The line of Red Savage, P.J. Fletcher and Matthew Barbolini clearly separated from the rest of the Miami forward field last season.
That’s great for the RedHawks, as that projected top line entering 2022-23 consists of a sophomore and two juniors, meaning ideally this trio could stick in Oxford and continue to improve for a couple more years.
With the top three covered, now Miami has to establish how to improve in the 4-12 spots, as depth has been a RedHawks shortcoming for several seasons.
“That was a group that proved to be a pretty good line for us last year but I don’t know heading into this season what it will look like,” Miami coach Chris Bergeron said. “What I can tell you is we’re going to need the returning forwards: Everybody has to elevate. Yes, we have six new forwards coming in but those aren’t the guys we’re going to lean upon. The guys we lean upon are all the returners. Everybody’s got to go up a level. We’ve got some shoes to fill in terms of output and production, scoring-wise. It is nice that some of the top guys from last year are still young people and hopefully will be together for a while yet, but it’s going to be a collective group with those 17 forwards.”
With 17 forwards – including six freshmen – five will have sit each night, which should amp up practice competition.
VFTG takes a look at the forwards in Part II of our 2022-23 Miami Preview.
Part I can be found here: Overview.
WHO’S BACK: Srs. (5) – Jack Olmstead, Ryan Savage, Joey Cassetti, Chase Pletzke, John Sladic; Jrs. (5) – Thomas Daskas, Michael Holland, Brian Silver, Matthew Barbolini, P.J. Fletcher; Sos. (1) – Red Savage.
WHO’S GONE: Chase Gresock, Michael Regush, Matt Barry, Monte Graham, Scott Corbett.
WHO’S NEW (previous team in parentheses): Frankie Carogioiello (Chilliwack – BCHL), Max Dukovac (Langley – BCHL), William Hallen (Dubuque – USHL), Blake Mesenburg (St. Cloud – NAHL), Artur Turansky (Lone Star – NAHL), John Waldron (Waterloo – USHL).
ANALYSIS: Miami finished 55th out of 59 Division I teams in shots per game (23.9) but due to a fluky-high 10.9 shot percentage that was one of the top 15 rates in college hockey, the RedHawks scored a so-so 2.61 goals per game.
In other words, even though MU maintained a middle-of-the-pack scoring pace last season, it was still fortunate it found the net as often as it did.
Miami finished in the top half of D-1 in power play percentage at 20.4 but allowed two more shorthanded goals than any other NCAA team.
Fortunately, Miami returns eight of its 10 double-digit points producers from 2021-22 including its RPM line (Red, Paul and Matt).
Fletcher is the RedHawks’ lead returning scored with 24 points, surging to the finish line with 19 in his last 23 games.
Barbolini was the team leader in goals with 10, and 2021 Detroit fourth-round pick Red Savage – the lone NHL draftee skater on Miami’s roster – went 6-10-16 as a freshman.
Joey Cassetti and Ryan Savage, Red Savage’s older brother, both tallied 12 points, and graduate senior Jack Olmstead finished 5-5-10.
Thomas Daskas, Chase Pletzke and John Sladic were also lineup regulars in 2021-22.
Daskas tallied four goals and five assists and Pletzke scored seven times without picking up a single helper. Sladic went 0-4-4 and has played in 81 career games, recording 21 points.
Rounding out the returners up front, Brian Silver dressed for 11 games and impressed down the stretch, going 1-1-2. Michael Holland played in four games. Both are juniors.
The RedHawks have added six freshmen skaters with solid resumes up front, and all should compete for lineup spots immediately.
John Waldron and William Hallen both were double-digit goal scorers in the USHL, Frankie Carogioiello and Max Dukovac averaged around a point a game in the BCHL and Blake Mesenburg and Artur Turansky were top offensive players in the NAHL.
Between the returning players and an intriguing freshman class, Miami is hoping it has addressed a depth issue that has plagued the team for years.
“I think the depth at forward is better, I really do,” Bergeron said. “I think some guys have stepped up, with what I’ve seen from training camp and those six guys look like they’ve added some speed to our group, some skill to our group. If you have 17 forwards, you’d better have some depth or else why would you carry 17?”
Depth up front has specifically been an issue at center, although several incoming freshmen have excelled in that role in juniors. The RedHawks were No. 44 out of 59 in Division I with a faceoff percentage of 48.0.
“Faceoffs are 100 percent one of our 12 objectives – we think we should be between 53 and 55 percent on faceoffs,” Bergeron said. “Faceoffs are the first 50/50 puck of every shift, usually, and we supposedly, as a program, take pride in 50/50 pucks, so let’s just do a better job on faceoffs. That doesn’t just fall on the centermen, that’s a five-man job as far as we’re concerned, but we hope and expect to be better in the faceoff circle in all situations.”