With two games of the 2011-2012 regular season remaining, Jack Prince had a chance to make Texas Tornado history. He came into last Friday’s matchup against Corpus Christi tied with Brad Cooper for the all-time franchise regular-season assists record with 97. He was also two points back of Karl Sellan's 187 for the franchise record in regular-season points, as well.
“Jack is one of the best players to ever put on the Tornado uniform,” Tornado head coach and general manager Tony Curtale said. “He deserves to have his name up there with the all-time greats.”
That’s well-deserved praise for a player who has led the Tornado in points in each of his three seasons with the team, his first coming in 2009-2010. However, his junior hockey career began with a scoreless performance in a 2-0 loss against the Marquette Rangers. But it didn’t take long for the native of the United Kingdom to get his name in NAHL scoresheets.
Following his debut against Marquette, Prince scored 11 points in the next seven games, including a five-game goal-scoring streak and a 1-goal, 3-assist performance in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Owatonna Express. In a separate seven-game stretch later in the season, Prince collected 16 points, with multiple point totals coming in six of the seven games. Prince finished that year with 50 points, though the Tornado were eliminated in the first round of the Robertson Cup playoffs.
The 2010-2011 regular season was a special one for the Tornado, one in which they recorded a league-high 15 straight victories. Not surprisingly, Prince was instrumental winning streak, accumulating 6 goals and 11 assists during the 15-game period. His most impressive numbers that year came at the end of the regular season, when he was held without a point in just two of the team’s final seventeen games. In that time, Prince scored a total of 25 points, including a six-game stretch in which he scored seven goals. Once again, though, Texas was eliminated from Robertson Cup contention in the first round of the playoffs.
After a 60-point season in 2010-2011-- a 10-point improvement from the year before-- Prince came into the 2011-2012 season 36 assists behind Cooper and 77 points behind Sellan for their respective franchise records.
“It shows what a great history this franchise has,” Prince remarked. “Guys like Brad Cooper with 97 career assists and Karl Sellan with 94 goals and 187 points in three years. I’m proud to be able to say that the standard of play that they set hasn’t gone down since they left.”
Prince, who was named the Tornado captain in the offseason, picked up right where he left off the previous regular season with six points in the team’s first four games. After being held without a point in the next two contests, he came back with seven points in the next four. But where Prince has really made the jump this season has been as a goal-scorer. After totals of 23 and 26 goals in his first two seasons, Prince exploded for 39 in 2011-2012, just one behind the NAHL’s top goal-scorers this season, St. Louis’ Joe Kalisz and Fairbanks’ JT Osborn. Prince also netted four hat tricks this season, including a pair of four-goal performances.
“I’ve always scored goals, but not always in this amount. I worked hard over the summer, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that [Jordan] Greenberg likes to pass so much,” Prince said with a smile.
Last Friday, though, Prince didn’t need any goals to break the records. Instead, a three-assist game against Corpus Christi helped the Tornado to a victory and allowed Prince to break both records in one night. Ironically, Cooper’s assist record fell on a first-period goal scored by the aforementioned Jordan Greenberg, but the play started with a battle along the boards. After the puck came free, Greenberg scored on a shot from the faceoff circle and Prince was awarded the primary assist. He got the secondary assist on a Marc Biggs goal in the third period, which tied Sellan’s points record.
Later in the third, with the Tornado clinging to a one-goal lead and the IceRays net empty, Prince moved ahead of Sellan with another helper. With Corpus Christi on the attack, the puck was tied up along the boards. Prince was able to jar the puck free and move it down the boards into the IceRays end, where Drew Mayer caught up to it and scored. He finished the season with 78 points, 39 goals and 39 assists.
Though his ability to score certainly helped him break Sellan’s points mark, Prince is quick to credit the talent he’s had around him in the past three years in breaking both records.
“Without my teammates, there’s no way I could have gotten these records,” Prince said. “I played with Nick Taurence, Ralfs Freibergs and David Rigatti my first year here [in 2009-2010], Jackson Leef and Nathan Sliwinski last year, and I’ve played the majority of the time with Jordan Greenberg this year. I’ve played with Marc Biggs and Drew Allen this year, too, all guys that have really helped me become a better player.”
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)