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March 31, 2013 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Standing at the Edge

Miami Still Waiting for Big Prize, But It Was a Season of Hope

by Avash Kalra/Senior Writer

TOLEDO, Ohio — Now for eight consecutive seasons, the Miami RedHawks – led by head coach and alumnus Enrico Blasi – have won at least 23 games and made an NCAA tournament appearance. In the previous seven, a team from Hockey East ended Miami’s season – twice at the Frozen Four (including the infamous 2009 national title game won by Boston University) and five times at an NCAA Regional.

On Sunday, less than 200 miles from its campus in Oxford, Miami left an NCAA Regional without a Frozen Four berth again, for the sixth time in the last eight years – falling to St. Cloud by a 4-1 score. The Huskies, meanwhile, coached by one of Blasi’s former mentors in Bob Motzko, are now 1-for-2 all-time in regional finals.

“I thought [St. Cloud] took over in the second period, and we just didn’t have an answer for it,” said Blasi. “We worked hard, tried to generate some things, but in the end, they were up to the task. And they deserve to be where they’re at.”

Nevertheless, Blasi – he’s been here before, after all – was quickly able to put the loss in perspective.

“This isn’t the end of the world,” said Blasi, smiling just minutes after the end of Miami’s season. “[This team] did an unbelievable job. We won a championship. There’s some people in this room who didn’t give us a chance, ever. We got to a regional championship, which was not easy to do.

“You’ve got to take the good with the bad.”

Miami won the CCHA regular season title this year – that was the good. The dominant regular season came at a time when, despite years of recent success, expectations were lowered simply because of the team’s notable youth. Eighteen freshmen and sophomores – including a pair of rookie goaltenders – anchored the roster in Oxford, yet Miami rolled through the league until falling to Michigan in the CCHA semifinals.

But the RedHawks quickly rebounded by shutting out Minnesota State in the opening round on Saturday – Miami’s first-ever shutout in the NCAA tournament.

Beyond the large freshman class, Miami was led by a group of reliable seniors, including captain Steven Spinell and forwards Marc Hagel and Curtis McKenzie. As is often the case around the country at this time of year, careers end.

But Blasi insisted that the legacy of the class will carry on indefinitely.

Said Blasi, “On Monday, when I design a [regular season] championship ring for them, that’s special. You tell me why they should feel sorry for themselves. No way. I’m extremely proud of them. They left the program better than when they found it. Extremely proud of this group.”

Blasi, in his 14th year as head coach for Miami, is a veteran coach now. And Miami’s eight consecutive NCAA tournament appearances represents the second-best active streak in the nation, trailing only North Dakota (11). And as a veteran, Blasi knows that the first NCAA postseason for his 11 freshmen will prove valuable in years to come.

“I’m not worried,” said Blasi, a five-time CCHA Coach of the Year and the winningest coach in program history. “I’m sad that my seniors are going. I love them to death. But that’s college athletics.

“We’ll get back to work in a couple of weeks, and hopefully we’ll be talking again a year from now, in a better light.”

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©2014 Avash Kalra. All Rights Reserved.