Several B.C. athletes now have a reason to call themselves world champions after representing Canada at the 2023 ISBHF World Junior Ball Hockey Championships.
A total of 10 players from Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows alone were sent off to the world championships, which took place in the Czech Republic from June 28 to July 6.
Andrea DeSantis, vice president of the Ridge Meadows Minor Ball Hockey Association, explained that this was a historic moment for both the RMMBHA and Team Canada.
“This is the most players named to Team Canada coming from one association, and it’s the most in our league’s existence,” said DeSantis.
“It is a true testament to the level of dedication from our players and their coaches over the years to the sport of ball hockey.”
RMMBHA players Tyler Cavan, Jackson Lovett, and Taylor Mackie joined the Canada West team in the U16 division. In U18, Team Canada included local talent Aidan Chabot, Zach Lovett, Nick Muc, and Brandon Osborne. RMMBHA also sent Ben Fontaine, Justin Osborne, and David Stepputat to compete for Team Canada in the U20 division.
U16 Team Canada West also included B.C. players Jack Francis, Carter Zeeben, Ethan Blake, Nishaan Gill, Aiken Atwall, Declan Barker, Jason Correia, Kingston Digaf, and Jesse Hart.
In addition to the five RMMBHA players on the U18 roster, a sixth B.C. athlete named James Zazula also joined them to represent the province as part of Team Canada.
The U20 team also had an additional B.C. player, which was defenceman Bailey Ewonus.
The U16 Canada West team got off to a dominant performance from the very start of the tournament, making it all the way to the final game with a perfect 4-0 record. Unfortunately, a competitive match against Czechia Red saw the Canadians lose the final match 2-1 and earn a silver medal finish.
But during their impressive march through the competition, the three Ridge Meadows players tacked a handful of points up on the board. Jackson got a goal and two assists throughout the tournament, with Cavan putting up an assist of his own, and Mackie getting points in each of the first three games with a final tally of two goals and two assists.
The U18 team didn’t see quite the same level of success, finishing the round-robin group stage with a 2-2 record. In the semifinals, Team Canada was stopped by Team Slovakia in a close 4-2 game, which put them up against USA in the bronze medal match, where the Canadians came out on top, just barely edging out the Americans by a score of 4-3 to get the podium finish.
Osborne was the standout RMMBHA player in the U18 division, putting up a total of four assists across the six games. Right behind him was Zach, who had two goals and an assist, all of which came in the fourth game against Team USA. Chabot also made his presence known on the team, getting his own goal and an assist to help his team get the bronze medal.
The most successful of the Canadian teams was in the U20 division, where Team Canada went undefeated and was able to capture the gold in a dominant 10-3 final match against Slovakia.
All three Ridge Meadows players on the team did their point-scoring in the group stage, where Fontaine lit up the scoreboard with an impressive four goals and two assists. Stepputat also had his own goal and followed it up with two assists as well. Not to be outdone, Justin notched two assists as well.
“We are so happy that they have represented our country so well in bringing home a bronze, silver, and gold medal,” said DeSantis.
Canadian teams also competed in the U23 and women’s U21 divisions, with the women winning gold.
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