An antagonistic relationship between the established coach and his young upstart counterpart would make for better newspaper fodder.
But nothing could be further from the truth. When Miami, under second-year coach Enrico Blasi, usurped Michigan for the No. 2 seed in the CCHA tournament, coach Red Berenson looked past the initial sting of it.
The legendary leader of the Wolverines was congratulatory towards Blasi in stride with the teacher-student relationship that”s developed between the two.
“We”ve talked about how it was when he started,” Blasi said of his conversations with Berenson. “I”ve tried to do the same things in the community that he did to try and make the team and myself visible.
“Coach Berenson has always had good things to say when he says he likes what our team is doing it gives us confidence.”
All that listening and learning has paid off for the 29-year-old Blasi the young coach with a name straight out of The Godfather is in a position few predicted at the start of the season. His team hosts ninth-seeded Bowling Green at home in Goggin Arena for the start of the league tourney and his prospects for the CCHA Coach of the Year award remain promising.
In the preseason CCHA polls, Miami was picked to finish sixth by the league”s coaches, ninth by the media.
“You never know what will happen in a year,” Blasi said. “We”ve had our share of ups and downs I”m real proud of the way we”ve played.”
An ironic statement, considering Miami is just a year removed from a season in which it went 13-20-3 and finished tied for ninth in the CCHA.
This season, the RedHawks went 20-14-2 the program”s first twenty-win season since it joined the CCHA in 1981-82 and racked up a 17-10-2 record in the league.
Blasi, a forward on Miami”s 1992-93 CCHA playoff title team describes his freshman campaign behind the bench as a “transition period” a stepping stone to this season”s greatness.
“We”ve developed a good understanding between coaches and players we”ve enjoyed happy and disappointing times, but at the end of the day we”re a family. It”s good that the seniors have embraced that philosophy.”
What Blasi failed to mention is that the RedHawks played much of their season last year without two of their top players seniors Jason Deskins and Gregor Kranjc both early casualties to blown-out knees.
“I picked that team to finish in the top-five,” Berenson said. “Their top scorers were injured for the entire second half of last season. When I talked to (Blasi) this summer he seemed pretty optimistic and I was too they had their defense and their top scorers back.
“If they stayed healthy they were going to have a good team and they have had a good team.”
Current captain Deskins restored his scoring touch of two seasons ago with 39 points in 36 games, while Kranjc and senior Pat Leahy complemented Deskins by each finishing in the top 15 in scoring in the CCHA.
Miami started slowly, going 3-5-2 out of the gate including two losses to Michigan at Yost. The RedHawks then swept Nebraska-Omaha and played .500 hockey for the next two months until Feb., in which the team went 6-3 en route to nine wins in their last 12 games. Miami eventually tied a faltering Michigan team for second place on the last day of the regular season, then won the tiebreaker with more league wins.
A product of bad circumstances in the PairWise Rankings Miami currently holds 14th place.
“I don”t know of any team that had to play Michigan and Michigan State in their own arenas without the benefit of a home rematch,” Blasi said. “Some of the teams ahead of us don”t play in great conferences or against top-ten teams it makes no sense. Our opponents” records are good, our RPI is good, we”ve been penalized for playing good, quality teams.”
A stellar showing in the CCHA tournament could change all of that a possibility Berenson believes is well within reach.
“There”s a lot less pressure, their expectations are not as high as we”re talking about at Michigan they”ve done a great job (so far).”