By ASHLEY OWENS
It was the final game of the 2014 season and freshman Corey Jenks was having his highlight game. Eastern’s club hockey team was playing Marshall University and Jenks not only had an assist, but also scored six goals himself. Lucky for the Tennessee native, coaches sat throughout the crowd of this monumental game in search of showcase players.
One of those coaches included Florida Gulf Coast’s coach, who was impressed enough with Jenks that he asked Jenks to apply for the ACHA All Star Showcase. Jenks’ first reaction when the coach approached him: This isn’t real.
“I was excited, but I didn’t believe it at first,” Jenks said.
Jenks moved past the initial shock, applied and found himself on a flight to Philadelphia for a weekend showcase with players from all over the world.
Players from Sweden, Finland, the United States and anywhere in between showed up to play at the showcase. Jenks was one of a few select players to have this experience. Around 82 teams were put into the Division II Independent category and, of those teams, Jenks said about 23 people were chosen for the East Independent Division II team, Jenks being one of those people.
“It was a huge experience,” Jenks said. “I was practically the only kid from the south, besides these three kids from Florida Gulf Coast.”
Jenks’ team went 5-0 in the showcase, but Jenks is on a personal seven-game winning streak after Eastern’s hockey team won its last two games of the 2014 season.
Not only did players flock from all over the globe to play in the ACHA All Star Showcase, but people of all ages played as well.
“There were people from 18 to 24 or 25-years-old,” Jenks said.
The showcase of the environment was much like a typical hockey game, energetic and rowdy.
There’s no question of whether Jenks had a successful season and showcase. But, his success started long before he came to Eastern.
At just 4-years-old Jenks was learning to play hockey. The game was in his blood, since his dad is from Michigan and started him in the sport. From there, Jenks moved on to high school where his team went on to play in the Tennessee state championship.
Though they lost in the championship, Jenks said the experience only pushed him to work harder at the game.
“That just motivated me to become a better player,” Jenks said.
After high school, Eastern’s club hockey coach came across Jenks through an unlikely route, Eastern’s admissions office. Once head coach Joel Cormier heard about Jenks, he followed up on Jenks coming to Eastern. After a smooth recruiting process, Cormier recruited Jenks to Eastern’s team.
“It was one of the easiest recruiting processes I’ve had,” said Cormier, an associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science.
Jenks’ dedication goes beyond the ice. Cormier said the environmental science major works just as hard in school as he does on the team.
“He’s really dedicated to his studies,” Cormier said. “He’s the first one on the ice and the last one off. But, he’s also doing everything he can to stay eligible for school. He’s been giving this opportunity to pursue a university and, as they say, he’s sucking the morrow right out of life. It’s unbelievable what he’s doing.”
The dedication Jenks puts into his work on the ice is one aspect Cormier said got him to the showcase.
“In this particular case, he’s just worked hard and has been recognized for it,” Cormier said. “That’s what’s so good about it. He’s talented, but he’s also a hard worker.”
Cormier said the team expects around 10 players for the 2015 season and will begin playing Friday, September 18. As the team heads into the upcoming season, Cormier said he hopes Jenks’ showcase experience sets off a reaction for the rest of the team.
“When trying to get a program started, you look for a spark,” said Cormier. “Hopefully this will be just a little one, that people will see one of the players went on the national stage and fit in fine.”