November 4, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Miami Trying to Move On From Scary October

by Joseph Edwards/CHN Writer

Just six weeks ago, the Miami RedHawks were on top of the world. They lorded over the prime spot in all the polls — media, coaches, national, league — primed and ready for another shot at the NCAA title that’s eluded them in past years.

Eight games later, it’s a very different look in Oxford, Ohio.

The RedHawks are 2-6-0, a woeful 0-4-0 in CCHA play, and sitting in last place in the league; their high-caliber offense is scoring just 2.38 goals per game, while their typically strong defense is giving up a full goal per game more. Both their power play (14.3 percent) and penalty kill (76.6) are struggling — a big problem when you consider that Miami is averaging 20.25 penalty minutes per game, the second-most nationally.

While some might be ready to hit the big red panic button, RedHawks coach Enrico Blasi isn’t so worried what’s behind his team, as he is what they’ve taken from the month of October.

“Obviously we’re not playing very well,” he said. “There are lots of things we need to work on at this point. We have to learn to win at this level.”

Blasi, who’s finished a season with less than 20 wins just twice in 13 years at Miami, feels the early-season struggles aren’t out of the ordinary for his team, though timing has been a bit surprising.

“Our expectations are exactly where we thought they were,” he said. “If you look at the past five years, we’ve hit a rough patch every year, and it just so happens that our rough patch this year is in October. I can’t give you an exact reason things are happening. We’re taking far too many undisciplined penalties, our power play is taking some time to jell. We lost so many guys from our power play.”

Two big pieces of the ever-morphing puzzle the RedHawks lost last season were Hobey Baker winner Andy Miele and fellow candidate Carter Camper combined for 43 goals and 128 points last season. Miami then lost prized recruit Connor Murphy to the OHL over the summer, and 29-goal scorer Reilly Smith was suspended early this season.

Senior captain Alden Hirschfeld leads the current crop of forwards with five assists and six points, while senior defenseman Chris Wideman has chipped in four points. Smith has just four goals and five points thus far.

“It’s been tough for him,” Hirschfeld said. “He’s been a target for a lot of teams. Other guys have to step up. That going to be how it is. We know we’re going to be in one-goal games all season long. We knew we weren’t going to be scoring pretty goals.”

Both Hirschfeld and Blasi pointed to the upperclassmen to be the catalysts to pull things together.

“Between myself, [senior captains] Will [Weber], and the coaching staff, it falls a lot on leadership,” Hirschfeld said. “No one is happy; we’re not where we want to be. We need to focus on the positive, leave the negative and turn it around now.”

“Everybody in the senior class, and even the junior class, everyone has to pull together,” Blasi agreed. “There’s always parity - any team can win on any given night. You just have to hope that you’ve brought your best game.”

The RedHawks must bring their best to every game, as their CCHA schedule currently features five of the 11 league teams ranked in various national polls — all of which have seen Miami fall of off. It’s safe to say Miami is ready to turn the page to November.

“We need to try to do things that make Miami the team that they are are, and that will bring us success,” Hirschfeld said. “Puck possessions, strong defense. We were looking for a different start, but October is done; it’s gone and its not coming back.”

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