“I said before the season that I thought we’d be better in January and February than we would be early in the season,” the 18th-year Miami coach said. “I guess that’s true of every team. It’s the rate of the growth that’s different from team to team. I’ve been very pleased with our growth and maturation. When you have a young team, the attention to detail on a couple of levels might be different. You have to get them to understand the details and how to handle the grind. What they really have to understand is the standards that we set. That takes time.”
“It’s a learning experience for the coaches, too,” he added. “Sometimes, we’re trying to put the pieces in the wrong places. You have to learn the pieces of the puzzle. I’ve been happy with their growth. They’re not there, but they’re getting close. I think we’ve played good hockey the last four or five weeks.”
One key freshman contributor is goaltender Ryan Larkin, who has started 22 of Miami’s 24 gamed and is ranked fifth in the NCHC with a 2.53 goals against average and fourth with a .913 save percentage.
The offense leans more on veterans. Senior forward Anthony Louis ranks third in the conference with 30 points, including team-highs with 13 goals and 17 assists. Sophomore forward Kiefer Sherwood is fifth in the conference with 26 points, including 10 goals.
Similar contributions will come in handy against the Broncos, who came back from one-goal deficits in both games to sweep Miami, 6-3 and 5-2, in Kalamazoo in November. The games, scheduled to start at 7 p.m. on Friday and 7:05 p.m. on Saturday, kick off Miami’s 10-game regular-season stretch run. Friday’s game is scheduled to be televised on CBS Sports Network with Saturday’s on Time Warner Cable.
“…We don’t have freshmen on our team any more,” said junior captain Louie Belpedio. “We’re more than halfway through the season and the new guys have had the help from the returners and coaching staff that they need in order to play within our system and culture. I don’t want to say they’ve been ‘easier’ on us, because they’re still demanding of what’s to be expected from us every single day, but they’ve definitely been understanding of the situation and ultimately, that’s what leads to our success as a team.”