Justin Maskulinski, Columnist

The Miami University Men’s Ice Hockey team (17-6-5) has 11 freshmen and seven sophomores on its 26-man roster.

The future of the RedHawks appears to be very bright.

After a sweep of the University of Alaska (12-10-4) last weekend, Miami sits alone at the top of Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) and is ranked third in the NCAA according to the United States College Hockey Organization (USCHO).

The only two teams ranked higher than the ‘Hawks are the University of Minnesota (18-4-4) and Quinnipiac University (19-3-4).

Other teams toward the top of the USCHO poll include fifth ranked Boston College (15-7-2) and CCHA foe Western Michigan University (17-6-5), ranked sixth.

All of these teams have a lot of talent and definitely deserve their ranking but Miami has one major difference that separates them from the rest.

That difference is youth.

The statistics prove that the RedHawks are continuing to play top notch hockey with very young players leading the way.

Minnesota, Quinnipiac, Boston College and Western Michigan all have one underclassman in their team’s top five scorers.

Miami has two freshmen and two sophomores in its top five scorers. Curtis McKenzie, a senior forward, is the only upperclassman in the ‘Hawks top five scorers.

Austin Czarnik is a sophomore forward for the ‘Hawks and he leads the CCHA with 30 points. Riley Barber, a freshman forward, is in second place in CCHA scoring with 28 points.

Freshman defenseman Matthew Caito and sophomore forward Cody Murphy both have tallied 14 points this season.

One month ago Barber and freshman forward Sean Kuraly participated in the IIHF U-19 World Junior Championships and won gold medals with team USA.

Two more notable freshman players take turns between the pipes for the RedHawks. Ryan McKay leads the CCHA in goals against average (GAA) with a 1.08, which is accompanied by his .960 save percentage.

Jay Williams holds a 1.76 GAA, which is fourth best in the CCHA. His save percentage is .930.

The Red and White’s youth has made them current front runners to be the final champion of the CCHA.

The ‘Hawks have been toward the top of college hockey all season long, but next season could prove to be even more successful.

The ‘Hawks will be a part of the new Central Collegiate Hockey Conference, and the young team will have one more year of experience.

The new conference will mean new, unfamiliar opponents for the ‘Hawks (with the exception of Western Michigan) and the ‘Hawks’ experience could help them rise to the top once again.

Miami should bring in even more young hockey players as it continues to rise in popularity and attract young hockey players all over the Midwest.

I am excited to see how far this young team can advance in the CCHA tournament and the NCAA tournament this year, but I cannot help but wonder what is in store for the next couple years.

It’s going to be a fun ride.