It was Miami’s worst-ever offensive campaign by over a third of a goal per game, and only six Division I teams scored at a worse clip than the RedHawks in 2020-21,
But Miami has brought in four veteran transfers with a scoring track record and Detroit fourth-round pick Red Savage, the son of former NHLer and RedHawks standout Brian Savage and younger brother of current MU junior Ryan Savage.
“We think on paper we addressed it,” Miami coach Chris Bergeron said. “Did we address it with guys that are absolute, easy-point guys? No. We addressed it with: Adding some depth to our group of forwards. We’ve brought in Will Cullen, who is an absolute proven offensive defenseman, so we think what we’ve done is addressed – somewhat – our lack of scoring, whether that’s 5-on-5 or 5-on-4.”
That help is urgently needed, as only two forwards that recorded five or more points for Miami last season return.
WHO’S BACK: Srs. (4) – Jack Olmstead, Monte Graham, Scott Corbett, Matt Barry; Jrs. (4) – John Sladic, Chase Pletzke, Ryan Savage, Joe Cassetti; Sos. (3) – Matthew Barbolini, Michael Holland, Brian Silver.
WHO’S GONE: Casey Gilling, Phil Knies, Ben Lown, Caleb Rule.
WHO’S NEW: Chase Gresock (transfer – Merrimack, played three years), Michael Regush (transfer – Cornell, played two years), P.J. Fletcher (transfer – Quinnipiac, played one year), Thomas Daskas (transfer – Air Force, played one year), Red Savage (fourth-round pick, DET).
ANALYSIS: All four transfers weigh in at over 200 pounds and are either 6-feet-1 or 6-2, and Bergeron said the RedHawks will continue to focus on size up front.
“Look around our league,” Bergeron said. “There’s some big guys – my eye goes to a bigger player. I think the way we want to play the game is a bigger, heavier game, especially down in the offensive zone and down below the tops of the circles. We want to be able to defend hard, and I’m not saying undersized people can’t do that, that’s not true, we know that, but there’s an emphasis on improving our size.”
Junior center Matt Barry led the team in points (17) and assists (15). He is arguably the team’s best complete forward, as he is an excellent playmaker, is solid on faceoffs and defends well.
Matthew Barbolini went 5-9-14 – leading the team in goals as a freshman and proved he can produce points by using his big body to create space around opponents’ nets.
Ryan Savage had his season derailed by injury, as he logged just 14 games and tallied five points.
Monte Graham also finished with five points, but he has become a crucial part of the lineup with his ability to dish out hits, defend, kill penalties and win draws.
Juniors Chase Pletzke and John Sladic combined for just five goals last season after the duo netted 13 as freshmen, and they look to get back into the scoring column more often as bottom six forwards.
Joey Cassetti is a wild card, as he joined the team late due to transfer rules, scored twice in his first game for Miami but was injured much of the final stretch of the season.
Jack Olmstead and Michael Holland also were maximum effort players in 2020-21 and will vie for regular lineup slots.
Red Savage has been the most talked-about Miami hockey recruit since Jack Roslovic, partly because of the family name and partly because he has been talked about as a high NHL draft pick for years.
Savage will be the team’s lone true freshman forward at 18 coming off his selection by Detroit in the fourth round two months ago.
His hockey IQ and defensive prowess have been well documented, but his offense seriously evolved last season, as he tallied 20 points in 22 games vs. USHL competition as a member of the U.S. National Development Team and went 18-24-42 in 46 games against his Under-18 squad competition.
“He’s a good boy, he’s a young guy, and he’s a great hockey player,” Bergeron said. “But just think of the returning people with Barbolini, Ryan Savage – his older brother – Matt Barry, and then you add Regush, you add Chase Gresock, who both have put up numbers at the college level, and we think Daskas and Fletcher, the two sophomore transfers, we think they’re going to help out offensively. And that’s not taking anything away from Monte Graham, who has contributed occassionally. Where’s Chase Pletzke going to be, where’s John Sladic going to be in terms of offense? It’s definitely making the ice time a little more of premium, a little more making them earn it, and part of that is definitely going to be the offense, and all Red has to do is his part. He’s really good on faceoffs, he’s a really good penalty killer, and neither one of those things has much to with offense. With all that being said, we think he’s going to help us with our offense. He’s a good player, but he doesn’t have to be anything more than a young freshman for us, and it’s going to take him some time, we know that.
The other four newcomers at forward are transfers.
Chase Gresock is the most Division I-experienced skater of the group, with 54 points in 78 games with Merrimack. He wore a letter as a sophomore so he will certainly bring veteran leadership to Oxford.
Michael Regush did not play a game last season, as Cornell canceled its season due to COVID. He netted 23 goals in 65 games his first two seasons there and graduated in three years with a 3.95 GPA.
P.J. Fletcher logged 30 games for Quinnipiac in his lone season there in 2019-20 but transferred after. He posted an impressive 16-18-34 line for USHL Dubuque in 44 games.
And with Thomas Daskas going 3-4-7 in 14 games with Air Force last season, Miami is hoping he can continue to produce at that clip in 2021-22.
“It’s tough to tell in training camp, but we do like what we see so far, and we do think that there’s more depth that’s scoring,” Bergeron said. “Now people are going to have to prove that once we get started.”
MU’s forward corps looks pretty solid defensively led by with Barry, Graham and Scott Corbett, and Ryan Savage’s reputation is that his defense and hockey IQ are key strengths.
Are the RedHawks’ upgrades up front enough to make them competitive in the NCHC? That’s still unclear.
But their key acquisitions should definitely help them avoid Division’s bottom tier in terms of offense this season.