NEW JERSEY DEVILS’ HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS OF THE MONTH HONORED
FOUR SENIORS, TWO JUNIORS AND TWO FRESHMEN HIGHLIGHT DECEMBER 2019 SELECTIONS
The New Jersey Devils High School Player of the Month Program continues in this, their 28th season honoring the top scholastic hockey players in the Garden State.
Players named for January 2019 are: Bergen Catholic freshman forward Aram Minnetian (Gordon Conference), Lakeland junior goaltender Ben Kopacki (Big North Conference), Robbinsville-Allentown senior goaltender Mike Zuppa (Colonial Valley Conference), Dayton-Brearley-Union senior forward Victor Velasquez (NJIIHL), Montville senior forward Danny Scheine (MCSSIHL), Hillsborough senior forward Jason Wolff (Greater Middlesex/Skyland Conference), Toms River North junior forward Cole Schneider (Shore Conference) and Morristown-Beard freshman goaltender Gracie Meyers (Girls Ice Hockey).
Minnetian, a freshman, has made an immediate impact in the elite Gordon Conference with five game-winning goals while making the transition from defense to forward for Bergen Catholic. All told, the talented centerman amassed 13 goals and 16 points this past month. Highlights include four-goal games against St. Peter’s Prep and St. Joseph (Met.).
“Aram checks off all the boxes of what you want in a player,” Bergen Catholic coach Tom Keough said. “He’s a perfect representation of what I want for my program at Bergen Catholic. As he continues to develop I see him potentially being an All-State forward and future possible selection for National Team Development Program.”
Kopacki was hit with 183 pucks in December, but the junior was up to task turning aside 173 (.945 save pct.) while posting shutouts over Ramapo, Indian Hills, Wall Township and Montclair. Kopacki rang in the New Year with his fifth shutout of the season on Jan. 3 vs. Passaic Tech.
“Ben has been great. He worked so hard in the off-season to put himself in a position to have success knowing he was taking over the starting role,” Lakeland coach Nick Crouch said. “He is a big reason we are off to such a good start.”
Zuppa just started tending goal three years ago, but that hasn’t stopped the Robbinsville-Allentown senior from being one of the best puckstoppers in the Colonial Valley Conference. Zuppa went 8-1 this past month with a minuscule 1.11 goals-against average, sparkling .956 save percentage including shutouts over West Windsor, Steinert and Red Bank.
“He just started playing goal three seasons ago — last year he made his first start,” Robbinsville coach Dan Bergan said. “I’m a longtime goalie instructor and I am startled how he has understood concepts that take years. His work ethic to get where he is has been absurd. Mike is the consummate student-athlete. Fiercely bright, a ferocious competitor, the ultimate warrior and one of the great character kids in the game. He just wills things to be so. I’ll take 20 just like him every year.”
With 31 points in nine games this past month, Dayton-Brearley-Union senior center Victor Velasquez is second in the state in scoring with 21 goals and 10 assists. Highlights include a six-goal, eight-point performance against Paramus Catholic on Dec. 30 and a four-goal game versus Johnson on Dec. 13. He has 42 goals, 28 assists and 70 points in his career.
“Victor is an outstanding hockey player and a great leader for our team,” Dayton coach Brian Hayes said. “Victor leads not only with his play on the ice, but also the way he conducts himself of the ice. Victor is truly deserving on this honor.”
With 13 goals in December, Montville senior right winger Danny Scheine is quickly coming up on 100 points in his career. Scheine scored four goals against Kinnelon on Dec. 6 and added hat tricks versus Vernon and Sparta. He is just 14 points away from the century mark with 54 goals and 32 assists for 86 points in 69-career games.
“Danny is a great captain who leads by example,” Montville coach Alex Beatrice said. “He comes to the rink every day ready to compete. He’s extremely coachable and has a great knack for finding the net.”
Already the school’s all-time leader in assists (107), Hillsborough senior Jason Wolff is just 21 points away from tying Jude Kurtas for the school scoring record. With 183-career points (76-107), the versatile winger/defenseman struck for eight goals and 18 assists in December putting him on path to eclipse Kurtas’ record of 204-career points.
“Jason has been a leader for the last four years both on and off the ice,” Hillsborough coach Chris Tommins said. “He works hard to make sure other players around him play their best. He plays in all situations and is a born athlete. We are proud of everything he has done for our program and look forward to what he can do to finish off his career here.”
With 35 points in December, Toms River North junior Cole Schneider led the state.
“Cole is a focused, two-way player who consistently makes plays every shift,” Toms River North coach Christian Cranston said. “He has great vision and silky, smooth hands which allows him to make plays that continue to surprise the coaching staff. His speed and creativity in the offensive zone make him fun to watch. He is humble and surrounded by great teammates. His leadership and character make him an easy selection for captain during his junior year.”
Schneider recorded a five-goal, seven-point game against Freehold Boro on Dec. 6, four-goal game vs. Ocean Township on Dec. 20 and added hat tricks against Lacey and Jackson Memorial. He tallied 20 goals and 15 assists this past month adding to his 67-career goals and 155-career points.
An early-season injury thrust Morristown-Beard goaltender Gracie Meyers right into the mix and the freshman netminder has shown poise beyond her years in between the pipes.
“We were very fortunate to have freshman Gracie Meyers step in right away and show her talents,” Crimson coach Bruce Driver said. “Gracie recorded a 14-save shutout in our first game of the year and added 27 and 36-save performances in her next two starts giving up only three goals. Her fourth start of the month was another shutout. This was an outstanding start to her young career at MBS and one that helped her team tremendously.”
Each month, December through March, eight student-athletes from throughout the state will be selected as recipients of the award. Public A, Public B, Public C and Non-Public All-Tournament Teams will be selected in March and an overall Boys and Girls High School Player of the Year will also be chosen at the conclusion of the season.
Winners are based on nominations received from members of the media who cover the state’s scholastic hockey. Award winners and their guests receive tickets to a Devils game, a plaque presented by a Devils’ player and dinner compliments of the Devils. December 2019 selections will be honored Jan. 30 when the Devils host the Nashville Predators at Prudential Center.
This marks the 28th season the Devils honor high school student-athletes.
Written by John Christian Hageny @JCCSPORTS
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