We’re finally within two months of puck drop for the 2019-20 season, and the last five have seemed like an eternity for the Miami hockey program.
In case you pushed the snooze alarm last March or if you just want a reminder of all the goings-on with the program this spring and summer, VFTG reviews the RedHawks’ eventful off-season.
Three days after Miami’s season ended – with the RedHawks winning two of their final 24 games – head coach Enrico Blasi was fired after completing his 20th campaign at the program’s helm.
He had four years remaining on his contract, but Miami invoked its buyout option after the RedHawks failed to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season.
The timing was interesting, because MU had just relieved assistants Nick Petraglia and Brent Brekke of their duties the off-season prior, so most thought first-year RedHawks assistants – Peter Mannino and Joel Beal – would be given a longer leash than one season.
So the timing of Blasi’s firing created a borderline breach of etiquette, since Mannino and Beal were clearly not given a sufficient opportunity to rejuvenate the program, and both moved their families to the area only to lose their jobs after one year.
The athletic department’s initial intent probably was to give the new assistants ample time to right the program, but the catastrophic ending to Miami’s 2018-19 campaign – the RedHawks went 2-18-4 after Thanksgiving including a 15-game winless skid – almost certainly resulted in the overhaul.
The removal of Blasi and ultimately his staff apparently was not made by AD David Sayler but at the highest levels of the Miami administration.
The question then became: Who replaces Blasi, the only head coach the program had known since the second term of the Clinton administration.
The seemingly perfect hire was Chris Bergeron.
Bergeron, a Miami alum and former RedHawks assistant, had flipped Bowling Green’s program from the verge of extinction to an NCAA Tournament qualifier in a nine-year span.
Bergeron accepted and was a rock star during an emotional press conference at the Goggin Ice Center.
Soon after, Bergeron brought in Barry Schutte and Eric Rud as assistants.
Schutte was an assistant at Bowling Green during Bergeron’s entire tenure there as well as a fellow MU alum as the pair brought BGSU back from obscurity to relevance.
Rud was head coach of the St. Cloud State women’s program and was also an assistant for the men’s team there, and as a Minnesota-born guy with a Colorado College degree and assistant coaching experience there as well, he knows the NCHC landscape very well.
On paper, both seem like outstanding hires.
Miami lost seven players from 2018-19, including standouts Josh Melnick and Grant Hutton.
The RedHawks add seven first-year players – a goalie, two defensemen and four forwards. Six will be freshmen and forward Matt Barry enters his sophomore year after transferring from Holy Cross last season.
We’ll have plenty more to say about the incoming freshmen and the rest of the team in the coming weeks as we count down to the start of 2019-20.
We will also introduce both new assistants in the coming weeks with Q&A write-ups, and we’ll take a look inside the other NCHC teams as we lead up the season.
Opening night is – of all teams – vs. Bowling Green on Oct. 6 at Cady Arena.