It has been a year that young players dream about. But for one former Valley Jr Warrior - Sam Kurker - it is his sweet and well-deserved reality.
Kurker, who began playing hockey when he was barely able to walk and spent his younger years in the blue and gold jersey, now stands at an imposing 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds and has made his presence felt in North America and beyond.
In a matter of months, Kurker represented the United States at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Slovakia and the Czech Republic and then returned home to announce that he had made a verbal commitment to accept a scholarship and play hockey for Boston University. “I always wanted to go to BU and was excited to finally make the decision,” said Kurker. “I had it in the back of my mind during the trip, but now I am just excited to be a part of such a great program.”
The accolades continue to stream in for Kurker. Just last month, he led the list of locals on the NHL Central Scouting's Midterm Rankings of North American skaters. He was ranked 41st overall and was one of 20 New England players to make the list. Also included in that prestigious list were former VJW players Cam Darcy (#103) and Brendan Silk (#206).}
His journey to this moment began more than 15 years ago when Kurker first laced up his hockey skates. Under the supportive eye of his family - especially his father PaulKurker who coached the VJW ’94 squad from mites to bantams - Kurker not only developed his skill but he also made friends that he would keep through the years.
Sam Kurker is shown above representing the United States at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Slovakia and the Czech Republic
When he competed abroad for the USA Under-18 Team in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, for instance, Kurker was joined by two other former VJW players Brendan Silk and Jon Gillies. He also made his collegiate announcement at the same time as longtime VJW teammate Casey Shea, whom Kurker will face off against when Boston University takes on UMass-Lowell beginning with the 2013 season.
“I still have friends from the team to this day,” said Kurker of his VJW experience. “I played mites through U-16 and it was great. I learned a lot from [Fred Devereaux’s] skill sessions and from all of the practices and coaches. Going on trips and playing against teams from all over the country was a great experience for our Warriors team.”
It was no surprise that Kurker was pursued by a handful of Division I schools. During his junior season at St. John’s Prep (Danvers), for example, the Reading native set career highs for goals (20), assists (17) and points (37) while helping the Eagles make it to the Super 8 finals where they bowed to Malden Catholic in overtime.
“His size and skill make him desirable but his attitude and commitment is what sets him apart from players his age,” said Devereaux, the VJW's director of player development. “There were few if any other kids who worked as hard both on and off the ice as Sam, and it is so nice to see him enjoying the benefits of his hard work.”
While starring for his high school team was special, the most memorable moment for Kurker came last summer when he took part in the USA Hockey Player Development Camp in Rochester, New York. He made the most of his time by scoring seven goals and three assists in six games to finish among the camp’s top scorers. As a result of his outstanding play, Kurker was selected as a member of the U.S. Under-18 Select team, which went on to compete at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, a showcase for the best prospects that age in the world.
“It was awesome sitting in the room after the camp’s All-Star game and hearing my name being called as one who made the Hlinka team,” remembers Kurker. “It was an unreal feeling. I went into camp thinking and hoping to make the team, but I never thought that it could be a reality. Playing for Team USA is something that I have dreamt of since I was two years old. Words couldn’t describe the feeling.”
With his family in tow, Kurker enjoyed the experience in Europe and then returned home to make the “big” announcement about his collegiate plans. He made sure, however, that his future coaches at Boston University were OK with him returning to St. John’s Prep to finish out his senior year and serve as a team captain for the 2011-2012 season along with fellow Warriors Brian Pinho and goaltender David Letarte.
“I have a lot of friends at school and [SJP Head Coach Kristian Hanson] is a great guy,” said Kurker. “I love the atmosphere there and didn’t feel like it was necessary for me to leave early. I was glad that Coach Parker felt the same way and was excited for my senior season to start.”
It was a decision that both sides were happy about. In the first game of the season for the Eagles, Kurker netted a hat trick to help knock off Lexington. He has since helped his Eagles team to a 9-4 start and collected 35 points in 13 games. He is hoping to help lead his team to a second straight appearance in the Super 8 finals.
“It has really been about effort and attitude,” said Kurker. “There are a lot of highs and lows in hockey, but you can’t let one day get you down. You just have to keep working and give it your all.”