Commitment to DU a dream come true for Middendorf
To take a look into the heart and mind of Erik Middendorf, one needs to look no further than his Twitter feed.
The 16-year-old former Jr. Coyotes star is a man of few words when it comes to social media, but when he does post, it’s easy to see that hockey is a huge part of his life and that whatever he has taken time out of his busy schedule to share with the world is important to him.
On Sept. 19, his first original post in nearly three months checked both boxes.
“It gave me goosebumps,” he said. “You see people post those types of things all the time, but you never know what it really feels like until you do it yourself. It feels pretty special committing to a great school and knowing where I’ll be in two years.”
The Scottsdale native is expected to report for the 2018-19 season to Denver, among the most storied programs in college hockey. The Pioneers have won seven national championships – third only to Michigan and North Dakota, and have produced more than 70 NHL players. Under third-year head coach Jim Montgomery last year, DU went 25-10-6 and advanced to the Frozen Four.
“I’ve had my eye on Denver since I was a little kid,” Middendorf said. “I went to my first college hockey game there when I was 11 years old to see (Arizona native) Zac Larraza play. I remember sitting there and thinking that it would be a dream to play there. I could just feel the excitement and atmosphere in the building.
“I started talking to Denver a while ago, and those feelings came back to me. As soon as they offered, I knew I couldn’t say no.”
Middendorf played for the Jr. Coyotes beginning at the Mite level, first learning to skate at three or four years old, and completed his tenure with the program by playing with its 16U AAA team last season.
“’Middie’ is a quality kid and comes from a quality family,” said Mike DeAngelis, the Jr. Coyotes program director. “His consistent hard work and his being a student of the game has really helped him blossom. He’s on a rocket ship to success because of his great hockey mind and his ability to take instruction.”
Middendorf’s hockey career took a giant leap forward this season with his selection to the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in April. The 6-foot, 170-pound left wing packed up his skates and left Pinnacle High School bound for Plymouth, Mich., and has been soaking in everything he possibly can since he arrived.
“The main things for us as a team are getting ready for the world challenges and just trying to get better every day,” Middendorf said. “The coaches are helping me out a lot, and I’m trying to incorporate all the little things to help me improve. They have been unbelievable in helping prepare us to play against some bigger, stronger guys.”
Middendorf credited his time with the Jr. Coyotes as a major factor in helping him develop into the hockey player and person he is now.
“I had a great coach, Shawn McCosh, in my last couple of years there, and he was kind of like a father figure to me,” Middendorf said. “He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had, and he probably had the biggest impact on my hockey career so far.”
— Greg Ball