Austin Czarnik keeping his eyes on prize


MIami University star Austin Czarnik signed with Boston as a free agent in 2015.

PROVIDENCE – Austin Czarnik insists that he’s not growing impatient waiting for a call from the Boston Bruins.

And, judging from the smile on his face at the rink every day, there’s no reason to doubt him.

Still, who could blame him if, deep down, he were just the slightest bit irked?

Czarnik, who played 49 games with Boston last season and 6 early this season, was assigned to the Providence Bruins on Nov. 9. Night in and night out through the first half of the season, the third-year pro has been one of the team’s best players.

“When he has his energy and his speed, he’s a top player in this league,’’ says John Ferguson Jr., Providence’s general manager and Boston’s executive director of player personnel.

Skating at right wing alongside center Jordan Szwarz and a rotating cast of left wingers, Czarnik is ninth in the AHL in scoring with 11-29-40 in 37 games. He has scored at least a point in the P-Bruins’ last six games.

His selection to the AHL All-Star Challenge – where he posted two goals and an assist on Monday night in Utica — was a no-brainer.

But for all Czarnik has done, other players have gotten the call ahead of him when Boston needed a forward.

To his credit, the 25-year-old is taking the right approach — focusing on the task at hand, instead of worrying about a decision that is out of his hands.

“You can’t look into it too much. It’s hard, obviously, if you don’t get the call, but you just have to focus on yourself. You let it go and you try to get better,’’ he said.

The thing is, no matter how well an AHLer might be playing, the needs of the parent club will dictate who gets called up.

“If they need a left winger and Austin Czarnik has scored five goals in the last three games, they’re still probably going to bring up a left shot. That’s really what it is,’’ said P-Bruins coach Jay Leach.

That’s pretty close to what happened last week when Czarnik remained in Providence while Anders Bjork – riding a streak of five games without a point — was recalled after Brad Marchand was suspended.

“It’s important that players understand. The only thing that they can control is their play. And if their play is where it needs to be, and they need a player like Austin Czarnik, he’s going to get the call. That’s the mentality. That’s minor league hockey right there,’’ said Leach, who spent the majority of his career in the AHL.

“The opportunity will come. You don’t know when, but it will come. When it comes, you have to be playing your best hockey.’’

No doubt, the waiting is difficult. “It’s really a daily, weekly, monthly challenge. In this career, you’re going to face adversity. He’s come through it before. He played 49 games in the NHL last year, so he’s proven that he’s capable of performing at that level and contributing at that level,’’ said Ferguson.

As well as Czarnik has played so far this season, Leach believes he has more to give.

“Honestly, I’ve challenged him a little bit because I think he can be even better,’’ said Leach. “He has an opportunity at this level to be an absolute dominant force when he really puts his mind to it. His play up until this point has definitely carried us.  I don’t want to diminish that, but as his coach I do want to challenge him because I think it’s within him (to be better). And he’d probably say the same thing. I’m definitely happy with his play. A little challenge to be even better isn’t a bad thing.’’

Talking about Czarnik’s career track, Ferguson points to Yanni Gourde of Tampa Bay and Jonathan Marchessault of Vegas. Both are fast and undersized, like Czarnik. Both spent several seasons in the AHL before they were able to break through in the NHL.

“There are lots of guys in similar situations in this league that have endured and persevered, improved as pros. I think he’s doing that. (The opportunity) is still going to be there for him. If it’s not tomorrow night, it could be a week or a month from now, or it could be next year,’’ said Ferguson.

In the meantime, Czarnik is keeping his eyes on the prize.

“I’m just focused every day here. I want to get back up to Boston again. I loved being there and playing for them,’’ he said.

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins week


A crowd of 9,348 turned out at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Friday for Military Appreciation Night. Providence beat Hershey, 5-2.

It was an inconsistent week for the Providence Bruins with only one win in three games. They lost at Lehigh Valley, 3-2; won at home against Hershey, 5-2; then dropped a 5-2 decision at Springfield in the final game before the All-Star break.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.


*** Ryan Fitzgerald scored a goal and three assists in Friday night’s win over Hershey.

*** Austin Czarnik had a five-point week, including 1-2-3 on Friday, and moved up to ninth in the AHL in scoring with 11-29-40 in 37 games.

*** Tommy Cross had 1-1-2 on Friday.

*** Jordan Szwarz had four assists in three games.

*** Jakob Zboril scored his first goal as a pro against the Bears.

*** The power play went three-for-seven against Hershey.

*** Kenny Agostino scored 11 seconds into Saturday’s game against the Thunderbirds.


*** Both Matt Beleskey and Anders Bjork have gone six straight games without a point.

*** While on a first-period power play, Bjork was knocked off the puck in the Providence end and the turnover resulted in a Springfield goal.

