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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Caputo

IceDogs rookie Ethan Czata brings gold back to Niagara

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Brandon Caputo

Credit: Hockey Canada/hockeycanada.ca


Niagara IceDogs rookie forward Ethan Czata returned to the Niagara Region this week with hardware around his neck, after the 16-year old Brampton, Ontario native captured the gold medal for Hockey Canada's Team White at the 2023 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Charlottetown, PEI. Canada's first U17 championship victory since 2015.



ROAD TO CAPTURING THE GOLD


Credit: Hockey Canada/hockeycanada.ca

Czata had an impressive showing individually by accumulating four points in the eight games, as well as the primary assist on Team White's opening goal of the Gold Medal Game vs the United States. The IceDogs fifth overall selection in the 2023 OHL Priority Selection Draft recorded a point in his team's first three games of the tournament, before being held pointless the next four games up until his critical assist in the Championship game.


"It was an awesome experience" said Czata. "I'm glad I was there to be a part of it and especially capping it off with the gold medal. Hockey Canada took great care of us and I got to meet a lot of great hockey players that I'll definitely see and battle against in the future."


Team Red took a 1-0 lead in the Gold Medal Game thanks to Joby Baumuller's icebreaker goal, assisted by the aforementioned Czata. The United States' Charlie Trethewey evened the game up at one apiece in the ladder half of the third period, before Team White's Cameron Schmidt scored the golden goal at the 9:18 mark of overtime. Fellow OHL young star, Mississauga Steelheads 2023 first round selection, Jack Ivankovic earned the victory in net by stopping 34 of 35 American shots in the contest.


"I'll probably remember that experience for the rest of my life, it's what you dream of as a Canadian hockey player growing up" Czata said emphatically. "Going up against the United States, winning the game in overtime, getting the gold medal and celebrating with the team are all memories that I'll cherish forever and I couldn't have imagined it turning out any better."



APPLYING WINNING EXPERIENCE BACK IN THE OHL

Credit: Vivid Eye Photography


The 6'0, 160 lbs forward has accumulated a pair of assists through the first 11 games of his OHL career but hopes to use the experience of the competitive tournament as a boost as he comes back to his IceDogs club, who have missed his two-way scrappy presence in the lineup the last few weeks.


"I thought I was playing a pretty good tournament, making good passes and generating offensive opportunities. I honestly didn't feel like I was creating enough offense here in the OHL before I left for the tournament" Czata said humbly. "Definitely feel like I improved the offensive aspect of my game while I was away at the U-17's and can't wait to take what I learned and apply it back here with the IceDogs, as I continue on with my rookie season."


IceDogs Head Coach Ben Boudreau is happy to have Czata back in the fold after taking over as the bench boss while his two star rookies were away at the U-17 tournament. "I think anytime you can have success at tournaments like that its going to help your development as a hockey player and to simply want more. Now that he's got gold medal hanging around his neck after representing his country at one of the highest levels I think it can only boost his confidence" said Boudreau.


Boudreau went on to say that he believes Czata's offensive game will continue to improve as he's a player who wants to learn and expects to get better every single day. "He (Czata) had a couple of good apples while he was out there and one of the things he's going to take back with him is an opportunity to have success on the offensive side" Boudreau said assertively. "As a young player you just want to see him getting better everyday and and experience in Charlottetown can only do wonders for his confidence so we're excited to see what he brings to this lineup as we move forward here, he's a big part of us moving forward."



COMPETING AGAINST A TEAMMATE

Credit: niagaraicedogs.net/ LV Designs


Czata's IceDogs teammate and fellow first round selection and rookie standout Ryan Roobroeck also played in the tournament for Team Red, going head-to-head with his close friend. The second overall selection in the 2023 OHL Priority Selection draft had an impressive tournament in his own right, amassing three goals and one assist in the seven games in which his team competed in.


"It was a lot of fun going up against him, I actually drew him into taking a penalty. He hooked me a little bit and I may or may not have embellished a little bit knowing it was Ryan" Czata said jokingly. "Got him a bit rattled going to the penalty box but it was a blast going against someone as highly skilled as him like we do in practice back with the IceDogs in the OHL."


Roobroeck also spoke about the experience of the tournament and being excited for his IceDogs teammate winning the gold. "It was a really good experience. Going against my brother, family, or whatever you want to call him; he's a very hard worker and he showed it out there by making an impact in every game that he played" Roobroeck said with a smile on his face. "I was still very proud of him winning the gold medal for Canada's Team White, even at the expense of us over on Canada's Team Red."


Despite the love, Roobroeck admitted that the brotherly competitiveness has led to some fun bragging rights for Czata at his expense back in the IceDogs locker room. "Coming back to Niagara I'm just a couple of stalls down from him, so you kind of hear about it in good friendly banter about the bragging rights or whatever" said Roobroeck. "All in all, I had a fun time going up against Ethan in the Team Red vs Team White game since we're both highly competitive guys, even though he got me on the fortunate break of embellishing that hooking call on me in the game."


LONG TERM DEVELOPMENT PLAN


Credit: niagaraicedogs.net/ LV Designs

In closing, IceDogs Head Coach Ben Boudreau hopes they both come back refreshed and ready to go with Niagara as their presence will be big parts of this organization for years to come. "For a coach it's exciting to get guys at this level to get the development plan going for them for the next four to five years. These are the guys who we're going to be leaning on in a few years as the catalysts who'll help us get to the glory days of competing for a championship in the OHL."


"The energy they bring to the rink is exciting, but they are still so young that you can mold them into how you want them to be young men on and off the ice. How they execute, how they can get better individually and as teammates" Boudreau said enthusiastically after many years of coaching men in pro hockey, before coming back to junior hockey this season.


"The fun part for me as a coach is that they come in wide eyed and are ready to be handed information." Boudreau also made a point to mention Czata's intelligence off the ice. "Ethan is a player who takes in a lot of information. He is a very smart hockey player on and off the ice, as someone who just won the OHL Scholastic Award last month. So you just want to see him develop every single day bit by bit and anytime you can capture a Gold Medal for your country, it can only help with that maturation process of knowing what it takes to win in big games."

 

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