The Miami athletic department made it official on Thursday: Austin Czarnik and Blake Coleman and Riley Barber will return to Oxford for the 2014-15 season.
The ironic thing is that without the RedHawks’ up-and-down season this trio might have forgone its remaining years of college eligibility.
In an unusual but welcome move, Miami ran a story that said all three will come back next season on its Web site. Coleman and Czarnik are juniors and Barber is a sophomore. All three are forwards.
“It is safe to say that everyone associated with our program is excited to have everybody on board for next season,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said in a press release posted on the team’s site on Thursday. “Nobody is satisfied with the results of this past year. I think we showed what we were capable of at the end and that has created some momentum and excitement as we prepare for 2014-15.”
Czarnik and Coleman announced that they will return for their senior seasons on Twitter on Wednesday. Barber acknowledged his decision to stay in Oxford for his junior season Thursday on the social media site.
It was looking like Barber might leave for the pros after Miami’s season, and Czarnik was in high demand as well. But these decisions are two-way streets – the NHL team has to want the players as well.
“Knowing how close we were to winning the tournament played the biggest role in my decision,” Barber was quoted as saying in the team’s press release. “I want to create a legacy here and win a lot of championships with this team. The main thing that brought me back was winning and knowing we have a team that can win next year.”
Barber was not the same after returning from World Juniors. In the 18 games prior to his trip to Europe, he went 11-17-28. He was 8-7-15 in the final 20 games. Excessive ice time early in the season may have also been a factor in his waning offensive numbers.
Czarnik also appeared to be leaning toward forgoing his senior season. He had nine goals and 19 assists through 18 games, but he scored just twice the remainder of the regular season before finding the net twice in the NCHC Tournament.
“The biggest part in my decision to return was standing at the blue line watching Denver celebrate after we lost,” Czarnik said in the press release. “That loss hit me hard. This was a hard decision, but that was not a feeling I wanted to end with here. I want to come back and win a championship. I committed here for four years and feel like I need to live that commitment out and graduate with my senior class.”
Czarnik did have 14 assists in the second half, but he too seemed drained down the stretch. Like Barber, he was on the ice practically every other shift, especially early in the season, and smaller players wear down more easily with high ice time numbers.
It’s also likely that whichever made the decision first affected the status of the other. And neither one wanted their legacy to be playing on the team that snapped Miami’s eight-year NCAA Tournament streak.
With Coleman it gets foggier. He’s a New Jersey Devils draft pick, and that team is notorious for being obsessively furtive. Early in the season, it didn’t sound like the team was interested in bringing him in early, and it’s unclear how much more interest they had after he netted nine goals in the final 10 games of the season.
Miami only has three other drafted players – junior Jimmy Mullin, sophomore Sean Kuraly and freshman Anthony Louis.
Mullin is recovering from a lower-body injury and is expected back for the start of the 2014-15 season. A super-talented forward who is from Cincinnati and wanted to come to Miami for years before his career in Oxford began, his story is beyond tragic and deserves a happy ending.
Kuraly showed why the San Jose Sharks are salivating over him with his size and ability to crash the net with the puck, but he still needs work on becoming a complete player and is not a flight risk. Do you want to get excited for 2014-15? Kuraly had three goals and three assists in Miami’s four NCHC Tournament games.
Louis was an absolute force in the NCHC Tournament. He scored four goals and assisted on two more. He finished the season 8-7-15 in his last 15 games.
Miami only loses two players to graduation – forwards Max Cook and Bryon Paulazzo. Cook had a goal and eight assists, and Paulazzo recorded three markers and two assists in 22 games.