By Peter Marx
The Miami University freshmen were key contributors for Team USA, which won gold for only the third time (2013, 2010 and 2004) on Jan. 5. Only six different countries have won the prestigious annual tournament since it started in 1974.
"We are obviously very excited and proud of them," Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. "It's a big deal in hockey to win a world junior gold medal. I know that the news in our country doesn't really recognize it too much, but other than winning an Olympic gold medal, this is probably the biggest thing you can do in our sport."
Barber added, "It's the Stanley Cup of international play. It was unbelievable to be a part of it and to win it in the fashion we did. It's something I will never forget, that's for sure."
Team USA went 5-2 in the tournament, as it defeated the Czech Republic in the quarterfinal round, 7-0, the favorite Canada in the semifinals, 5-1, and defending champion Sweden in the finals, 3-1.
Barber had three goals and three assists in the tournament, while Kuraly tallied a goal and two helpers.
By winning the tournament, the rookie RedHawk duo became the first Miami players to capture gold at the World Junior Championship while they were the sixth and seventh Miami players ever selected to the U.S. National Junior Team. For their accomplishments, Barber and Kuraly will be honored prior to the start of the RedHawks' contest against Bowling Green on Friday (7:35 p.m.) at Steve Cady Arena.
"Familiarity is obviously huge and we were playing together on the same line, which was nice," Kuraly said. "We were the only teammates there, so it was pretty cool, especially for Miami to have two guys there is pretty special."
One of the most memorable moments for the Miami pair was beating Canada in the semis.
"It was unbelievable to see the look on their faces," Barber said. "They had this big, bad team and thought they were going to roll over us. We came out and we really didn't care who they were. We came out with the attitude that we were going to take them down. It was pretty unbelievable to outplay them like that."
Kuraly added, "For a team from all over the country to come together that quickly was just unbelievable. Everyone put their egos aside and everyone contributed. It was just pretty cool to see and it was special how a lot of pretty talented kids could come together and do something like that."
Barber, a native of Livonia, Mich., and Kuraly of Dublin, Ohio, returned to campus Jan. 9.
Kuraly has three goals and three assists on the season for No. 6 Miami, while Barber is second on the team in points with 25 (9 goals, 16 assists) and leads all NCAA freshmen.
Now that their quest for gold is over, the talented RedHawks look forward to continuing another journey, as they contend for a Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) title and NCAA Championship.
"We are just excited to get going again here," Kuraly said. "I love playing here. Games here are just as fun as they are anywhere else."
Barber concurred, "I missed these guys a lot. I wanted to get back and win the next thing."