A veteran of the 2013 U.S. National Junior Team and a highly-skilled right wing at Miami University, Riley Barber (Pittsburgh, Pa.) was voted team captain by his teammates Sunday evening.
“It’s an honor to be voted captain, especially on this stage and with this team,” said Barber. “It’s awesome just to put on the USA sweater and to be able to wear the ‘C’ for a great group of guys is something else. I expect to lead by example, working my hardest every day.”
Though Barber is a team captain for the first time in his young career, he has abundant experience as a scorer and a winner, characteristics that give him immediate credibility among his peers.
Barber has filled up the scoresheet in a season and a half with the Miami RedHawks. Entering the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, he is tied for second in the college ranks with 28 points (11-17) in 18 games. In 2012-13, he led all NCAA rookies with 39 points (15-24). As an 18-year old at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, he contributed three goals and three assists while playing a top-six forward role for Team USA.
Since 2009, Barber’s teams have won with astonishing regularity. A season ago, he helped the U.S. win World Junior gold and then returned to Miami to capture the Central Collegiate Hockey Association’s regular season championship. As a member of the U.S. National Under-18 Team in 2011-12, Barber capped his season with a gold medal at the IIHF Men’s Under-18 World Championship. With the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League, Barber won the 2011 Clark Cup playoff championship. And in 2009 Barber and the Detroit Compuware Bantam squad won a USA Hockey Youth National Championship.
“The team made a great choice,” said head coach Don Lucia. “Riley is hard-working, commands a presence in the locker room and is a key contributor to our success. He has been through this tournament, so he understands what it takes to have success.”
Barber considers himself very fortunate to have played for teams with great captains, players who led by example through hard work and bonding the team together.
“In Dubuque, TJ Schlueter wasn’t the guy that talked the most,” said Barber. “He got out there, worked as hard as he could and knew the other guys would follow him. That’s what I’m trying to do here in a short tournament. Last year at Miami we had a big freshman class and Steven Spinell brought us in and made us one. Our captain this year, Austin Czarnik, really leads by example and does all his business on the ice.”
Keeping Team USA on an even keel is an important concept Barber learned during last year’s gold medal run when Jake McCabe was captain. The gamut of emotions can swing very quickly for the 18 and 19 year olds in this tournament. A year ago, USA shrugged off back-to-back one-goal losses to Russia and Canada before ripping off four straight wins.
“Wins do matter, but it’s key to work on getting better day by day and be at your best at the end like we did last year,” stated Barber.
Finally, Barber is pleased to share the Team USA leadership with a pair of alternate captains that he is very familiar with. Andrew Copp (Ann Arbor, Mich.Univ. of Michigan) and Matt Grzelcyk (Charlestown, Mass./Boston Univ.) were Barber’s teammates on the U.S. National Under-18 Team in 2011-12. And prior to that, Barber played with Copp for Detroit Compuware.
“They’re both great friends of mine. It’s awesome to share this experience with them. I’ll definitely take all their information and word. For me, it’s not like I’m telling everybody what to do," Barber said. "Everybody can step up and have a say on the team.”
Barber will lead Team USA into the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship on Thursday (Dec. 26) against the Czech Republic. Game time is 5:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. ET) with live coverage in the U.S. on NHL Network and NHL.com.
On Monday, Team USA made the short bus trip from Helsingborg to Malmo ... Most of the team had the day off from practice, though Adam Erne and Tyler Motte skated for the second day in a row ... Team USA's first practice at Malmo Isstadion will be Tuesday early afternoon.