After holding its first official practice Saturday, Oct. 6, Miami begins the 2012-13 season with its lone exhibition game of the year on Sunday, Oct. 7 as the RedHawks welcome the Western Ontario Mustangs to Arena for a 4 p.m. puck drop. Miami is coming off a 24-15-2 campaign in which the 'Hawks made their seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The RedHawks finished fourth in the CCHA's penultimate regular season in 2011-12 with a 15-11-2-1 mark while placing third in the CCHA Tournament.
Miami will have several new faces when it takes the ice Sunday as the RedHawks brought in 13 newcomers, including 11 freshmen, to help replace last year's 10-man senior class. The 'Hawks return 10 letterwinners from a year ago, but lost 12, including the dynamic goaltending duo of Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard and forward Reilly Smith, who was second nationally with 30 goals as a junior before deciding to sign with the Dallas Stars. The RedHawks' sophomore class will lead the way offensively after Austin Czarnik had a team-high 27 assists as a freshman while Blake Coleman and Jimmy Mullin each tallied at least 11 goals in their rookie campaign.
Western Ontario, who plays in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference, has already played three exhibition games this season against OUA competition, going 1-2, and plays an exhibition contest at Western Michigan Oct. 6 before moving on to Oxford. A year ago, the Mustangs finished first in the OUA West Division with a 21-4-3 league mark while going 29-10 overall. UWO made it to both the conference and University Cup championship games, losing each time.
Enrico Blasi (Miami '94) begins his 14th season behind the RedHawk bench. He is a four-time CCHA Coach of the Year and was named National Coach of the Year in 2005-06. He stands 286-184-48 in 13 seasons at his alma mater, where he has led Miami to eight NCAA Tournaments, including two Frozen Four berths, a National Championship game appearance, a pair of CCHA regular-season titles and the school's first ever Mason Cup in 2011. Blasi is the the winningest coach in school history.
Clarke Singer is in his 14th season in charge of the Western Ontario program, where he has led the Mustangs to a CIS national championship in 2002 and runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2012. He has guided UWO to a pair of conference tournament titles. Singer is a four-time OUA Coach of the Year. He has also coached previously in Norway between stints at Western Ontario.
- Miami enters the season ranked ninth in the country in both the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll and the USCHO.com Poll. The RedHawks finished last season 10th in the USA Today Poll and spent six weeks of the season ranked in the top 10.
- Senior defenseman Steven Spinell was named Miami's captain on Sept. 13. He will be the only RedHawk to wear a letter this year after Miami lost all three of its tri-captains (Alden Hirschfeld, Reilly Smith and Will Weber) from last season. Spinell was one of just three RedHawks to play in all 41 games last year and has played in 109 games in his career.
- The RedHawks roster features as many newcomers as it does returners with 13 new faces joining Miami in 2012-13 while the 'Hawks bring back 13 players from a year ago, including 10 letterwinners. Of the 26 players on the roster, 18 are freshmen or sophomores.
- Sophomore forward Austin Czarnik was named to the Preseason All-CCHA Second Team this year after leading all CCHA freshmen last year with 37 points., earning him CCHA All-Rookie Team honors. He enters the season riding a career-long seven-game point streak.
- Miami was picked to finish fourth in the CCHA in the preseason coaches poll while the preseason media poll placed the RedHawks fifth in the CCHA.
Miami opens the regular season with a four-game homestand, hosting Colgate of the ECAC Friday and Saturday, Oct. 12-13 at Arena to begin the regular season. Puck drop is 7:35 p.m. Friday and 7:05 p.m. Saturday. The RedHawks then welcome Providence Oct. 19-20.
FRESH FACES: Miami's 2012-13 team will have a new look to it after bringing in 13 newcomers, including 11 freshmen, to join forces with the 13 returning RedHawks, which includes 10 letterwinners. Of the 26 players on the roster, 18 are freshmen or sophomores while one is a senior transfer (Marc Hagel from Princeton). Miami is looking to replace the fourth-winningest class in school history, as the 10 seniors from last year compiled 99 wins in their career, went to four NCAA Tournaments, two Frozen Fours and won both a Mason Cup and CCHA regular-season title. In addition, the 'Hawks lost would-be senior Reilly Smith, a Hobey Baker Finalist last year who was second nationally with 30 goals, as he signed with the Dallas Stars. Miami also lost would-be sophomore Tyler Biggs, who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
POLLING AROUND: The RedHawks are ranked ninth in both the preseason USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll and the preseason USCHO.com Poll. The RedHawks finished last season 10th in the USA Today Poll and spent six weeks of the season ranked in the top 10 in the national polls.
