Mission AZ snags pair of AZYHL state championships
Two new state championship banners will be hanging on the walls of AZ Ice in Peoria soon.
Mission AZ’s Pee Wee Red (pictured above) and Squirt Red teams recently won Arizona Youth Hockey League state titles, and the program couldn’t be prouder.
“Both of these teams were consistent all year,” said Jeremy Goltz, Mission’s director of hockey operations and the head coach of both state championship squads. “They brought a lot of energy and outworked everybody. At the end of the season, they both went on good runs.
“That’s what I’m most excited about, is looking toward the future with these two groups of kids. It’s not easy for them to learn to be so consistent so early in their youth hockey careers. For so long, we’ve been telling kids that they’re going to go through the process and learn, and they may not experience a lot of success until they get to the older levels, but we’re starting to see the younger teams starting to get more and more competitive. It’s almost like a reset button for our program.”
The roster for Mission AZ’s Pee Wee Red team includes forwards Justin Casillas, Troy Coleman, Hayden Cruz, Dylan Farber, Cameron Fetzer, Jacob Gallardo, Justin McConneha, Carson Oller, Kaden Paterno, Tyler Payne, Tyler Singpradith, Conner Stegen, Spencer Stenholm and Cannon Tominna; defensemen Michael Bird, Gavin Bodway, Blake Jankunas and Connor Taney; and goalies John Drum III and Ethan Montgomery.
Goltz’s assistant coaches are Scott Farber and Adam Brill.
The Pee Wees opened the state tournament with a 6-3 victory over the Desert Youth Hockey Association 11U team on Feb. 23 as Bird and Spencer each scored two goals and Montgomery stopped 21 shots in goal. They toppled the Chandler Jr. Coyotes 11U the next day 8-2 thanks to four goals from Singpradith, three assists from Stegen and 11 saves from Drum.
They fell to the Arizona Hockey Union Black 12U team 4-2 on Feb. 25, but bounced back with a 3-2 victory over the Jr. Coyotes in the championship game the next day. McConneha scored twice for Mission, and Casillas added a tally, while Drum registered 16 saves.
“What’s cool is that the Pee Wee team has now won the state titles in back-to-back years, so we kind of put that expectation on them,” Goltz said. “There are about six or seven returning players, and the rest are new to the team this year, so they really rose to the challenge.
“When you coach older teams, you expect that those older players are going to be the consistent ones and the younger teams are going to have a tougher time, but I was totally impressed with these kids’ attitude and energy. They controlled what they could control, and the foundation that they set is really important.”
The roster for Mission AZ’s Squirt Red team (above) includes forwards Zachary Hickman, Mason Morin, Ethan Niles, Kyle Rihela, Chance Taylor and Lucas Uilkie; defensemen Jason Casillas, Kian Knapp and Brady Levake; and goalie Oliver McNeil.
Adam Brill and Kelsey McLean are the assistant coaches for the Squirt Red team.
Mission’s Squirts opened the state tournament with a 7-1 victory over AHU White 10U on March 4. Niles tallied four goals and Casillas added a pair, while McNeil made seven saves. They toppled AHU Purple 10U by a 5-1 count later that day as Casillas and Knapp each scored twice.
On March 5, they upended DYHA 10U by an 8-0 score. Knapp registered three goals, while Farrer and Rihela each added two. In the championship game later that afternoon, Mission skated to a 6-0 triumph over AHU White 10U.
“The Squirt championship was sort of unexpected,” Goltz said. “We had about 20 kids come out for our Squirt level, which is an unusual number – it’s too many for one team and not quite enough for two – so we decided to go with two smaller teams each with about 10 skaters and one goalie, and it looked like it was going to be a challenge. Those kids really kicked some butt.”
Arizona Youth Hockey League champions – 2016-17
10U Blue – Chandler Jr. Coyotes 9U
10U White – Mission 10U Red
10U Elite – Jr. Coyotes 10U Elite
12U Blue – Arizona Hockey Union 12U Purple
12U White – Mission 12U Red
12U Red – Jr. Coyotes 12U
12U Elite – Jr. Coyotes 12U Elite
14U White – Arizona Hockey Union 14U Black
14U Red – Desert Youth Hockey Association 14U Combo
16U – AHSHA Premier 16U
— Greg Ball