Michael Nichols, a senior forward for the Falcons of Middlesex County's Monroe Township High School, had already scored one goal and had two assists when he raced for a loose puck during Saturday's game against Vernon. He took a shot and was checked into the wall from behind, causing him to smash headfirst into the boards, according to his family.
He was airlifted from the Skylands Ice World arena in Sussex County and taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a fracture to his C5 vertebrae.
Doctors stabilized Michael and performed surgery on his broken neck Sunday afternoon. They say it's too early to say whether he'll walk or skate again.
Twitter and Facebook have exploded with messages of support for Michael from family, friends, fans and hockey teams from other school districts across the state who are using the hashtag #prayformikey to rally for him. Former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed when he broke his neck during a game, has promised he will "reach out real soon."
According to the Falcons' website, Michael is a varsity alternate captain who has won awards for "intense consistent effort."
He tweeted the day of the game, "I'm a team player, if I win then we won, they gon put us all in the hall of fame when we done."
Monroe Athletics Director Greg Beyer declined MyCentralJersey.com's request for comment.
Michael is scheduled to graduate from Monroe Township High School this spring.