Mission’s Squirts digging challenge playing at new level
When the Mission AZ youth hockey program experienced an unusually high turnover rate with its Squirt team after last season, coaches turned to the in-house program at AZ Ice Peoria to recruit players, and the results have been remarkably positive.
Mission’s hockey director, Jeremy Goltz, said he and his fellow coaches invested some time in working with the in-house kids, and put on a number of clinics that essentially showed them and their families the type of training they would get wearing a Mission uniform.
“It took off like wildfire,” Goltz said. “Once these kids got a feel for what we were about, we had enough players interested to put on a whole team tryout. Not only do we have some strong players that we brought over from the in-house program, but we have great parents who are excited about what Mission offers and on board with how we’re doing things. It makes my job easy, and I truly appreciate their passion and energy.”
Through mid-November, Mission’s Squirt squad was 6-0, and had outscored its opponents 48-9.
The team’s roster includes forwards Daniel Basinski, Alexander Brent, Sydney Coleman, Cameron Corsette, Camden Eyer, Jacob Grant, Tucker Howey, Tatum Krol, Braden Martin and Mark Melissa; defensemen Oliver Foss, Logan Hoerr, Ben Neubauer and Gavin Newton; and goalie Evan Hazelberg.
Krol is one of the handful of players who returned from last year’s squad. Her grandfather, Joseph Krol, said it was a no-brainer for Tatum and her family.
“With us, it was a very easy decision to return to Mission,” the elder Krol said. “Tatum likes the brotherhood that Mission offers, and she loves the coaching staff. Tatum’s skills and general hockey knowledge have grown, thanks to the coaches and older players.”
For those new to the Mission program, it has been a positive experience playing travel hockey for an organization so dedicated to its players’ development.
Melissa, 10, started playing hockey when he was seven and has played with the Little Howlers and in house at AZ Ice. His mom, Erica, said her son is loving every minute of it.
“It’s a great group of kids and families who really know each other from the in-house program,” she said. “Our kids have gelled well, and they really enjoy the competition and playing against kids from other programs that they don’t know. Mark has enjoyed the coaching style, the intensity of practices and learning the strategy side of the game.”
Added Mark: “I like that the games and practices are harder, and there’s more competition. I think playing against better players has helped me improve.”
Eyer, 9, is also new to Mission’s Squirt team this season, and has played hockey since he was four or five.
“There are a lot of players that I already knew, so it has been a lot of fun playing with them again,” Eyer said. “I played All-Stars, and I’m on a line with the same players I was with on that team.”
His parents, Amy and Brian, said they have already seen a lot of growth in their son and other players as they learn the game at a higher level.
“We decided at the last minute when they were holding tryouts,” Amy said. “We had done some of the clinics that Coach Goltz had put on for the in-house program, and we just felt like he was an excellent coach – Camden was learning so much from him. There are some great families that we got to know through playing in-house. Once we made the decision, we were all in.”
Added Brian: “I love the ice time that Camden’s getting. He’s at an age where he needs to be challenged and be on the ice as much as possible. I have no complaints – the competitive spirit and the coaching that he’s getting are exactly what he needs.”
— Greg Ball
(Nov. 23, 2018)