Mission 18U AA is tops in Arizona, captures state championship
For the first time in at least five years, Mission AZ’s 18U AA team can call itself a state champion.
Mission capped off its stellar season and run through the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association state tournament March 17 when it completed a sweep of its best-of-three finals series against the DYHA Jr. Sun Devils. They beat DYHA 3-2 in the series opener March 16 at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe and finished off the championship with a 2-1 win on St. Patrick’s Day.
The pot of gold at the end of their rainbow will be the USA Hockey National Championships, which will be held in San Jose, Calif., from April 4-8.
“Three times in the last four years, we’ve lost to DYHA in the state finals, and they’ve been our rival for a long time,” said Jeremy Goltz, Mission AZ’s hockey director and the head coach of the 18U AA team. “For our guys to finally get over that hurdle is extremely rewarding. I know the kids are really excited and enjoying it.”
Goltz planned to give his team a few days off before returning to practice and prepare for Nationals.
“This season has been amazing,” he said. “We played in the Central States League and the NAPHL Showcases and played some local AAA teams. We ended up playing a total of 76 games (before states), and playing that much against such great competition, you see every scenario possible. So I truly feel our kids were over-prepared, and that showed up when the time came to compete on the biggest stage.”
The team’s roster includes forwards Dean Angelo Jr., Johnny Baird, Nicolas Coppola, Jake Fain, Christopher Fritz, Matt Gary, David Jaichner, Benson Middendorf and John Salyer III; defensemen Brian Baier, Scotty Bird, Jordan Gaeta, Luc Spinasanta and Joel Tessmer; and goalies Matthew Diamond, Chase Golden and Taz Joplin. Goltz is assisted on the coaching staff by Terry Tessmer and Chris Carouchi.
Coppola scored two goals in Game 1 of the state championship series, while Werner added one and Tessmer had an assist. Golden stopped 37 shots on goal. In the series clincher, Werner and Weber both scored, and Golden turned away 33 shots.
Goltz said that this year’s 18U AA team is the type that doesn’t have superstars but has received contributions from every player on the roster. He emphasized that the level of success the group has achieved wouldn’t be possible without that being the case.
“We are as deep as we’ve been in many years,” he said. “They are tenacious and tough to play against. They’re all skilled players, but day in and day out, they’re just hard to play against. They’re physically and mentally tough every day. I think that’s what defines our program and our jersey, and it has really been the calling card for this team.”
He said his captains have really stood out for their leadership. That group includes Fritz, Coppola, Spinasanta, Bird and Golden – whose performance between the pipes in the state tournament he singled out as one of the best he’s ever seen with the pressure of a championship on the line.
“I’m really proud of this group,” Goltz said. “A lot of them have been together since Bantams, and they won some big trophies then as well. And this is really a homegrown group. A lot of these kids have been with us as long as nine years. They’ve been here forever. It goes to show you that if you stick things out, the reward eventually comes, so I’m happy for these kids.”
— Greg Ball
(April 1, 2019)