*** Tough night for the penalty kill in Springfield, giving up three goals on four penalties.

*** Providence gave up two goals in the first 11:50 against Lehigh Valley and never caught up.

*** The hook whistled by Geoff Miller on Chris Breen in the second period on Saturday was an awful call. Naturally, the T-Birds scored on the power play.

*** Springfield scored on three of its first eight shots on Jordan Binnington, who has lost his last four starts.

*** Providence went 4-7-0-1 in January.


*** Just back from a concussion, Jeremy Lauzon lost a one-sided fight with Hershey’s Anthony Peluso on Friday night.

3 thoughts on PC-Northeastern


When the NCAA Tournament field is set in March, Providence College might look back on Saturday night’s 2-1 OT win over Northeastern as the biggest win of the regular season. A loss would have put the 17-8-3 Friars in a precarious spot on the NCAA bubble. Instead, thanks to freshman Greg Printz’s tally, the Friars finished the weekend at No. 9 in the PairWise. All things considered, that’s not a bad place to be with six games to go.

Here are three thoughts from Saturday night.


Mental toughness – or lack thereof – has been a recurring issue for Nate Leaman’s young team all season.

If the Friars took a step back in that department on Friday night in allowing three third-period goals to Adam Gaudette, Dylan Sikura and the explosive Huskies, they took a couple of steps forward on Saturday.

“I really liked our push in the third period and overtime. We showed some great mental toughness there in the third and we stayed with it when we were down, 1-0. We stayed with it and we got rewarded,’’ said Leaman after Saturday’s win.

“We charted it this morning. Gaudette played 31 minutes last night. They weren’t going to have as much in the tank tonight. That’s just human nature. A lot of our guys played big minutes last night, too. That’s where the mental toughness came in. It’s going to be a battle of wills in the third period.’’

And the Friars came out on top.


Printz scored the winning goal with fellow freshman Jason O’Neil getting the primary assist. It capped a good game for Printz, who had a couple of glittering chances among his four shots. Ben Mirageas, who seems to improve with every game, had 5 shots. Bailey Conger had a good game.

“We kind of challenged our freshmen this week, Conger, O’Neill, Printz,’’ Leaman said. “We need secondary scoring. We need those guys. They’re more than capable. Conger had a great third period. He’s struggled with his confidence a little bit. He finally went out there and felt comfortable making plays, was after the puck. He gave us a great third period. Then O’Neill and Printz give us the game-winner.

“That’s how a young team grows. We need to be more than a two-line team. We have to have secondary scoring.”

This is the time of year when you hear coaches say something like, “They’re not really freshmen anymore.’’

PC’s youngsters didn’t play like freshmen on Saturday night.


PC’s path to a fifth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament is clear.

The Friars have six games left: two at Vermont, a home and home with Lowell, a home game against Maine and a road game at UMass.

Maine is 21st in the PairWise, while Lowell is 26th. Much farther back are UMass (37) and Vermont (55).

So, if the Friars win all six, they are in. Losing a few could make things dicey.

Their fate is in their own hands. That’s a good position to be in at this point in the season.


P-Bruins GameDay — McIntyre vs. Vanecek

stretchPROVIDENCE — Coming off a 3-2 loss at Lehigh Valley on Wednesday night, Providence Bruins coach Jay Leach is looking for his team to get back to playing its game tonight when the Hershey Bears visit the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

“We made it easy on them,” Leach said after the morning skate today. “We got away from what made us so good Sunday and Friday, and that’s playing on the inside, supporting the puck, skating. We were sleepy early and then we’re chasing it all night. We obviously had moments when we were good. It wasn’t a consistent 60-minute effort like we’ve had previously.”

Zane McIntyre will start in goal for the P-Bruins. He will be opposed by Vitek Vanecek of the Bears.









Binnington will be the backup.

Providence plays at Springfield on Saturday night in its last game before the AHL All-Star break.

Notebook: A positive weekend for Jay Leach & P-Bruins

PROVIDENCE – The Providence Bruins won two out of three over the weekend and the way they did it – at least in the two shutout victories at home – left coach Jay Leach feeling pretty good about his team as it prepares for the final three games before the all-star break.

Zane McIntyre’s airtight goaltending and strong team defense were the perfect formula in shutout wins over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Springfield.

“We’ve been playing these games for the last two weeks now against teams that are rested and we’re playing back to backs. We challenged (the players on Sunday) and they did a great job. We might have given up a couple of chances here and there, but I thought we were really sound, really determined,’’ Leach said.

He isn’t concerned about scoring only 5 goals in 3 games.

“I’d like to think we are getting chances that are just not going in. Friday night, that kid (Anthony Peters of the Penguins) made a bunch of saves. (Sunday), this kid (Sam Montembeault of the Thunderbirds) made a bunch of saves. Logic and history does tell that (goals will) start to come in bunches. Right now, for whatever reason, it’s a bit of a challenge for us,’’ Leach said.

