By John Lachmann
Just 14 games in, it already seems like it has been a long season.
The preseason hype for Miami hockey was huge. The Ohio State series appeared to confirm that hype was legitimate.
North Dakota beat the RedHawks in the NCHC opener but Miami dominated the second night.
Miami went 0-1-1 in Providence, but the officiating was truly horrendous and the Friars are a very good team.
The RedHawks swept Canisius at home like it was supposed to, then split on the road at St. Cloud State.
Then came Wisconsin. Miami was excellent for much of the home series, but the Badgers scored twice in the final 10 minutes to salvage a split.
Which brings us to last weekend. The RedHawks gave up 80 shots and nine goals to a team that was unranked and 6-6 entering those games while scoring just four of their own.
Apparently Coach Enrico Blasi was so disgruntled with his young defense corps that he dressed five blueliners and put junior center Austin Czarnik – who has never played D at any level – back on defense for a number of shifts on Sunday.
He also sat sophomore defensemen Taylor Richart and Chris Joyaux on Sunday, as well as junior forward Jimmy Mullin both games.
Blasi’s job is to stay even keeled, which he did in the weekend pressers and again on Monday, but his actions – removing three lineup regulars – tell he was clearly displeased with the play of those individuals.
So where does that leave Miami, which faces a struggling Bemidji State team this weekend?
Like every event, there are two sides to the story, and then there’s a truth.
The optimistic perspective? It’s just a three-game skid. Good teams get swept all the time on the road.
This doesn’t undo all of the good outlined above. The players benched over the weekend are all solid citizens who were just issued a wake-up call, which teams at every level do all the time.
This team is still every bit as talented as the one that destroyed Ohio State and held its own with every other difficult opponent it has faced this season.
The negative perspective? Good teams’ level of play improves during any given season, and Miami has not taken strides some of its opponents have.
Scoring pace has not been where it should be for a month now. Sophomore Riley Barber, who scored eight times in the first six games, has one marker in his last eight.
The fear that this team’s young, undersized defensemen would be unable to handle this conference’s forwards has been true recently.
The truth? All of these are valid points, but ultimately the season is young and there’s much more reason at this point that this is still a special team than a bust.