Coppola lighting it up for Mission AZ 18U Red squad
Nicolas Coppola has been skating with the Mission AZ youth hockey program outside Phoenix since he was a Pee Wee, and as he approaches the end of his run with Mission, he’s in position to leave the program as one of its best players ever.
Coppola, a 17-year-old forward on Mission’s 18U AA Red team and a high school senior, is among the leading scorers not only in AZYHL play (with four goals and two assists in five games), but also has excelled in the highly-competitive environment of the Central States Development Hockey League, where he has tallied an impressive 15 goals and 20 assists in the team’s first 18 games of the 2018-19 season.
Mission AZ hockey director Jeremy Goltz said Coppola is among the top players he has coached in his long career behind the bench.
“What makes him special not only his skill set but his compete level daily,” Goltz said. “He wants to be the best every day and even against top national competition, he has been the best player on the ice almost every game this year.
“He has a unique blend of skill, work ethic and being coachable. He should go down as the best Mission player of all time, and that is saying something.”
Coppola first laced up a pair of hockey skates and picked up a stick when he was four years old and started with the Mission program in his second year of Pee Wees.
“Mission is everything that a hockey player could want and need to develop into the best player they can be,” Coppola said. “It’s truly a family at Mission, and I’ve never felt the same way anywhere else. The coaching there is great, with Coach Goltz and the assistants – Coach (Chris) Carouchi and Coach (Terry) Tessmer. I’ve never felt like I needed to leave because I’ve been getting the skill development and competition that I need from the program.”
Coppola’s best attribute on the ice is his speed, helping him zoom past opponents and get to pucks that other players may not. He also has placed a heavy emphasis on chemistry within his line, which he understands has a big impact on the line’s scoring ability and ultimately the team’s win-loss record.
“I love to show up at the rink and every time I’m there, I try to put in 100 percent effort and really strive for perfection,” Coppola said. “I want to spend every minute trying to make myself and my teammates better.”
Goltz noted that Coppola has been selected for the Rocky Mountain District’s exclusive Player Development Camp three times for his age group, and that he has always excelled. Coppola is also the only skater in the program’s history that Goltz has moved up a level – which he did last season – and Goltz said that only motivated his young star to push himself even harder.
So what’s next for Coppola? He hopes to play junior hockey and use that as a springboard to playing NCAA Division I hockey. His ideal landing spot would be Arizona State – where he can stay close to home but also thrive playing for one of the premier programs in the western United States.
“I’m hoping to go play juniors for a couple years and see where that takes me,” Coppola said. “I would love to play in the NAHL next year and then end up at Arizona State. I’ve been a fan of the program since I was a little kid, and it would be a dream to go there.”
“I have talked to (ASU) Coach (Greg) Powers about him, and he is going to get him a tryout this summer,” Goltz added, adding that he thinks Coppola’s development will really take off under the tutelage of high-level college coaching. “The sky’s the limit once he hits that level.”
— Greg Ball
(Dec. 20, 2018)