JANESVILLE – The Janesville Jets, proud members of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), are pleased to announce that forward Zach LaValle has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for the Miami University RedHawks of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC).
LaValle (5’11/190) is capping off an outstanding first season in the NAHL. With 53 points, he leads the North Division in scoring and places fourth in the entire league. Recently, he won the North Division Star of the Week award for the week of January 19. He previously had been named 2nd Star once and an honorable mention three times.
LaValle, who is heading to the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament later this month, is a product of the Hill-Murray School in Maplewood, Minnesota. In four years playing for the Pioneers, the Oakdale native scored 73 goals on 168 points. His senior season saw him lead the Pioneers to the championship game of the Tier I Minnesota State Boys' High School Hockey Tournament, where LaValle’s current teammate Cullen Munson captured the title with Edina High.
In 40 games with the United States Hockey League’s (USHL) Chicago Steel last season, LaValle recorded two goals and two assists. This season, he has emerged as one of the NAHL’s best players, but if you ask him about his individual stats, he’ll quickly deflect the praise.
“Everything that has happened to me this year I owe to the team,” said LaValle, who is one of Janesville’s three alternate captains. “We all play for each other. You hear people say that and it sounds corny, but it’s absolutely been the case this season for the Jets. Everybody comes to the rink ready to play every day.”
Jets head coach and general manager Joe Dibble acknowledged that LaValle has worked for his success.
“LaValle is fortunate to get this opportunity, but it’s something he’s earned,” said Dibble, whose playoff-bound Jets hold a 23-point lead in the North Division. “Nothing has been handed to Zach in his career. I think he’s earned everything he’s gotten.”
Asked what singular element of LaValle’s game is most responsible for his success, Dibble pointed to the forward’s reliability.
“He’s just consistent all around for what he’s done for us this year,” Dibble said. “He has a drive and a passion for this sport. He works his bag off every day to improve the little things and the details of his game.”
Like the Air Force Falcons with Evan Feno, Kyle Patava, Jordan Himley, and Austin Priebe, the Miami RedHawks seem to be assembling former Janesville Jets. This fall, LaValle will join his Jets teammate Grant Hutton in Oxford, Ohio. Last month, Hutton committed to play for coach Enrico Blasi’s RedHawks.
“I’m really excited to go with Grant,” LaValle said. “I’m excited to have a buddy there with me. It’ll make things easier and it’ll be a great experience for me and Grant both.”
“I’m extremely excited to play with him,” added Hutton. “[LaValle] is an unbelievable teammate both on and off the ice. We had a great visit together and I am lucky to be able to play four more years with such a high character guy.”
LaValle is the ninth player of the 2014-2015 Jets to commit to a Division I program, joining Evan Feno (Air Force), Ian Janco (Bemidji State), Grant Hutton (Miami), Nicolas Erb-Ekholm (Alaska-Anchorage), Kyle Patava (Air Force), Cullen Munson (Army), Mitch Fossier (Maine), and Drew Callin (Bentley).