Making the jump from the collegiate ranks to the pro game is certainly no easy task, even if you are the recipient of college hockey’s most prestigious honor.
Just ask current Portland Pirate and 2010 Hobey Baker Award winner Andy Miele.
The 5-foot-9 center admits that there was an adjustment period when he made his professional debut in 2011. As the second shortest player on the Pirates’ roster, Miele not only had to adjust to the speed of professional hockey, but also the physicality of the game.
“I definitely went through an adjustment period last year in the middle of the season, and I improved overall as a player and figured out ways to squeak by being a smaller guy,” Miele said.
The Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., native seems to have made a fairly smooth transition after finishing second on the Pirates’ team with 16 goals and 38 assists during his rookie season. Through Portland’s first 23 games this year, Miele was among the team leaders in goals (5), assists (13) and points (18).
Despite his size, Miele’s success at the AHL level should come as no surprise after witnessing what the gifted forward did during his senior year of college. Miele won seven national awards, including the 2010 Hobey Baker Memorial Award and the USA Hockey College Player of the Year, after leading the nation in points with 24 goals and 47 assists.
“I didn’t expect to have that season,” Miele said, even after a Washington Capitals’ scout told him he was his preseason choice to win the Hobey Baker.
It was enough to earn the collegiate star a rare roster spot with the U.S. National Team that competed in the 2011 IIHF World Championship.
Miele is thankful for the opportunity to play for Miami University coach Enrico Blasi for four years after going undrafted by NHL teams.
“It was obviously a little upsetting that I never got drafted, but it’s part of what makes me as a person and player today. It made me want it that much more to prove people wrong,” said Miele, who eventually signed a free agent contract with Phoenix.
“Coach Blasi always let me know that size doesn’t matter in hockey anymore. If you can play, you’re going to play in the NHL.”
Blasi credited Miele’s successful collegiate career to his unrelenting work ethic.
“Andy was a great player for us,” said Blasi, who is into his 14th year behind the RedHawks’ bench. “[He has a] big heart with a love for his teammates. He always practiced as hard as he played [in] the games.”
In addition to his work ethic, what has propelled Miele has been his intelligence on the ice. He has always been a goal scorer and has continued to work hard to find ways to score by quickly countering opponent’s defensive adjustments.
“It’s more of a controlled game, but you still have less time to make decisions on the ice. Also guys are just bigger, stronger, faster and smarter players,” he said.
“You’re always trying to change your game from the first period to the third period.”
Especially with the current NHL lockout, those changes are essential as Miele is facing stronger and faster competition at the AHL level.
However, the lockout provides an opportunity for Miele to showcase his talents and prove those doubters wrong that he can thrive at the highest level.
“This is the best league in North America right now,” said Miele, who had a cup of coffee with the Coyotes last season. “Scouts from every team are going to be at all the games. My goal right now is to be as dominant as I can at this level.
“Hopefully the guys up in Phoenix can see that, and if the NHL lockout ends, they’ll give me that chance.”
In 1952, Chicago Blackhawk Bill Mosienko scored an NHL record three goals in 21 seconds. Sixty years later, Billy Bollhofner eclipsed Mosienko’s mark when he netted three goals in 19 seconds during a Bantam house league game at The Rinx in Hauppauge, N.Y.
“It was unbelievable,” Bollhofner said of his accomplishment on Sept. 30. “I didn’t even realize how quick it was until the referee came over and told me. I was in shock.”
The left winger scored his first goal on a rebound, notched his second off a nice pass in front of the net, and got his final tally by splitting between two defenders and finding the back of the net.
Bollhofer, who has been playing hockey for eight years, likes to model his game after New York Islanders center John Tavares.
The 16-year-old hopes to play for a high school team near his hometown in Manorville, N.Y. But for now though, his three goals in 19 seconds will be a memory he will never forget.
“It was amazing,” Bollhofer said. “I have scored a hat trick before but never that quick. It was the best moment I have ever had in hockey.”