It wasn’t easy to compile this list of the best performances by the RedHawks during the 2010-2011 academic year, especially when it came time to decide between the top two. But the magnitude of the ’10-’11 season’s impact for the nationally-renowned ice hockey program’s history could not be ignored. It was a year that featured not one, but two historic firsts.
Coming off of back-to-back appearances in the Frozen Four, the RedHawks had high expectations coming into the 2010-2011 season. It proved to be one of the most captivating campaigns in program history.
The season featured prolific scoring particularly at the hands of Andy Miele and Carter Camper. At the end of the season, the two seniors would etch their names into the Miami and national record books. Camper would close his career with a career-high 57-point season (38 assists, 19 goals), giving him 183 points over his four years in Oxford, the second-most in program history. Miele made national history by scoring 71 points, the most by any Division I player in the last eight seasons.
It would be remiss to say that the RedHawks breezed along without difficulty. The defense had its ups and downs through the course of the season, but the powerful Miami offense frequently blew out lesser opponents, and at season’s close, the ‘Hawks had outscored their opponents by a 146-85 point margin. But the second half of the season was a game of catch-up, as the RedHawks tried to regain lost ground to both the Michigan Wolverines and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the conference standings. Despite tying two games with the Irish and then sweeping a series against the Wolverines in consecutive weekends, the ‘Hawks couldn’t climb in front of either team by season’s end. Miami did close the regular season on a nine-game unbeaten streak that they carried into the CCHA Tournament as the No. 3 seed with a 19-9-6 record (16-7-5-2 CCHA).
After enjoying a first-round tournament bye, the RedHawks welcomed the University of Alaska Nanooks to Oxford for a best-of-three series. The series ended after two games, as Miami swept the Nanooks by identical 4-1 scores, propelling the RedHawks to the conference semifinals at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Once there, they blew out Notre Dame 6-2 to advance to the championship game for just the fourth time ever.
Miami was greeted by the Western Michigan Broncos for a chance at the title. The ‘Hawks jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead, but the Broncos would even the game with the lone goal of the second period, and one early in the third. But then the ‘Hawks took advantage of a delayed penalty against the Broncos, as Miele used the man-advantage to score what would prove to be the game-winner. The RedHawks scored on the ensuing power play as well, and once more for insurance. When the final horn sounded, Miami had won the CCHA Tournament for the first time in program history, laying claim to the Mason Cup for the first time since joining the CCHA in 1980. Miele was named the Tournament MVP and to the All-Tournament Team, as he scored 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) in Miami’s four games. He was on a 17-game point streak at that point. Over the course of the next few weeks he would be named CCHA Player of the Year, INCH National Player of the Year, First Team All-CCHA and AHCA First Team West All-American.
Unfortunately, the dreams of a national title came up well short, as the ‘Hawks were upset by the University of New Hampshire in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament by a 3-1 score. Miami jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead just 53 seconds into the game, but the Wildcats evened the score one minute later. Then after a scoreless second stanza, it was the Wildcats getting the fast goal less than one minute into the final period. An empty-netter in the final minutes sealed Miami’s fate as the RedHawk rally ended fruitlessly.
However, that would not be the lasting memory of the NCAA Tournament for the Miami faithful. One the eve of the national title game between Michigan and Minnesota-Duluth, Miele was given the ultimate recognition for his stellar season and was named the recipient of the 2011 Hobey Baker Memorial Award. He became the first player in Miami history to win the award, the highest individual accolade in all of college hockey. Modest to the end, he credited all the coaches and teammates around him for making him the player he was, but that night he stood alone as the greatest player in the nation.
The 2011-2012 version of the RedHawks promises to be just as exciting as last season’s. The just-released INCH preseason rankings name the RedHawks the nation’s top team, based on the strength of the returning core players (going so far as to name Reilly Smith a preseason candidate for the 2012 Hobey Baker Award) and dubbing the incoming recruits the strongest class in the country. So as the ‘Hawks prepare for their second-to-last season as members of the CCHA, how can your pulse not be racing?