Mission AZ 18U squad returning to CSDHL play for ’18-19 season
Some big things are on the horizon for some of the oldest players within the Mission AZ youth hockey program, and this exciting new development should be a significant aid in developing those players and their futures on the ice.
Mission’s 18U Red team will return to the highly-competitive Central States Development Hockey League (CSDHL) for the 2018-19 season after two years away from the league. The program played in the CDSHL for the 2014-15 and ’15-16 seasons but stepped for a short time to ensure that it was the right move for its players.
“It’s a really great league,” said Jeremy Goltz, Mission’s director of hockey operations. “The hockey really is the best in the country at that level. It’s very good hockey played by very good programs.
“What I’m hoping for, especially with our second-year guys, is that they’ll get this experience and they’ll be ready to jump into playing at the University of Arizona or Arizona State if they want to stay home instead of going to play juniors somewhere. I want them to navigate this tough schedule so that they have options when they want to continue in their hockey careers.”
The CSDHL is considered the best Tier II league in the United States and has a proven track record of preparing young players to move on the next levels. The league’s website includes a long list of alumni who have played professional, college and Junior A hockey.
“We had our 16U and 18U teams in the league a few years back – I really liked it, but I found that our 16U team wasn’t really ready for it from a maturity standpoint,” Goltz said. “You make a lot of trips in this league coming from Arizona, and on most of those you play four or five games, all against highly-competitive teams. I wanted to take a step back and then re-evaluated it as we approached this season.
“Here we are two years later, and I feel very good about our core of players that’s going to be back in the league. Consistency-wise, I think we’re ready to take this on this year.”
Goltz is excited about the opportunities presented by the North American Prospects Hockey League showcases that the CSDHL will participate in this season. Not only will Mission’s teams get to play regularly in the Chicago area, but they’ll visit Minneapolis and Detroit for showcase events that will provide excellent exposure to coaches and scouting directors.
“Our guys are going to be playing a lot of high-quality hockey,” Goltz said. “It’s going to help them grow and become better hockey players, so I’m pretty excited about it.”
He said the move has been well received by players, parents and his fellow coaches within the Mission program, who all have the same goals – providing the best available environment for players to develop to their full potential.
“They’re pumped,” Goltz said. “For people who know a little bit about the league, they know that it’s a big deal for Mission and for Arizona. The kids are really excited. I think we have a lot of guys on board with our plan and who really want to do something in the sport. That’s kind of been the driver for this decision. I figured it was a good time to test the waters again.”
Mission won’t waste any time diving into its CSDHL season. On Labor Day weekend, they travel to St. Louis to play games against teams from Affton, Mo., and Littleton, Colo.
“We start conditioning in mid-July and then we’re right into the mix,” Goltz said. “It’s heating up fast. I like letting them get a taste of it early, which can help them get to that high level of play quickly.”
— Greg Ball
(Aug. 7, 2018)