UFA, Russia - Miami RedHawk freshmen Riley Barber and Sean Kuraly will return to Oxford Sunday with gold medals after helping Team USA win the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. The U.S. National Junior Team defeated defending champion Sweden, 3-1, in the championship game Saturday (night in Russia, morning in the U.S.) at Ufa Arena to claim gold.
Barber (Livonia, Mich.), a winger, and Kuraly (Dublin, Ohio), a center, played on the same line in the WJC final, as they did for much of the tournament. Barber fired a team-high-tying four shots on goal against Sweden while Kuraly put three shots on target. Kuraly also went 5-4 in the faceoff circle in the championship game. North Dakota's Rocco Grimaldi scored the first two goals for Team USA while Vince Trocheck secured the gold medal with an empty-net tally.
The U.S. has now won gold three times at the World Junior Championship, also doing so in 2004 and 2010. Barber and Kuraly become the first RedHawks to win a gold medal at the World Junior Championship and the first RedHawk to medal at World Juniors since goaltender Jeff Zatkoff won a bronze at the 2007 tournament.
Team USA has now medaled in three of the last four years, including two golds and a bronze in 2011, and has medaled eight times total since the tournament started in 1974. A total of seven different Miami players have donned the Stars and Stripes at the World Junior Championship, including current sophomore forward Austin Czarnik last year. Other RedHawks/Redskins to suit up for Team USA at the WJC include Nathan Davis (2006), Kevyn Adams (1994) and Greg Dornbach (1985 and 1986), who won a bronze medal in 1986.
Barber finished the tournament with six points in seven games, notching three goals and assists each. His six points tied for sixth on the team while his three goals tied for third on the squad. Miami's leading goal-scorer finished with a +1 rating in the tournament while blasting 24 shots on net, which was second for Team USA. The Washington Capitals draft pick scored two of his three goals in the quarterfinal win over the Czech Republic Jan. 2.
Kuraly tallied three points in seven games at the WJC on a goal and two assists. He posted a +4 rating while sending 18 shots on goal. The San Jose Sharks prospect also scored Team USA's first goal of the tournament, finding the back of the net just 19 seconds into the opener against Germany Dec. 27. His goal was the game-winner in the 8-0 defeat of the Germans, as he finished with two points in the contest. Barber totaled three points against Germany.
In addition to Barber and Kuraly, Miami has several other ties to the gold-medal winning U.S. National Junior Team, including forward Tyler Biggs, who played one season for the RedHawks last year before joining the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) this year. Biggs, who had a +3 rating with two shots in the final against Sweden, finished with one assist and a +6 rating in seven tournament games for the U.S. while also collecting eight penalty minutes.
Three other members of Team USA, forward Ryan Hartman and defensemen Connor Murphy and Patrick Sieloff, were originally committed to Miami before deciding to play major junior hockey in the OHL for Plymouth, Sarnia and Windsor, respectively. Hartman tallied two goals and three points and a +4 rating and Murphy had an assist and a +5 rating in seven games while Sieloff picked up his lone point in six tournament games with an assist on Team USA's first goal in the gold-medal game against the Swedes.
Miami was the only NCAA team to have more than one player represented on the U.S. National Junior Team, which consists of the top American-born players under the age of 20. A total of 13 players on the 23-man roster currently play in the NCAA, including four from the CCHA (Michigan defenseman Jacob Trouba and Notre Dame forward Mario Lucia are the others).
The gold-medal game between the U.S. and Sweden will re-air on the NHL Network (DirectTV 215, Dish 403, TWC 324) Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET.
The U.S. National Junior Team will depart Russia Sunday at 6 a.m. local time (7 p.m. ET Saturday) and have a layover in Helsinki, Finland before landing in New York City. Barber and Kuraly will rejoin the RedHawks at practice this coming week and should suit up for Miami when they travel to Marquette, Mich. to face CCHA foe Northern Michigan Jan. 11-12.