Emily Brustoski | Video Editor
After a weekend sweep of Colgate University by way of 4-1 and 6-0 victories, Miami hockey wrapped the month of October with a 6-2 record.
This is the best start the RedHawks have had in nine years, good enough to earn the final spot on the USCHO.com’s top-20 poll.
The 2009-10 team that started 6-0-2 won the now dissolved Central Collegiate Hockey Association conference and went on to make it to the NCAA tournament, losing in the semifinals.
But the National Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament is still 136 days away for Miami. They still have 29 games left to play, and 24 of those are conference games. The RedHawks’ changed energy has proven successful thus far, but the real test will be how the ’Hawks respond to elite NCHC opponents.
“It’s a good building block now, and now we can focus on our conference play for a couple weeks,” head coach Enrico Blasi said. “We know how hard that is.”
Through this weekend, three of the other seven NCHC teams were ranked in the USCHO.com’s top-20. The NCHC has won the NCAA National Championship for the past three years.
To put it simply, all of the good things that happened this weekend and throughout the month of October will need to continue for the rest of the season so Miami can compete with its NCHC opponents and on the national stage.
Miami’s ten newcomers, including two graduate transfers, have competed. They’ve helped propel the RedHawks to an average of 34.6 shots per game while scoring an average of 3 goals a game and limiting opponents to 1.3 goals (tied no. 1 in the country).
Namely, freshman defenseman Derek Daschke and freshman forward Brian Hawkinson lead the new ’Hawks with five points. Daschke chipped in for three assists against Colgate and Hawkinson had two. Freshman forward Scott Corbett scored his first collegiate goal on Saturday.
Though it was Miami’s veterans who filled the score sheet over the weekend. Junior forward Gordie Green led the way with two goals and four assists for six points, senior forward Josh Melnick had five points (2g, 3a) and defensemen Grant Hutton (2g, 1a) and Alec Mahalak (3a) had three each.
“It’s easy when everyone plays the right way,” co-captain Melnick said. “As long as everyone’s doing their job, it makes everyone else’s job a lot easier.”
And the veterans know what to expect against the fast and physical NCHC opponents, games that will most definitely not be easy.
But the RedHawks showed they can weather a storm, like they did on Saturday night early in the second period. Colgate (2-3) put up seven-straight shots on net, forcing Miami to play in its own end with just a 1-0 lead.
With the help of junior goaltender Ryan Larkin (0.83 GAA), the RedHawks survived the momentum shift and came out of Colgate’s surge unscathed. The ’Hawks rebounded minutes later and Melnick scored a power play goal for insurance.
“I thought we bent a little bit, but didn’t break,” Blasi said. “I thought we stayed in our structure and got back. Our bench was really good. Our leadership was really good in terms of getting everyone back on the same page. You’ve still got to continue to play.”
For Green and Larkin’s efforts, they were named NCHC’s Offensive Player of the Week and NCHC Goaltender of the Week.
After an 11-attempt drought against UMass-Lowell the previous weekend, the power play finally found success against Colgate. Miami went 2-for-5 on the man-advantage as Melnick scored a goal on the man-advantage both Friday and Saturday night.
The RedHawks were almost perfect on the man-disadvantage (4-for-5), but Colgate’s lone goal from the weekend came on its power play. The goal put Miami’s penalty kill at a 88.5 percent success rate for the season, ranking them 10th nationally.
“As a coach, you still feel like you can get better in all areas,” Blasi said. “That’s what we’re going to try to do. We’re going to dissect it, and I still think there’s some areas we need to shore up.”
This weekend starts the RedHawks’ journey to try to improve on their 6-14-4 NCHC record from last season. Puck drop is on Friday and Saturday at 8:07 p.m. against the University of Omaha-Nebraska (0-5-1).
“We have a really tough conference and our new guys know that,” Melnick said. “It’ll be a good test for us next week for sure. I think we have something to prove.”