Ask anyone making their debut in a big-time situation and you’ll get a myriad of answers, all of them leading to nerves or something resembling them.
For Jack Works, he’s just happy he finally got the chance to hit the ice for the University of Denver Pioneers men’s hockey team.
The 18-year-old from Yellowknife can officially call himself a collegiate hockey player after being named to the starting line-up for the Pioneers’ home contest versus the University of Nebraska-Omaha this past Saturday. The Pioneers ended up dropping a 5-4 decision in overtime but Works saw a fair bit of ice time and even registered an assist on a second-period goal for his first NCAA point.
Works said while the debut was great, the end result was disappointing.
“We played really well for the first part of the game but they took it to us in the second half,” he said. “We couldn’t do anything on special teams and got nothing on the power-play when we had the chance.”
Pioneers head coach David Carle was blunt in his assessment of the loss.
“It was a great first two periods, then we really got away from what gave us success,” he said. “Give (Omaha) credit. They pushed in the third and made us uncomfortable, but the way we lost the hockey game was not good enough. It was embarrassing.”
Still, Works finally got to make his debut after being on the outside looking in since his arrival in Denver.
He said it all came down to a nagging injury.
“I pulled my hip flexor as soon as I got down here and that cost me a couple of weeks,” he said. “I started skating when we were in Omaha (last month) and I started feeling good but then we had games postponed so I had to wait.”
Works was the 13 th forward, meaning his ice time would have been at a premium and when he did see the ice, he played on the wing. As the game progressed, Works was moved up to centre the second line, which gave him some more ice time and faceoffs.
“It was cool to get more time out there,” he said. “You just try not to think too much and just make the right decisions. I didn’t want to be too star-struck and just tried to focus on the game.”
His debut with the Pioneers was similar to when he debuted with the Okotoks Oilers in 2017 in that the pace and style was much different from the previous level.
“It’s a big jump,” he said. “You’re coming in halfway through the season and the hockey is faster and tougher. I thought I fit in well and played a good game.”
The Pioneers are on the road this coming weekend with a doubleheader at the University of North Dakota. There’s no word on whether Works will be in the starting line-up for those games but he’s hopeful for another shot.
“I’m just happy I finally got a chance to play,” he said. “I think I have a lot to offer the team and I’m hoping I get some more chances.”