The Miami RedHawks are once again a favorite to challenge for the national championship this season, with a dynamic duo leading the way on and off the ice. Senior captain Carter Camper (9 goals, 24 points) and alternate captain Andy Miele (6 goals, 19 points) are ranked first and second in the nation in scoring heading into weekend play and have the RedHawks off to a 5-2-3 (3-1-2-1 CCHA) start, ranked fourth in the latest NHL.com poll (below).
But while Camper, who was named the Commissioner's Player of the Month for October, and Miele obviously help their team with their skills, the true measure of their impact can be measured in the way they lead in practice and off the ice. Both players live up to not only their star potential but also more importantly the "C" and "A" on their shoulders.
"Both players do all of it for us," head coach Enrico Blasi said of Camper and Miele. "They both kill penalties. They're pretty good defensively. The thing that not really surprises me, but is pleasing, is that they're two of the hardest workers during the week in practice. There's really no secret to their success. You work hard every day and you pay attention to detail and you get things done in preparation for the weekend and good things happen. Obviously they're skilled players and you can't take that away from them. But at the end of the day if skill doesn't work, skill's no good. That's the biggest thing that the general public doesn't see. Every night and then every day, they're two of the best, if not the best players on the ice -- and the hardest-working."
Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Jones and Nathan Davis, who was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2005 and most recently played for the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL in 2009-10. From 2004-08, Jones and Davis combined for 279 points with the RedHawks and to date, Camper and Miele have combined for 259. All four players had their unique skill sets but they were similar in the way they could steal the momentum in a game with one shift.
"They're really different but very similar in effect I would say," Blasi said in comparing the Camper-Miele combo to Davis-Jones. "Both pairs were dynamic and both could change the game in one shift. Jones is more of a physical player and Nathan was more of a burner who can out-skate you.
"I think Carter and Miele are two very skilled guys that think along the same lines. They both can make plays; they both can score goals. Miele is more of a tenacious player than Carter, but Carter is more cerebral than Miele. The fact that he sees the ice -- not that Miele doesn't -- but Carter is able to slow everything down and make plays, whereas Miele, when he's effective, he is getting after it and if you're not careful, Miele will knock you into tomorrow even though he's 5-8. He's capable of playing a feisty style of game, whereas Carter can beat you with a good pass."
Just like Davis and Jones, Carter and Miele have become true leaders and, as captains should be, liaisons for the coaching staff buying into the team philosophies and culture.
"I think it's really important and makes your program and your team," Blasi said when asked how much easier it is for a coach when the stars on his team believe in the coach and his message. "When you have your top guys buying in, you have a successful program and when they don't buy in, then you have turmoil and people get fired and so on. It's imperative to have your top players buying into the culture and the program and what the coaches are trying to do and then leading the way, then you have a true culture and true team. If the top is not working and going against what the culture is, you have mediocre teams and not a program and something that is sustained over time."
Luckily for Blasi, this has been the case since 2004 and that's why this program is now one of the best in the country. Each season, his senior stars are not only producing but they're helping to build a winning culture, as Blasi pointed out. This season, Camper and Miele have carried the torch.
"We've been fortunate that all of our guys that have come through since Mike Kompon and Derek Edwardson in '04, every year since then we've had seniors that have not only been our best players but our best workers, character guys and our leaders," Blasi said. "Then it went to Andy Greene, then it went to Ryan Jones and the past couple of years with Tommy Wingels and Carter Camper and Andy Miele now. So it's almost become -- I don't want to say 'rite of passage' -- but when you're one of the leaders, you're one of the best players and that's the way it goes. It's just been a really good thing for us, and like I said, if those guys don't buy in, then we're in trouble. But they do buy in and everyone follows. It's their team."
Martin walking after surgery: University of Denver forward Jesse Martin had successful surgery on his C2 vertabra Monday afternoon and on Tuesday walked for the first time since suffering the neck injury in a game against North Dakota October 30.
The C2 vertabra was stabilized Monday afternoon at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn. On Tuesday, Dr. Alex Mendez and Dr. Robert Morgan who performed the surgery addressed the media along with Martin's father, Terry.
"These injuries are very serious," Mendez said. "They can cause paralysis. Some people can die. If he had been hit a little bit more, we probably wouldn't be here. This was a violent injury."
Morgan said Martin has a long road ahead of him, with a recovery of six months to a year and there's no knowing if he will play hockey again.
"There's no way we're going to know that for a year," Morgan said. "A lot of things have to go right, but I'm not going to tell him he can't. If he was fused, then no, he couldn't play again. There would be a lot of things that he wouldn't be able to do, but the possibility is there, the potential. This surgery has the most potential for him to be normal two years from now."
According to Martin's father, Jesse is only focused on recovery now.
"Jesse has had no other wish in life but to play hockey," he said. "He has tried to focus on what the doctors have been telling him rather than look too far ahead."