UNION — Union High School might not have its own ice hockey team, but no hockey player in the state of New Jersey is yet to reach the number of goals scored by Union’s own Victor Velazquez this season.
While Union does not have a hockey team under the school’s name, the school is one of three to form a co-op with Jonathan Dayton (Springfield) and David Brearley (Kenilworth). Not only has that team dominated to the tune of an 8-2 record so far this winter, but Velazquez — a senior forward and Union High student — currently leads the entire state in goals scored (22) and hat tricks (4). He also owns 12 assists and three game-winning goals, one of which came in a six-goal game against Paramus Catholic.
Velazquez is one of three Unioners on the team, joined by fellow senior Daniel Aladeniyi and sophomore Giuseppe Wadowski. Velazquez is also a team captain, which is evident in more ways than one, according to head coach Brian Hayes.
“He’s one of our captains and he wears the letter on his jersey for a reason,” Hayes told TAPinto Union. “He’s a leader, he’s very intense, into the game, and hard on himself. He’s a good leader — not just his skill, but the way he carries himself is important for our team.”
Velazquez has been a mainstay for the Bulldogs since his sophomore year, when he burst onto the scene with eight goals and six assists — a bright spot in a rough year (3-10-2) for the team. Last winter, he improved more and netted 12 goals on 10 assists, coinciding with a promising 9-7-1 record in a year of improvement for the Bulldogs.
But this winter, it has all come together for Velazquez and his team. While he personally has a chance to put together one of the finest seasons in recent state history, his Dayton team also has a chance to make a run deep through the state playoffs into March.
“He was great last year, and where he’s come from last year is just unbelievable how good he is,” Hayes said. “He’s got unbelievable hands. You can see his hands and the skill he has is unbelievable. It’s really nice to see him get some recognition, too.”
Velazquez is quick to redirect all praise to his teammates. His unselfish attitude shines some light into the team-first mentality that has allowed Dayton to play so well as a cohesive unit and put together this tremendous early-season run.
“My teammates are helping me out, setting me up, and I give a lot of credit to my teammates for getting me open — I just try to bag it home,” Velazquez said after Dayton’s 7-1 win over West Orange last Friday night at Union Sports Arena, in which he scored the first goal and dished out two assists. “I’m just trying to find open holes. My teammates are coming with great passes, I’m going up the middle, and it’s just going well for me right now.”
As a senior entering the final months of high school, Velazquez is currently undecided on whether or not he will pursue playing hockey at the collegiate level. He wants to study to become a pilot, he said, and is looking to work on his studies and get good grades to pursue that career path.
But right now, Velazquez is having a senior season to remember and will look to ensure that it is one his entire team can remember, as well.
"I’m enjoying it so much," Velazquez said of the season so far. "Senior year, couldn’t get any better than this. It’s going to be one of my best years and I’m going to remember it forever."
"The chemistry on the team is great and we’re starting to learn as the game goes on," he added. "We're looking to keep on pushing. Hopefully we make states and hopefully we can go far in states."