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October 29, 2008 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Team of the Week: Miami

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

Miami lost two Hobey Baker Award finalists from last season's team, Ryan Jones and his 30-plus goals, and Nathan Davis, who was a finalist in 2007 but spent much of last season hurt.

But the bigger question marks were on defense and goaltending. The defense, losing players to graduation and the early departure of Alec Martinez, is starting three freshmen. And both starting goaltenders departed, Charlie Effinger to graduation, and Jeff Zatkoff, who signed a pro deal after his junior year — leaving the RedHawks with two freshmen.

Though talent remains, knowing what would come of it was hard to say.

Though it's still early, Miami has proven a lot already — getting a close loss and tie at hostile Vermont, then going into Notre Dame this past weekend and sweeping. It was a complete weekend, with key scoring; strong defensive play from the vets, newcomers and forwards; and solid goaltending from the young goaltenders. As a result, Miami is the CHN Team of the Week.

"You never know how the season will go, but I'm really excited about this team," Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. "I knew if we had the right approach, improve every day, that we would be a team that could be in the top half of our league. That hasn't changed. We're still trying to get better, still a work in progress, adjusting and gaining experience."

Blasi may be selling his team short, or just being publicly cautious. Being in the top half of the league should be a given at this point, even for a rebuilding Miami team. The question now, though, thanks to the nice start, is whether Miami's talent — which is unquestionable — will mesh, and the new leaders and youngsters will be able to carry the RedHawks farther than they ever have before.

"We're not shocked we went to Notre Dame and had success," Blasi said. "The ceiling where we could get to, who knows.

"Our culture doesn't change. That's the nice thing about building a culture, it sustains over time. ... This team is close. As close as last year's team was — and I keep saying that every year. Part of that is they know it works. You can have success when you're on the same page. The leaders change, the identity in terms of who gets to speak, but the culture stays the same."

This is a team that has lost to Boston College each of the last three seasons at the NCAAs, each one more agonizing than the next. Last year, it came in the Regional Final, in overtime.

"At the beginning of the year, first thing we watched was video of Michigan beating us in the CCHA playoffs, and then BC's winning goal," sophomore forward Andy Miele said. "Me, personally, I think about it a lot. It was a really disappointing loss. It's definitely in the back of everybody's minds."

Miele was a catalyst this past weekend. Playing on a line with Pat Cannone and power forward Gary Steffes, he contributed three assists, his first points of the season. It was a good sign for Miele, even though he still hasn't scored a goal since the final regular-season game last year. It did break a drought of eight straight games without a point.

"The puck hasn't been bouncing my way yet," Miele said.

Those players are all part of a leadership group, that needs to mesh its talent and chemistry.

"We've put guys in different roles now and we have to give them time to adjust," Blasi said. "But we didn't really lose that many forwards. Our forwards are pretty much intact ... we never had Nate last year. Steffes, (Jarod) Palmer, (Justin) Mercier, Cannone, (Carter) Camper all had to step up.

"As leaders, we have Brian Kauffman, Kevin Roeder. Tommy Wingels is starting to step up. We talk about being yourself. With maturity and growth, that happens."
 

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