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    March 6, 2021 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Liberty University ACHA Division I men's hockey forward recruit Jackson Vercellono plans to major in business management and minor in finance through the School of Business when he arrives on campus this fall so that he can be equipped to serve in the ministry where he honed his hockey skills.

    "My dream is to take over and be the director of FCA Hockey one day," said Vercellono, who committed to Liberty this week. "(National Director) Rick Randazzo is actually my mentor and he believes in me. He has been training me the past two summers and every summer I've worked there."

    Vercellono spent two summers participating in FCA Hockey's camps before scoring 27 goals and distributing 38 assists in 56 games as a senior center and captain in the inaugural 2018-19 season of NorthStar Christian Academy in Alexandria, Minn., site of FCA Hockey's Sports Complex.

    "That was a special year to be a captain, and I've always taken pride in my leadership," he said. "Something my dad taught me from a young age is to follow only Jesus and to lead everybody else."

    He visited Liberty for the first time when it hosted an FCA Hockey camp at the LaHaye Ice Center in the summer of 2018.

    "I really loved that camp and I got to meet (Flames DI Head) Coach Kirk (Handy) and (DII Head Coach) Ben (Hughes)," Vercellono said. "Kirk was my coach at that camp. I wasn't thinking too much about Liberty at that time, but I always kept Liberty in the back of my mind. That was one of the camps that put me on the radar."

    He will be reunited with two former NorthStar teammates, forwards Nate Albers and Truett Olson who both committed to Liberty in January, as the third member of the Flames' Fall 2021 recruiting class.

    Vercellono is a two-way player who thrives in the clutch.

    "I'm really excited to start playing college hockey, especially with two of my really close friends," Vercellono said. "The Albers brothers (Zak is a sophomore forward on the DI Flames) both worked as interns with me last summer (with FCA Hockey) and Truett helps out as a counselor at the camps because (Alexandria, Minn. is) his hometown. It is crazy that we all get to go to the same school."

    Vercellono visited Liberty a second time in early February, touring with one of his older sisters, K.C. and Shea, who both live in Christiansburg, Va., and plan to be back to see their younger brother play next season at the LIC.

    "I think it's a perfect fit," he said. "I love the program and what they have to offer. As an athlete, it's all I could ask for. As a man of faith, it's a great environment to set me up for my future."

    "I'm excited to bring some of my knowledge and just learn more when I get there," he added. "I am really looking forward to getting back into school and getting the gears turning again academically, after taking two years off of school."

    Vercellono has spent the past two seasons on the Maine Nordiques, a Tier II Junior team that currently has the second-most points in the NAHL and is bound to make the playoffs, which start in mid-May.

    "Our goal is to win the Robertson Cup," he said of the NAHL championship tournament set for June 18-22 in Blaine, Minn. "We had a good chance to go far in the playoffs last year."

    However, those were canceled by COVID-19, leaving Vercellono and his teammates all the hungrier for this year's event.

    "I wouldn't trade these two years in Maine for the world," he said. "I've really learned how to adapt and grow and play a fast game."

    Vercellono also netted 24 goals and 42 assists in 41 games with the Northern Cyclones in 2017-18 and 25 goals and 35 assists with the West Ranch Wildcats and 9 goals and 8 assists with the Pasadena Maple Leafs in 2016-17. He considers himself to be a 200-foot player who has a high hockey IQ, is an asset on the power play or penalty kill, and has a knack for showing up on the scoresheet.

    "I'm a tough player to play against," Vercellono said. "The thing that makes me so unique is I'm an ultimate competitor, a warrior. If I have the puck, I'm going to do something lethal with it, and if I don't have the puck, I'm going to fight to get it back. I'm someone who brings a great energy-filled start and who, if you're up by one goal, you can put me in with a minute left in the game you will not be scored on. I play fair, but I'll do whatever it takes to win. I hate to lose so I'll go as hard as I can all of the time if that's what it takes."

    Vercellono is the first person in his family to play hockey, starting at the age of 3 outside of his dad's hometown of Chicago.  As a pastor's kid — his parents Tim and JJ are lead pastors at Real Life Church in New Hampshire — he bounced around the country growing up, moving to California, where his mom was born, at age 6 before going on to pursue his hockey career in Minnesota and Maine.

    "My parents both supported me 100 percent in my journey, coming to as many games as possible and traveling to watch me play," said Vercellono, who has worked at FCA Hockey camps around the United States and Canada, where Randazzo is working to grow it with hopes of taking it into other countries like Russia. "Something I'm excited for at Liberty is going to Finland with the team."

    He hopes to emerge as a leader at Liberty, in the locker room as much as on the ice.

    "I just try to love all of my teammates and to show them the love that Christ shows to all people," Vercellono said." I believe in serving, and the best way to lead is by serving other people."

     

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media