Pair of RedHawks capture gold at World Juniors
Despite the fact Miami University athletics does not have a national championship in any NCAA-recognized sports, the athletes have accomplished tremendous feats in their respective sports.
The men's hockey team has collected a significant amount of hardware through its history. Former hockey players, such as Alec Martinez, have gone on to win the most coveted trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup. Inevitably, the success has improved the reputation of RedHawk hockey.
At the recent 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship (WJC) in Ufa, Russia, Miami freshmen forwards Riley Barber and Sean Kuraly captured gold as members of Team USA. Tyler Biggs, a member of last year's Miami squad won gold as well.
The Americans defeated Canada 5-1 in the semifinals and met defending champion Sweden in the finals, who beat Russia in a shootout. In the finals, USA defeated Sweden 3-1.
With the victory, Barber and Kuraly became a part of the history books as the first RedHawks to win a gold medal at the WJC.
The team was comprised of the best players (U-20) in the United States. Considering the fact only a few Miamians have made the roster throughout the tournament's history, including current sophomore forward Austin Czarnik, having two freshmen competing on this year's team shows how strong the Class of 2016 is.
The WJC has always provided hockey fans an opportunity to witness the up and coming young talent of North America and Europe, especially with the now over NHL lockout.
While the time differential made it hard for some people to watch each game, I was up early to see Team USA compete. This year's tournament was impressive throughout. The Americans originally lost to Canada in a tight game 2-1. In the semifinals, they handled the Canadians and never looked back until the gold medals were placed around their necks.
Playing on the second line with Alex Galchenyuk (Sarnia Sting - OHL), Barber and Kuraly contributed when they were on the ice. Though they had limited ice time during some games, they were exciting to watch throughout the tournament.
It is clear Kuraly has learned to use his size and impressive speed to his advantage. His ability to apply pressure in each zone provided many opportunities for the Americans in each game. One aspect of his game that remained strong and consistent during the tournament was his ability to win faceoffs. He played with energy and was one of the most effective top-six forwards in the defensive zone. Kuraly recorded one goal and two assists, finishing the tournament with three points in seven games.
Barber was a solid offensive contributor during the tournament, tallying six points on three goals and three assists in seven games. Barber has been a standout player for the 'Hawks all season and currently has the most points of any freshman in college hockey. He consistently put pucks on the net while on the ice and created opportunities on a regular basis.
Given his strong offensive zone presence, Barber has the potential to be a leader for the Americans next year.
Overall, the 2013 WJC offered a great deal of entertainment for those who watched. With the college season providing excitement on a weekly basis and the return of the NHL after a brutal lockout, the future looks bright as ever for hockey fans.
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