After yet another losing season, the Miami University RedHawks ice hockey team looks to rebound and revive “The Brotherhood” to its proper place in college hockey.
Despite losing star players Red Savage and Ludvig Persson, the ’Hawks have plenty of other weapons in the arsenal for this upcoming season. Some of their top scorers from last season, like John Waldron, are returning and hoping to make even more of a difference this season.
“I want to be more of a 200-foot player,” Waldron said. “Be more defensive and create chances consistently.”
Waldron believes his fellow sophomore teammates, forwards Max Dukovac and William Hallén, plus defenseman Axel Kumlin and others, to be massive difference makers.
“Our freshman class from last year is gonna take a pretty big step up from where we were last year compared to this year,” Waldron said. “[The class of 2026] had a lot of guys who logged a lot of minutes last year, and I think that's going to really help us this year.”
Despite being first-year players, the class of 2026 included team leaders last season.
Waldron finished second in goals scored for the RedHawks last season. He was named NCHC rookie of the month in December. Kumlin came second on the team in points for a defenseman, and Dukovac tied for second in assists and points.
Like Waldron, head coach Chris Bergeron showed confidence in the current sophomore class.
“We've got a big sophomore class that were all freshmen last year, and they all were thrown into the fire big time,” Bergeron said. “So we need them to be a big part of this thing too.”
Offensive production was a problem for the RedHawks last season. They averaged 2.0 goals per game whereas their opponents averaged 3.8 goals.
But new transfers have brought in some much needed depth to the RedHawks offense.
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“We got guys that can score goals and make plays and play big minutes which is big,” said senior defenseman Robby Drazner.
The increase in depth will help the RedHawks rotate more players onto the ice. This enables the top players to get some much needed rest for later in the game and put up points in crunch time.
“We're a lot deeper at forward, and defensively we have some new defensemen that are pretty offensive and can get a lot of movement in the offensive zone, which is going to help a lot,” Waldron said.
The RedHawks also have seasoned senior players including defensemen Jack Clement and Hampus Rydqvist, plus goaltender Logan Neaton returning to the lineup. The team will rely on all of its returners, especially these players, in this upcoming season.
Senior forward Barbolini led the RedHawks in goals and points last season, while senior forward PJ Fletcher tied for second in points. Bergeron said they’ll be essential to the team this year.
“We're going to look at the 18 returners to be our stabilizing factor, to be our core,” Bergeron said, “I do believe the new people to this program, whether it's their first year or fourth year in college hockey, are fitting in nicely.”
With the mix of core players and newcomers, Miami split a series at Ferris State this past weekend, losing the first game 4-5 in overtime, and winning the second 5-2.
Next weekend, the RedHawks face off against Canisius College in Oxford, Ohio.
“We're looking to replicate last year's weekend on the road,” senior defenseman Robby Drazner said, referencing last season's road series sweep of Canisius. “It'll be nice to be home in front of fans and be able to get the home opener kicked away, but they're going to fight us for it just like every team in college.”
If Miami wants to compete this season and have a winning record, the RedHawks must win as many non-conference games as possible. Five out of eight teams in the NCHC are ranked so far this season. Last season, the RedHawks went 3-18-3 in conference play.
“The six non conference games we have before NCHC play is big to put training camp to use and make adjustments as needed,” Drazner said.
Capitalizing on these early non-conference games will set up Miami hockey for a successful 2023-24 season.
“Expect a very, very hungry competitive team that is going to be in every single game,” Drazner said. “We're going to make sure that at home we give our fans a great, great effort.”