By Steve Perkins, For The Miami Student
After the Miami University hockey team topped Western Ontario 6-1 on Saturday, some quickly asked what good an easy exhibition game like that does for a team. However, there are a few key points to take away from the win.
Ask head coach Rico Blasi what the team needs to work on, and he will tell you: "Everything."
1: Miami's freshmen will have a significant impact in each game this season.
It was great to see the five new faces in the lineup compete and have success. Freshman Josh Melnick had a goal against the Mustangs off a perfect rebound from senior captain Sean Kuraly. Freshman center Jack Roslovic had two assists, both to Louie Belpedio (the second assist on each goal came from junior Anthony Louis).
Freshman defenseman Grant Hutton notched two shots on goal and one blocked shot, but more important than his box score stats was his poise. Whether faced with a one-on-one in the zone or an aggressive forecheck, Hutton maintained great posture while breaking up plays and finding good outlets for the puck to move the play up ice.
2: The goaltending will be solid this year.
Senior netminders Jay Williams and Ryan McKay split the game nearly evenly on Saturday, and while they only saw a combined 15 shots, both goalies looked good. They moved well and looked comfortable positionally. The lone goal allowed came off a turnover in front of the net with no Miami defenders in the area, so Williams never stood a chance.
3: Passing needs cleaned up a bit.
As mentioned previously, the only goal for Western on Saturday was a no-look behind-the-back turnover, and it was not the game's only give away of this fashion. Multiple times, from both offensive and defensive players in all three zones, the RedHawks gave the puck away with no looks and poorly timed passes. Creativity is great, especially in high-paced, possession-based offenses like Miami's, but it is possible to be too creative. The RedHawks need to learn quickly where to draw that line if they want to be successful this year.
4: Miami must do a better job in the first two zones in order to allow for good play in the offensive zone.
Miami looked solid as a whole on Saturday, but there were certainly times when the RedHawks lacked in the defensive and neutral zones. At times, Miami's defensive unit struggled to keep a man in front to deny entry passes and shots on goal. They also had an issue fighting off the Western Ontario forecheck, which led to long shifts in the defensive zone. The RedHawks also had a bit of an issue moving through the neutral zone. This is a team that relies on puck possession and play in the offensive zone. As the season begins, MU must improve its transitioning from defense to offense and getting set up in the scoring zone.
Miami opens up its regular season this weekend with a two-game series at home against defending National Champion Providence College.