Pheonix Copley, Des Moines Buccaneers

USHL goaltender Pheonix Copley, from North Pole, Alaska, is next in our weekly Future Huskies series. Pheonix played Midget AAA hockey with the So Cal Titans in 2009–10 and helped lead them to the U-18 title in the NAPHL. The following year he progressed to the NAHL with the Corpus Christi IceRays. He was recognized there as SBK Hockey Goaltender of the Month in November 2010.

This season he started off with a shutout for the Tri-City Storm in the USHL, but in December the Storm traded for another goaltender: future Gopher Adam Willcox. Opportunity for Copley was limited after the trade, so Tri-City sent him to the Des Moines Buccaneers at the USHL trade deadline. He is again the #1 goaltender and will try to help the Buccaneers improve their standing before the end of the season. He seems to have dealt with the transition quite well, allowing only 5 goals (good for a 0.936 save percentage) and winning two of his first three games with Des Moines.

Pheonix Copley is a big goaltender, coming it at 6’3″ and will join the Huskies next season as a 20-year-old freshman. He will likely compete with senior Kevin Genoe for playing time next year. During Winter Carnival, THG caught up with head coach Mel Pearson and here is what he had to say about his first goalie recruit:[quote]We’re tremendously excited to have a goaltender of Pheonix’s talent. Right from the first few times we saw him, we knew he was going to be a very good goaltender, and we’re extremely excited to have him on board here and we think he has a very bright future with the Huskies. We’re very happy that he’s coming to Michigan Tech and we expect him to win a lot of games here.[/quote]

We also talked with assistant coach Damon Whitten to find out where Copley caught their eye:[quote]We found Pheonix at the USHL Fall Classic. He had 37 saves against Dubuque in one of the games to keep his team in it. He’s a big athletic goalie. He’s a very competitive, smart goaltender with a ton of potential. We’re really excited about what he’ll bring to Michigan Tech. He has a really bright future in not only college but in the pros.[/quote]

Right before Copley was officially traded from the Tri-City Storm to the Des Moines Buccaneers, we spoke with Tri-City Storm head coach Josh Hauge. He had nothing but good things to say about his former goaltender:[quote]Pheonix is a big body that is extremely athletic. He keeps the game really calm, you’re not going to see him flopping around, he’s just very composed and fundamentally tough. He’s a great kid as well, unbelievable character, awesome person first and foremost. I definitely think he’ll step right in and be able to play. He’ll be a great contributor to Michigan Tech right away. He’s a tremendous athlete and his best hockey is still ahead of him. He’s only going to get better and better as a goaltender.[/quote]

Now for the interview with Pheonix Copley:

THG: You’ve made your decision to play college hockey at Michigan Tech. Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to become a Husky?[quote]First of all, with Mel, Bill, and Damon plus Steve Shields as a goalie coach, I don’t think it gets much better than that for a coaching staff in college hockey. Obviously, it’s going to be a good education there at Michigan Tech. I also like the campus and the setup for hockey there. Those three things combined, made me feel like there wouldn’t be a better place that fit for me to play college hockey.[/quote]

THG: Did you make your official visit to Houghton? If so who showed you around and what were your impressions of Houghton and Michigan Tech? [quote]Yeah, I made an official on the first weekend in November. As a smaller town, I liked that feel and I thought it was a really nice campus. Obviously it’s a smaller school but I like that.[/quote]

THG: And being from North Pole, Alaska, the cold doesn’t bug you too much?[quote](laughs) Yeah, that doesn’t bug me.[/quote]

THG: You mentioned the academics played a role in your decision, do you know what you want to study at Michigan Tech? [quote]I’m still trying to decide between going into pre-med or an engineering degree. I’m still looking, trying to decide.[/quote]

THG: Who else was recruiting you? Did you have any other offers? When did teams start to show interest in you? [quote]I was talking to my hometown team, UAF, and Ohio State. Those were the two main ones I was talking to. I talked to a couple [teams] last season and then during the [USHL] Fall Classic, was when I really started to talk to a lot more teams.[/quote]

THG: The Huskies made a change to bring in Mel Pearson with his 23 years of experience next to Red Berenson at Michigan. How much did he play a role in your decision? [quote]He was a pretty big part of my decision. For four years, you want to make sure you’re with a coaching staff that you like and coaches the style that you want. I liked how he was kind of laid back and I liked Bill and Damon and Steve Shields as goalie coach. I think he has a lot of experience with playing so I think that can only help me.[/quote]

THG: So how much did you get to talk to with Steve Shields and how much did he play in to your decision being a goalie?[quote]I talked to him quite a bit while I was there. I wanted to go to a school where I had a goalie coach. I think that’s a big part of it, having an individual coach there to help you improve. So it was a pretty big part, especially with his experience in the NHL and everything he’s been through. I think that speaks for itself.[/quote]

THG: How did you end up in Corpus Christi in the NAHL? What was the transition to the USHL like for you? [quote]I went to an open camp over the summer before that season and made the team out of camp. It was a little bit of a transition, everything was a step quicker, guys move the puck a little fast and don’t mess with it as much. They either take a shot or make a play with it. They don’t hold on to it for quite as long. I think it’s a little bit easier for a goalie to transition than it would be for forwards, I guess.[/quote]

THG: How are you dealing with the recent trade from Tri-City to Des Moines? [quote]Obviously it can be tough when you’re with a group of guys for almost a full season and then you come in one day and you’re going to the team you just played against, but I was excited for the opportunity here and it’s worked out good so far. The coaching staff in Des Moines has been really inviting and made it a good experience for me.[/quote]

THG: What has been you favorite hockey moment so far in your career? [quote]That’s a tough one. It was a lot of fun when we won the NAPHL. That was very exciting for me. I was a member of the So Cal Titans and won the 2009–2010 NAPHL U-18 Championship the year before I joined Corpus Christi. My first game last year in the NAHL was a lot of fun, so was my first game this year in the USHL. Both were good experiences for me.[/quote]

THG: Being from Alaska, how special is it for you to get a chance to play so close to home when Michigan Tech goes to Fairbanks?[quote]Yeah, that will be a good experience. It will be a lot of fun, get to play in my hometown. I look forward to that.[/quote]

THG: All the coaches I spoke to about you say the same thing. You’re a big athletic goaltender with a ton of potential; they all think you’ll only get better with more experience. What do you think that assessment? [quote]I’d agree. Obviously I have a good size and that helps me out. I think also I’m pretty strong moving laterally so I think that helps me as well.[/quote]

THG: What do you think is your biggest weakness? Something you’ll need to work on to become a better player at the college level? [quote]I want to work on controlling the puck outside the crease and also rebound control.[/quote]

THG: Anything you want Michigan Tech fans to know? [quote]I’m really excited to head to Michigan Tech, it will be a lot fun and I’ve been looking forward to it.[/quote]

Tim is a 2004 graduate of Michigan Tech. He is a co-founder of both Mitch’s Misfits and Tech Hockey Guide. With recent additions to the staff, Tim is again able to focus on his passion, recruiting. He currently works as an environmental engineer and resides in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Area.