Hockey ’Hawks sit atop national poll
Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 02:10
Following a sweep of in-state rival The Ohio State University, the Miami University men’s hockey team is now at the top of the NCAA standings in the USCHO.com Poll.
The RedHawks (2-0-0) started the regular season on the right skate with a 6-2 victory over the Buckeyes on the road Friday night, a game that featured a playmaker (three-assists) outing by sophomore forward Sean Kuraly and a two-assist performance by classmate forward Riley Barber.
Saturday night was more of the same for the RedHawks, who got off to a frantic start in the Goggin Ice Center’s regular season home opener. Barber found twine first for Miami, scoring just 14 seconds into the contest off an assist from junior captain and forward Austin Czarnik.
Barber scored again less than five minutes later to give RedHawks a two-goal lead, but Ohio State wouldn’t be ousted so easily. The Buckeyes answered with one of their own in the twilight minutes of the first frame to bring the game within one.
After trading a pair of goals late in the second period, Barber completed the hat trick much to the delight of the near-capacity crowd. The RedHawks didn’t look back, and Barber tallied a fourth goal en route to earning the first-ever National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Freshman defenseman Trevor Hamilton received Rookie of the Week honors after nabbing three assists and three blocked shots on the weekend playing for Miami.
Czarnik also tossed a few assists into the mix Saturday – a playmaker to be exact, all coming on Barber’s tallies.
After playing on a line with Barber all of last season and finishing in the top 20 nationwide for assists, Czarnik said the chemistry is growing between the two highly-touted forwards.
“It’s carrying over from last year,” Czarnik said. “We know where each other are on the ice and I think it’s huge for us … Hopefully we keep on building off of it and keep on moving forward.”
For a weekend chalk-full of action and featuring quite a few new faces, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi was pleased.
“I thought we did some real good things in Columbus on the road,” Blasi said. “For our first road game, I thought our special teams came out to play right away, and Saturday I thought we started off the game great. Any time you get a goal in the first minutes, it’s definitely a momentum shifter.”
After converting on just 16 percent of their man-up advantages last season, the RedHawks converted 5 of their 10 power play chances over the weekend.
Barber said maturity and practice are two of the main reasons that the ’Hawks appear to be more composed on the man advantage situations.
“We’re a veteran team now,” Barber said. “We know how power plays factor into the game and we took a lot of practice time this past week and really worked on it. I think that’s the biggest difference because if you know where the play’s going to be made you can make it before the guys set up. We know we’ve got to capitalize on those opportunities to win games.”
The RedHawks will have a chance to do just that and defend their newfound No. 1 ranking on homecoming weekend, when they take on No. 6 University of North Dakota in the NCHC opener Friday.