By John Lachmann
This seems to be the case at every position for Miami this season, and RedHawks coach Enrico Blasi is in a position any coach would envy.
Too much talent, too few lineup spots.
Despite losing three key defensemen to graduation – Chris Wideman, Cameron Schilling and captain Will Weber – the incoming freshmen are stepping into those vacated spots nicely.
“I think (the freshmen) will continue to improve, they skate very well, they move the puck very well, so those are all good attributes,” Blasi said. “We’ve just got to continually give them the opportunity to experience the high level of competition and preparation that is needed at this level and the only way to do that is to go through it day by day.”
The RedHawks returned a pair of starting seniors on the blueline – Stephen Spinell and Joe Hartman.
Spinell was named captain before the season, and he and Hartman are solid stay-at-home D-men who have combined to log 235 games for the RedHawks.
Both play a similar style – they use their big bodies to shut down opponents and when they are at their best they are rarely noticed by most fans because they rarely make mistakes.
Senior Garrett Kennedy and sophomore Ben Paulides split time in the sixth defenseman spot last season, and both appeared in one game last weekend.
Paulides is a big, physical player who got better as last season went on, and at 5-feet-9 Kennedy is way too small to play defense in college hockey but he works so hard and will do absolutely anything to keep an opponent from scoring that he has earned more playing time as his college career has progressed.
Freshmen Matthew Caito, Chris Joyaux and Taylor Richart have started both regular-season games and the exhibition and have held their own.
The pressure is on Caito, since he has been used as the lone defenseman on the power play and Miami really does not have another option if he is unable to assimilate to the RedHawks’ system.
He has a good low shot and moves the puck well, and he was denied his first career goal on the man-advantage last weekend because of a crease violation.
Richart has also been used in power play situations, and Blasi has not been hesitant to put him out there with four forwards, quite a compliment to those forwards, Richart and his goaltenders.
Richart did have seven goals and nine assists with Fargo of the USHL last season, so he should be able to generate a little offense on a blueline corps that is mostly defensive-minded.
Joyaux had five goals and 15 assists on a miserable Chicago Steel team last season, and he seems to be playing it safe early on until he adapts to the collegiate game.
While not overly big at 6-feet, 194 pounds, Joyaux can lay out opponents. He dished out two huge hits in the exhibition and was solid in his own end last weekend.
Also on the RedHawks’ roster is Michael Mooney, a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder who finished with two goals and 22 assists with Alexandria of the NAHL last season. He did not play in the exhibition or either of Miami’s first two games.
“I’m very confident in all of our freshmen, including our defensemen, and it’s just a matter of Stephen (Spinell) or Joe Hartman or Ben Paulides or Garrett Kennedy to kind of solidify them a little bit and give them some time to blossom. Once they do I think they’re going to be pretty good.”