NMU’s Payne, Diamantoni, 3-time WCHA Scholar-Athletes

NMU’s Zach Diamantoni and MTU’s Joel L’Esperance race to puck Friday evening February 23, 2018 at the Berry Events Center. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

By Journal Sports Staff

MARQUETTE — Led by three-time winners Zach Diamantoni and Robbie Payne, 10 Northern Michigan University hockey players were honored recently with the WCHA Scholar-Athlete Award for this season.

In all, 141 student-athletes from 10 men’s and seven women’s programs in the league were honored.

Diamantoni and Payne are both forwards with the Wildcats and as seniors, have won the award for each year possible, since freshmen and first-year transfers are not eligible for this honor.

These students must have completed a year of residency at their present institution prior to this season and have a grade-point average of at least 3.50 on a 4.00 scale for the previous two semesters or three quarters. A player can also win the award if his or her overall GPA is at least 3.50 for all terms at the present institution.

Diamantoni, of Montgomery, New Jersey, is majoring in business, while Payne, of Gaylord, majors in finance and risk management.

Second-time NMU honorees with their hometowns and academic majors are sophomore goalie Mathias Israelsson of Ytterby, Sweden, finance and risk management; junior forward Brendan Jacques of Calumet, entrepreneurship; junior defenseman Jesse Junttila of Calumet, biology; junior forward Denver Pierce of Sault Ste. Marie, industrial technology; junior goalie Atte Tolvanen of Vihti, Finland, management; and junior defenseman James Vermeulen of Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada, management.

First-time Northern honorees are junior forward Adam Rockwood of Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada, marketing; and sophomore defenseman Rylan Yaremko of Spirit River, Alberta, Canada, business.

NMU President Fritz Erickson is chairman of the WCHA men’s league and issued a joint statement about the awards with women’s league chairwoman and Bemidji State athletic director Tracy Dill, men’s league Commissioner Bill Robertson and women’s league Commissioner Katie Million.

“We are lucky to have a truly exceptional group of young men and women attending our institutions and competing in our conference,” part of their statement said. “Our Scholar-Athlete Award recipients are a testament to the very best of the student-athlete ideal, showcasing exemplary effort and dedication to all facets of the university experience.

“We are thrilled to publicly recognize the terrific academic accomplishments of these 141 student-athletes, who have maintained high standards in their studies while competing at the top level of collegiate hockey. Similarly, we salute the successful commitment of our member institutions to the WCHA mission of providing the very best experience, both on and off the ice.”

The award was developed through member team faculty representatives and approved by conference members for the 2005-06 season.

More than 1,100 WCHA Scholar-Athletes have been named in its 13-year existence. For this year, 78 are repeat honorees and 30 are being honored for the third time.

And Michigan Tech’s Brent Baltus and Minnesota’s Sidney Peters earned their fourth honor this year, a list that now includes just 15 student-athletes.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.