Newcomers to Tahoe Prep look to maximize their opportunity
With each new season, Tahoe Prep Academy welcomes a handful of new players to its campus, and each brings with them plenty of talent and promise.
Now in its fourth season, the program is attracting players from all over the country and beyond our borders, but there are still plenty of players from California’s top programs who are making the jump to Tahoe.
Here’s a look at a handful of those players who could make big impacts for the program’s prep and varsity squads during the 2019-20 season.
Bishop, 16, is finding life at Tahoe Prep to involve considerably less time in the car than at his previous stop, and that translates to more time on the ice.
A junior defenseman, last season he traveled a couple times a week from his family’s home in the Pacific Beach community of San Diego to Los Angeles to practice with a Jr. Kings AAA team. That meant that he spent as much as four hours a day on the road and often would get home after 11 p.m.
He first visited Tahoe for an L.A. Kings summer training camp, and quickly learned that skating at altitude is different. Beyond the opportunity to train at altitude, Bishop committed to Tahoe Prep after meeting and talking with prep head coach Chris Collins and varsity head coach Leo Fenn.
“What made the decision easy for me was the coaching staff and development opportunities,” said Bishop, whose goal is to play juniors or at a Division I college. “I wanted to sail pass other programs.”
So far, the Tahoe experience is teaching him more than just hockey.
“The people at the high school are pretty amazing and living in the dorms with all the boys is crazy fun, but you also learn to rely on yourself more and make your own decisions, and having chores is a little different,” Bishop said.
Of course, the chance to make strides on the ice has been attractive as well.
“I’m looking to improve my endurance and explosiveness this season,” Bishop said. “I’ve already seen improvements in my skating, stick handling and shooting.”
Academics have always been important to Doukov, and as his hockey career advanced to the AAA level with the Anaheim Jr. Ducks, he found that finding the time to pursue both with the passion he wanted to was increasingly difficult.
A junior from Burbank, Calif., he has maintained a 4.0 grade-point average and has aspirations of attending an Ivy League college. His decision to transfer to Tahoe Prep was centered equally on academics and hockey.
“I’m happy that at Tahoe Prep I’m on the ice every day while I still have the opportunity to take advanced placement-weighted classes this year to improve my GPA,” Doukov said.
An only child, Doukov said living in the dorms has been a positive new experience for him.
“I’m doing well, and living with the boys is really different, but I like it and we all just click really well together,” he said.
As for his hockey skills, he has already seen significant improvement.
“I’ve learned different shot techniques and zone-entry patterns,” Doukov said. “The coaches care a lot about you and want you to succeed.”
Another transplant from the Jr. Ducks program, Mazza was attracted to Tahoe Prep by the opportunity to get nearly twice as much ice time as he was used to. That’s even more important for him than for other players, as the 16-year-old junior has switched from playing forward to playing defense.
Moving to Tahoe was a little easier with several of his former teammates joining the academy.
“I toured in June, and I thought the school was breathtaking and the coaches were awesome,” Mazza explained. “The schedule is tough and tiring. I’ve been going to bed early with everything that I have to do, but it’s what I came here for. I have never had such a good time with my coaches.”
“I’ve had friends here from the start, so that helped with leaving my family. It was kind of hard seeing them for the last time for a while, but, it’s really fun living in the dorms. It’s a lot better than I imagined.”
A 16-year-old junior, Gunn first caught the hockey bug while watching a matchup between Canada and Russia in the Olympics on TV at his family’s home in Fresno, Calif., when he was seven. He soon started playing hockey and has been passionate about the sport ever since.
Coming to Tahoe has taken that passion up a notch. The defenseman on Tahoe Prep’s varsity team is now working toward his goal of playing NCAA hockey.
“I felt that Tahoe Prep would give me a good chance to develop my skills on and off the ice in a good environment,” Gunn said. “It is designed for players to excel at hockey and school, so why not come here?”
After just a month on campus, Gunn said he knows he made the right decision.
“The coaches want you to be better,” he said. “They want you to succeed, and they are helping me improve the areas I needed to work on.”
Brink came to Tahoe Prep this season for the combination of great hockey training and strong academics. A 16-year-old junior playing goal on the varsity team, he felt a move to Tahoe was a smart decision for a lot of reasons.
“I choose Tahoe Prep because I felt the development would be unreal, and they take academics seriously,” Brink said. “I toured in May, and the high school was insanely nice. It looks like a college campus, and the dorms were amazing. My dream is to play NCAA hockey, and I felt this was my best shot to play.”
Brink is in his third season in net after having started his hockey career as a forward. He said his strengths of tracking the puck and keeping a good mental game were already intact but like many athletes, he found that training at altitude meant he needed to step up his cardio game.
“It’s getting better now – all of the coaches and trainers have been really helpful,” Brink said. “It’s a busy schedule but I’m starting to get used to it. My goal for this season is to go to the championship with the team and hopefully build relationships and make some lifelong friends.”
— Greg Ball
(Oct. 16, 2019)