By John Lachmann
Freshmen forwards Riley Barber and Sean Kuraly are playing for the U.S. World Juniors team and will miss the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh this weekend.
Miami will obviously be lacking two talented players for the tournament, but their absence will allow players who have not been able to crack the lineup and opportunity for ice time.
It will also give some forwards a chance to show coach Enrico Blasi what they can do playing in different line combinations.
Barber has eight goals and 14 assists this season. Kuraly has scored three goals and picked up one helper.
Senior Curtis McKenzie has been rejuvenated playing on the top line with Barber and sophomore Austin Czarnik, so it will be interesting to see who Blasi promotes to that line for the weekend.
Perhaps he reunites Czarnik and sophomore Jimmy Mullin, who was a regular on Czarnik’s line with Reilly Smith last season.
Junior Bryon Paulazzo and senior Steve Mason were both scratched from the RedHawks’ last game, and those two could both move into the vacated spots.
But Paulazzo has sat five of the last six games, so Blasi may move freshman John Doherty into the lineup. Another option is to move senior defenseman Garrett Kennedy to a forward spot – where has played before – since Miami has a glut of defensemen.
If Kennedy is moved up it would open a defenseman spot for freshman Michael Mooney, who has been solid in four games on the blue line this season.
While it is obviously a tremendous honor for Kuraly and Barber to be chosen to play for Team USA, hopefully for Miami those two do not suffer a hangover similar to the one Czarnik went through after returning last season.
Czarnik suffered through a 15-game scoring drought the second half of 2011-12 after returning from his Juniors stint. He had netted five goals in his last seven games before heading to Europe.
Barber recorded a goal and two assists and Kuraly one marker and a helper in Team USA’s debut, an 8-0 win over Germany on Dec. 27. Kuraly scored the Americans’ first goal 19 seconds into the game.