FEATURE: End Of An Ice Age Nears For Quirk
Feb. 11, 2009
BROCKTON, Mass. - He was in the lineup on Oct. 14, 2005 when the University of Massachusetts hockey team opened the season at St. Lawrence University.
Cory Quirk of Brockton was a freshman center for UMass that night when the Minutemen dropped their first game, 2-1.
For Quirk, it marked the beginning of a career in which he became a reliable player at UMass -- appearing in all 139 games over four seasons -- and a productive player -- scoring nearly 100 points.
Now, there are just eight regular-season games remaining for the 2004 Catholic Memorial graduate who has been such a fixture on the ice at Amherst.
"It flew by, the four years have gone fast,'' said Quirk. "I can remember when I was a freshman here. It seems like it was just yesterday and I was getting used to everything, and now I'm just winding down classes and everything. It's kind of surreal.''
Quirk, who is majoring in psychology with a minor in education, has made the most of his time at UMass.
He has complied 95 career points with 40 goals and 55 assists and is a plus-21, one of the best marks ever at UMass. Quirk was also a key player on the 2006-07 team was the first in UMass history to reach the NCAA Div. 1 tournament.
A three-time state champion at Catholic Memorial and the Catholic Conference's most valuable player, Quirk has enjoyed his time at UMass, a school he committed to early in the process.
"I kind of fell in love with the place,'' said Quirk, a co-captain this season. "The coaching staff and the facilities here are top notch, and I knew I wanted to go to a place that was kind of starting up in its tradition.
"Being a Boston (area) kid, I wanted to stay around here. I knew this was the place for me once I stepped on campus here with Coach (Don) Cahoon. They just had open arms for me.''
Quirk, who hopes to play professional hockey once his college career ends next month, prepared for UMass by playing 60 games for the Iowa-based Waterloo Blackhawks in the United States Hockey League in the 2004-05 season.
He was the rookie of the year, getting 14 goals and 26 assists, and the season in the USHL made the transition to Div. 1 college hockey a bit easier.
"It really prepared me for college,'' said Quirk. "I was 17 years old and I figured it would be best for me to help me become the player I am today.
"It was a learning experience. It was the first time I was away from home in Brockton. It got me ready for college, knowing I had to live by myself, do my own laundry. Just being out in the Midwest was a lot different compared to back home in Brockton.''
Quirk had eight goals and five assists as a freshman, earning the team's co-rookie of the year award. As a sophomore, when UMass was 21-13-5 and defeated Clarkson before losing to Maine in the NCAAs, Quirk tied for the team lead with 13 goals and added 18 assists.
"It was a great experience just going to the NCAA (tourney) for the first time in the history of the program,'' said Quirk. "It's awesome to be known as the first team that went to the NCAAs. You kind of pave the way for future teams. It's a special thing to be on the premier team at UMass.''
Quirk was second on the team with 29 points last season (11 goals, 18 assists) and he has eight goals and 14 assists this season. He ranks 12th all-time in career goals and 14th in assists and is on the verge of becoming the program's seventh 100-point scorer.
"I think I'm more of a finesse player,'' said Quirk, who played American Legion baseball for Brockton Post 35 when it went deep into the state tourney. "I think I play all three zones equally. Defensively, I can be counted on. I can win faceoffs. I think I use my speed to my advantage. I'm more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, but I don't mind scoring here or there.
"I'm more of a pass-first, shoot-second mentality. I think I got it from my father (James) who played (for the Hull Olympics of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League). He always said that assists are better than goals, even though people don't recognize assists as much. Guys on the team will recognize you for that.''
Quirk plans to explore options in the American Hockey League and the East Coast Hockey once the season ends at UMass. He is hoping to finish this season with a professional team and hope to continue playing for as long as possible.
"As long as my body allows me to go, I'm going to play,'' said Quirk, who can equal the UMass record for career games if the Minutemen reach the Hockey East tourney. "I don't think I'll ever not love the sport. After it's all done, I can look back at my career and say I gave it all I could.
"I realized (as a sophomore) that I can compete here and do well here, so why wouldn't it be a great opportunity to continue my career as long as I could, either in the States or over in Europe?''
Before that happens, Quirk has more to accomplish at UMass, which is battling for playoff position in Hockey East.
"I'm thrilled I had the opportunity to come to UMass,'' he said. "Everything I wanted to do, I think I accomplished, except for getting a national championship.
"I think coming in here, I was an OK player. I was a pretty good player. Now, I've just learned so much defensively. I don't think I ever would have thought I could learn this much if I didn't come here with this coaching staff. They've really believed in me and my abilities to play. I'm just thankful for all of it.''
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