Seven defensemen who dressed for Miami in 2018-19 are back this season, including five who played at least 25 games.
The RedHawks also gain a pair of freshmen coming off excellent juniors seasons, making this group a strength of the team heading into this campaign.
A look at the RedHawks’ defensemen for 2019-20:
RETURNING (7): Srs. – Chaz Switzer, Grant Frederic; Jrs. – Alec Mahalak, Rourke Russell; So. – Derek Daschke, Brayden Crowder, Andrew Sinard.
DEPARTURES (2): Grant Hutton, River Rymsha.
NEW FACES (2): Jack Clement, Alec Capstick.
NOTES: The RedHawks’ returning class of blueliners includes Derek Daschke, who tied for the team lead in assists with 16 and was tops on the team in defenseman points (22).
Daschke, a sophomore, scored twice on the power play and seems the natural successor to Grant Hutton as the team’s power play quarterback.
Junior Alec Mahalak has also been a solid offensive contributor, picking up 12 assists while – like Daschke – being responsible in his own end.
The remaining five blueliner veterans combined for eight points in 2018-19, with physical junior Rourke Russell accounting for five.
Sophomore Bray Crowder logged 36 games and went 0-2-2, and Andrew Sinard dressed 27 times and registered one assist. Both are 6-feet-6.
“Guys like Crowder, Sinard are really coming into (own), using their sticks really well,” forward and captain Gordie Green said. “They kind of know what it takes to be successful since they both had some success last year at this level. I think we’re going to have a big, strong and hard-to-play-against D-corps which is what you need to be successful in our league.”
Seniors Grant Frederic and Chaz Switzer return for their final seasons after injuries limited the tandem to a combined total of four games played. Switzer is reportedly banged up again heading into this season.
“On paper if you had to say, what is the strength, I think the depth of the D-corps would be right there at the top of that list,” coach Chris Bergeron said. “We’re starting to get to know them a little bit, we’re a little bit banged up back there heading into the season, I think there’s enough depth that we can have some good internal competition and lean on some guys that have played some games over the past few years.”
Jack Clement, a 6-feet-4 freshman who is originally an UNO commit, took a step up from the NAHL to the USHL last season and went 2-12-14 with Des Moines. He could become another big, shutdown D-man for Miami.
Alec Capstick notched 31 points with Langley of the BCHL, where the freshman lives and has played the past five seasons.
At 6-feet-2 he adds even more height to a Miami team that features five blueliners that are at least 6-3.
“The back end should be a strength for us this year,” Daschke said. “We’ve got a couple of young freshmen that are good additions for us, and the guys we have coming back should take the next step in their games as well.”
Bergeron said he expects more of this corps offensively this season.
“The days of it just being a forward’s responsibility to create 5-on-5 offense is over,” Bergeron said. “You need your defensemen involved in that. I think we have some D that can be more involved than they have in the past, but we will have a foundation of defending first. When we don’t have the puck, let’s earn it, and when we do, let’s have a plan, and it’s going to be a five-man plan.”
No doubt the RedHawks have the height on the back end, but this corps needs to generate more points and needs to cut down the shots and quality scoring chances allowed.
Senior goalie Ryan Larkin has watched this group in front of him every practice and likes what he’s seen from them so far.
“I’m excited about the D-corps this year,” Larkin said. “I think they’re going to be really good – obviously we’ll have to see on Sunday, but they’ve been great so far in practice in limiting scoring chances in game-like scenarios. They’ve been fun to have in front of me so far.”