxford, OH
Founded: 1809
Conference: NCHC
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2015
Last Frozen Four: 2010
Coach: Enrico Blasi (17th season)
2014-15 Record: 25-14-1 (14-9-1-1 NCHC, 2nd place)
Series: Miami leads, 7-1-0
First Game: December 28, 1984 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: December 28, 1984 (Troy, NY)
Last MU win: January 3, 2015 (Troy, NY)

2015-16 games: January 2-3, 2016 (Oxford, OH)

Key players: D Matthew Caito, sr.; F Alex Gacek, sr.; F Sean Kuraly, sr.; G Ryan McKay, sr.; F Kevin Morris, sr.; D Taylor Richart, sr.; G Jay Williams, sr.; F Justin Greenberg, jr.; D Chris Joyaux, jr.; F Ryan Lomberg, jr.; F Anthony Louis, jr.; D Louie Belpedio, so.; D Scott Dornbrock, so.; F Conor Lemirande, so.; F Jack Roslovic, fr.; D Chaz Switzer, fr.

Previous KYE installment:
It was a definite bounceback season for Miami last year. After finishing last in the NCHC's inaugural season, the RedHawks rebounded to take 2nd last season and win the NCHC championship, their first league championship since winning the CCHA crown for the first and only time in 2011. When Miami was down last season, they weren't down long. After cleaning up the Engineers in Troy last season, they had their worst winless streak of the season - all of three games.

The only game in which the RedHawks really looked bad at any given time was probably their final game of the season. Opening the NCAA tournament against eventual national champions Providence, Miami got down 6-2 after 40 minutes thanks to an absolutely dreadful second period in which they gave up four goals. It seemed an impossible mountain to climb, but they darn near climbed it in the third period. Still down 6-2 with under 10 minutes to play, Enrico Blasi pulled the goaltender for an extra attacker, and Miami scored three unanswered goals at 6-on-5, storming the RedHawks back within one with nearly a minute and a half left to play. The Friars finally iced it with 7 seconds left by putting it into the empty net, but Miami certainly didn't show any quit facing difficult odds. Every single player who scored an extra-attacker goal is back this season.

The RedHawks do lose their top three scorers - one, Riley Barber, had 20 goals and 20 assists, and left school a year early - but they do bring in a big time freshman in Roslovic, who reaffirmed his commitment to Miami this week amid rumors that he was going to go major junior instead. Roslovic was Winnipeg's first round draft pick in last month's NHL Entry Draft, but it does appear he'll play at least one, if not more seasons in Oxford.

Williams and McKay have platooned in net since the beginning and now they're both seniors, a 1-2 punch in net that gives the RedHawks a solid backbone to a very experienced defensive corps. They'll likely improve on their 2.50 team GAA from last season.

The bottom line is that Miami is likely to have plenty of scoring from guys like Roslovic, Louis, and Kuraly, which should make the RedHawks a tough nut to crack for any team, to say nothing of a team like RPI that has struggled against them in recent years, including this year. Miami, in their building, will represent a most difficult test for the Engineers just before they head into the thick of the ECAC schedule. That seven game winning streak the RedHawks own against RPI doesn't look to be in a great deal of danger, even if the Engineers have the potential to show them perhaps far more than they have in quite some time.

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