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While the first year of Miami hockey’s new era proved rockier than initially anticipated, the RedHawks under head coach Enrico Blasi proved at the end that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Thanks in large part to Blasi’s hard work and success at his alma mater, the RedHawks were a founding member of the NCHC, which was formed in July of 2011. The league’s inaugural 2013-14 season saw Miami miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2004-05 campaign. However, MU caught fire and fought to the bitter end by turning an eighth-place regular season in the conference to a berth in the first NCHC Tournament Championship Game, where it dropped a tight 4-3 decision to Denver.
While some inconsistencies led to a 15-20-3 overall record and a 6-17-1-1 mark in conference play, the Red and White did show what they could do when they were on their game. Including the NCHC Tournament, Miami went 8-8 against the three teams that went to the NCAA Tournament (St. Cloud State, North Dakota and Denver) and posted a competitive 9-10-1 mark against all NCAA Tournament qualifiers.
Entering his 16th season at the helm of Miami Hockey, Blasi has helped Miami achieve what many thought could never be done in a small town in Southwest Ohio. Using a 'team-first' mantra and "The Brotherhood" ideals of responsibility, he has elevated the RedHawks from sporadic NCAA Tournament appearances to consistent national-title contender. The crowning achievements have come in the last six years when Miami made its first-ever Frozen Four and NCAA Championship Game appearance in 2009, followed by its second trip to the NCAA Frozen Four in 2010 and won its first Mason Cup in program history for winning the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Tournament in 2011. The RedHawks also captured two CCHA regular-season championships during that span, including the final CCHA title in 2012-13.
A 1994 graduate of Miami, Blasi took over the reins at his alma mater in 1999 as the youngest head coach in Division I hockey and has worked tirelessly ever since to make that family the strongest unit it can be. After earning 2010 College Hockey News and CollegeHockey247.com National Coach of the Year honors, the 2006 Spencer Penrose Award from the American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) for National Coach of the Year, and five CCHA Coach of the Year Awards, Blasi's credentials speak for itself. Having led the RedHawks to three regular-season CCHA Championships, one Mason Cup (CCHA Tournament championship), nine trips to the NCAA Tournament, including eight straight from 2006-13, and back-to-back NCAA Frozen Four appearances in just 15 seasons with the Red and White, Blasi's "Brotherhood" values of family and togetherness are paying big dividends in Oxford.
"I am committed to this program and the people involved with it," Blasi said. "We are all going to achieve more when we work together and that is evidenced by the team and individual success we have had in the last few years. We are in the business to not only develop quality hockey players but to develop student-athletes with great character."
It is Blasi's devotion to his alma mater, and his ability to motivate his players both athletically and academically that prompted Director of Athletics David Sayler to ink Blasi to a 10-year contract extension following the 2012-13 season that keeps him in Oxford through the 2022-23 season. Blasi was also recognized for his work with his players both on and off the ice and in the community in 2011 by Miami's School of Education, Health and Society, which presented him with the Profound Impact Award, given annually to Miami EHS alumni who are making a difference in both their profession and their community.
“The hockey program at Miami has reached unprecedented success both on and off the ice during Coach Blasi’s tenure and we wanted to ensure that continues for many years to come,” said Sayler of the contract extension. “As Miami Hockey heads into a new conference, we felt this extension ensures stability for the future of the program as it continues to compete for league and national championships.”
The RedHawks have won 20 or more games 11 times in Blasi’s 15 seasons on the bench, qualifying for the NCAA Tournament nine times, all in the past 11 campaigns. Prior to his arrival, Miami had won 20 or more games only five times in 21 years, with just two NCAA Tournament berths in that span. Additionally, Miami has produced at least one AHCA All-American each of the last 11 years, the only school in Division I to do so, nine Hobey Baker Award finalists during the 11-year stretch, including Miami's first winner in Andy Miele in 2011, and three CCHA Players of the Year in the last four seasons with Cody Reichard in 2009-10, Miele in 2010-11 and Austin Czarnik in 2012-13. Under Blasi's guidance behind the bench, a total of 13 RedHawks have earned All-America status with four being named the CCHA Player of the Year.
In addition to cultivating individual success at Miami, Blasi has helped develop players at the next level as 23 RedHawks have signed NHL contracts since Blasi took over as head coach. In the last five years alone, 18 RedHawks have inked NHL deals. A total of 25 RedHawks have also been drafted in the NHL since Blasi’s first year as head coach in 1999-2000.
