NEW JERSEY DEVILS’ HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS OF THE MONTH HONORED
FOUR SENIORS, FOUR JUNIORS AND ONE SOPHOMORE HIGHLIGHT FEBRUARY 2020 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 February 2020 are: Gloucester Catholic junior defenseman Jack Grace (Gordon Conference); Passaic Valley-Cedar Grove senior forward Sam Giuffrida (Big North Conference), Notre Dame senior forward Carson Skove (Colonial Valley Conference), Gov. Livingston-New Providence sophomore goaltender Shane Cook (NJIIHL), Vernon senior forward T.J. Santaita (MCSSIHL), Pingry junior forward Eric Bush (Greater Middlesex/Skyland Conference), Middletown North senior goaltender Matt Corella (Shore Conference), Summit senior winger Emily Sharpe and her sister junior center Caroline Sharpe (Girls Ice Hockey).
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. February 2020 selections will tentatively be honored March 23 when the Devils host the New York Islanders at Prudential Center.
This marks the 28th season the Devils honor high school student-athletes.
There’s a first time for everything, though.
On Feb. 17, Grace scored twice to lift Gloucester Catholic to a 6-3 victory over Delbarton — and the Rams’ first win over the 13-time NJSIAA champions in team history. Gloucester Catholic would go on to defeat Delbarton again two weeks later, 4-3, in the state quarterfinals snapping a run of 26 straight state-semifinal appearances for the Green Wave.
“I wasn’t looking to skate all the way down the ice, but when I saw they lost the puck I saw this opportunity with all this ice in front of me,” Grace said after his shorthanded goal on Feb. 17. “I was just skating hard, driving the net hard and I got a good pass from my teammate, Matthew Frett. I just focused on getting it on net and slid it five-hole.”
Grace finished with three goals and five points this past month
“Jack’s defensive-zone coverage is exceptional and he is extremely hard on pucks in the corners,” Gloucester Catholic coach Guy Gaudreau said. “He has excellent hockey IQ and plays the game at another level. Jake was Gloucester Catholic’s captain this year and highly respected by his teammates. Without his leadership, we would not have been as successful as we were.”
Giuffrida struck for nine goals and 12 points this past month, including a goal in Passaic Valley’s 2-0 win over Clifton in the Big North Conference Big North Bronze Cup final on Feb. 20. The senior scored five goals in a 6-3 victory over Paramus on Feb. 7, then added two goals and an assist the next game vs. Paramus Catholic. He finished the season with 21 goals and 31 points.
“Sam has been a leader all year on and off the ice,” Passaic Valley-Cedar Grove coach Erich Fleischmann said. “He always found a way to come up with a big game when we needed it the most. Especially through the Big North Bronze Cup playoffs. Well-deserved recognition.”
On Dec. 20, for the second time in four years, Skove tore his patellar tendon in a game against Princeton. Skove shrug it off, however, to the tune of 25 goals and 22 assists this season, including six goals and five assists in February, for Notre Dame.
“The adrenaline just keeps you going,” said Skove. “Sometimes I ice it. I just keep on chipping away and it feels fine.”
“In January his team was losing to Princeton 6-2 in the middle of the second period,” NJSIAA official Dave Zulla said. “He took over that game playing on one leg and the final score was 9-9! Probably the most epic game in CVC history.
“I went to see him after the game, asked the coach if I could talk to him. Told him how proud I was and all he stands for, how tough and how great a player he is. That’s how much I enjoy reffing these kids. Every time one of them moves on from high school a piece of me goes with them.”
With his senior season still in front of him, expect Skove to come back even stronger.
“Carson is an extremely skilled player that had a great season for us,” Notre Dame coach Mike McVey said. “He played through a pretty tough injury midway through the season and was still able to put up impressive numbers.”
Cook is just a sophomore, but that didn’t stop the Governor Livingston-New Providence rookie netminder from going 10-10-4 with a .953 save percentage this season. A first-year starter for the Highlanders, Cook is a student from New Providence.
In February, Cook halted 160-of-169 shots with a pair of shutouts, including a sparkling 28-save, 1-0 blanking of Morristown in the first round of the NJSIAA Public B state tournament on Feb. 25. Cook did all he could turning aside 45-of-47 shots bowing out vs. Middletown South a week later.
