By John Lachmann
Thanks to a shocking 5-1 win over Canada in a semifinal on Thursday, the United States’ World Junior team, boasting a pair of RedHawks, is headed to the IIHF championship game in Ufa, Russia.
So from a Miami fan’s perspective, exactly how significant is this accomplishment?
No RedHawk (or Redskin) has ever played on a U.S. World Junior championship team. And two Miami freshmen – forwards Riley Barber and Sean Kuraly – will play for gold when the Americans face Sweden on Saturday.
This is the first time two members of the RedHawks have played on the U.S. Juniors team. In fact, only five other Miami players have ever played in the WJHC for the United States.
Current sophomore Austin Czarnik was a member of the seventh place-finishing team last season.
Only two Miamians – goalie Jeff Zatkoff and Greg Dornbach – have medaled for the U.S. Zatkoff won bronze in 2007 and Dornbach, the only Miamian to ever play on the WJHC team twice, took third in 1986 after not medaling in 1985.
Which means even if the Americans lose, it would Miami would have its first two WJHC silver medals.
Forwards Nathan Davis (2006) and Kevyn Adams (1994) are the other two RedHawks to have played for the U.S. in the World Junior championship.
The United States has won gold twice before, in 2004 and 2010. The Americans finished seventh last season and won bronze in 2011.
Barber is currently tied for third on Team USA in goals with three, and he has six points overall in six games. Kuraly has a goal, two assists and a plus-4 rating.
Barber has stepped up since the medal round. He scored two goals in the U.S.’s win over Slovakia, and he earned an assist on the Americans’ first goal in the semifinals as Team USA shocked Canada, 5-1.
Barber helped open the scoring in the semifinal vs. Canada by firing a shot at point-blank range that was denied by Canadian goalie Malcolm Subban. But the puck bounced back to Barber at the side of the net, and he centered it to Jake McCabe for a one-timer to put the U.S. ahead.
Barber and Kuraly have logged most of their minutes on the same line, joined by first-round pick Alex Galchenyuk. Both have also spent significant time on the power play, and Barber has scored a goal on the man advantage.
The Americans’ gold medal game vs. Sweden will be carried live on the NHL Network at 8 a.m. EST on Saturday.