MALMO, Sweden – The U.S. Junior National Team looking for a repeat of its 2013 gold medal winning form over the next couple weeks and Miami sophomore forward Riley Barber was tabbed to guide the team to those lofty expectations.
After tying for the RedHawks’ lead in scoring through 18 contests, Barber is overseas in Sweden for the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior Championships. He returns to the team as one of the 2013 squad’s top players, when he registered six points in seven tournament games.
Only days before the tournament starts, Barber will find the captain’s 'C' embroidered on his sweater as the team opens group play on Thursday.
“It’s an honor on this stage to be named captain of this team,” Barber said. “This is something that I will never forget. I’ve been in leadership roles before, but this is an awesome feeling to throw on the sweater and be captain of such a great group of guys.”
A natural scorer who prefers to let his play do more of the talking, Barber has learned from the captains he has witnessed lead in varying ways during his time at Miami.
“Steven Spinell was a great captain when I was a freshman,” Barber said. “We had such a big freshman class that I was a part of and he brought everyone together and made us feel part of the group. He is a good friend of mine to this day. This year, Austin Czarnik is a great captain who leads by example on the ice. He’ll step up off ice when he needs to, but he also knows when to defer to other leaders.”
As a player, Barber is expected to provide a constant scoring threat on each shift. While serving as team captain means additional responsibilities, he is focused on keeping his leadership tasks simple and effective.
“My duties in my mind are to lead by example by working my hardest,” Barber said. “I also need to make sure that everyone else is doing the same thing. A lot of the leading comes off the ice by getting the players on the same page. I’ll try to get a vibe of where the players are and reach a consensus on what needs to be done with the assistant captains.”
Team USA’s title defense starts with a group play contest against Czech Republic on Dec. 26 and Barber appears ready to lead the young Americans in Sweden.
I think you get a vibe of where the players are at and reach a consensus with the assistant captains.
“The biggest thing is not to get too up or down in this tournament,” Barber said. “We went 2-2 in group play last year, but we still won the tournament. It’s such a long tournament and every game is big. We just need to work hard day-to-day and hopefully peak at the end of the tournament.”