CAHA ahead of the curve with goalie development coaches
Pat Conacher, Scott Munroe and Mike Nepsa were all goaltenders during their playing days, and all three are now focused on guiding and training the next wave of goalies coming out of the Coyotes Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA).
Each coach believes youth hockey should be geared to development, something CAHA thrives in, year in and year out.
“Every team in our travel organization receives goalie coaching once per week, with the option of getting additional goalie coaching,” said Nepsa, the Jr. Coyotes goaltending director. “We also provide goalie-specific coaching during our spring and summer programs and goalie-only clinics for the Coyotes Development Program (CDP) house program goalies.
“We take pride in our program, knowing that our goalies are an extremely important piece to team success.”
Conacher, Munroe and Nepsa all bring unique backgrounds as well.
For Conacher, the goaltending coach for the Arizona Bobcats, he was born in Calgary and said he became a goalie “because of the gear.”
“The brown pads were declining, and goalies started getting colors and patterns on them and masks, too.,” Conacher said. “As I got older, I wanted to play the whole game. Never wanted to sit on the bench. Then I would say it transformed into wanting to be the starter and clutch guy. Wanting to be ‘the man’ type of thing.”
Conacher, who played junior hockey in Canada, added that his advice for aspiring goalies is to not focus on just hockey.
“Play multiple sports as long as you can,” said Conacher. “Build your athleticism. No other sport in particular, just play. Build your hand-eye coordination and foot speed.”
Nepsa, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area and played in college, immediately took to Penguins goalie Johan Hedberg during the 2000-01 season.
“While Hedberg was the reason I started to play the position, Marc-Andre Fleury certainly kept me in the net, and I owe my passion for the game to each of those two Penguin goaltenders,” said Nepsa. “They were more than idols to me. They were the reason I found goaltending and the reason I fell in love with the game.
“I am living my dream working in hockey, coaching goalies, and building the future netminders of the Valley.”
He also feels goalies should be quality skaters.
“In the big picture, the goaltender has to make extremely precise movements, as fast as possible to put his or her body in the right position to make the save,” explained Nepsa. “Goalies have to constantly repeat this process countless times in a game, which is why I believe the goalie needs to be the best skater on the team.”
Nepsa credits fellow CAHA goalie coaches Grant Lyon, Sean Slavik and Munroe for all being on the same page.
Munroe started as a goalie in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and later played NCAA Division I at the University of Alabama Huntsville and for several years in the Philadelphia Flyers organization.
He’s now in his first season serving as the CDP Chandler director.
“As the new kid on the block, I have been fortunate to join the CAHA team,” Munroe said. “We have a great group of people here who are truly dedicated to growing the game of hockey in Arizona. It is great to have such passionate and knowledgeable goalie coaches to work with. While a lot of my time is committed to our Chandler CDP program and working with our goalies there, I am happy to help where I can to grow the goalie community here.
“I think that having three goalie coaches within our organization is a huge benefit for our program and a real luxury.”
— Matt Mackinder
(Feb. 28, 2020)