Jason Robertson of the Niagara IceDogs crashes the net for Team USA
The Niagara IceDogs are well represented at the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship.
No fewer than three IceDogs were named to their respective countries teams.
Forward Jason Robertson is playing for Team USA, defenseman Daniel Bukac for the Czech Republic, while Kyen Sopa did make the Swiss team but was sent back to Niagara after sustaining a minor injury during training camp.
Meanwhile, former IceDogs forward Ondrei Machala is also playing for the Czechs.
The 10-team tournament kicked off on Boxing Day in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.
Bukac is playing out of Pool A which features Team Canada, Czech Republic, Russia, Switzerland and Denmark.
Bukac, a 2017 Boston Bruins seventh round draft selection, joined Niagara this season after being selected in the second round of the 2018 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Import Draft from the Western Hockey League (WHL) Brandon Wheat Kings, and has two goals and six points in 24 games with the IceDogs this season.
Bukac has previously represented his home country at the Under-16, U-17 and U-18 levels.
Roberston and Team USA are playing out of Pool B against Sweden, Finland, Slovakia and Kazakhstan.
After being acquired in late November in a trade with the Kingston Frontencas, the 2017 Dallas Stars second round draft pick has scored eight goals and added 14 assists in just eight games with Niagara.
Robertson also leads the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in powerplay goals with 13.
The World Junior Championship is Robertson’s first IIHF sanctioned event representing the United States of America.
A total of 21 OHL players are chasing gold in Vancouver which includes a representative from eight of the 10 participating countries including nine Canadians, three Americans, two players from the Czech Republic, Sweden and Switzerland, and one from Finland, Russia and Slovakia. An additional four players competing in the tournament are former OHL players.
Thirteen OHL teams are represented by current players including the Oshawa Generals with four followed by the IceDogs, London Knights, Ottawa 67’s, Owen Sound Attack and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds with two each.
Canada is the defending Gold Medal champions after prevailing last year in Buffalo, New York.
The Canadians were led by Thorold native, and current Colorado Avalanche blueliner, Conor Timmins while former St. Catharines Stompers (pro baseball team) athletic trainer Kevin Elliot was part of the Team Canada training staff. Elliot currently works for the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
There are no (direct) Niagara connections on any of the rosters at this year’s tournament.
Preliminary Round action continues until New Year’s Eve with the qualifying round beginning on January 2.
The gold medal game goes Saturday January 5 at 8 p.m EST live from Rogers Arena, home of the NHL Vancouver Canucks.
All World Junior games are broadcast live on TSN or TSN.ca
Both Bukac and Robertson are expected to rejoin the IceDogs lineup during the second week of January.
For more information on the Niagara IceDogs visit niagaraicedogs.net
Rod Mawhood is a lifelong Niagara native who has had the pleasure of working in all three mediums – Radio, Print and TV – for over 20 years. His first announcing gig was with the then St. Catharines Stompers. Since then he’s worked in radio and TV in Toronto, and currently is the announcer for the Niagara IceDogs and Niagara River Lions.
Rod also covers the Buffalo Bills for FOX Sports and the Buffalo Sabres for NBC Sports.