The Monroe Township High School ice hockey team has brought its competitiveness up to the next level this winter.
Monroe started the season off with a 5-3-1 mark going into its contest against Woodbridge-Colonia-John F. Kennedy of Iselin co-op team on Jan. 10.
Monroe has been playing well in its first three games to start the new year. The Falcons have picked up victories over the Howell-Matawan co-op team and South Brunswick High School, while battling undefeated Saint Rose High School to a 4-4 tie.
Their recent play and overall success this season has head coach Jerry Minter and the Falcons believing that they can make some noise come state playoff time.
“If we can find some rhythm in our puck movement and buckle down on defense, we have all the pieces to make a nice run,” Minter said.
Monroe is led by junior Gleb Veremyev and senior Anthony Zito.
The dependable one-two punch have each scored 11 goals this season for the Falcons.
Veremyev has been the anchor of the Monroe offense, currently leading the team in assists with 10.
Junior Vincent Foresta is right behind Veremyev with nine assists this winter, setting up four Monroe goals through the first three games of the new year.
In the team’s 10-7 victory over Woodbridge-Colonia-John. F. Kennedy on Dec. 9, Veremyev scored not one, not two, but five goals to help Monroe get its first victory of the season.
Veremyev assisted all four of Monroe’s goals in its 4-2 victory over South Brunswick on Jan. 8.
Zito stepped up big time in Monroe’s come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Mendham-West Morris co-op team on Dec. 13.
The senior scored a game-high two goals in the contest, including the game-winning goal with 36 seconds left to lead the Falcons to their second victory of the winter.
In the team’s 4-4 tie with Saint Rose, Zito punched in another two goals, his last giving coming on a power play to give the Falcons a one-goal lead with 4:07 left to play.
A player who has stepped up in the last three games for Monroe is sophomore John Bono.
Bono knocked home both Monroe goals in its 2-1 victory over Howell-Matawan on Jan. 3. He connected the go-ahead goal with 1:40 to go in the second period.
The sophomore only had one goal on the season going into the contest and now has four on the season with scoring a goal in the team’s victory over South Brunswick.
“He’s up and coming,” Minter said of Bono. “He’s got an eye for the net. He’s starting to find his touch this season.”
Foresta recorded a hat trick in the victory over South Brunswick. The senior now has five goals scored on the season.
The backbone of the Falcons is their goalie Marino Lupo.
Lupo has a 5-2-1 record in net this season for Monroe and a 0.893 save percentage.
“You have to stay focused and stick to your game plan,” Lupo said. “Whether you’re winning or losing, you have to play your best the whole game.”
As Monroe continues to gear up for its postseason run, players feel that this season can be a special one.
Already defeating Hunterdon Central Regional High School, the team that has defeated the Falcons in the playoffs the last two seasons, Monroe has the confidence that they can go pretty far in the state tournament.
“So far, it’s been a pretty good season,” Lupo said. “I think we have the potential to go far this year. We have played well against the top teams in the state this season. If we can be competitive against those teams, we can beat anyone in our bracket.”
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports