Park University Gilbert men’s team to join ACHA ranks in 2023-24
As hockey at all levels continues to grow in the state of Arizona, that growth recently took a step forward with the announcement of a new men’s ACHA Division 2 program next season at Park University Gilbert.
The team will call Mesa’s Coyotes Community Ice Center home with Jeff Zimmel serving as the first head coach.
“It all started with a simple email I sent off to the athletic director (Jeff Fore) expressing the desire to start a program in Gilbert,” said Zimmel. “In that email, I expressed that hockey in Arizona is rapidly growing and some kids were giving up on the sport when they were completing their youth hockey and high school hockey careers. There was really no place to go after juniors or ASU, GCU, U of A, or NAU. It’s simple supply and demand.
“That there is room for another college team speaks volumes to the fact hockey continues to grow in Arizona. High school programs fill up quickly as do 18U teams. We hope to grow the brand of Park University Gibert as well as hockey in the state.”
Coming in as new team from the ground up means Zimmel wants the Buccaneers to play a specific brand of hockey.
“The team we hope to have on the ice are some players who may have a chip on their shoulder,” Zimmel said. “Maybe they were overlooked or passed on by other organizations. We need kids who love the game and want to prove themselves, not only to themselves but to everyone who thought they were not good enough. We will be a team that plays from our goalie out. We need to have a solid defensive game plan and try to keep the score low. We need players who want to play defense first and that will create offense if done correctly.”
Zimmel is currently a Level 4 USA Hockey coach. He was a high school coach in Minnesota for years at Coon Rapids High School and has coached in elite camps in Minnesota, He just moved to Arizona from Minnesota in April 2021.
“I played hockey at Coon Rapids and was going to be the next great player at St. Cloud State University but was told quickly coaching would be better for me,” laughed Zimmel.
— Matt Mackinder
(February 23, 2023)