IceDogs rookie coping well
Niagara IceDogs rookie Juan Copeland, 47, has shown well in the early stages of his first season. Photo by: VIDID EYE PHOTOGRAPHY.
Juan Copeland feels slow and steady wins the race.
The 16-year-old forward for the Niagara IceDogs has accepted the fact he won’t be one of the club’s go-to players offensively right off the bat and that it will take time to learn and adapt to the Ontario Hockey League.
Copeland has seen a reasonable amount of ice time in his rookie season and has shown well, scoring his first OHL goal while mostly skating on the team’s fourth line.
“Everybody wants to be a goal scorer, everybody wants to put up hundreds of points a year,” Copeland said. “At the end of the day, you’re coming in as a young guy in new league with faster, quicker, stronger guys so it’s gonna take time to adjust.
“Those older guys have been in the league and they know what they need to do to put the points up. They’re kind of just leading the way for hopefully me to put those points up next year and the year after. It’s just a part of the process. Each player goes through it and then typically in the second and third year breakout years happen.”
IceDogs coach Billy Burke has been more than happy with how the Michigan native has adapted to the OHL.
“It’s a major adjustment for all the rookies, especially the 16-year-olds. For him, it’s a new country, new school board, everything.
“These guys have always been the go-to guys for their entire life and they come here and they’re down in the lineup, their minutes are down, but Juan has handled it very, very impressively.”
Burke has been particularly impressed with Copeland’s maturity.
“Nothing seems to rattle him,” Burke said. “He’s very confident in his abilities. He’s not one of the biggest guys and he’s one of the youngest guys in the league, but his confidence is good. He’s not afraid to make plays and go to dirty areas.”
Burke said a big key for rookies is to not concern themselves with their statistics as they get used to the league.
“I think the most important thing is trying to gain the trust of the teammates and then the coaching staff and you can do that by focusing on the play away from the puck first,” Burke said. “We don’t come in and expect these guys to put up any type of offensive statistics. It’s pretty much learn how to play D zone and neutral zone and getting in on the forechecks and stuff like that. And then once a kind of the structure stuff down, then their confidence and their skills go from there.
“I think we can see that with Copeland the way he’s able to hang in there and survive, play, good away from the puck, and because he’s able to do those things, the puck ends up on a stick and then he’s able to use his skill and do what he does so well,
Copeland says he has felt comfortable in Niagara since the beginning of camp, on and off the ice.
“It’s been pretty similar to home,” said Copeland, who was selected in the second round (22nd overall) in the 2021 OHL draft. “Theres some differences here and there schooling wise with history and stuff but the teachers have been pretty understanding, the team has been pretty helpful.
“They brought me in and being a young guy, they are teaching me what I need to do and how I need to do it to be a successful player in the future.”
Copeland said is also getting used to being in the spotlight with bigger crowds, road trips and the media to deal with.
“It can be nerve wracking, but at the end of the day, it’s what I came her for,” he said. “I came here to be successful and be a good hockey player. I didn’t come here just have fun. I came here to take this serious and as a job and to play at the highest level I can, whether that the NHL, or overseas or the East Coast League.”
Copeland, who missed the last couple of weeks with a concussion suffered when he was struck by a puck in practice that hit him in the head under his visor, loves being part of the IceDogs.
“It’s very professionally run right here. It’s very serious, but it’s also like having 20 brothers. Theres times you need to be serious and they take it serious and there’s times where you can have fun and you can laugh and joke around. So it’s definitely a professional aspect, but you definitely have the time with the guys that you need to have fun and spend moments together.”
The IceDogs dropped a 7-1 decision at home to the Mississauga Steelheads Thursday.
Ty Collins led the winners with two goals while Zakary Lavoie, Ethan DelBelBelluz, Aidan Prueter, Kai Schwindt and James Hardie also scored.
Danil Gushchin netted the lone goal for the IceDogs.
Ice cubes: The IceDogs picked up overage forward Liam Van Loon from the Hamilton IceDogs in exchange for an eighth-round draft pick in 2024. “This is a big trade for us,” general manager Joey Burke said. “Liam is a guy we have wanted to add for years and we feel it is the perfect time for him to join our group. Liam brings an exciting, fast-paced playing style and moves incredibly well and is very detailed. He is a guy who can play in all situations, who has a high level of smarts and skill. This is a move that as an organization we feel makes us a better team.” Van Loon, a former member of the Ancaster Avalanche at the junior B level, has one goal and one assist in three games this season.
Steelheads 7 IceDogs 1
IceDogs goalie Tucker Tynan and Mississauga’s Ethan DelBelBelluz.
For the Niagara IceDogs: Danil Gushchin.
For the Mississauga Steelheads: DelBelBelluz; Ty Collins 2; Zakary Lavoie, Aidan Prueter, Kai Schwindt, James Hardie.
Game stats: Shots on goal: By Niagara on Joe Ranger (21), by Mississauga on Tynan (51); Power plays: Niagara 1-for-2, Mississauga 0-for-5; Penalty minutes: Niagara 12, Mississauga 12.
Up next: The IceDogs are at Barrie Saturday night and North Bay Sunday afternoon. Their next home game is Thursday, Nov. 25 versus Hamilton.
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