Andy Miele scored on his first shift at Miami (Ohio). Four years later, the star forward won the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the top player in college hockey.
"I never thought I'd win the Hobey," Miele said Friday night. "I'm very lucky."
The 5-foot-8, 175-pounder topped the nation in scoring with 71 points — 24 goals and an NCAA-best 47 assists — in 39 games. His points total was 11 more than any other player and the most in Division I since 2002-03. He had at least one point in 33 games and multiple points in 22. He tied a school record with a 17-game points streak from Jan. 8 to March 19.
"I expected to have a successful season, but to get up over 70 points is not one of the things I thought I'd do," said Miele, from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. "That's what happens when you work hard and you stick to your goals and your dream and you never give up and never get down on yourself."
Coach Enrico Blasi wasn't surprised by the numbers.
"Everything just kind of clicked for him. You could tell in practice that he could do whatever. He was always one of the hardest working guys on our team."
After leading the Redhawks to their first Central Collegiate Hockey Association tournament title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament — where they were upset by New Hampshire — Miele signed a free agent entry-level deal with the Phoenix Coyotes last Saturday.
"I'm going out to San Jose with them tomorrow, and if nothing can happen in the standings where a win or loss doesn't mean anything to them, hopefully I'll have the opportunity to play," he said.
Miele deftly passes credit for his success to his linemates just as easily as he passes them the puck for goals. Miele played with three different players throughout the season: Riley Smith, Carter Camper and Trent Vogelhuber.
"The click that we had together was unbelievable," Miele said. "We always knew where each other was, we never got down on each other and never doubted each other. We really stepped up when we had to and that's where a lot of the team success came from."
Miele's unselfishness isn't lost on Blasi.
"When he says he wants to share this with his teammates, that's the truth and that's the way we've created the culture in our program to do it together. When one of our brothers gets an individual award, everybody's getting it."
Boston College's Cam Atkinson and North Dakota's Matt Frattin also were finalists.
"I always wanted to be the best I can be, whether that be the best player in college hockey or not," Miele said. "Sitting here with these two guys, they're unbelievable players so it's had to say I'm the best player in college hockey."
Frattin led the NCAA with 36 goals, and Atkinson had 31.
Frattin signed a two-year entry level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday, a day after the Fighting Sioux lost in the NCAA semifinals.
Atkinson signed a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Miele was selected from a group of 10 finalists by the votes of a 23-member selection committee, along with the results of an online fan ballot.