Miami resumes quest for first NCAA championship
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013 19:10
By Joe Gieringer Senior Staff Writer
The Goggin Ice Center has been host to student intramural sports, developmental hockey camps and synchronized skating this year. Saturday night, it will add another to the mix – and its biggest attraction: the Miami University hockey team.
The RedHawks enter the season one place from the top of the USCHO.com poll, an honor held by perennial power the University of Massachusetts Lowell, though Miami did receive 14 first-place votes and trail by just seven points. Miami also returns all but six seniors, meaning the corps of highly touted freshmen and sophomores from last season are all a year older, stronger and wiser. Head coach Enrico Blasi, who is entering his 15th year as head coach, said they are hungry to get on the ice.
“Everyone’s pretty excited about playing someone,” Blasi said. “The guys have done a great job of getting themselves prepared for the season. I think we’re ready to go and ready to take that next step in the process of not only getting better each and every day, but being in the right situation at the right time at the end of the year.”
Miami is no stranger to postseason success. In the past five years, the Red and White have made two Frozen Four appearances and an NCAA Championship appearance in 2009, won the Mason Cup as Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) champions in 2011, and won the CCHA regular season championship last year in the conference’s final season.
This year presents a unique challenge, however. In a Division-I realignment years in the making, the RedHawks are now competing in the newly formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC). The only familiar face joining them in the NCHC is perennial CCHA contender Western Michigan University, although Miami has played several of these new conference opponents in past tournaments. Rounding out the league is Colorado College, the University of Denver, the University of Minnesota Duluth, the University Nebraska Omaha, the University of North Dakota, and St. Cloud State University, the last of which eliminated Miami from the NCAA Tournament in the second round last year to deny them its third trip to the Frozen Four.
This new conference has created quite a buzz around the college hockey world, and Miami players are aware of the expectations placed on their team to perform. The No. 2 ranking is an honor sophomore forward Sean Kuraly said.
“You hear about North Dakota and Denver and all the top teams in this league, it’s going to be really exciting to go there and have these experiences,” sophomore forward Sean Kuraly said. “But we know we have a lot of work to do and … if we follow what our coaches say and what our leadership says, we’ll end up where we need to end up.”
Miami will suit up for the first time this year 8:05 p.m. Saturday at home against Windsor in an exhibition match.