Miami hockey looks to improve its powerplay and stick to the gameplan as the RedHawks face off tonight against the USA National Team Development Program in an exhibition game in Plymouth, Michigan.
Last weekend, the ’Hawks lost their season opening series against Providence College 3-1 and 3-2. PC controlled the speed and pace of the games and Miami was always behind on the scoresheet. Tonight, Miami looks to play the full 60 minutes against the USANTDP Under-18 team.
“I think it’s just important to stick to the game plan,” senior defenseman Louie Belpedio said. “I don’t think it’s a matter of personnel. If everyone’s on the same page and working together and really executing your own role to the best of your ability, it doesn’t matter who’s on the ice — it could be the first line, it could be the fourth line, the result in the end should be the same.”
In the third period of last Saturday’s game, the ’Hawks commanded play and completed the rally from a 2-0 deficit with a late tying goal. Though resilience was essential to the game, consistency was missing as Miami surrendered a goal with less than a second remaining in regulation.
“In fact, the third period could have been our best period of the weekend and, unfortunately we fell asleep a little at the end and didn’t do the things we needed to do,” head coach Enrico Blasi said.
The RedHawks also look to generate more chances on the power play as they were 1-for-14 last weekend. Miami was inefficient in generating second chances — specifically in capitalizing on rebounds. Both things the team worked on fixing in practice.
“What we didn’t do Friday was generate second opportunities,” Blasi said. “I’ll give them credit for that, some of our determination in front of the net wasn’t very good. All in all, there were good things that happened but still a long way to go here for us to be a team that is hard to play against.”
In the midst of two losses, a bright spot was the Miami freshmen who were a part of all three goals last weekend. Forward Casey Gilling had a point in both games while scoring his first career goal on Saturday. Miami will rely on the freshmen’s young energy and speed when competing against the youthful USANTDP team.
The USANTDP is a team of 22 18-year-old, elite amateur players. The team plays about 25 junior games in the United States Hockey League and then fills the rest of their schedule with games against NCAA Division I and Division III programs. Though young and less mature than Miami, the team has only played six games and their energy level is expected to be high.
The U18s have a 6-4 record on the season, but have lost their two most recent games 4-3 to Notre Dame and 4-1 to Bowling Green. However, the U18s have outscored their opponents 28-19 and most of their goals come in the third period — something the ’Hawks will need to be mindful of. Miami most recently played the U18s in the 2014-15 season and were shutout 3-0.
“To be one of the best teams, you have to play the best,” Blasi said. “We expect in our locker room to be a top team and a top program and, in order to do that, you have to play them and you have to play them hard. And you have to win those games.”
Players to watch tonight are Miami’s defensemen Grant Hutton and Belpedio. Junior Hutton had his fifth career multi-point game last Saturday and captain Belpedio played on the USANTDP in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Sophomore goaltender Ryan Larkin will likely be defending the crease again, after making 46 saves opening weekend.
On the other side of the ice, look for forward Jonathan Gruden who played on the U17 team last year and is committed to play for Miami. Gruden has five goals and one assist in six games.
“I think Friday will be a good hockey game,” Blasi said. “[The U18 team] is a good hockey team, a lot of talent, so it’ll give us a good test on the road and then we’ll continue to go from there and get ready for our next one.”
Puck drop is at 7:05 p.m. and the game can be watched on HOCKEYTV.com.