They graduated from the same high school.
They both played for the U.S. National Team Development Program.
Even the last two letters of their names are the same.
So who are the Wolverine coaches comparing freshman forward Robbie Czarnik to?
“He reminded us a little of Chad Kolarik,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said of Czarnik. “He has really good skills. He has always been one of the top scorers in his age group. He just seemed like a Michigan player, a player that would thrive at Michigan.”
Will he thrive as much as Kolarik did donning the Maize and Blue? It’ll take a while to find out.
But Czarnik can make an impression upon his coaches this weekend, when the second-ranked Wolverines (2-0) head to Marquette to take on a tough Northern Michigan squad to open the CCHA season.
With Michigan’s defense reeling from the loss of senior Mark Mitera, junior Steve Kampfer and freshman Brandon Burlon, the Wolverines will have to pick up the slack in all facets of the game.
The 19th-ranked Wildcats (1-1) were the preseason darlings of the CCHA polls but suffered a 5-0 loss to Minnesota-Duluth last weekend.
Northern Michigan played the Wolverines well in all six games last year, including two 3-3 ties at Yost Ice Arena.
While Kolarik scored three goals against the Wildcats last season, including a game-winner, the expectations for Czarnik are not as high — yet.
But the Washington, Mich. native has already impressed the coaching staff enough for them to put him on the top power-play line.
Kampfer’s injury created an opening on the unit Czarnik will fill, for now. Michigan hopes to jumpstart a power-play unit that scored just one goal last weekend against St. Lawrence.
“(Czarnik is) a skilled player and has good vision,” Berenson said. “When we lost Kampfer at defense, we put Carl (Hagelin) at the point, and that opens up a spot down low, and we felt Czarnik was the guy.”
Like Kolarik, Czarnik has an impressive shot. The Wolverines targeted Czarnik as a recruit since he was a sophomore in high school.
Czarnik is quick on the ice and has soft hands that give him touch around the net.
“He shoots to score,” Michigan assistant coach Mel Pearson said. “Whereas a lot of guys like that try to put it on the goal or aim it, he tries to score.”
Kolarik and former captain Kevin Porter played on the development team for two years before becoming Wolverines. Similarly, Czarnik and fellow freshman David Wohlberg played together last year and have known each other for several years, developing a close friendship along the way.
“They’ve known each other so long that they can read off each other,” Pearson said. “Plus, they really enjoy each other’s company both on the ice and off the ice.”
Michigan plays its first big series of the season this weekend against the Wildcats. The Wildcats return 10 of 12 top point producers. They are hungry to start the season strong, something they didn’t do last year.
While Kolarik developed his stardom over the course of four years, Czarnik can start to develop his own legacy this weekend.
“He’s got skill, he’s got speed, he’s got great work ethic, good hands, good offensive instincts,” Pearson said. “All what we look for on the power play.”