March 26, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Early Exit

After Seasons of Heartbreak, Miami Suffers Unusual First Round Loss

by Joe Meloni/CHN Reporter

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Miami coach Enrico Blasi refused to point out any weaknesses his club demonstrated in its 3-1 loss to New Hampshire Saturday afternoon in the Northeast Regional.

The RedHawks weren’t very sharp, and they failed to test UNH goaltender Matt Di Girolamo as frequently as they tormented CCHA goaltenders in the last two-and-a-half months of the season. Simply, it wasn’t the best effort the RedHawks could muster.

Reflection, on the careers of his seniors, will wait until the club assembles for the final time in Oxford, Ohio. By then, some of the class may have already agreed to professional deals and be practicing with their new club, as they begin the next phase of their hockey careers.

There’s no doubt they wanted that phase to begin in mid April, rather than late March, but they will move on at some point. Blasi, the confident architect of the budding hockey powerhouse in southwestern Ohio, understands, though, that this class’ contribution to his famed Brotherhood will not suffer without a national championship. It won’t suffer without a Hobey Baker award, either, should someone other than semifinalists Andy Miele and Carter Camper win the award.

“[The loss to UNH] stings because of the seniors,” Blasi said. “At the end of the season, there’s only one team that can say they won their last game. Two Frozen Fours, a conference regular season, a conference championship game, other than Boston College, I’m not sure there’s a senior class that has a better record [than our seniors].”

Seven days ago, the RedHawks, led by Miele, Camper and the other seniors, won their first Mason Cup — a necessary step in the climb to college hockey greatness. Defeating Western Michigan, 5-2, without much of a sweat capped a 13-game unbeaten streak that began when Blasi made it perfectly clear that accountability was a trait required for a member of the Brotherhood. Dressing only 15 skaters, Miami easily knocked off Michigan State, 4-0, on Jan. 22. In that game, his senior class, led by one goal, two assist efforts from both Camper and Miele, made a statement that they cared about the fate of their senior season.

A season that ended Saturday afternoon when a determined UNH team blocked 20 shots and let just 22 attempts find their way to Di Girolamo. Not their best effort. Still, Blasi understands that only one team, of the 16 playing hockey this weekend, will take center ice at the Excel Energy Center and accept the national championship trophy. It will be Miami some day.

Three years ago, Ryan Jones turned to Camper, Miele and the rest of the team and said he knew they would advance to a Frozen Four some day. Jones, the leader of the RedHawks in those days, spoke specifically to Camper, Miele and their classmates, fully understanding the step their talent level demonstrated. Even as freshmen in 2008, the elders within the Brotherhood knew good things were upon Miami, because of this class. Now, in the same position, Camper made a similar statement.

“I remember as a freshman Jonesy was in the same spot as a captain who lost in a regional,” Camper said. “He said he knew we'd get to a Frozen Four, and he was right. It's my turn now but we made it to two Frozen Fours. It's been a great four years, and Miami will win [a national championship] some day, I know that.”

It won’t be this season and may not come in 2012, either. Some day, though, the Brotherhood, led by their fiery young coach, will be the premier program in college hockey. And they’ll have Camper, Miele and their classmates, among others, to thank for it.

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