CZARNIK EARNS PRESEASON HONOR: After a stellar freshman campaign, sophomore forward Austin Czarnik was named to the Preseason All-CCHA Second Team. He was a CCHA All-Rookie Team member last year when he led all CCHA freshmen with 37 points, which was second on the team, while his 27 assists were first for Miami. Czarnik is the second-leading returning scorer in the CCHA behind Notre Dame's T.J. Tynan, who had 41 points a year ago. He was also named among USCHO.com's 10 forwards to watch in 2012-13.
SUPER SOPHOMORES: Miami's sophomore class was spectacular in their freshmen campaign, scoring 40.2 percent of the team's goals (49 of 122) while at least one freshman scored a goal in 27 of Miami's 41 games in 2011-12. Last year's newcomers also accounted for 122 of Miami's 323 points, or 37.8 percent. The entire class returns except for forward Tyler Biggs, who had nine goals and 17 points before deciding to turn pro. The seven returners who aren't sophomores combined for just 15 goals and 52 points in 2011-12.
PRESEASON PICKS: The CCHA released its preseason polls Oct. 3 and Miami was tabbed to finish fourth in the coaches poll and landed fifth in the media poll. Michigan was picked to win in the media poll while Notre Dame topped the coaches poll.
CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN: Senior defenseman Steven Spinell was named Miami's captain on Sept. 13. He will be the only RedHawk to wear a letter this year after Miami lost all three of its tri-captains (Alden Hirschfeld, Reilly Smith and Will Weber) from last season. Spinell was one of just three RedHawks to play in all 41 games last year and has played in 109 games in his career, which is third among active RedHawks. He blocked a team-high 70 shots last year while totaling a career-high 12 points, including 11 assists.
CELEBRATE THE LEGACY: The 2012-13 season will be Miami's 32nd and final season in the CCHA, as the conference will close its doors following the year. The CCHA is Miami's first and only conference since making hockey a varsity sport in 1978, as Miami joined the league for the 1981-82 season. Miami has won three regular-season titles and one Mason Cup (2011) in its time in the CCHA. Starting in 2013-14, the RedHawks will play in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC), of which Miami was a founding member. Also joining Miami as a founding member of the NCHC was Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota Duluth, Nebraska Omaha and North Dakota. St. Cloud State and Western Michigan, who is currently in the CCHA, have since joined "The National," creating an eight-team league. Five of the eight NCHC teams earned a berth in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Miami's lone incoming freshman from Ohio is Sean Kuraly, the son of Rick Kuraly, who is Miami's all-time leading goal scorer with 101 goals from 1979-83 and ranks third in career points (179). Sean is the first son of a former Miami player to suit up for the RedHawks. The younger Kuraly was taken in the fifth round (133rd overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks and promises to be a key contributor on offense for the Red and White this season.
CONSISTENTLY AT THE TOP: Miami finished 2011-12 CCHA regular-season play with a 15-11-2-1 record, earning them fourth place in the standings. Miami has finished in the top four in the CCHA standings each of the last seven years, something no other team in the league has done. During that stretch, the 'Hawks have won the regular-season title twice, finished runner-up once and have three third-place finishes in addition to last year's fourth-place finish.
CLASSY SENIORS: Miami's senior class has compiled 76 career wins, which already ranks tied for eighth in program history. The class has been a part of a Frozen Four team as freshmen when they also won a CCHA regular-season title and helped the RedHawks win their first ever Mason Cup (CCHA Tournament title) as sophomores. The class of Joe Hartman, Garrett Kennedy, Steve Mason, Curtis McKenzie and Steven Spinell has been to the NCAA Tournament all three years, as well.
Sunday's game will be streamed live on MURedHawks.com via the Miami All-Access subscription package.