By Justin Maskulinski, For The Miami Student
Team captain is a title that is earned. A title that means a leader, a warrior, a hard worker and a team player.
The team captain is the guy to whom the team looks for guidance. When the team fails, he is often the first guy to speak up. He addresses the problem, and helps the team move forward. He is a role model for young players and either voted for by his peers or hand-picked by the head coach himself.
Donning the "C" is an honor that many do not experience.
Miami's Austin Czarnik has been wearing it for two seasons.
Miami lost a chance at the Penrose Cup Friday, but there was a whole lot more to lose Saturday.
A disaster scenario existed in which the 'Hawks could have lost the chance of hosting a home playoff series.
Before the game, Czarnik, Blake Coleman, Anthony Jacaruso, Cody Murphy, Ben Paulides and Alex Wideman were recognized in what could have been their final game at Goggin.
Czarnik and company were not going to let Saturday be their last home game.
A captain does what his team needs from him, no matter what that may be. For the majority of the year, Czarnik has been the same leader Miami fans are accustomed to, but nearly all of his scoring was in the assist department. He entered the North Dakota series leading the RedHawks with 32 points. Thirty of those 32 were assists.
Czarnik has done whatever the RedHawks needed from him this year, and part of that has been distributing the puck. Jolly Old St. Czarnikolas has been handing out presents all season long.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
Czarnik has also demonstrated great play as a defensive forward, as he is often filling for the offensive-minded defensemen. This season the RedHawk blue-liners have more points (58) than they did all of last season (45). On senior night, it was Czarnik's turn to score. To make sure the 'Hawks would be home one more time this season, the senior captain netted his first hat trick and picked up an assist. Two of Czarnik's three goals came shorthanded. Czarnik scored more goals Saturday than he had coming into the series (2).
Hockey is a team sport, and the other seniors must be recognized. This senior class will go down as one of the better ones from Miami. Coleman has provided a lot of heart for the team, especially during last year's NCHC playoff run. This season, he is a +14 with 25 points (13, 12) and 80 penalty minutes. When the 'Hawks need a spark, Coleman typically provides it. Coleman's senior night was cut short by a game misconduct, but he threw his jersey back on over his suit for the center-ice stick tap to the crowd.
Murphy and Wideman have combined for 35 points this year and Paulides has been a solid defender as he has blocked 28 shots and played in every game this season. Jacaruso was greeted by his teammates after the game as he finished his career with a nine-second shutout when he replaced junior Ryan McKay at the end of the game. The applause for Jacaruso was thunderous.
The Captain and his fellow seniors were not ready for their last game in Steve "Coach" Cady Arena, and they earned two (three, if necessary) more games in front of their home crowd.
The 'Hawks have the talent to make a playoff and tournament run. More importantly, they have the heart, guts, senior class and captain to get the job done.
After next weekend, the games are not guaranteed. They must be earned. This senior class is not ready to hang up the skates yet, and that might just be the difference in the coming weeks.