Mission AZ 16U White squad showing ‘very clear’ growth
The 2018-19 season has been a special one for the 16U White team with Mission AZ’s youth hockey program.
Hockey director Jeremy Goltz has made a concerted effort to prioritize the squad to ensure that its players got the opportunity to play some high-level hockey.
Mission has offered a 16U White team since the program started 13 years ago, but in recent years they were finding less and less local competition because so few programs in the greater Phoenix area were able to ice two teams at the 16U level and would focus their efforts on their AA teams.
Knowing how important it was to players’ development to compete at a high level during their time in high school, he wanted to ensure these kids had somewhere to play and further their development.
“I was committed to taking on the 16U White team like we had always done, but I wanted to put them through a AA schedule,” Goltz explained. “What has happened is they have taken their lumps in some games, and they have beaten some AA teams, too. All in all, it has been a win-win for everyone involved.
“We’ve got four girls on the team playing 16U hockey, which is unheard of, and we have pulled up some of the top players from our Bantam Red team. They’re doing double duty, so their development is really progressing. It’s a great opportunity for a lot of kids who were kind of between levels and needed a good year of experience.”
Mission AZ’s 16U White team’s roster includes forwards John Bomberg, Mason Brill, Madelyn Guertin, Tanner Heitz-Ellis, Jack Huegler, Gabe Lopez, Nicolas Miller, Erich Norris, Dillon Scheur, Tyler Singpradith, Spencer Stenholm, Nick Thurman; defensemen Payton Goltz, Tony Kiroff, Reese Middendorf, Johnny Montoya, Joe Storms; and goalies Hannah Schneidmiller and Caden Thurston. Goltz coaches the squad, assisted by Doug Cannon and Chris Carouchi.
“I appreciate the support of the town in helping these kids develop,” Goltz said. “They’ve had a good season and had plenty of games. The growth that we have seen with them is very clear. I feel like we have broken through some barriers with this team and done some pretty cool things. It really has been a community effort to make this a quality experience for these kids.”
The 16U White squad closed their season with a Presidents Day tournament in Florida. Putting the squad together required a commitment from the players, their families and many others within the Mission AZ circle to try something a little out of the ordinary.
Mission’s overriding goal has never been focused on winning games and hoisting championship trophies – while those are often byproducts of their work, the truly important thing is player development.
That’s why this project has been so fulfilling for Goltz.
“The White team was really attached to the red team this year, whereas in the past they have been sort of separate,” Goltz explained. “That’s important – these kids have to be around and exposed to higher levels. This is an important step in their development as they are exposed to the intensity and the competition of AA hockey, as well as the commitment it requires. We have seen so many kids take great leaps in their development as hockey players, which is what it’s all about in the end.”
Looking back at the season, Goltz said he’s pleased with how things turned out and feels validated in the decision he made.
“It was really sort of an outside-the-box idea, and it has worked out,” Goltz said. “There have been programs like the Bobcats, Flagstaff and the Titans who have been very supportive of what we’re trying to do with this team.”
— Greg Ball
(Feb. 28, 2019)