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Mission AZ ‘excited about’ making changes to Midget program

 

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A significant change is coming to Mission AZ’s Midget program as the 2018-19 season approaches, and it is aimed at providing an improved experience for players looking to further their development as they reach their high school years.

Mission’s director of hockey operations Jeremy Goltz said that in recent years, the program’s White teams had become more of a destination for high school-age kids to continue playing hockey, rather than a true developmental program aimed at furthering their hockey experience.

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Mission has typically iced 16U Red and White teams and 18U Red and White teams, with the White teams focused on development and the Red squads intended more for high-level tournament play.

And while Mission got away from the goals of the White program in recent years, the association is looking forward to re-establishing those goals moving forward.

“We’re really trying to bring it back to where it was when we started the Mission program and bolster the White teams so the kids get a quality development season where they’re playing AA hockey and hearing one voice as far as coaching,” Goltz said. “We’re excited about it. We want to give these kids the opportunity to play some good hockey and be challenged so they can maybe get to that next level.”

Goltz said he mulled over the change for quite some time, and eventually came to the conclusion that it was best for the program as a whole. While he has found that more and more kids decide to give up the sport around the age of 14, that’s when hockey development really begins, in his opinion.

“These kids are going to get everything they need in terms of development and eventually push themselves up to the Red teams,” Goltz said. “That’s what we’re hoping to do.”

Each of the four Midget teams will play AA schedules in state, and the 18U Red team will likely move back into the Central States Development League in Chicago after a two-season absence from the league, Goltz said.

“What we have seen in the last couple years is that our kids on the White teams have been playing straight A hockey in the AZYHL, and we’re not getting the development that we want for these players,” Goltz said. “I’m taking a step back into the Midget program and am going to serve as the head coach for all four teams, just like I originally did.”

Mike Carouchi, who had coached Midget players in recent seasons, will shift to working with Squirts and Pee Wees. Doug Cannon will stay on as an assistant with the 16U and 18U squads.

Goltz said a “reshuffling of the deck” with the program’s coaching staff isn’t uncommon every couple of years, as it helps keep things fresh and ensures that all of their coaches are invested in every kid in the program, from Mites to Midgets.

“I think everybody is pretty excited about it and agrees with the change,” Goltz said. “Hopefully, we’ll see the benefits.

“The parents and the players have provided some positive feedback as well. At this age, these kids want to really become hockey players. If you’re playing on a White team and getting the AA experience, getting the same coaching and same tournament experience as players on the Red team, it’s only going to give you opportunities to grow.

“It may not be setting them up for a lot of wins, but it’s putting them in position to develop as hockey players, and that’s what ultimately matters. Everyone seems pretty excited about it.”

— Greg Ball

(May 29, 2018)