After leading his team to the NCAA hockey tournament four times, including three straight years from 2006 through 2008, but watching it fall short of the Frozen Four, head coach Enrico Blasi and his Miami (Ohio) RedHawks finally cracked the final four and came within one minute of winning their first national championship last spring. But instead their season ended in heartbreak as they allowed Boston University to score two goals in the final minute and tie the game before beating Miami 4-3 in overtime.
Blasi and his young 2009-10 squad will always remember that great run they had last spring and build off the experience, but they are already full force into this season and once again atop the rankings after a 3-0-1 start.
"You acknowledge the fact that it was a great run by that team, a great moment for our program and everyone associated with it, and just take some pride in the fact that we were one of the last two teams standing at the end of the year and then put it to bed," Blasi told NHL.com. "You need to keep all those memories in the bank but now know that this is a new year, with a new team, new dynamics and an infusion of some young kids in our lineup. We're one of 58 Division I teams now again, trying to do the same thing and that's win each game, day-by-day."
Miami, which plays its first CCHA conference games this weekend when the RedHawks host Michigan State in back-to-back contests, has already had some tournament-like games and been tested. They played a tough two-game set at New Hampshire last weekend, winning 6-3 and then escaping with a 5-5 tie in a back-and-forth affair.
"We have played some good opponents so far and we know we have a tough non-conference schedule, so that was a good experience at UNH last weekend," Blasi said. "That's a pretty hostile environment and for a team like us that has some pretty young guys -- last year we had four freshmen defensemen and now their sophomores. We're still pretty young and I think we're responding very well."
Blasi enjoyed the exciting 5-5 draw but as a coach he doesn't particularly want his team getting into those types of games often. He's confident, however, that his team has enough balance to handle such high-scoring games and also play low-scoring, gritty contests.
"It was exciting and I was looking over at coach [Dick] Umile and we were going back and forth," he said. "Obviously they were playing very intense and our guys matched that well. Sometimes games like that happen and there were some real good saves made and some real good offensive plays being made. That's the way it goes and hopefully we can learn from a game like that in all aspects.
"This is a team we're comfortable with that we can say, ‘if you want to play a run and gun game, we have some horses for that, and if you want to play a physical, defensive game I think we can do that too.' So typically our style is a puck-possession game and play good team defense, but last weekend was a good example on the big ice that if you want to play that run and gun game, we can do that as well."
The RedHawks are currently ranked No. 1 but Blasi isn't worried that the hype will affect his young team. As he pointed out, despite having only three seniors, he has plenty of juniors (six) and sophomores (eight) whose experience from last spring can help the six freshmen adapt to the pressure and hype of being No.1 and having every team bringing its best against them.
"It's part of our culture now and our culture is built on taking it one day at a time, being the best we can and that's something our program has really bought into over the last five or so years," he said. "Our record speaks to that and I also think the sophomores, juniors and seniors after going to the National final last year know what it's about. The juniors and seniors were No. 1 for ten straight weeks two years ago, so we've been there before and know how to handle that. It's not something we worry about. We worry about holding each other accountable and being responsible to each other every day."
Irish hand Terriers rare loss
-- Notre Dame went into hostile Agganis Arena in Boston on Tuesday, scored two goals in 12 seconds during the second period and used a 34-save performance from junior goalie Brad Phillips
to hand Boston University its first shutout loss in 99 games. The streak by the Terriers was the longest in the nation. Ben Ryan
and Calle Ridderwall added a goal and an assist apiece for Notre Dame, which is 3-2-0. The defending national champion Terriers are now 0-2-0.
"I'm watching BU and seeing a little of ourselves out there," Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson
said. "Our team's been a little out of sync offensively, and that's what I thought I saw with them. I thought both teams were good defensively, but managing anything offensively was a challenge out there for both teams. Maybe that's because both teams were good teams defensively."
Terriers head coach Jack Parker wasn't thrilled at all with his suddenly struggling club.
"My first observation was I thought that the first time I saw a BU hockey team show up was when we were down 2-0," Parker said. "Up until that point, we were jumpy with the puck and getting bumped off the puck. We didn't play real hard on top of the puck. We were inept on the power play as far as moving the puck. With the 5-on-3, it was like we never practiced it."
Notre Dame, now ranked No. 5 in the NHL.com Top Ten poll, hosts Boston College on Friday, and BU faces another ranked CCHA opponent when No. 6 Michigan visits Saturday.
Wilson's first NHL goal has familiar feel
-- Nashville Predators
forward Colin Wilson
scored his first NHL goal Wednesday night in a 3-2 loss at Boston. While the former Boston University star obviously would've liked a win to go along with the memorable moment, the goal was even more special because it came in front of his former head coach Jack Parker and Terrier teammates at an arena Wilson played in on numerous occasions, TD Garden.
"It was definitely a nice place for my first goal," Wilson told the Tennessean. "It made it great getting (former teammates) tickets to the game. So that was real exciting."
-- The Central Collegiate Hockey Association announced that the fifth annual Hockey Day in Michigan will take place Jan. 30. The CCHA, FOX Sports Detroit, Detroit Red Wings
and the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association will once again join forces to stage a celebration of the sport to participants and fans across the Great Lakes State. This year's event has once again been scheduled to coincide with USA Hockey's "Hockey Weekend Across America," Jan. 29-31. ... Merrimack freshman forward Stephane Da Costa was named Hockey East Player of the Week after scoring five goals in a 6-3 win against Army. The Paris, France native became the first Hockey East player since Boston College's Brian Gionta
on Jan. 27, 2001 to score five goals in a game and is the first player to score five goals and get a natural hat trick as part of his first collegiate game in Hockey East history. ... Key games this weekend include Michigan State at Miami (Ohio) on Friday and Saturday, Boston College at Notre Dame on Friday, Michigan at Boston University on Saturday, Denver at Minnesota on Friday and Saturday, and North Dakota at Alaska-Anchorage on Friday and Saturday.