“Shane Cook is the anchor of the GL ice hockey program,” coach Michael Criscitello said. “As a sophomore and first-year starting goaltender for the Highlanders, Shane spent little time finding success. This year he recorded a .953 save percentage with over 700 saves. He is a model player who commits himself to the team and the game. Shane has an insurmountable work-ethic in which he is continually challenging himself and others around him, competing day-in and day-out. I am proud of his growth and success. The team and coaching staff are looking forward to another 2 years with Shane leading us between the pipes.”
Santaita struck for 10 goals and 10 assists while eclipsing the 100-point plateau this past month for Vernon. The senior scored four goals in an 8-3 win over Sparta on Feb. 1 and followed it up with a goal and four assists vs. Old Tappan his next game. He added two goal and five points against Sparta again on Feb. 10 helping the Vikings qualify for the NJSIAA post-season.
“T.J. is the player every team wants,” Vernon coach Ray Zimmerman said. “No ego, team-first attitude spreads amongst his teammates. This is something every coach appreciates in his star player.”
Santaita, who finished his senior season with 29 goals and 22 assists, amassed 54 goals and 56 assists at Vernon.
After helping Pingry capture the Skyland Cup on Feb. 15, Eric Bush turned in a hat trick on Feb. 27 as the 10th-seeded Big Blue upset seventh-seeded St. Augustine, 5-2, in the NJSIAA Non-Public Sweet-16.
Bush finished the month with five goals and six assists and his junior season with 16 goals and 31 assists.
“Eric is one of the most talented players in the state,” Pingry coach Scott Garrow said. “His ability to break open a game is outstanding. Eric’s best game of the year came at St. Augustine. He was dominant from the first shift of that game.”
Even though Matt Corella didn’t win the last game of his high school career at Middletown North, his 72-save performance against Ramsey in the NJSIAA Public C Sweet-16 will be talked about long after he hangs up his Lions jersey.
“Matt was our unquestioned Most Valuable Player this year,” Middletown North coach Don Wood said. “Without him, we don’t even get considered for an at-large bid for the state tournament. All season, he kept us in games while facing 30+ shots a lot of nights. He’s been everything we thought we were getting when he came as a freshman — and then some.
“His brother, Mike, was also a goaltender for us. Matty was always at our games as a middle school kid. He exceeded our expectations and leaves as one of the top two or three goalies, statistically, in every category in the history of the program.”
Corella steered aside 228-of-240 shots in February, including a 28-save shutout over Vernon in the first round. He concludes his Middletown North career with a 2.52 goals-against average, sparkling .915 save percentage with four shutouts.
“As for his play in states, I mean, what can you say? He stopped 70 shots. He stood on his head,” Wood said. “Matt is not an overly vocal guy, but when he was or saw something the other team was doing he didn’t hesitate to let his teammates know. When Matt spoke, everyone stopped. He garnered that kind of respect.”
NJSIAA Finals Coverage
At Summit, the Hilltoppers are a double-edged sword — extra sharpe.
Caroline and Emily Sharpe are a dynamic combination at Summit, combining for 19 goals and 23 assists this past month — each eclipsing the 100-point plateau for their careers a mere five days apart.
“Emily and Caroline are both what every coach wants to see in their athletes — they work hard, they’re great teammates, show respect to everyone around them, they’re competitive and they both have a lot of skill,” says Summit coach Matt Stanbro. “They’ve been linemates for most of their high school careers. The relationship they have together is great to witness. They’re just like any other sisters a year apart in age — they’re very close, they support each other and occasionally push each other to be better.”
With three assists in a 5-0 win over Pingry on Feb. 20, Caroline, a junior, became the first player in program history to reach 100 points. Five days later, Emily, a senior, struck for three goals and five assists in a 12-2 triumph over Randolph to accomplish the same feat.
The duo led Summit to the first girls ice hockey state championship on Feb. 16.
Emily concludes her career at Summit with 41 goals and 58 assists for . Caroline has already amassed 57 goals and 50 assists with her entire senior season ahead of her.
“Some of my favorite memories of these two are when one of them comes to the bench after a shift and says, ‘You know I was open coming into the offensive zone,’ or, ‘You should have shot it,’ — always makes me smile behind the bench,” Stanbro said.
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Written by John Christian Hageny @JCCSPORTS
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