Miami hockey set to open home season



Splitting two games on the road to open its season might seem promising for the Miami RedHawks hockey team.

Fulfilling that promise is another matter.

The RedHawks are scheduled to open their fifth home season under coach Chris Bergeron on Friday with a non-conference game against Canisius at Goggin Ice Center on the Oxford campus. The two teams are due to play again on Saturday. Both games are set to start at 7:05 p.m.

Miami is 1-1-0 after a season-opening 5-4 overtime loss at Ferris State in Michigan last Friday and a 5-2 win over the Bulldogs on Saturday. The RedHawks led the opener, 3-0, after the first period and 4-1 going into the third before Ferris State scored four unanswered goals to come from behind.

Saturday’s game was similar, only in reverse. The score was 1-1 going into the third period before Miami reeled off four goals to come away with a 5-2 win.

“You just saw that there was a lot of energy,” said Bergeron, the former Bowling Green coach who logged his 200th career win as a college coach. “They were focused. They were not going to be denied. The older guys set the tone. That’s what I saw. It would have been a shame to lose that game. We won the third period going away.”

What that means for Miami hockey going forward remains to be seen. Nine of the top scorers return from the RedHawks team that finished last season 8-24-4 after a 3-1-1 start. They are led by 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior forward Matthew Barbolini, who finished last season with 10 goals and 15 assists and opened this season with a goal in each of the first two games and one assist.

“He’s a big-time player,” said Bergeron, who is 29-91-13 at Miami since taking over for Rico Blasi before the 2019-2020 season. “He’s somebody we want to see more of.”

John Waldron, a 6-1, 185-pound sophomore forward, produced nine goals last season, one off the team lead, and opened this season with a goal and assist. Max Dukovac, a 6-2,185-pound sophomore, chipped in with 14 assists last season, one shy of Barbolini’s team-high.

“We have to make sure we don’t put too much pressure on him,” Bergerson said of Dukovac. “He’s a high-energy kid with a high skill, but he’s only played two games as a sophomore. We don’t want to put too much pressure on him, but he wants to be all over the ice.”

The 6-4, 200-pound graduate-student Logan Neaton is the only returning goaltender who saw action last year. The Winnipeg Jets draftee posted a .900 save percentage and 3.60 goals against average in nine appearances with five starts last season. He stopped 25 of 27 Ferris State shots on Saturday.

Bergeron also is counting on significant contributions from 6-4, 200-pound graduate-student defenseman Jack Clement, who scored the go-ahead goal in Saturday’s win.

“That kid came back for all of the right reasons,” Bergeron said. “He’s hoping to leave this place in a better place than he found it.”

Miami was picked in a preseason poll to finish last in the eight-team National Collegiate Hockey Conference, Denver was picked first, followed by North Dakota and 2023 Frozen Faceoff champion St. Cloud State. Five different teams received first-place votes in the poll.

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