As time wound down on Saturday night, a win for Miami Hockey seemed impossible but the fans would not let The Brotherhood finish their season on a bad note. The crowd did not care that the RedHawks could not win their final series. A “thank you seniors” chant echoed throughout the Steve ‘Coach’ Cady Arena as the eldest members of the team played their final minutes as Miamians.
The men’s hockey team was swept by the No. 15 the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks. The two-game sweep leaves Miami with an overall record of 9-18-7, a National Collegiate Hockey Conference record of 5-13-5-3 and a 6-8-3 home record.
The RedHawks’ 3-2 loss on Friday night secured their spot as the seventh seed in the NCHC. They will face Minnesota Duluth in the first round of the playoffs this week. Miami also lost 5-2 on Saturday night.
The series over the weekend was Miami’s last of the regular season — Saturday night was Senior Night for the graduating players. Miami has four seniors leaving their program: Justin Greenberg, Colin Sullivan, Anthony Louis and Johnny Wingels.
Senior forward Anthony Louis leads the team in goals, assists and points with 13, 24 and 37, respectively. Louis’ assist and 124th career point on Saturday night moves him up to 22nd on Miami’s all-time scoring list, just one point ahead of head coach Enrico Blasi.
Louis was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the sixth round of the 2013 NHL entry draft and defensemen Colin Sullivan was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the seventh round of the 2011 NHL entry draft.
“I plan on signing with [Chicago] and going to finish the year out in Rockford. My only plan is to go from there, work hard and hopefully get a shot, but as of now I’m kind of focusing on making it as far as we can here,” Louis said.
“Rockford” is the Rockford IceHogs, a professional hockey team in the American Hockey League based out of Rockford, Illinois. The IceHogs are the top minor league affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Sullivan, a Boston College transfer, also wishes to continue playing hockey after college, but has a slightly different plan than the rest of the seniors. When Sullivan is done playing hockey, he plans to have a career in the military for four or five years. Sullivan has not decided what branch of the military he wants to join but he knows that he wants to do something in special forces.
“It’s just something I have always wanted to do. I have a lot of family members that have been in the military,” Sullivan said. “Before I reap the benefits from this country I want to serve it first.”
Of the three active seniors on the Miami roster, forward Justin Greenberg is the only one not to have been drafted by an NHL team. Greenberg has played at Miami for four years. Before that, he took an extra year after high school to play juniors in the North American Hockey League for the Texas Tornado.
Greenberg is unsure about his exact plans after college, but is certain that he would like to continue playing hockey.
“I’m going to try to play hockey [after graduation]. Then if I can’t go down that avenue, I’m getting an accounting degree, so I can hopefully use that,” Greenberg said.
The RedHawks have a fourth senior on its roster, although he doesn’t dress for games. Defenseman Johnny Wingels began playing at Miami his freshman year, but his career was cut short due to concussions and injury during the spring of his first season.
Despite his injuries, Wingels decided to stick around and help program.
“I’m sort of a student coach, I guess you’d call it. I go on the ice everyday and help run practice and take some stats during the game, so I’m staying involved the best I can,” Wingels said.
Wingels plans to finish out his finance degree at Miami and then move back home to Chicago to pursue his career.
Regardless of their plans for after graduation, the four seniors all agreed that they have noticed significant growth, both on and off the ice, since arriving at Miami.
“On the ice, just working with the coaches, especially Coach [Brent] Brekke,” Sullivan said. “Just the little intricacies about being a defenseman that people who aren’t used to the game of hockey would really notice.”
Even though Wingels hasn’t played since his freshman year, he too has undergone significant personal growth through Miami’s program.
“The Brotherhood, the culture we have in the team, it’s always pushing you to get better as a person and as a hockey player. But the personal aspect of it is something that, I think, is unique to this program, as opposed to other hockey programs,” Wingels said. “It’s something that really prepares you for the real world.”
Wingels will miss the hockey aspect of Miami the most considering he will not have the chance to play professionally, “This is the last team I’ll be a part of, so this is something I’ll always remember.”
A creed hangs in the players’ lounge at the Goggin Ice Center. It reads: “I will leave this program better than I found it.” It serves as a reminder to The Brotherhood that they all play for a team with a significant and historic past, but they are all there to leave their own mark on the program in the best way possible.
Each player understands their role in Miami’s history, and they are grateful to have had the chance to do so.
“Thanks for everything. Whether it’s fans, teachers, the coaches that I’ve played for, the guys that have been my teammates, it’s been the best four years of my life,” Greenberg said.
Of the eight teams in the NCHC Miami has the second fewest seniors, along with Omaha and St. Cloud State. Although they have a small class, the seniors’ contributions to the team are intangible. Last season there were ten seniors on Miami’s roster, and seven the season prior. It’s clear that they’re small in numbers, however, they have been effective leaders for the large freshman class and have left their mark on the program.
“They’re obviously a small group, but a very impactful group to our young team, so they’ve had to lead the way and teach our younger guys what it means to play at this level and what it means to play at Miami,” Blasi said. “I think we’ve always had a senior class that have always left their mark and kind of passed the torch.”
The RedHawks’ will open its best-of-three NCHC playoff series at No. 2 Minnesota Duluth on Friday, March 10. The following games will be held on Saturday, March 11, and, if needed, on Sunday, March 12. Miami has not won in regulation, since it played Western Michigan on January 28.