Coppola’s Hollywood-inspired start leading USPHL’s Vengeance
The Pittsburgh Vengeance have Disney to thank for one of their most productive forwards.
After all, if it hadn’t been for the “Mighty Ducks” franchise of movies, Nicolas Coppola might never have stepped on the ice (or even into a pair of roller blades).
The Glendale native credits the films for giving him his early passion for the game.
“I fell in love with the sport – the intensity, the fast pace, all the thinking that went into it – through those movies,” said Coppola.
These days, the 2001-born Mission AZ graduate is one of the top forwards for the Vengeance in the USPHL Premier. The Vengeance were ranked second overall in points and winning percentage in the 51-team USPHL Premier with a 17-1-1-2 record as of Dec. 6.
In the 16 games since he joined the Vengeance, he has scored nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points. He credits coach Sean Berkstresser for much of his offensive success.
“Coach Berkstresser applies a really good style that is fast-paced,” added Coppola. “We’re a pretty skilled hockey team and he takes advantage of that, utilizing high-end skill plays and set pieces.”
Coppola jumped headlong into the Vengeance fold right off the bat, scoring a goal and three assists for his first four-point game on the season, out of three total. He also started a five-game, 11-point scoring streak with that Oct. 4 debut, extending the streak to Oct. 12, his third of four games in the USPHL Midwest Showcase in Fraser, Mich.
“I’m just here trying to do my part to help my team win – the points will come with that,” said Coppola. “I’m a big goal guy, but if I see the open man, I will pass and take the assist. I’ll take whatever comes to help the team.”
After an early two-game taste of Tier II junior hockey, Coppola is certainly hoping to climb back to that level as soon as he can, especially with two and a half seasons remaining of junior eligibility. It was through his early games in Jamestown that he was able to connect with the Vengeance.
“The GM of the Vengeance (David Dorsey) and the GM of Jamestown are close friends, so my Tier II GM told me about how the Vengeance is one of the top-notch Tier III programs,” Coppola. “It obviously worked out great. We’ve been winning and having a good time.”
Coppola began having a good time with the basics of hockey when he was 4 years old, starting out on roller blades and remaining in roller hockey until he was 8 years old. Then, he signed on with the Jr. Coyotes.
“When I switched to ice, it was a little rough, but midway through my first season, it felt fine,” he added.
He remained with the Jr. Coyotes until the Pee Wee level, when he joined Mission, remaining there until the end of his 18U season last winter. Coppola and his teammates reached the 2019 Tier II national championship game, eventually falling to the champion Maine Moose.
“It was tremendous; I absolutely loved that program with everything I have,” said Coppola. “The coaching was top-notch, so I never felt like I had to leave. Jeremy Goltz was my coach from age 12 to 18, and I still keep in touch with him regularly.”
Coppola also skated his senior year of high school with the O’Connor High School team, situated – along with the Mission program – in Peoria.
With a half a season left and Tier II dreams remaining firm, Coppola wants to continue to improve, especially his patience with the puck. There’s a lot of work to do, but he will return to his hometown of Glendale for the Christmas break – which falls between two important four-game showcases in Chicago and Boston.
“A nice billet family in Pittsburgh took me in and I was able to go to their Thanksgiving dinner,” he said. “Pennsylvania and Arizona are two completely different places, but I like the change of scenery.”
— Joshua Boyd/USPHL.com
(Jan. 10, 2020)