Half-dozen California products garner monthly awards from USPHL
The USPHL has announced that a slew of California natives has earned Player of the Month honors for December.
Florida Jr. Blades forward Jacob Gusty (Whittier) is the Florida Elite Division Forward of the Month, Fresno Monsters blueliner Jacob Gagnon (Reedley) is the Pacific Division Defenseman of the Month, Vernal Oilers goalie Antonio Tarantino (Fremont) is the Northwest Division Goaltender of the Month, Fort Wayne Spacemen netminder Bryce Dunnigan (Bakersfield) is the Midwest East Division Goaltender of the Month, and Ogden Mustangs teammates Jake Meure (Fremont) and Dimitri Voyatzis (Fountain Valley) are Mountain Division Forwards of the Month, all with the Premier Division.
No Jr. Blades player scored points in more games in December than Gusty, a 2002 birth year. Along with being a physical presence on the ice at 6-feet-5-inches, 270 pounds, Gusty also was Mr. Consistent on the scoresheet in December. He posted points in seven of the Jr. Blades’ eight games and was held scoreless only once – in one of two games on Dec. 18 against the league’s No. 2 team the Charlotte Rush. And he got one against them the second time around on the same day.
For the month, Gusty had a 5-4-9 scoring line. The Jr. Blades earned both their wins on the season in December, and Gusty registered their first game-winning goal in countering two tough losses to Atlanta with a win to close the first weekend. The four-year Jr. Blades veteran stands with 65 points in 110 career contests.
Gagnon, also Fresno’s captain, is close to surpassing his 46 total points with Fresno last season with 37 to round out the end of this year.
In the month of December, Gagnon picked up eight points with two goals and six assists, including the game-winning goal in Fresno’s 6-3 win over Ontario on Dec. 2. He has been leading his team to victory on and off the ice as the Monsters remain the leaders of the Pacific Division. In December, he was plus-9 with 18 blocked shots and three hits.
Gagnon played for the Bakersfield Jr. Condors during his youth hockey days.
The winningest netminder in the league so far this season, Tarantino rounds out all December selections behind the blue line for the team from Eastern Utah.
In seven games, the Fremont native posted a .920 save percentage and tallied five wins plus an overtime loss to Rock Springs. In the USPHL Las Vegas Showcase, he faced 92 shots with a 1-1 record. Currently, he is ranked sixth in total save percentage at .938.
In California, Tarantino played for the Golden State Elite Eagles and San Jose Jr. Sharks.
Dunnigan, a second-year USPHL Premier veteran goalie, is excelling in his first season in Fort Wayne. The ‘02 netminder won all four of his December starts, allowing just eight goals during the month.
Dunnigan backstopped Fort Wayne to multiple interdivisional victories, including a 3-2 overtime decision against the Minnesota Moose at the USPHL Chicago Showcase on Dec. 17. Dunnigan stopped 36 of 38 Minnesota shots in that matchup, nicely complementing his 30-of-32 performance in Fort Wayne’s win over Pueblo one day prior.
His 1.90 GAA and .934 save percentage were both among the league’s best figures last month.
Back home, Dunnigan played for Tahoe Prep Academy and the Valencia Jr. Flyers.
The ‘Stangs scored 39 goals in eight games during December and no Ogden skater had more than Jake “Magic” Meure, who finished with eight goals in eight games.
Meure, a 2003-born Fremont native, blitzed opponents for 16 points (8-8-16) and finished the month with a sizzling six-game goal streak and eight-game point streak. His 61 points (32-29-61) lead the Mountain Division and are quickly approaching his career best 66-point mark from his rookie season in 2020-21.
With 32 goals, Meure has nearly scored more goals this season than the previous two combined (34).
During his youth hockey days, Meure skated for the Jr. Sharks.
Voyatzis nabbed Player of the Month honors in November and upped the ante in December, becoming the first skater to win the award in back-to-back months.
The ’03 was a multi-point machine last month with five multi-point games in seven played during December. Voyatzis finished with 12 points (5-7-12) in 12 games and dominated the faceoff circle as well, winning 62 percent of faceoffs (108/173). The second-year center already has a career high in goals (19) and points (45) through 29 games in 2022-23.
Back home, Voyatzis skated for the Anaheim Jr. Ducks.
— Joshua Boyd, Grace Mello, Brendan Price, Miles Regan, Jonathan West/USPHL.com
(January 4, 2023)