y John Lachmann
OXFORD, Ohio – The 2013-14 version of the Miami hockey team may force the old hockey joke to be changed to: I went to a hockey game and a track meet broke out.
The RedHawks forwards put their blazing speed on display, for which the University of Windsor had no answer as Miami won, 8-2 in its lone exhibition game at Cady Arena on Saturday.
RedHawks freshman forward Anthony Louis took off down the left wing, juking a defender and feeding sophomore forward Sean Kuraly for Miami’s first goal six minutes into the first period.
Junior forward Jimmy Mullin got his own rebound in front of the net and jammed it home to make it 2-0 with 6:21 left in the opening frame.
Junior forward Austin Czarnik skated the puck behind the net with Lancers goalie Parker Van Buskirk down and fired it from behind the goal line off a body in front of the net and in with 2:48 to play in the middle stanza.
The RedHawks struck for five goals in the third period against a visibly tired Windsor team.
Sophomore forward Alex Gacek buried a wrister with 16:31 remaining, and sophomore forward Riley Barber extended the lead to five off a feed from Czarnik 46 seconds later.
The Lancers scored their goals 10 seconds apart midway through the final frame, but freshman forward Justin Greenberg answered with a one-time blast off a cross-ice pass from sophomore defenseman Matthew Caito.
Barber netted his second – again with the primary assist going to Czarnik, and Greenberg redirected a Mullin pass through Van Buskirk’s legs with 1:10 left to cap the scoring.
Barber finished with two goals and an assist and Czarnik and Mullin recorded a goal and two assists each to lead Miami. Greenberg scored two goals.
Miami opens the regular season at Ohio State at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11. The RedHawks face the Buckeyes at Cady Arena in their home opener at 7 p.m. on Oct. 12.
ANALYSIS: I seriously don’t have a clue where to start.
Yes, it was an exhibition and yes, almost all of the teams Miami will face this season will have more skill than Windsor, but the speed and the skill level of the forwards was jaw dropping.
And really, I’m not even talking about Louis. I saw him play last season, it was obvious he was going to be awesome. He showed everyone in attendance on Friday why the Blackhawks drafted him six minutes into the game.
I’m not surprised that a guy who the cream of this recruiting class didn’t forget how to be a great hockey player when he drove down from the Chicago suburbs (but it was still really fun to watch his move and set-up of Kuraly’s goal).
What I enjoy about exhibitions each year is actually seeing the guys I’ve read about or seen play elsewhere wearing the M. And every year there’s at least one player I knew little about or didn’t expect much who really impresses.
It’s like the new recruits are the fans’ Christmas presents and exhibition game night is when we get to unwrap them and see what we got for the next four seasons (credit actually goes to my wife for this analogy).
One year some guy named Jarod Palmer joined the team, Carter Camper was another.
I certainly don’t want to make those comparisons after one preseason game, but Justin Greenberg was one of those guys that I knew next to nothing about except his stats before watching him play.
And I’ve learned over the years that not having any kind of bias before watching players for the first time makes it more enjoyable to watch them develop and appreciate them more overall.
This kid can absolutely fly. That was pretty obvious from shift one. He’ll fit in great speed-wise with the likes of Gacek-Czarnik-Barber-Mullin-Murphy-Louis-Wideman.
At 5-feet-8 – which is about average for this team’s forward class – he spent a lot of time in front of the opposing net. That’s how he got his second goal, which came off a re-direction tip-in.
Sticking with forwards, Kuraly and Gacek really seemed to be playing at a higher level than last season. You could already see Kuraly turning the corner at the end of last season, but he was all over the ice in this game.
He looks faster and stronger and ready to have a huge sophomore season.
Gacek looked more confident. He’s always had the skating, but he looked like he had more direction in this game. He has talent, no doubt, and hopefully he’s also primed for a big sophomore year.
On defense, Coach Enrico Blasi paired sophomore Chris Joyaux and Caito on the top line, although he dressed seven defensemen who also played short shifts with different partners, so the pairings are probably still a work in progress.
This was and still is the biggest area of concern for Miami, but the freshmen got off to a good start in this game.
It was an exhibition but it was probably a big game for the D-corps, at
least those other than Caito and Joyaux, who all both obviously good enough to be in the lineup nightly.
Sophomore Taylor Richart, like Gacek at forward, looked more confident. He had a decent freshman year, but he appeared to have more of a take-charge attitude when he had to chase down loose pucks or battle in corners.
Stay-at-home freshman Johnny Wingels definitely was not a liability and appears ready to jump in right away, and freshman Trevor Hamilton demonstrated his puck-moving ability on the power play.
But the defenseman who impressed the most was the 5-feet-8 guy, freshman Matt Joyaux. The younger brother of Chris Joyaux threaded every pass he made.
Unlike Chris Joyaux, who is tall and wiry, Matt Joyaux is short and thick. Again, keeping this in perspective with regard to the opposition, his reach wasn’t a hindrance. He also wasn’t afraid to block shots.
The younger Joyaux could be a better puck-moving version of Garrett Kennedy, a guy Blasi and loved – as did I. He’s kind of built like Kevin Roeder, which in itself is an endearing quality for Miami fans.
Good crowd for an exhibition. There were 2,117 in attendance, including a large number of students and players’ parents, and Cady Arena was definitely loud. Not Michigan’s-in-town loud, but impressive for a preseason game.
FORWARDS: A+. Yeah, eight goals earns an A+. They also combined for 11 assists.
Windsor couldn’t match Miami’s speed up front, and it was even tougher for the Lancers to do so later in the game, evidenced by a 23-7 shot differential in the third period.
To be fair, Windsor also played a home game against Laurier on Friday, so the RedHawks should’ve been the fresher team.
Opponents better have six really good defensemen this season to hang with Miami’s forwards.
DEFENSEMEN: B. The non-‘A’ is not really a knock on this corps, but it’s young and there’s room for improvement.
I was certainly happy with what I saw from the freshmen as well as the returning guys, but replacing Joe Hartman, Steve Spinell and Garrett Kennedy will take work and won’t happen overnight.
There was a breakdown on the second Windsor goal, although I couldn’t tell which D-man lost his man, allowing a slam-dunk goal. It’s preseason for me, too.
GOALTENDING: B. This is an area where Miami is obviously set, which is why it didn’t warrant mentioning before.
Since sophomores Jay Williams and Ryan McKay split, Williams would get the ‘A’ and McKay a ‘C’.
Williams looked very sharp, focused and didn’t give up any rebounds on the 10 shots he faced (and showed off a quick glove hand on a rip from the slot as well).
McKay either misplayed or didn’t see a shot that ultimately resulted in the first Lancers goal. He went the wrong direction and still made the stop but allowed a juicy rebound which was tapped in after a struggle in front of the net.
The second goal was a defensive breakdown and he had no chance on the shot.
If Blasi wasn’t already leaning toward splitting (which is likely what will happen), Williams made a strong case for it with his play. Saturday did nothing to hurt McKay’s stock – the best goalies let one in all the time – but it likely helped Williams’ stock.