Photo Credit: Erica Perreaux/Hockey Canada
For the first time since 2017, Team Canada West has won the gold medal at the 2023 World Junior A Hockey Challenge, claiming its sixth gold with an explosive 7–2 win over Team Canada East in the gold medal game in Truro, Nova Scotia.
The Nighthawks were represented on Team Canada West with forward Nathan Brown, coach Kelvin Cech, and physiotherapist Justin Giesbrecht.
Nathan Brown, who has 11 points in 27 games with Niverville this season, was excited at the opportunity to represent his country on the international stage.
“The opportunity came about starting at the MJHL Showcase,” says Brown. “And then all the way until the team was announced, from the staff coming down to the MJHL Showcase and watching games online after until they made their decision.”
It was also beneficial for Brown to head to the tournament knowing that he was accompanied by two members of his Nighthawks staff in Cech and Giesbrecht.
“Having Kelvin and Geezer there was great, especially at the start, since I was kind of the outsider, being the only guy from the MJHL,” Brown says. “I didn’t really know any of the guys, so it was nice have some familiar faces around.”
Canada West snuck into the playoff round with only a single win in the preliminary round before going on to stun the undefeated United States in overtime in Saturday’s semifinals. They then went on to beat Team Canada East in the gold medal game 7–2 to cap off an incredible run.
“I had a great time in Truro, as I got to play with some of the top players in the west of the CJHL and got to play against international talent, which was a first for me, as well as playing a pretty stacked American roster,” says Brown. “It was also awesome to have my parents and my older brother make the journey and watch the weeklong tournament.”
To cap things off, his billet family in Niverville surprised him by journeying all the way to Truro and staying for the whole week.
“Winning a gold medal on the international stage like that could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I know. We started off pretty slow, going 1–3 in round robin, but once we figured out how hard we work plus sticking to a simple game plan, we could beat any team in that tournament. And everyone on our team knew that, so we all came together and stuck to our simple game plan.”
Brown was able to score a goal for Team Canada West in the gold medal game, which surely made the victory a little sweeter.
“It was nice to score one,” he says. “I felt my line was getting more and more chances every game, so we knew the goals would start coming eventually. And when it happened, it felt great to rip one in the back of the net in a game like that.”
After the Christmas break, Brown will try to bring that same level of intensity back to Niverville for the rest of the season, and keep improving his game and building off his teammates.
A St. Cloud State University recruit, Brown has also appeared on NHL scouts’ radars. His name has shown up on lists for the upcoming 2024 NHL Entry Draft as a potential prospect.
“Getting drafted in the NHL is every little hockey player’s dream,” Brown says. “Getting drafted would be great, but I just have to keep growing my game and playing the right way with my team. And hopefully good results will come both ways.”