Brotherhood seeks to snap recent skid against North Dakota
Enrico Blasi can visualize it. Austin Czarnik can paint the perfect picture in his head. The team knows it is capable of putting together a full 60 minutes of Miami RedHawk hockey. It just hasn't happened yet this year.
"We need to focus on what we need to do," Blasi, who is in his 15th season as head coach, said. "Obviously we know what we're capable of, but for us we need to get better in a lot of areas. It's a daily process for us and hopefully we can get there."
This season has been an undeniably tough one for the Brotherhood. An overall record of 10-13-3 marks the first time since the 2004-05 season that Miami was below .500 in the second half of the season, and a 4-11-1-1 National Collegiate Hockey Conference resume ties them for last place among the eight teams in the league's inaugural year. Don't tell Blasi or the boys that, though. Behind tired eyes and weary post-game press conferences sits an unmistakable glimmer of hope. Miami is the most talented team with a record below .500 in the NCAA, and that makes them dangerous.
"It's a responsibility for every individual that's in our lineup to manage their performance and on the weekends their ready to play their role and perform," Blasi said. "We've seen some good things in games and seen some good things in practice, and it's time ... to bring some of those good things into games."
This weekend serves as the starting line for the Red and White's late-season push: four weekends, four nationally ranked NCHC opponents, eight regular season games. Even if they were to win out, it would still be a tossup as to whether Miami would make the national tournament, but that's of no concern to this squad from the middle of nowhere, Ohio. The tournament is the end-game. The RedHawks have been concerning themselves with hard work.
"Obviously it's a tough year so far, it's a lot of adversity but the main thing you've got to do is keep on being positive, keep on doing things in your system and try to have as much fun as you can at the rink," junior forward and captain Austin Czarnik explained. "It's tough at times not getting the results you want.
"There's still a chance to make it to the tournament if you put a couple of good games together during that tournament time. I think that's our main point, just keep working as hard as you can."
The Brotherhood split its first affair with the University of North Dakota in the second week of the season, when the RedHawks sat atop of the USCHO and their competitor at No. 6. It's a wildly different picture now, with Miami completely out of the Top 20 picture and North Dakota sporting a 14-9-3 record and a No. 17 ranking.
UND is led by sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi and junior forward Michael Parks, who have potted 22 and 21 points, respectively. Eight other players have garnered 10 or more points this season.
They have struggled a bit in goal, playing both sophomore Zane Gothberg and senior Clarke Saunders. Gothberh carries a 2.26 goals against average and a .914 save percentage.
The Brotherhood knows if it wants to make a late season stand, its seeds must be sown here. A series split might spark this team to a strong finish. A sweep might just fuel the beginnings of a fire, one that could change the fortunes of Miami.
"We've got to be ready for a battle in every zone," Blasi said. "It's a great place to play and it's hard not to get up for the game when it's in North Dakota. They have very knowledgeable fans and obviously a great team. We've got to get ourselves playing a lot better and it's a thing we've been focusing on this week."
The series opener is slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14. Come Sunday, RedHawk fans will have a much better idea of what kind of hockey team they'll be watching the following two weekends.
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