DETROIT — Miami freshman forward Austin Czarnik can change the game any time he touches the puck. His 5-foot-8 frame allows him to squeeze into tight spots and create chances.
Czarnik torched Bowling Green in Saturday’s CCHA Championship third-place game with three assists. The RedHawks jumped on the Falcons early and didn’t let up, winning 4-1.
So far in his college career, Czarnik seems to likes playing against Bowling Green — he recorded one goal and one assist in the two games during the regular season. He took it to another level on Saturday.
Miami coach Enrico Blasi said his team bounced back from a semifinal loss to Western Michigan with Czarnik’s help.
“I thought we were opportunistic with our chances tonight,” Blasi said. “He [Czarnik] can change the momentum of the game. It is a big thing to have on your team.”
In Miami’s quarterfinal sweep of Michigan State, Czarnik continued his breakout season with three assists. In the semifinal loss against Western Michigan he recorded one assist to tally a team-leading 24 assists this season.
With the three assists he put up Saturday, Czarnik ranks third in freshman scoring in the CCHA playoffs with seven points. He also is currently on a career-best six-game point streak heading into the NCAA tournament.
Czarnik has 36 points in his freshman season, second on the team behind Reilly Smith’s 48.
Czarnik cut through the Bowling Green defense Saturday as he controlled the puck and dished out crisp passes for Miami goals. Even when he didn’t score or record an assist he was a spectacle on the ice as he would split right through Bowling Green defenders and challenge goaltender Andrew Hammond.
Czarnik isn’t bad on the power play, either, ranking fourth on the team with nine points while on the power play. He has one goal and eight assists. No matter where he is, the puck seems to find his stick and he makes the play.
“When Reilly is making plays with Z [Czarnik], it just feeds through the rest of the team,” Blasi said.