OXFORD, Ohio – Will Weber wears a “C” on the front of his jersey, but he does not need the letter to remind him of the end goal for the Miami RedHawks.
The senior defenseman from Gaylord, Mich. has become the go-to defenseman for head coach Enrico Blasi, and not just for his calm-under-duress approach to the game or the leadership skills that come so natural to him. Weber has been a part of the Miami “brotherhood” for nearly four years, and been a key piece on a team that has earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament (2011) and is now in the midst of a late-season charge up the national rankings.
|OXFORD, Ohio - Will Weber waits at the blueline for a pass from a teammate this past weekend vs. Northern Michigan. |
Weber was drafted in the second round (53rd overall) by the Blue Jackets at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft in Columbus, and a few months later, sealed his commitment to Miami after spending a season with the USHL’s Chicago Steel – the same junior club that produced current Blue Jackets defenseman John Moore.
Blasi has entrusted Weber and defense partner Chris Wideman with the top defensive assignments for each opponent, and it has paid off during Miami’s recent 6-2-0 run to vault the RedHawks to fourth place in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
“We struggled at the start, and I think it was just paying attention to details was the biggest thing,” Weber told BlueJackets.com. “We’ve focused a lot on that, and we were taking a lot of penalties the first half of the year. We’ve started to slightly take less the second half here, but I think it’s been paying attention to the little things and that’s helped out a lot.
“(Wideman) is a great player. He’s a good passer and has good vision. It makes it easy for me because he makes good passes on your stick all the time. If I’m in trouble, I know he can back me up.”
Weber said his main focus during his senior season has been to develop more consistency in his game, and be that reliable defenseman every time he steps over the boards. He has displayed an incredible degree of perseverance, as well, missing only four games last year after suffering a frightening neck laceration from a skate blade on Oct. 23, 2010.
A couple of nagging injuries slowed him at the start of the year, but an extended holiday break afforded Weber the opportunity to re-charge and focus on an important final half of the season.
“I’m a shutdown defenseman and that’s the role the coaches want me to play and that’s what I’ve been doing,” Weber said.
“The first half, I struggled. The second half and over the Christmas break I was able to rest and get healthy again.”
Over a four-year career in Oxford, Weber has amassed a +21 rating and earned several notable accolades. He was named to the CCHA All-Tournament Team in 2011 and honored as the conference’s Top Defensive Defenseman in 2009-10 – a year in which he missed only one game and finished the season with a +12 rating.
Though his time at Miami is running short, Weber wants to savor every last moment but remains focused on the task at hand. With his team right in the thick of the postseason picture, he knows there’s no time to look ahead to the future and start planning his professional hockey career just yet.
“It’s exciting (to think about the future),” Weber said. “But I just try and take it one day at a time. I’m excited for what’s going to happen.
“I’m going to continue to work, and next year, we’ll see what happens and go from there.”
Playing for a program with annual championship aspirations has helped instill a quiet confidence in Weber and it shows in his unassuming, all-business demeanor on the ice. He is currently ranked by Hockey’s Future as the Blue Jackets’ No. 9 prospect, but all but two of the players listed ahead of him have already seen NHL action.
In both games against a pesky Northern Michigan squad last weekend in Oxford, Weber was part of the No. 1 defense pairing at even strength and also on the penalty kill for the RedHawks. At 6-foot-4 and weighing 226 pounds, he’s a sturdy defender that wins his fair share of one-on-one battles and is the type of player that is rarely caught out of position.
Following a 2-1 loss on Friday night – a game in which the RedHawks dominated puck possession and zone time – Weber was a +2 in Miami’s 6-0 rout on Saturday. Though the consensus is Weber’s next career step is going to be a positive move to the professional ranks, and one that he is prepared to take on, he remains entrenched in the present and willing to do whatever is necessary to leave Oxford with a national title.
“I’m feeling pretty good in this second half here, but for me, it’s about continuing to try and improve and be consistent,” Weber said.
“At the end of the year, when it’s all said and done, we’ll see what happens but for right now, I’m trying to enjoy my senior year and have a good time.”