In 2012-13, Blasi had one of his finest coaching jobs, leading a very young team consisting of 18 freshmen and sophomores to the final CCHA regular-season championship, as the league closed its doors following the season. Miami finished with a 25-12-5 record, its most wins since 2009-10, while capturing the league title with a 17-7-4-4 mark, marking just Miami’s fourth CCHA regular-season title in program history, three of which have come with Blasi at the helm. For his efforts, Blasi was named CCHA Coach of the Year for the fifth time in his career, second-most in league history, and was a finalist for the Spencer Penrose National Coach of the Year Award. He also coached Czarnik to CCHA Player of the Year and First-Team All-America honors, as well as being a Hobey Baker Award finalist as a sophomore, while Riley Barber became the first Miamian to ever claim CCHA Rookie of the Year accolades. The RedHawks made their eighth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance, as well, as Blasi led Miami to the Midwest Regional Final as a No. 2 seed. Earlier in the season, he made history by coaching the RedHawks in the program’s first ever outdoor game, playing at Chicago’s historic Soldier Field on Feb. 17, 2013 against Notre Dame in front of 52,051 fans, the largest crowd to ever watch Miami play a hockey game.
In 2011-12, Blasi led Miami to a fourth-place finish in the CCHA as the RedHawks posted a top-four finish in the CCHA each of the league’s final eight years – the only team to achieve the feat. Miami compiled a 24-15-2 overall record in 2011-12, which included a third-place finish in the CCHA Tournament and a seventh straight NCAA Tournament berth. Blasi became just the ninth coach ever to top 200 career CCHA victories, earning his 200th win Feb. 17 against Notre Dame, as he finished with a 220-129-43 all-time mark in CCHA games. Blasi also moved into the top 50 among Division I hockey's all-time winningest coaches that year, as he enters 2013-14 tied for 39th with a 311-196-53 (.603) career record. He saw Reilly Smith continue Miami's trend of All-Americans and Hobey Baker Award finalists as Smith earned both distinctions while the RedHawks finished in the top 10 nationally for the fifth straight season. Nine of Miami's 10 seniors went on to sign professional contracts, including goaltender Connor Knapp, who broke both the school's career goals-against average record as well as the career shutouts mark.
During the 2010-11 season, the RedHawks skated to a 23-10-6 overall record and finished third in the CCHA with a 16-7-5 league mark. Miami then went on to win the conference tournament for the first time in program history, dominating the competition a combined 19-6 in four games, including 5-2 in the championship game over Western Michigan. The RedHawks garnered a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the third time ever while Miele capped the year by becoming Miami's first Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner as he led the NCAA with an astounding 71 points. The '10-11 campaign saw Blasi record his 250th career win Dec. 29, 2010 against Maine.
In 2009-10, Miami finished the regular season ranked No. 1 nationally, after being ranked the nation's top team for 17 of the 23 weeks. Blasi's RedHawks ran away with the school's third CCHA regular-season title, winning it by over 20 points, earned the overall top seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history and captured the NCAA Midwest Regional title to earn the school's second straight Frozen Four berth. The senior class surpassed the '09 class to become the winningest in program history with 109 victories over four seasons. For his efforts on the campaign, Blasi was named the National Coach of the Year by College Hockey News and CollegeHockey247.com and the CCHA Coach of the Year for the fourth time in his tenure.
In the record-setting 2008-09 season, the RedHawks earned their fourth straight NCAA Tournament berth and a No. 4 seed en route to upsetting Denver and Minnesota-Duluth to capture the West Regional Championship and send Miami to the Frozen Four for the first time ever. A national semifinal victory over Bemidji State moved the RedHawks into the national championship game against Boston University, where Miami fell just short of a national title in overtime. During the year, the senior class became the first in school history to top the 100-win plateau, registering 106 victories over four seasons.
The 2007-08 squad became the winningest squad in the 32-year history of Miami University ice hockey. It compiled an impressive 33-8-1 record, won 21 CCHA games, and finished just a single point behind Michigan for the regular-season championship. The RedHawks played in the CCHA's playoff title game, earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA's Northeast Regional, and won the school's second-ever NCAA Tournament game. For 10 weeks, Miami was the nation's top-rated college hockey team and Blasi earned recognition as Cincinnati's Sports Executive of the Year.
