NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Brandon Cuccaro, a freshman defenseman, scored three second period goals to record his first high school career hat trick in the Gov. Livingston 5-2 victory over Scotch Plains-Fanwood on Saturday.
Cuccaro also scored the game winning goal in the 6-3 season opening win against Xavier and has tallied 5 goals and 2 assists to date in this early season.
"Brandon is another special player. He has the things you can't teach as a coach. With a strong skill set and a hard work ethic, Brandon produces as a freshman," said Gov. Livingston head hockey coach Michael Cirisitello. "Brandon works very hard and has learned a lot in the past 6 weeks to adjust to the high school level. I am looking forward to seeing him build on his early success with GL hockey."
"The team is off to a great start to the season. I hope that I can continue to contribute and keep the momentum moving forward," said Cuccaro. "Hockey is a team sport and any individual accomplishments could not happen without the help of my teammates."
Cuccaro is a New Providence High School student participating in the co-op with the Gov. Livingston High School ice hockey program. Because NPHS doesn't have a hockey program, this co-op allows for New Providence students to play hockey at the high school level.
"We are grateful for both school districts for supporting the co-op," said Coach Criscitello. "While the program is established at Gov. Livingston, it is growing at New Providence."
"I know GL and NP are pretty big crosstown rivals in other sports, but I don’t think anyone that is on the hockey team thinks of it as a combined team," said Cuccaro. "These guys are my brothers on the ice. A lot of us have played together before on other teams. We all know each other now and are all working toward one goal."
Brandon took the time to answer questions with TAPinto New Providence.
TAPinto: When did you start playing hockey?
Brandon: I started ice skating when I was three years old in the Learn to Skate program at Mennen and worked my way up to the hockey program. When I turned six I played on my first house league team.
TAPinto: What club are you with now?
Brandon: I have been playing travel hockey with the Jersey Wolves Hockey Club for Coach Ken Lilien for the past 9 years. It’s been a great learning experience for me. This year I will be playing against many of my former teammates and coaches that are with other high schools.
TAPinto: What training helped you prepare for varsity hockey?
Brandon: I’m on the ice pretty much August to May. I take a few weeks off in the summer - I play baseball too - but I try to get on the ice at least one time a week in the offseason just to stay skating. Connor Pierce and Kyle Cook really took me under their wing this past summer. Lifting with the boys at the gym really made me stronger and gave me the opportunity to get to know them before the season started.
TAPinto: How has it been managing the demands between varsity hockey and your club?
Brandon: Being a second year Bantam, playing full season, and playing on the varsity squad has made me very good at managing my time. My Club team practices two times per week and usually has two games a weekend. GL has some type of workout, practice or game just about every day. I try to get my homework done wherever I can; during lunch, on the bus, in the car. So far, it’s been manageable, but I look forward to playing short season for my club team next year so it will be easier to manage my time during the high school season.
TAPinto: What has been the best advice you have received from a coach?
Brandon: Something I try to live by is “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”. My coaches and parents have always told me to make the most out of any situation and put 110% into anything you do.
TAPinto: Do you have a pre-game ritual?
Brandon: Not really. I put my airpods in and listen to music before a game.
TAPinto: Do you have aspirations to play hockey in college?
Brandon: I would like to play in college. I know I have a lot of hard work ahead of me to make that happen.
TAPinto: Do you have a favorite subject?
Brandon: Math is probably my favorite subject.
TAPinto: Who is your favorite athlete?
Brandon: Ryan McDonagh is one of my favorite athletes. He’s a defensemen like me. I loved watching him play when he was with the Rangers.
TAPinto: Do you have a role model?
Brandon: My role models are my parents. They are very supportive in everything that I do. They have always had my back and push me to be a better person every day.
TAPinto: What do you like to do when you are not playing a sport?
Brandon: When I am not on the ice, I like to hang out with my friends or play Xbox. NHL20 is probably the one I play the most right now.
The Joe Eberle Weichert Realtors Pioneer Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Joe Eberle Weichert Realtors located at 64 Main Street in Chatham. Joe is a 25 year New Providence resident who is an active member of the New Providence community. Contact Joe anytime, whether it's to get started on helping you realize your real estate goals and dreams, or just to ask a question about the local market. Joe can be reached at email@example.com or call 908-868-4800.