“It is an opportunity, when it does go like that, for us to tighten up and play the way we want to play, identify the team we want to be. I think you could argue that the two games here, Friday and Sunday, we saw some of our identity, with regards to our puck management and the way we want to defend and forecheck and do those things. What we’re trying to do is get that identity and then hopefully the goals will fall.’’

Senyshyn scratched

The pro hockey education of Zach Senyshyn continues.

Riding a streak of 13 games without a goal, the rookie first-round draft pick was a healthy scratch on Sunday.

But don’t think of it as punishment.

“What I said to him was there’s going to be times throughout the season, as a young kid, it’s not a bad thing to just watch a game. We talked before the game and we looked at some video to kind of identify where we think he’s at. He’s got plenty of good material,’’ Leach said after Sunday’s game.

“We’re taking the day to kind of hit the reset button and get focused on Wednesday’s game. That can be done because we have so many extra bodies. It wasn’t his best game on Saturday night, but on Friday night he was pretty good.

“I said to him, ‘Does he really need to come out, is it that drastic?’ It’s really not. But it is an opportunity for a young kid to sit back for a day on a three-in-three and just focus on what he is and what he can be for this team. We’ll go into (practice on) Tuesday with that focus.’’

McIntyre shines

Leach lauded the recent play of McIntyre, the AHL’s Player of the Week, who looks to be getting closer to the form he showed last season as a second-team All-Star.

“He looks big, confident. Goaltending is so challenging. You make a mistake and there’s no one else back there. Mentally, you have to be so strong. He’s fought through some stuff this year and he’s looked terrific the last two starts, that’s for sure,’’ Leach said.

Lots of positives

Leach had nice things to say about a number of his players.

Kenny (Agostino) was really, really good. A lot of energy, on pucks and doing really nice things. (Jeremy Lauzon) was good both games (he played). Emil (Johansson) was good both games. (Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson) was really good (Sunday),’’ he said.

“(Anders Bjork), I really liked his game (on Sunday). He was a little more straightforward, simplified it a little bit, getting above pucks. All these guys are learning. (Jordan Szwarz) was consistently good. Peter Cehlarik was much better (Sunday). (Chris) Breen was excellent. Very physical.

Colby Cave, the first two games of the weekend, was our best forward. (Sunday), I thought he looked a little frustrated in the first, but it was a really good weekend for him. (Ryan Fitzgerald) had a good weekend.’’

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

The Providence Bruins scored just 5 goals in 3 games over the weekend, but thanks to Zane McIntyre and excellent team defense, they gave up only 3. That was good enough to earn the P-Bruins 4 of 6 points, with a 1-0 home win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday, a 2-0 victory over Springfield at The Dunk on Sunday, sandwiched around a 3-2 loss at Bridgeport on Saturday.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.


*** McIntyre was the star of the weekend with two straight shutouts, stopping all 55 shots. He has a .977 save percentage in his last 4 games. On Monday he was selected as AHL Player of the Week.

*** Friday’s 1-0 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was the best home game of the season so far. The two teams showed why they are near the top of the league. The pace was fast and there was fine goaltending at both ends.

*** Tommy Cross had 5 shots on Friday and scored the game-winning goal.

*** Ryan Fitzgerald wouldn’t be denied on his winning goal in Sunday, batting the puck in off Springfield goalie Sam Montembeault while falling to the ice.

*** Colby Cave played a fine 200-foot game all weekend.

*** The power play is showing signs of life with goals on Friday and Saturday. And on Sunday Ryan Fitzgerald’s game-winner came 10 seconds after a Springfield penalty expired.

*** Chris Breen was a force at both ends on Sunday with 6 shots on net and some punishing hits around the Providence net.

*** Jordan Szwarz posted an empty-net goal and an assist on Sunday.

*** Kenny Agostino made things happen offensively in all three games.

*** Jeremy Lauzon returned after missing 22 games with a concussion.

*** Matt Beleskey was back after sitting out 3 games with a broken orbital bone.


*** The P-Bruins were outshot, 17-6, in the second period at Bridgeport.

*** Jordan Binnington has lost his last 3 starts, with a save percentage of .883.


*** Providence is 1-4-0-1 against Bridgeport and still has 6 games left against them.

*** While playing 3 games in 3 nights, the P-Bruins faced teams that didn’t play the night before (Bridgeport and Springfield).

P-Bruins GameDay — Senyshyn out, Czarnik in

PROVIDENCE — Zach Senyshyn, who has gone 13 straight without a goal, will be a scratch this afternoon when the Providence Bruins host the Springfield Thunderbirds. Leading scorer Austin Czarnik,  held out as a precaution scratch last night, will return to the lineup.

