The Central Collegiate Hockey Association’s final championship weekend got off to a rousing start for Miami University.
Austin Czarnik, Riley Barber and head coach Enrico Blasi garnered major honors Friday night during the CCHA Awards extravaganza at the Fox Theatre.
Czarnik, a sophomore forward from Washington, Mich., was named Player of the Year. Barber, a freshman forward from Livonia, Mich., was named Rookie of the Year. And Blasi was named Coach of the Year for the fifth time.
“It’s not going to change anything,” said Czarnik, who has 14 goals and 22 assists this season. “Obviously it’s an honor and I’m going to enjoy the moment, but at the end of the day, I’m still going to have to perform (today). Winning the league is huge. That’s more important than the awards.”
Czarnik said playing with Reilly Smith, now with the Dallas Stars, helped him progress as a player last year.
“It’s just hard work, flying to the puck, who wants it more,” Czarnik said. “I think nine times out of 10, I’m going to win that battle because I want it more.”
Barber is the league’s point leader with 38 (15 goals, 23 assists) and plays on the same line with Czarnik.
“It’s definitely a huge honor being up there with great names, especially people who have won it in the past,” Barber said. “You don’t focus on it, but down the road, you’ll remember it and really be thankful.
“Everyone dreams about having a great year. It’s the time you put in during the offseason and the confidence that you instill in yourself. I’ve been really fortunate to get some bounces this year and especially to be able to play with a great player like Z.”
Blasi, a 1994 Miami graduate from Weston, Ontario, has a career record of 310-194-53 in 14 seasons at his alma mater. The RedHawks are ranked third nationally with a roster that includes 18 freshmen and sophomores.
“It’s not about me or the coaching staff. It’s a team award,” Blasi said. “It’s because the team did something that nobody expected them to do, and they like to recognize people for that. But it’s still the guys in the locker room that do it.”
MU did not have a winner in the other three major categories. Freshman Matthew Caito was up for Best Offensive Defenseman, senior Steven Spinell was a finalist for Best Defensive Defenseman, and Czarnik was nominated for Best Defensive Forward.