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Riley Barber’s WJC gold ‘feels unbelievable’

There were 20 seconds left in the third period of the gold medal game of the 2013 World Junior Championships. Team USA was leading Team Sweden 2-1 when USA forward J.T. Miller intercepted a Swedish pass.

Miller sent the puck to an already breaking Vince Trocheck who effortlessly tapped the puck into Sweden’s empty net, securing a 3-1 gold medal victory for Team USA.

“Everybody on the bench, as soon as the pass was made ... everyone knew that was it, that that was going to be the game,” forward Riley Barber said. “After that empty netter everyone started going crazy on the bench and I’d never had one of those experiences before. It was pretty unbelievable.”

Barber, drafted by the Washington Capitals in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL draft, is still enjoying the feeling of being a gold medal winner.

He finished the tournament with three goals and three assists in seven games.

“It feels unbelievable,” he said. “I mean to be in that kind of tournament on that kind of stage and come out on top is something special and something you’ll never forget.”

While he won gold with the U18 USA team in 2012, Barber said this one is just a bit sweeter “just because it’s a much bigger stage and bigger tournament.”

Now, after a few days relaxing with his family, Barber plans to rejoin his Miami Redhawks teammates bringing with him some lessons he learned from the tournament.

“Definitely it just carries on to Miami and I hope the momentum of everything carries over,” he said. “But if I had to take anything back, it’s just to keep your feet moving, especially on the big ice. I know we’re going to be playing big games against some teams who use big ice.”

As for choosing Miami, Barber said going the college route was just a natural decision.

“I just knew you always have a life after hockey and I just sat down, my family has always had this vision, so I just decided one day that college was the route I was going to go and I’m very happy with the decision I made.”

And he has plenty of reason to be happy with the decision. Barber described college hockey as being faster, with “better players and better goalies” than at the junior level. And if that’s the case, then he must be one of the fastest out there.

His Redhawks are tied for first in the Central College Hockey Association with Notre Dame, and, as a freshman, he is tied for first in scoring in the conference, averaging 1.22 points per game with eight goals and 14 assists so far.

But Barber said that while he’s had a strong start to the season, the second half is more important.

“I’m very happy with the start I’ve had, but it’s only the first half,” he said. “We’ve got a lot more hockey to play and I’d say more important games to play, so I’m not really focused on what I did, I’m more focused on what I need to do. It’s an awesome accomplishment to be where I’m at at this point, but I know it’s not over yet.”

With the celebrations over in Ufa, Russia and a gold medal now around his neck, Barber returns to Miami with a new goal in mind.

“I’d say get to the [CCHA] tournament, get to the Frozen Four. I think we have the team to do it. My goal is to get to the Frozen Four.”

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