Zane McIntyre, who was very sharp in blanking the Penguins, 1-0, on Friday, will start in goal.

After a win at home against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and a loss on the road versus Bridgeport, the P-Bruins are looking to finish off the weekend with a win. They beat Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday night, then lost in Bridgeport last night.

After winning five in a row — including a 5-2 victory last Sunday at The Dunk — the T-Birds blew a 3-0 lead against Binghamton on Friday. They did not play last night.









Binnington is the backup.

SCRATCHES: Senyshyn, Clifton, Hickman, Payerl, Acolatse, Hargrove

P-Bruins GameDay — Czarnik out, Beleskey in vs. Bridgeport

After a satisfying 1-0 win over first-place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last night, the Providence Bruins play at Bridgeport tonight.

“I like the way we kept coming. Bit of a slow first five minutes but once we got our legs going it was good. Playing (against) an older group, the kids responded,” coach Jay Leach said after Friday’s game.

Austin Czarnik won’t play tonight. It’s precautionary, Leach says, and he’s expected to be back on Sunday.

Wearing a full shield, Matt Beleskey will return tonight after missing three games with a broken orbital bone

Jordan Binnington will start in goal.

Providence is 1-3-0-1 against the Sound Tigers.









McIntyre is the backup.


Czarnik, Hennessey, Lauzon, Porter, Blidh, Johansson

Providence hosts Springfield on Sunday at 3.

P-Bruins GameDay — Streaking Penguins pay a visit

PROVIDENCE — Tonight is one of those “two teams headed in opposite directions” matchups at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have reeled off eight wins in a row, overtaking the Providence Bruins for first place in the Atlantic Division.

The P-Bruins, meanwhile, are mired in a 1-4-1-1 skid.

Zane McIntyre will start in goal for Providence and ECHL vet Anthony Peters for the Pens. The 27-year-old Peters has gone 6-0 since coming in from Cincinnati of the ECHL at the end of December.

Providence’s Jeremy Lauzon returns to the lineup after missing 22 games with a concussion. Matt Beleskey (broken orbital bone) won’t play tonight, but probably will later in the weekend.

The P-Bruins and Penguins have played only once so far. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton won 4-3 in overtime in Pennsylvania on Nov. 11.

For the Penguins, East Providence native and assistant coach Tim Army will be back behind the bench for an AHL game at The Dunk for the first time since he was with Portland in 2005.

Veterans Tom Kostopoulos and Tom Sestito remain out with injuries. Coach Clark Donatelli said both are week to week.

Top players Daniel Sprong, Jean-Sebastian Dea, Dominik Simon and Casey DeSmith are on recall with Pittsburgh.







Binnington is the backup.
Providence is in Bridgeport on Saturday night, then back at The Dunk to play Springfield on Sunday afternoon.
Beleskey, Acolatse, Clifton, Payerl, Hickman, Hargrove, Marshall

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

The Providence Bruins had one of their worst weekends of the season, earning just 1 of 6 points. They lost at home to Bridgeport Friday on a late goal, 3-2; lost in a shootout in Bridgeport, 2-1, on Saturday; and dropped a 5-2 decision at home to Springfield on Sunday.

“We’re not burying our chances and some of their chances are going in. It’s a tough combination,’’ said coach Jay Leach.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.


*** Zane McIntyre stopped 30 of 32 shots in four-plus periods for a .938 save percentage.

*** With a late goal to send Saturday’s game to overtime, Ryan Fitzgerald made sure the P-Bruins earned a point.

*** Average attendance at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center is over 8,000 for the first time this season. At 8,023, P-Bruins are fourth in the AHL.


*** The P-Bruins have lost 4 games in a row and have won only 1 of their last 7.

*** Providence fell to third in the Atlantic Division, sixth in the Eastern Conference and seventh in the AHL.

*** For the second Sunday in a row, Providence played its third game in three nights against a team that was playing only its second game of the weekend.

*** Refs Ben O’Quinn and David Banfield slapped Kenny Agostino with a misconduct at the end of the third period on Saturday night, so he wasn’t available in overtime.

*** Chris Breen missed the games on Saturday and Sunday after the skate of Ross Johnston of Bridgeport cut his leg during Friday’s game.

*** Plenty of tough plus-minus numbers to go around on Sunday, the worst being a minus-4 for Tommy Cross and a minus-3 for Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, who was the only Providence forward who didn’t record a shot on goal.

*** Awful luck for Matt Beleskey, who was hit in the face by a deflected puck on Friday night and suffered a broken orbital bone. The good news is he could be back as soon as next weekend.


***Jordan Binnington posted an .872 save percentage in just over four periods.

*** Injured: Beleskey (broken orbital bone), Breen (leg), Jeremy Lauzon (concussion).

*** Providence’s power play is 28th in the AHL at 13 percent.