Barberio Wants More Wins

By Jeremy Houghtaling

As far as Mark Barberio is concerned, this season started with a clean slate.

Four months ago the 22-year-old, in his second professional season, hoisted the Calder Cup with the Norfolk Admirals and was named the winner of the Eddie Shore Award as the American Hockey League's top defenseman – and he's the first to point out those accomplishments are in the past tense.

"It was one season, and I'm not going to sit on that season and say 'Yeah, I had a good year,'" Barberio said. "That's all great, but there's a new season now and it's time to get back at it and win hockey games again."

Last season, Barberio notched 61 points in 74 regular season games and followed with nine points in 18 playoff contests. Now the Syracuse Crunch power play quarterback, it took Barberio a little more than five minutes to find the back of the net in the season opener in Rochester.

For the Quebec native, the points are a byproduct of his game and not the main focus.

"I'm not looking to put up huge numbers or points," he said. "I know I had a good season last year, but my main focus is to make sure I make good decisions with the puck and get the puck to the forwards so they can go in on the attack.

"If I can support them – great, but I'm also a defenseman, and I have to make sure pucks don't go in while I'm on the ice. That's our number one job."

His steady play last year led some to believe Barberio would challenge for a spot on the Tampa Bay Lightning's blue line during training camp. With the National Hockey League in the midst of a lockout, he isn't wasting time wondering what could have been.

"I was going into the season not expecting to make Tampa," Barberio said. "I was expecting to challenge for a spot, but I was pretty sure I was going to end up back here to develop my game and work on becoming an NHLer."

Without an NHL camp, Barberio took the extra couple of weeks ensuring he was in top shape. Although he feels more comfortable in his third professional season, he made certain he wasn't too loose.

"I'm more familiar with the coach and staff, and the systems and stuff like that," Barberio said. "It does get a bit easier in that sense, but at the start of the year there's always new guys coming in. At the start of the year during training camp, guys are trying to take your spot. I went through that; I was the guy trying to take someone else's spot."

After winning the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League championship with Moncton in his final junior season, the former sixth-rounder made his way to Norfolk. Slowly gaining ice time and responsibilities, Barberio managed to set a new team record in 2010-11 for the most goals (9) and points (31) by a rookie defenseman.

Barberio then played a vital part in the Admirals' Calder Cup run last spring, winning his second championship in three years.

"The one constant for both of those teams is the togetherness that we felt in that group," he said. "Even in junior, we had a really close team and last year we had a very close team as well. You hear that every time a team wins; they always say the cliché, 'We had a great group of guys,' but it's so true. We have a great group of guys again this year."

Now Barberio hopes to be a part of the first Syracuse team to win the Calder Cup since the club’s inaugural season in 1936-37.

"Winning is the best feeling," he said. "There's no better feeling than being the last team standing at the end of a season. I want that feeling again – there's nothing better."

Top: Defenseman Mark Barberio takes the puck up the ice on a Crunch power play against the Bears at the Onondaga County War Memorial Oct. 13.
Above: Crunch forward Brett Connolly, left, and teammate Mark Barberio rush the puck up the ice on a power play against the Bears at the Onondaga County War Memorial Oct. 13.