ODESSA, TX– Just two days prior to the North American Hockey League’s 2013 trading deadline, the Odessa Jackalopes shipped their captain and leading scorer Lawrence Cornellier to the West Division’s Fairbanks Ice Dogs Monday in exchange for two 2013-14 tender contracts, one 2014-15 tender and the Ice Dogs’ first two selections in the 2013 NAHL Entry Draft. The swap was approved by the NAHL on Tuesday.
“This was an extremely difficult decision,” said Jackalopes Assistant Coach and President of Hockey Operations, Matt Cressman on Monday, “But it’s in the best interest of everybody and gives Lawrence a better chance at a Division 1 scholarship.” Odessa Head Coach Paul Gillis said Monday, the team felt obligated to do right by the high-scoring winger. “Corny’s been not only a terrific player for us, but a terrific kid,” said Gillis, “This is a really hard thing for us to do, but we really think it’s in Corny’s best interest and in the long run, the interest of the organization. By no means are we happy about this, but we feel it’s the right way to go and we wish him all the best.”
Cornellier, a Machesney Park, Illinois native and third-year NAHL veteran, played 83 total games for the Jacks over parts of the past two seasons after beginning his junior career with the Owatonna Express, the Minnesota-based franchise that became the Jackalopes prior to the 2011-12 season. In 141 career NAHL games, Cornellier has scored 54 combined goals and 127 points including 24 goals in 43 games this season, the league’s fourth highest mark, and 47 total points in 2012-13, tied for sixth most in the NAHL this year. His 86 points as a Jackalope are by far tops on the team’s all-time NAHL scoring list.
A 2013 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament selection, Cornellier said Monday, he’ll always remember his time in West Texas. “It’s a really fun place to play,” said Cornellier, “The fans are great and I had an awesome time…being a part of this team for two years was really fun.” As for his future in Alaska and the NAHL’s West Division, Cornellier was optimistic Monday. “It’s going to be a lot different up there to play a different style of hockey,” said Cornellier, “it’s more physical [in the South Division], but playing a more skilled game will be good for me.”
As the trading deadline neared, Gillis says there were a number of potential suitors for the 6’0” forawrd, but the sixth-year Head Coach felt Cornellier had earned the right to weigh in on his fate. “We had several teams interested and we did get some input from Corny himself on what would be the best fit for him,” said Gillis Monday, “He’s been such a terrific kid and we wanted to show loyalty towards him, so ultimately [his destination] came down to his decision.”
While Cornellier’s services did net the Jackalopes a bevy of future assets in return, Cressman says the responsibility of the remaining Odessa players to contribute on the scoresheet throughout the team’s remaining 17 games is profound. “Without Lawrence, we don’t have a lot of offense left, so a lot of guys are going to have to step up,” said Cressman Monday, “[Anthony] Olguin, [Josh] Racek, Jimmy [Peplinski], Matt [Volonnino]…they’re all going to have to contribute right away.”
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)