Army West Point received a commitment last week from 3.5-star defenseman Brad Zona, who has spent the last three seasons with Cushing Academy and the Eastern Mass. Senators. This season, Zona is moving to the NAHL where he’ll play for the New Jersey Junior Titans.
“Brad is a smart, poised stay-at-home defender,” our scouts said following last year’s Lawrence/Groton Holiday Tournament. “He has a strong base and upper body allows him to push forwards around in his own zone. Tough to play against in the corners and in front of his net. He showcased some offensive skill this weekend. On a PK he jumped a route, separated from defenders for a breakaway and then deked the goalie and finished. His game continues to improve.”
Zona had 22 points (5 goals, 17 assists) in 31 games for Cushing last season.
This week, Zona sat down with Neutral Zone to talk about commitment to Army …
NZ: When you commit to Army, obviously you’re committing to more than just playing hockey. What attracted you to Army from a hockey standpoint and were you always interested in the military?
Zona: “I committed to Army West Point because I love all the aspects they emphasize in their program. Family is a word their program lives by, and I think that it is so important to have great chemistry on and off the ice. When you have a team that comes together like a family, it makes everything you are trying to achieve on the ice that much easier.
“Army hockey is also known for their hard work mentality, and that is something that I love about a team, and incorporate in my own game. I am also honored that I can represent my country while playing a sport I love.
“When I was younger I was highly interested in the military, and now that I have a chance to be apart of something bigger than myself, it feels great. I have family members that were in the service and even one that is currently serving. I look up to our nation’s troops so much for their sacrifice, and it feels great that I will be serving my country and helping the people within it.”
NZ: The campus there is gorgeous. What were your impressions touring the campus?
Zona: “The campus at Army West Point is like none other. The facilities are top of the line and you have everything you could think of at your fingertips. The buildings around campus have so much history behind them it’s fascinating, along with a beautiful view of the Hudson River that they overlook. The campus was definitely a positive factor in my decision.”
NZ: There’s a great staff up there as well and the program has a lot of history with Coach Riley. What was your impression of the staff during the recruiting process?
Zona: “I was highly impressed by the coaching staff of West Point. I connected well with the coaches right away. I loved everything they had to say about their program, and what they expect out of their players. They really showed me the sense of honor you get when putting on that Army jersey, and it certainly made my decision clear.”
NZ: Moving to the NAHL this year with the Jr. Titans, where are you hoping to see your game grow the most this year?
Zona: “This year in the NAHL I hope to improve my offensive skills and my ability to make plays when jumping into the rush. I also want to focus on keeping a tight gap and taking players in the neutral zone. At this level, it is key to finish plays early, and this is something our defensive core heavily works on.”
NZ: What was your experience like at Cushing and the EMass Senators the last three seasons? What were some of the things you learned most playing with both teams?
Zona: “I had a great experience at Cushing and with the Eastern Mass Senators. It was so much fun playing with my classmates, and it created a tight camaraderie. The coaching staffs were great and really pushed me to my limits. My playmaking abilities improved while playing in prep school and it really helped me develop as a player.”
NZ: How would you describe yourself as a defenseman? What are your strengths?
Zona: “I would describe myself as a two-way defenseman. I take pride in defending and can make plays in my own end, while I’m not afraid to jump into the rush and get shots off to create opportunities. I think my biggest assets are my physical strength and skating ability for my size. It allows me to finish forwards in the neutral zone as well as the corners, and get pucks heading north for my forwards breaking out.”