For talented Ice Miners high school hockey players, question is often whether to stay
The Park City Ice Miners high school hockey team is one of the best in the state, and if its underclassmen stick around, its poised to only get better.
The Ice Miners, currently ranked second in the state’s Division 1 high school hockey league behind Viewmont, have only four seniors on the roster, while a handful of freshmen and sophomores play critical roles for the team.
The team has a few exceptional young players every year; the question is if they will stay with the team.
This year’s group of underclass standouts includes both of its goaltenders – sophomore Cooper Strople and freshman Colten McIntyre.
Both started the season expecting to guard the net until junior Andrew Pederson returned from playing football. But a shoulder injury sustained in football has kept Pederson off the ice.
Nevertheless, the two have conceded just 17 goals in eight games, compared with 52 goals scored.
Then there’s freshman Westley Hatz.
The 14-year old stands at 5-foot-10 and has scored five goals and two assists in seven games, making him one of the Ice Miners’ most prolific scorers.
“He is definitely one of the most skilled players on the team,” coach Josh Angevine said. “He’s a really good all-around player. He’s a forward on the second or third line. In big games we put him on defense when we need him. He is on defense on our first power play, so he’s definitely a go-to guy.”
Hatz joined the club two years ago, and says the high school team is like a family for him now.
“I think he brings a lot of good energy to the team,” said senior left wing Connor Schulz. “He’s a young guy, but he’s super mature in the way that he carries himself and the way that he plays, so I think he’s a good person to have on your team just for morale and because he’s a heck of a hockey player.”
As for McIntyre, he’s been with the Ice Miners program since he was 7, and has gotten deep enough into the sport that he now works with a private coach out of Colorado.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said of playing varsity hockey as a freshman. “It’s a lot to handle, but I’m loving it.”
He said goalkeeping has been his position since his first year on the ice.
“They had us all try goalie and I loved it, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said.
When senior forward Marc Colaizzi first started on the high school team, he was in a similar situation.
“When I was a freshman there was one other freshman, Teddy (Elbert),” Colaizzi recalled. “I was the shortest kid on the team and everyone was just towering over me.”
In that time, he said, a lot of people have come and gone. He has a new coach for one, but Elbert is also gone, and so are other players like Karter Kovar, Clay Groves, Easton Barber and Daniel Hebert, who came onto the varsity squad, then left. Many of them now play for travel club teams.
“It’s pretty much a new crowd,” Colaizzi said.
The senior said he made his own choice about whether to play travel or the high school game. Club AA and AAA teams are generally seen as the quickest route to the juniors, and, eventually, the majors. But that route is also demanding.
“I played travel hockey when I was growing up – up until seventh grade,” Colaizzi said. “For me, I play a lot of different sports. I skateboard and play lacrosse and fish and hike, so that was another big part of it. I just decided to play high school and let some of the hockey go.”
Whether the team’s young players stick around to see their senior years as Miners is, of course, uncertain. And either way, Park City’s hockey players are flourishing. The pull to play at the travel level is also part of the team’s draw, Hatz said.
“Pretty much this high school organization is the foundation for good hockey players,” he said. “A bunch of good hockey players I’ve heard about who are playing juniors somewhere, I played with them when I was little.”
Hatz, who referees for peewee games, said there is still a lot of talent coming up through the Ice Miners program, and Schulz, the senior, said the team’s development and JV teams are doing a great job to prepare players for the high school game, meaning the Miners can probably expect a consistent flow of talent onto the team, at least for their first few years.
When asked about his and his fellow freshman varsity players’ chances of staying with the Ice Miners high school team, Hatz said only time would tell.
“I would like to think so,” he said. “But there’s so much potential that I would only imagine we are going places.”
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