MONROE - A Monroe High School hockey player suffered a devastating injury during a game that has put his future in question.

Mike Nichols, 17, of Monroe, is hospitalized with a broken neck after he was checked during a game Sunday and slammed head first into the boards.

Gerard Minter, coach of the Monroe Falcons, says Nichols has a fighting spirit. "He's a great kid with a big heart," he says. "I'd expect nothing less from him."

Nichols started playing hockey as a freshman, and as a senior, plays center on the team.

He's listed in critical condition in the intensive care unit of Morristown Medical Center.

Minter says the young athlete has been improving. "Mike is progressing," he says. "Today is better than yesterday. Yesterday was better than the day before. Any progress is a good, positive signs for us."

Wednesday, the Falcons will take on the Woodbridge Barrons in the first game since the injury. Players, coaches and fans are expected to wear No. 23 stickers and T-shirts to show their support.

Friends and family are using #prayformikey on Twitter to offer encouragement .