Dec. 22, 2011
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Miami University freshman forward Austin Czarnik will trade in his red and white jersey for a red, white and blue one as he was one of 22 players named to the final USA National Junior Team roster that will compete at the IIHF World Junior Championship, USA Hockey announced Thursday. The Team USA roster was cut down from 29 players to 22 after the team held its pre-tournament camp in Camrose, Alberta, which started on Dec. 17 and continues through Friday.
Following its final exhibition game Dec. 23 against Slovakia in Three Hills, Alta., Team USA will compete for a gold medal at the 2012 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship, which runs from Dec. 26, 2011 to Jan. 5, 2012 in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta. The U.S. has already played two exhibition games, falling to Russia, 6-3, Dec. 20 before topping Switzerland, 7-3, Dec. 21. In the game against the Swiss, Czarnik scored Team USA's first goal unassisted just 23 seconds into the game and also added an assist later.
Czarnik (Washington, Mich.) is one of 15 players on the team currently playing in the NCAA and one of just four from the CCHA along with Michigan defenseman Jon Merrill, Notre Dame defenseman Stephen Johns and Notre Dame forward T.J. Tynan. At just 5-foot-8, Czarnik is the shortest player to make the team and is also one of just two draft-eligible players on the team, which includes 15 first- or second-round NHL draft picks. The complete Team USA roster can be found here.
Czarnik is the first RedHawk to play for Team USA at the World Junior Championship since goalie Jeff Zatkoff represented the Stars and Stripes at the 2007 tournament, while Nathan Davis played for Team USA at the 2006 World Junior Championship. This is not Czarnik's first time wearing the U.S. jersey however, as he has played in multiple international tournaments on the U.S. National U-18 and U-17 teams prior to coming to Miami and was also on the U.S. Junior Select Team that won the 2010 World Junior A Challenge.
Czarnik had a stellar first half of the season for the RedHawks, as he is second on the team with 16 points. His seven goals are also second on the team while his nine assists tie for the team lead. He has posted a +5 rating as well and plays on Miami's top power play and penalty kill units. A two-time CCHA Rookie of the Week and the November CCHA Rookie of the Month, Czarnik is tied for fifth nationally among freshmen with his 16 points, which leads all CCHA rookies.
The U.S. National Junior Team consists of the best American players under the age of 20 and will be coached by Dean Blais, head ice hockey coach at the University of Nebraska Omaha. The U.S. plays four games in pool play against Denmark, Finland, Czech Republic and Canada to begin the World Junior Championship before advancing to the tournament knockout stage. The top three teams in each of the two pools advance to the quarterfinals while the winner of each group gets a bye to the semifinals. The U.S. begins pool play Dec. 26 against Denmark at 8 p.m. ET.
The U.S. will be looking to earn its third straight medal at the World Junior Championship after capturing the bronze medal at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y. and the gold medal at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship in Saskatoon, Sask.