OXFORD — Just two weeks ago, the Miami (Ohio) hockey team stepped off its home ice and stared into the abyss. The RedHawks had just been swept out of Goggin Ice Center, where their always-supportive crowd sat momentarily stunned before finally filing out. Parity in the CCHA aside, Miami had just lost twice to the team picked to finish second-to-last in the conference — Lake Superior State.

“You know, we kind of hit rock-bottom for a second there,” said Miami forward Reilly Smith. “We’ve been building ourselves back up one step at a time.”

And entering this weekend’s series against No. 4 Michigan, the RedHawks’ tournament chances were already in jeopardy. Conference wins have been hard to come by for even the preseason favorites, and letting the Wolverines escape Goggin with one — let alone two — could’ve been fatal.

So Miami did everything it could to guarantee Michigan would leave empty-handed — or, rather, with just one point to show for the trip. And when Miami forward Bryon Paulazzo’s 360-degree dangle, full-speed-prayer of a shot lit the lamp in a sudden-death shootout, even Redhawks’ coach Enrico Blasi stood a little taller.

“I wish I could tell you I taught him that move,” lamented Blasi later.

Blasi stands at just 5-foot-8 — small for a former center.

There would be no judgment calls, train wrecks or do-or-die mentality for Miami before Thanksgiving rolls around.

This is, after all, Miami.

If Detroit is Hockeytown USA, then Oxford and Ann Arbor would need a heavyweight bout to determine which gets the title of Hockeytown CCHA. In fact, with a sea of red and white encircling the rink, Goggin even slightly resembles Joe Louis Arena — from the fans lining up hours before puck drop to the small press box.

They love their hockey in Oxford. RedHawks football hasn’t been relevant nationally since a young man named Ben Roethlisberger led them to a one-loss season and a GMAC Bowl victory back in 2003. Basketball, too, is normally an afterthought. But on ice, Miami has a team that competes for championships consistently.

Flashback to October 2007, when a writer for what claims to be the nation’s oldest university newspaper, The Miami Student, invoked unheralded attention. This writer, Mike Zoller, hinted that the RedHawks’ program was in the process of becoming something special. And the inclusion of one word, though Zoller didn’t even say Miami had reached that level yet, raised eyebrows in college hockey. Hell, even Michigan coach Red Berenson scoffed when he got word.

Zoller wrote that RedHawk hockey was on the “brink of dynasty” — in fact, that was the headline. And while he eventually concluded — after comparing Miami to the great Chicago Bulls and Dallas Cowboys teams of the 1990s — that this wasn’t quite a dynasty yet, the sheer mention that this nirvana wasn’t far off was too much for some to handle.

Comments poured in and still appear sporadically today. Zoller calls it “the best compliment a writer can get.” And though many of those who flocked to the column probably came just to call him crazy, it’s now clear that Zoller wasn’t crazy.

Four years later, Miami is still relevant. Even after this year’s team sat desolate in its locker room at four games under .500.

Relevant? No doubt. Capable of still making a title run? You betcha. A well-coached program whose teams will give Berenson fits for eternity? Absolutely.

But the word “dynasty” will never go unchallenged. Lest it become cliché, fans will protect its use at all costs.

“If the RedHawks can string together a couple of deep runs in the NCAA Tournament, win a championship and year-after-year compete, why wouldn’t you call them a hockey dynasty school?” Zoller said.

That may be so, but every sport has room for just a few top programs. Blasi better get working. And what better way to boost the confidence of those dejected souls sitting in that Goggin locker room two weeks ago than by sweeping Michigan. The two have forged one of the conference’s best rivalries.

And Miami is dangerous. If you let the RedHawks think they can play with the best, they will — for a period, a series, even a season.

This weekend marked a massive missed opportunity for the Wolverines to deal a crushing blow to a team that nobody outside of Oxford wants to see at tournament time. Miami is fast and physical. It doesn’t give up easy goals.

“My expectations going into the season were that we would be playing our best hockey come March,” Blasi said.

That’s a scary proposition for opponents.

The now-infamous dynasty claim might not have existed if it weren’t for the Michigan program. Behind all of the slams into the boards, post-whistle scuffles and overall mutual disdain between the two schools, there’s a team constructed in the eye of a monster.

“When I was a young coach, (Berenson) was the guy that shared with me a lot of his philosophy on how he built the program at Michigan, and we’ve used a lot of his ideas,” Blasi said.

This weekend in Oxford, the RedHawks certainly didn’t look like pupils.

Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified The Miami Student.

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