Quirk gets shot with Albany River Rats

Sunday, March 29
The movie "I Love You, Man" may never win an Oscar, and it may not make Star Wars-like money. But there is no doubt that former University of Massachusetts hockey player Cory Quirk will never forget it.

"I was at the movie theatre and I got a call from my agent and (Albany assistant coach Geordie) Kinnear," said Quirk. "They needed a player."

The Albany River Rats needed a player and signed Quirk to what is called an amateur tryout contract (ATO). The UMass senior used up his eligibility after the 2008-09 season, and was looking to hook on with a team. The Carolina Hurricanes had what Quirk said was a good opportunity, and he took it.

"I came out" of the movies, he recalled, "and had all these text messages and everything. I thought something bad had happened. It was actually something great."

Quirk finished his UMass career as the school's all-time leader in games played. He had 11 goals and 19 assists for the 16-20-3 Minutemen. He is also the second of coach Toot Cahoon's players to give pro hockey a whirl this year. Alex Berry, a Toronto draft pick, signed a two-year contract and was assigned to the Maple Leafs' AHL team.

The ATO Quirk signed is so named because he is still in school. In fact, Quirk said he got permission from his professors to spend the next couple of weeks with the River Rats. The Rats have set Quirk up in a hotel for the rest of his stay with the AHL squad.

The Brockton native said he'll be graduating on time in May. He has to deal with a nine-credit internship and a three-credit independent study course.

But right now, he's gone from his school work in Amherst to Hockey 101 in the Times Union Center.

"It's kind of surreal," he said. "It's a great opportunity I had in front of me to leave school and get started on my pro career."

In Hockey 101, his professor is River Rats head coach Jeff Daniels. Daniels spent 15 years as an NHL player and was part of Pittsburgh's 1992 Stanley Cup championship team. He also got his name on the Cup as an assistant in Carolina in 2006. That's a pretty good resume.

"Corey's been a good, smart player for us. I really like the energy that he brings," Daniels said. "He's adapted well to the speed of the game. He's getting his feet wet."

Quirk first joined the River Rats a week ago yesterday in Syracuse, and got his first point in a win over Philadelphia at the Times Union Center. He's played three games and was scheduled to be back in the lineup last night against Springfield.

"The speed of the game was a lot faster than in college hockey. The players are a lot bigger and stronger. They're grown men here as opposed to the 20-year olds in college," Quirk said.

Other than the players being bigger, stronger and faster, Quirk said the major change is in the atmosphere.

"Here, we don't really have as many fans as we do at UMass. The screaming college fans are great," he said. "I think for myself, I look at it as every day is a tryout for myself. To continue to move up the ladder, I have to perform every game. That's enough to get me going."

Daniels said that his job as coach is to put these players into a situation where the Hurricanes can determine how much the players will be able to help the NHL team in the future.

"Each player is different," he explained. "Conditioning wise, (the new players) are in top shape because they just finished their seasons. Some guys take a game or two to adapt to the speed."

Quirk said he had some interest from teams like San Jose, Edmonton and Buffalo. Had he signed with San Jose, he would have been reunited with former Minuteman P.J. Fenton. It sounds like Quirk and his Chicago-based agent Bill Zito may have made the right call for now.

With nine more games left in his Hockey 101 class, Cory Quirk is hoping he can get a passing grade. And what does he say that means?

"Hopefully next year, I'll be able to get a pro contract out of it."


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