Blasi: 'Both Are Capable of National Championship'
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Miami coach Enrico Blasi certainly knows plenty about the two teams playing in Saturday's national championship games, having been victimized by both this season.
Miami went until February without playing Minnesota-Duluth, then went 0-1-1 before losing two close playoff games to the Bulldogs. Miami tied Denver twice at Magness Arena in November, then lost two home games in February, part of the team's 10-game winless stretch to close out its season.
So, with an all-NCHC championship game, we asked a fellow conference coach, Blasi, his thoughts about the two teams and how they match up.
"For Denver it's all about their quickness and their speed, and it starts from their 'D' corps to their forwards," Blasi said. "They're all on the same page. You see that when you see them play. They all play the same style. There's some skill up and down their lineup for sure, but they play fast, they play quick. They're very quick to pucks, but they're also quick to close, and they're always focused on being on the right side of the puck.
"Once they get in the zone, they can possess the puck and they're moving, and they're real difficult to control. ... They're really good at protecting the puck, but they're also good at moving away from the puck, which creates all sorts of chaos. You can say you want to play man on man and that's fine, but it's hard when you have five guys moving at the same time. And they're really unselfish. There's total buy-in into their system and they play it almost to perfection."
"Duluth is not any different in their structure. They have total buy-in as well into how they play," Blasi said. "A lot of fans will say, 'Oh, they look like they're not doing anything.' Well, they're doing something. They're just a very patient team, biding their time until you make mistakes. They also have a d-corps that is good at moving the puck, they understand pressure.
"Their forwards are a little bit heavier than Denver's, but they're also good at possessing the puck. They also get everybody involved in the cycle, their D is good at getting pucks through, just like Denver. They may be a little more physical than Denver, but they don't play a physical style."
"Both teams have real good sticks, both teams have guys that are gamebreakers, both teams have really good power plays, they kill penalties well," Blasi said. "It's going to be who makes plays and who doesn't make plays. I think they're both capable of winning a national championship, no doubt about it. They've been the best two teams all year, it's fitting they're playing each other for the whole thing.
"Denver and UMD have seven seniors. That's the way the game has gone. Every team has their dynamic young guys that are skilled, but it still takes a group of seniors that have been through it to take you all the way, and both teams have that.
"In a championship game, you don't want it to come down to special teams or a bounce here and there, but we all know that's what happens. You hope it's a good game. We know they'll play hard, and they'll play the right way."