Kevin Morris doesn’t have to look very far to see himself in Miami University’s hockey locker room. All he has to do is look down.
The son of a longtime coach, Morris sees the children of MU staff members and can’t help but remember when he was one of those wide-eyed youngsters.
“It’s pretty cool to see because that was me, just soaking things up in the locker room,” Morris said. “I’ve been able to watch practices and been around the rink literally since I was born. Hockey is all I’ve ever really known.”
He is a member of the RedHawks’ much-heralded freshman class this season, a 6-foot-3, 189-pound forward from Massena, N.Y.
Morris is not the highest-profile player in this class, but he is a consistent cog in the machine and one of seven players to see action in every game.
“He’s grown up in hockey right from the day he came out of the womb, so he understands the game,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “He’s just an honest player that plays hard every day.”
The ice is a comfortable place for the Morris family. Kevin’s father Mark is the head coach for the American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs and the former head man at Clarkson University. His older brother Michael played at Division III SUNY Geneseo, and his older sister Emily skated to two national championships at Wisconsin.
Morris has another older sister, Leah. And his mom? Cecily Morris is a judge in Canton, N.Y.
“It’s not the ideal distance from home, but I’m used to it,” said Morris, who has three goals and an assist for Miami. “I know my family’s going to support me no matter what. It’s nice to get them out here once in a while.”
Emily Morris, now working in Virginia, has made several trips to watch her brother play this season. He said she’s his biggest fan.
“She’s been a great mentor to me,” Morris said. “I always made an effort to go out with my mom to her games, and she’s already made it out here three times. I think it’s pretty special to have someone that you’ve looked up to and watched play come and watch you play. I think her and I will share that bond forever.”
Emily and Mark were both defenders in their playing days. Kevin was moved from wing to center at Miami, making him an offensive player with a defensive mind-set.
“I like to have fun in the offensive zone and grind it out in the corners,” Morris said. “But a centerman’s job is even more important in the D-zone. He’s got to really communicate well and have good coverage in the D-zone. I take pride in being a good communicator on the ice.
“I feel like my role is to help maintain or change the momentum of the game and just to wear down the other teams. Play sound defensively, produce goals when we can and just shut down other lines. I don’t really see myself as one of the goal scorers, but it is nice to pop one every once in a while. I had some puck luck early in the season, and I know those bounces are going to come again. I’ve just got to stick to the game plan.”
He’s a grinder that likes to be physical. He’ll take substance over flash any day. More than anything else, he considers himself to be a team player.
Morris played for the Dubuque (Iowa) Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League last season. MU associate head coach Brent Brekke contacted him, and he ultimately committed to Miami before visiting the campus.
“That’s how many people said unbelievable things about this place. I couldn’t say no,” Morris said. “When I finally came this summer, I saw why it was so highly touted. I have no regrets. I told coach (Nick) Petraglia the first day I got here, ‘Coach, I’m in love with this place. I’m so glad we made this work.’ ”
It should be no surprise that Morris is contemplating a career in coaching. He said it’s a path that’s “intriguing and interesting to me.”
“I’m a sports leadership and management major here at Miami, and I’ve been able to watch my dad coach since I was born,” Morris said. “I’ve had plays drawn up on napkins at every dinner I’ve had with him, so I’ve been able to soak up everything he’s taught me and taught his players. I pride myself on being a student of the game.”
And what about the RedHawks this season?
“We went through a little bit of a slump, but it feels like we’re figuring it out,” Morris said. “I really think we’ve got the right group of kids here, and the fact that we’re young has nothing to do with it. We’ve proven ourselves. If we stick to the plan, I think we’ve got the potential to have something special here this season.”