In 2006-07, the RedHawks compiled an impressive 24-14-4 record, including Miami's first-ever victory in NCAA Tournament play, a 2-1 defeat of New Hampshire. The 2005-06 season was a culmination of seven years of relentless hard work by Blasi and his staff as the RedHawks posted a 26-9-4 overall record and skated to just the second CCHA regular-season title in program history with a 20-6-2 league mark. During the season, Blasi became the winningest hockey coach in school history with a 3-1 win over Ferris State, surpassing Steve Cady with his 122nd career win at his alma mater. Following a sweep of the Bulldogs, Miami earned its first No. 1 national ranking in any sport. In recognition of his dedication and hard work, Blasi was named both National Coach of the Year by the AHCA and the CCHA Coach of the Year for the third time in his career.
By being named 2006 National Coach of the Year, Blasi joined George Gwozdecky as the only Miami hockey coaches to win the Spencer Penrose Award. Gwozdecky mentored the Red and White for seven seasons and guided the 1992-93 team, of which Blasi was a member, to the first CCHA regular-season title in program history.
Blasi's five CCHA Coach of the Year Awards put him in very good company as well. He joins Michigan State's Ron Mason, the winningest coach in college hockey history, who won the honor seven times and totaled 924 wins at Michigan State, as the only other coach to win even four CCHA Coach of the Year Awards.
The 2003-04 season was Blasi's most successful at Miami prior to 2005-06. Guiding the RedHawks to their second-straight 20-win season with an overall mark of 23-14-4, he earned his second career CCHA Coach of the Year award. A second-place finish in the CCHA helped the Red and White make their first trip to the CCHA Super Six since the 1997-98 season and secured the program's first NCAA Tournament berth since 1997. Only the 1992-93 team--of which Blasi played on--and the 1996-97 squad had earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament prior to the 2003-04 team's run in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Blasi's ascent up the CCHA ranks began in 2000-01, when he was named CCHA Coach of the Year for the first time after leading Miami to a 17-10-1 conference mark. After finishing ninth a year earlier, the RedHawks completed the biggest single-season turnaround in school history by finishing second in the league. The season marked only the fourth time that Miami had reached the 20-win plateau since joining the CCHA. By garnering his first CCHA Coach of the Year award, Blasi was put in distinguished company as one of only three Miami mentors to earn the honor and the first since Mark Mazzoleni was recognized in 1997.
Blasi made his debut as a collegiate head coach in 1999-2000, guiding the RedHawks to a 13-20-3 overall record and a ninth-place CCHA finish. His 13 wins were the second-highest total among first-year coaches in NCAA Division I hockey that season. Blasi also was able to return Miami to the CCHA playoffs after a one-year hiatus.
The first Miami hockey alumnus to return to his alma mater as the head coach, Blasi came to Miami after working four years--three as an assistant and one as a graduate assistant--under former Miami mentor George Gwozdecky at the University of Denver.
"As the search went on for a candidate, I came to realize that there was a need to turn to someone with Miami ties," said Joel Maturi, former Miami Athletics Director, at the press conference for Blasi's hiring. "It's truly a pleasure to welcome home a member of Miami's Cradle of Coaches. No one in our applicant pool had such a passion for Miami and its ice hockey program."
While in Denver, Blasi helped the Pioneers to two trips to the NCAA Tournament and three Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) upper-division finishes. His main responsibilities during that time included assisting in the Pioneers' recruiting efforts and video analysis, as well as on-ice duties. During the 1998-99 season, Denver posted the NCAA's largest turnaround, improving from an 11-25-2 mark in 1997-98 to 26-13-2 and capturing their league-record 12th postseason playoff championship by defeating then top-ranked North Dakota, 4-3.
Before going to Denver in 1994-95, Blasi spent one season as the assistant coach for the Wexford Raiders junior team.
As a player at Miami from 1990-1994, Blasi was a vital cog in the Red and White's run to their first CCHA title in 1992-93 and first NCAA Tournament appearance that same season. As the captain of the 1993-94 squad, he finished third on the team in scoring with 28 points on 13 goals and 15 assists. His 123 career points are still tied for 24th on Miami's all-time points list. Over the course of his playing career, Blasi helped the RedHawks to 71 victories. Combined with his coaching career, he has won 397 games at Miami.
A native of Weston, Ontario, Blasi earned his bachelor's degree in physical education from Miami. He resides in Oxford with his family.Blasi's Coaching Achievements at Miami