2018 WHS grad making strides playing Junior hockey in Rochester

By on February 8, 2019
Warwick grad Jacob Favilla carries the puck through the neutral zone for the Rochester Junior Monarchs in a game this season. Photo by Marney Singer

Warwick grad Jacob Favilla carries the puck through the neutral zone for the Rochester Junior Monarchs in a game this season. Photo by Marney Singer

Jacob Favilla finished among the scoring leaders in the Central Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League last season, so the 2018 Warwick High School grad knows the thrill of lighting the lamp.

His goal in early January at the New England Sports Center, though, was different.

“That was really something special,” Favilla said.

The 5-foot-7 forward is playing in his first season with the Rochester Junior Monarchs of the USPHL (United States Premier Hockey League) and it has been a time of adjustment for Favilla.

Slowly but surely, the former Warrior star has become acclimated to the “very, very fast” pace. He has adapted to the USPHL’s talent level.

“In Pennsylvania, hockey’s not bad,” Favilla said. “They have the Lehigh Valley Rebels and the Junior Flyers and those are really good organizations, but up here, everyone lives and breathes hockey.”

So when Favilla scored his first goal, beating Tri City Icehawks’ goalie Maxim Samoilovich in the second period of the Monarchs’ 15-1 rout, it provided a measure of relief.

“It’s such a reward because all that work you put in every day, showing up, giving it all you’ve got and then finally seeing it pay off, it was a huge weight off my shoulders,” Favilla said. “I felt really relieved to get that first goal.”

He admits that this season is one of development. Favilla’s ultimate goal is to catch the eye of college coaches, and he knows that the 2019-20 season will be his time to do that. In the U.S., the age cut-off to play Juniors is 20, and Favilla will only celebrate his 19th birthday on Feb. 22.

“I’ve been focused on making sure that I get better and get to a point where I can start contacting (college coaches),” he said. “I do have a recruiter, he’s been helping me out a lot, and he’s basically just making sure that the season is purely developmental so that I can get to a point where I can contact coaches confidently and say, ‘I’m ready to play D-3 or Division-One.’”

Favilla believed he was ready for the USPHL after playing with the Central Penn Junior Panthers in the Eastern Hockey League and earning All-Star honors with Warwick as a high school senior.

Late last spring, a tryout with the Brookings (S.D.) Blizzard, a Tier-II Junior A team in the North American Hockey League, took him to Niagra Falls, N.Y.

The next day, Favilla hopped in his car to go to a showcase being held by the Monarchs in Boston.

“I did research and picked those two teams because they seemed pretty decent and it was a good opportunity if I went on either team,” he said.

It was the Monarchs who gave Favilla his shot, assigning him to their 18U Triple-A team. He played just four games there before Premier head coach Brad Wheeler got Favilla on his cell phone.

“He called and asked me if I wanted to move up and play for their Junior team in the Premier Division,” Favilla recalled.

The decision was a no-brainer. And in early September, he worked out in training camp with the Monarchs and got his USPHL career underway.

“It’s very competitive and getting playing time is sometimes difficult because we have a lot of talented guys on our team and a lot of guys that have put up points,” said Favilla, who is living in a house owned by the Monarchs with six of his teammates. “So it’s very competitive and the other teams in our league are pretty good.”

Early on, the Monarchs struggled as they dealt with a short-handed roster. Eventually, they picked up four additional players and turned the corner.

Favilla, too, has improved. He has sought out his more experienced teammates to ask questions, in addition to sitting down for 1-on-1 time with coach Wheeler, and the results are showing.

“I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made,” Favilla said. “We’re on the ice six to seven times a week for an hour and a half practice, but I always try to get out a half hour early or stay half an hour late to work on shooting and passing with a couple other guys on the team. (Coach Wheeler) is really pleased with how I’ve been playing and how I’ve been growing, and watching tape from the beginning versus now, I’ve seen a definite improvement.”

His defensive positioning and passing abilities are two of his biggest strengths.

“I’m pretty proud of being able to thread the needle and get a pass through guys’ legs or through his stick, setting up other teammates,” Favilla said.

Monarch forwards Nicolas Privitera and Chase Matthews set up Favilla for his goal against the Tri City Icehawks on Jan. 5.

“One of our wingers was bringing the puck into the zone,” Favilla recalled, “and I just skated really, really hard to the net and beat two defenders and he was able to find me in the slot and I found a way to get it past the goalie.”

That was part of a two-point game for Favilla against the Icehawks.

In all, he has one goal and five assists, mostly in the Monarchs’ last 11 games.

But Favilla knows he needs to continue to step up in his offensive production.

“I’ve been getting the points recently,” he said, “but I need to start consistently getting a goal a game, or at least an assist a game, and just start getting more and more points because that’s something that college coaches look at a lot. And you have to produce in order to make it to the next level.”

The next level for Favilla, of course, is connecting with a college. His hopes are to find a good fit not only hockey-wise, but also academically.

“My ultimate dream would be Penn State University,” said Favilla, who is leaning toward an accounting major. “It’s not impossible, but it’s definitely something that would take work every single day and constantly contacting the school and the head coach to watch out for me. That’s the ultimate dream, but seeing as competitive as it is, I’m definitely (open) to any D-3 school or any D-1 school. (My goal is) definitely to continue playing at the highest level I can for as long as I can.”

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