Bird-Coppola-Steele line thriving for Mission 18U squad
Jeremy Goltz described it as some of the most fun he’s ever had in a hockey rink.
The players make it sound just as electric.
A new first-line offense has emerged for Mission AZ’s 18U team this season and according to Goltz, the director of hockey operations for Mission AZ, it has quickly become of the most successful trios he has ever coached.
“We’ve had some pretty good lines in our history, and this one is right up there, if not the best,” Goltz said. “They complement each other, they’re all very skilled, and they can really open up the ice.”
When Goltz calls out “Bird line intact,” center Kevin Bird, right wing Nicolas Coppola and left wing Chase Steele jump over the boards and light up the ice.
“We sort of just click,” Steele explained. “All of us have played or currently play roller hockey, which helps with our vision and our transition game. We see the ice well and have improved on our down-low skills and quick puck movement on a lot of drills we do in practice, which helps with our muscle memory.
“We have a couple big hitting defenseman on our team, so within the first week or so we learned we had better move the puck quickly and hard, or we would pay the price. We talk a lot on the ice, which is where the communication part comes in, and we like to keep things light and joke around even after wide-open net misses. The line for me has been the most fun I’ve had on a line in my life and definitely the most successful. I think it’s just three smart players coming together and being unselfish hockey players. We’ve achieved this despite the fact that I haven’t played with Kevin since I was eight, and I have never played on a team with Nick, just against him. Our similar backgrounds have helped us thrive.”
The trio is all among the top six scorers in the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association, helping Mission to a 7-2-1 record through mid-February. Coppola leads the league with 12 goals and 11 assists in 10 games, while Bird has tallied 11 goals and 11 assists, and Steele’s stat line shows six scores and 14 helpers.
“Ever since Coach Goltz put us on the same line, all three of us have just seemed to click,” Coppola said. “We all have amazing chemistry and always seem to know where we all are on the ice.
“We like to keep it light, and I think that just helps with our success. We all have mutual respect for each other. I just think it’s a group of three hockey players playing unselfish hockey and trying to complete our team goal, which is winning the state championship. This line has definitely been the best and most successful line I have been on.”
The three have all come from different backgrounds in hockey, yet they quickly latched on to the Mission model of hockey.
“I have never had so much fun playing on a line as I have this year,” Bird said. “At Mission, we are taught to walk into the rink with a purpose and to strive for perfection every single time we touch the ice. It’s an electric feeling knowing I play on a line with two guys who are committed to the jersey and do whatever it takes to win.
“We have found that playing the Mission style of game and letting our own personal skills show at the right time clearly works. Not to mention, we have three other lines and a defense that push us on a daily basis, so that definitely plays a huge role in keeping our level up consistently. As playdowns come closer every day, expectations are growing, and we are excited to meet the challenge that awaits us.”
— Greg Ball
(March 2, 2018)