April 21, 2012
OXFORD, Ohio - For the final time, the 2011-12 Miami Hockey team gathered along with family members, friends and fans Saturday night at the Shriver Center on Miami's campus to reflect on another successful season, honor 10 seniors and hand out some awards at its Night of Celebration. The annual year-end banquet is sponsored by the Blue Line Club, Miami Hockey's support group.
The evening opened with a social half hour and silent auction, during which fans bid on lots of memorabilia, including autographed jerseys, sticks and pictures. Following a delicious buffet dinner, a highlight video of the 2011-12 season was shown while Miami then handed out 10 awards. For the first time, eight of the awards were named in honor of someone who has had a significant impact on the hockey program and helped make Miami the Brotherhood it is today.
The Gary DeLonge Most Valuable Player Award, named after the team's first captain and MVP as a varsity team in 1979, was given to junior forward Reilly Smith. Smith also took home the Bill Davidge Outstanding Offensive Player Award, which is named after Miami's second varsity coach in program history. The Mimico, Ont. native powered the RedHawks this past season, as he led the team with 48 points, which tied for 10th nationally, while his 30 goals were second in the country and rank seventh in school history as he was just the second RedHawk to top 30 goals in a season since 1992-93. Smith, who signed with the Dallas Stars following the season and made his NHL debut March 28, was a Hobey Baker Award finalist, an AHCA First-Team West All-American, a unanimous First-Team All-CCHA selection, a member of the CCHA All-Tournament Team and a three-time CCHA Player of the Month. He was also promoted to team captain during the season.
Senior goaltender Connor Knapp, who was unable to attend Saturday because he is playing with the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League Playoffs, captured the Berry Family Outstanding Senior Award, which is named after Jim and Mary Linda Berry, long-time supporters of the RedHawks. Knapp was key to Miami's second-half surge as his 1.41 goals-against average and .945 save percentage in CCHA play were both tops in the league, en route to winning the CCHA Best Goaltender Award. The York, N.Y. native posted five shutouts on the year as he broke the career shutouts record with 13, while his 1.69 GAA and .933 save percentage on the year both finished fourth in the country and were Miami single-season records. He finished with a 1.94 career GAA, which is also a school record.
The George Gwozdecky Blue Line Club Award, named in honor of former Miami head coach George Gwozdecky, who was behind the bench at Miami from 1989-1994 and led the Redskins to their first CCHA title and NCAA appearance, was awarded to senior goaltender Cody Reichard. Reichard was a role model on and off the ice, compiling a career GAA of 2.10 and a career save percentage of .912, both of which rank third in school history, while his 53 career wins are also third and his 12 shutouts tie for second. The Celina, Ohio, native also founded Swoop's Stoop, a program that helps children at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, and has won several awards for his work.
On the defensive side of things, junior defenseman Steven Spinell earned the Mitch Korn Outstanding Defensive Player Award, named in honor of the former Miami assistant coach and goaltending coach who founded Miami's hockey school. Spinell (Vernon Hills, Ill.) anchored the RedHawks' blueline as one of just three RedHawks to play in all 41 games this past year while leading the team with 70 blocked shots and posting a +17 rating. Taking home the inaugural Tom Brown Unsung Hero, named after one of Miami's first goaltenders from 1978-80, who has continued to be a strong supporter of the program since his time at Miami, was senior forward Matt Tomassoni. The Carol Stream, Ill., native started his career as a defenseman but switched to forward during his junior year and played on both the penalty kill and power play during his senior campaign as well as Miami's gritty fourth line, while blocking 126 shots in his career and posting a +22 rating.
A pair of freshmen took home honors Saturday as forward Austin Czarnik won the Dr. Phillip Shriver Rookie of the Year Award, named in memory of the former Miami president, who helped hockey become a varsity sport, while defenseman Ben Paulides earned the Steve Cady Most Improved Player Award, named after Miami's first varsity coach. Czarnik was second on the team with 37 points and led the `Hawks with 27 assists, which tied for second in the country among rookies. The Washington, Mich., native was named to the CCHA All-Rookie Team and earned CCHA Rookie of the Week three times. Paulides showed tremendous growth during his first season in Oxford, as he struggled to crack the lineup early in the year, appearing in just four of Miami's first 18 games, but played in 16 straight games from Dec. 9 to Feb. 18. The San Jose, Calif., native finished with a +13 rating and five assists.
Five RedHawks garnered the Scholar-Athlete Award as senior forwards Alden Hirschfeld and Patrick Tiesling, senior defenseman Cameron Schilling and Knapp and Reichard all earned a cumulative grade-point average above 3.0 while at Miami. Hirschfeld, a captain in 2011-12, and Knapp will each receive degrees in management and organizations while Reichard will graduate with a degree in interdisciplinary business management. Schilling finishes his career with a degree in accountancy while Tiesling will earn his degree in finance. Schilling was also unable to attend as he is playing in the AHL playoffs along with Knapp.
Miami also handed out the Jim Grant "7th Player" Award to Jim Stearns, professor of marketing in the Farmer School of Business. Stearns has had several RedHawk players in his classes and is also the head coach for Miami's women's club hockey team. His biggest contribution however is his work with youth hockey in Oxford, which he has been doing for nearly 30 years. The award is named after former RedHawk player Todd Grant's father, who was a big supporter of the team and passed away during Grant's time at Miami.
Following the awards presentation, the eight seniors in attendance each spoke as Ben Saksa, Tiesling, Tomassoni, Chris Wideman, Trent Vogelhuber, Reichard, captains Will Weber and Hirschfeld all took time to reflect on their time at Miami, both cracking jokes and shedding some tears. A video tribute to the seniors was also shown. The 2012 senior class is the fourth winningest class in school history, collecting 99 career wins while helping Miami make its first two trips to the Frozen Four, appearing in the 2009 national championship game, winning the program's first Mason Cup in 2011 and winning a CCHA regular-season title in 2010.
Head coach Enrico Blasi then concluded the Night of Celebration with some closing remarks on the season, thanking several people who have had an impact on the program while reflecting on what he called a "year of transition".
Miami's 2012-13 schedule will be announced in the coming months.