Sunday May 27, 2012

It may not sound right to old school hockey people, but the Los Angeles Kings are in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Kings are a good team, but they would not be playing for the Holy Grail of Hockey were it not for a Milford, Conn. native who played his college hockey at the University of Massachusetts.

Jonathan Quick has had a spectacular season in goal for the Kings. Quick, a third-round pick of the Kings in 2005, has been nothing short of stellar in the playoffs as well. That includes a 41-save performance in a 4-3 overtime win against Phoenix that put L.A. into the Finals.

UMass hockey coach Don "Toot" Cahoon recruited Quick, and said his hockey staff and the university are proud to call Quick a Minuteman.

"It's a terrific accomplishment for him as an individual. It's obviously nice to have the program's name associated with your former players' successes," said Cahoon, Quick's coach at UMass. "It's no surprise that the best players in Hockey East are prominent players at the National Hockey League level, and Jon was one of the great players in Hockey East when he played here."

Skating at the Mullins Center from 2005-07, Quick set school single-season records for wins, games played, saves and minutes. He was a Hockey East second-team All-Star and an NCAA East second-team All-American in 2006-07.

Anyone who follows college hockey knows that Hockey East is, if not the top, then one of the top two college hockey leagues in the country. It is the home to current NCAA national champion Boston College.

So anyone recruited by a Hockey East school can play the game at a high level. That doesn't always translate to making it at the next level. Cahoon said he knew Quick could play hockey, but credits the goalie's rise to prominence in the NHL to realizing his full potential.

"I tell people all the time that it became apparent that he was a special talent and had great ability," said Cahoon. "There are so many factors in athletes and so many performers realizing their full potential. It has to do with the people you surround yourself with, their own passion to succeed and their ability to focus."

Cahoon said that Quick's development by the Los Angeles major and minor league coaching staffs also had a lot to do with the goalie's success.

Boston College forward Chris Kreider stepped right from the NCAA championship game into a New York Rangers uniform and was one of the Rangers better players in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Quick had a longer journey to NHL stardom.

Quick played in the ECHL and the AHL in his first pro season back in 2007-08, and didn't stick with the Kings for good until the 2009-10 campaign. It most certainly isn't like Tim Thomas' decade-long wandering through the lower levels of hockey before he became a Stanley Cup champion. But it's also not as if Quick was an instant star.

"If you look historically at his position, that oftentimes happens. There are a few goaltenders who come in right off the start and have great success," said Cahoon. "That position is a position that requires experience, requires, great patience."

If Quick can be patient for the next round, he might get his name on the Cup.

And that will do nothing if not help UMass in the future.

"I don't have to bring his name up," Cahoon said with a laugh. "Usually, they're the ones who bring it up to me. I should tell you that where we sit down [with recruits] in a conference room, there's a big picture of Jonathan Quick playing in his first game with L.A. right there. They get to see him front and center."

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.