Hockey opens season with exhibition
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 22:10
As the weather cools, the action on the ice is heating up as the Miami University men’s hockey team opens the 2012-2013 season. The RedHawks enter the year ranked ninth in a recent USCHL.com poll, and begin play Sunday with an exhibition game against the Western Ontario Mustangs.
After falling to the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell) 4-3 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to end the 2011-2012 season, the Brotherhood returns this year with new faces and a new captain.
Abandoning the tri-captain system from last year, Head Coach Enrico Blasi named senior Steven Spinell as the lone “C” this year Sept. 12. Last season Spinell had a career high 11 assists and one goal, acquiring a +17 rating in the process. According to Blasi, Spinell’s experience and leadership qualities earned him the captain job.
“Obviously he’s got a lot of respect in the locker room from both his teammates and the coaching staff, and really everyone associated with the program,” Blasi said. “He’s one that leaves everything he has on the ice, which he’ll need to continue to do.”
Spinell said joining a long line of elite captains is a dream come true, though cannot be taken for granted.
“It’s one of those things where you grow up and you hope one day you can be captain of your college team,” Spinell said. “It’s something that definitely wasn’t just given to me. I feel like I’ve grown a lot since freshman year, learned a lot, matured a lot. I’m ready to take that responsibility and what it means.”
Spinell’s work is cut out for him, however. The senior captain said it was a challenge leading such a young team, which includes 11 freshmen and seven sophomores.
“The team dynamics have been different from any year I’ve played so far,” Spinell said. “It’s a lot of mentoring. I’m talking to the freshman constantly – little things, not just on the ice but also off the ice. I’m just trying my best to talk them through everything and explain why we do things a certain way so that they become muscle memory as quick as possibly.”
Freshman goalies Ryan McKay and Jay Williams are two of these new members, and come well regarded out of the United States Hockey League. They have earned the one and two spots between the pipes. But Blasi said their play would determine who gets the starting nod, and in the early goings of the season that decision will constantly change.
“It’ll be up to them,” Blasi said. “Both of them have had good falls here and are ready to go, and it’ll all be determined on how they play day-to-day. If they both deserve to play, then they’ll both play, and if one or the other is not getting the job done, we’ll go with one.”
Spinell is optimistic both will get the job done.
“You know what they say, that every goalie is a little weird,” Spinell said. “But these are good guys that have both worked extremely hard and put in a ton of time. I’m confident in either one of them when it comes game time.”
Another underclassmen the RedHawks need to step up is sophomore forward Austin Czarnik. He was Miami’s second highest scorer last year with 10 goals and 27 assists. With relatively few senior point-getters, the Red and White will need him to continue to contribute this season.
“I think I’ve just got to do the same thing,” Czarnik said. “I’ve got a bigger role now because [Reilly] Smith is gone. But [I’ll do] the same thing I’ve been doing: pass the puck, shoot when I get the chance and just keep on making plays.”
The Brotherhood opens the season against Western Ontario 4 p.m. Sunday at Goggin Ice Center.