Mission’s 12U squad skates to third straight AZYHL title
The word of the day at AZ Ice Arcadia on March 11 was “threepeat,” and Mission AZ’s 12U Pee Wee Red team delivered.
Mission capped off a spectacular season by winning the Arizona Youth Hockey League (AZYHL) championship, securing the program’s third 12U title in as many years.
“I’m pretty proud of winning the state championship for the third straight year,” said Jeremy Goltz, the director of hockey operations for Mission AZ. “What I didn’t realize until recently was that this is the first team we’ve had that has gone undefeated the entire regular season and through the playoffs – that is really impressive.
“It wasn’t an easy road, but these guys did what they needed to do all year.”
Mission opened the state playoffs with a commanding 7-1 triumph over CAHA-Chandler 11U on March 9, and then they topped CAHA 11U by a 5-1 count the following day. Mission beat the DYHA Jr. Sun Devils Gold team 5-0 later on March 10 and followed that up with a 6-1 win over Arizona Hockey Union’s 12U Purple squad on March 11.
In the championship game later that day, they skated to a 3-1 victory over AHU’s 12U White team.
“This team had a pretty skilled group of players returning, but what I think really made the difference was that everyone bought in to our philosophy of hard work,” Goltz said. “We put them in a lot of game-situational drills during practices throughout the year, and that’s not really the norm at the Pee Wee level. Obviously, we focused a lot on skill development, but we also put them in game situations and emphasized competing at a high level. It’s clearly working for these kids. Year after year, we’re really able to use the depth of our roster, and even the kids who aren’t as skilled are making significant contributions.”
Mission’s 12U Red squad for the 2017-18 season included forwards Dylan Farber, Colin Farrer, Troy Coleman, Ethan Niles, Mason Morin, Kaden Paterno, Tyler Payne and Josef Bauer; defensemen Jason Casillas, Blake Jankunas, Kian Knapp, Chance Taylor, Carson Oller and Connor Taney; and goalies Avery MacKenzie and Ethan Montgomery.
Goltz and Scott Farber served as co-head coaches for the state champions.
Coleman, Bauer and Paterno each contributed goals in the championship game, and Montgomery made 16 saves, but Goltz said this wasn’t a team with superstars. Instead, everyone contributed equally, and that made the team even stronger.
“Traditionally, Pee Wee teams will have one or two really skilled players, and if you don’t slow them down, they can dominate at that level,” Goltz explained. “We have that team-first approach, and everybody knows they’re going to chip in as long as their compete level is high and their energy is high. At the Pee Wee level, it’s rare. I think the overall emphasis in practices over the last few years has really translated into a lot of success, especially with this group.”
For the entire season, Mission compiled a 25-10-4 record, and the squad was a perfect 16-0 playing in AZYHL games. They outscored their opponents 153-90 and allowed just 18 goals in their league contests.
Goltz said that during the championship game, no other Mission teams had games, so players and their families from all the program’s squads showed up to cheer on their Pee Wee brethren.
“It was a festive atmosphere there in the rink, and you could really feel the buzz brought by our great crowd,” he said. “Our older guys are good about understanding leadership and giving back, and they came out in droves. It made a really good experience even more memorable for these players.
“It was cool and was really a special honor for this team. They earned it – they worked hard, and it felt fantastic.”
— Greg Ball
(March 22, 2018)