Home College Churchville’s Kraft Impacting Cornell Hockey As A Freshman

Churchville’s Kraft Impacting Cornell Hockey As A Freshman

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The Cornell men's hockey team competes against Massachusetts on December 29, 2023 at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y.

By Warren Kozireski —

It is hard enough for a freshman to break into the lineup of any Division I hockey program and to do so with a nationally ranked team such as the Big Red from Cornell University is doubly impressive, but Churchville native Jake Kraft is doing just that.

At the recent Adirondack Winter Invitational held at historic Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, the 5’8”, 170 lb. Kraft was the extra forward for the first game against the University of Massachusetts but was elevated to top line left wing for the championship game versus Arizona State University.

“It’s definitely exciting; I think more (opportunity) than I expected coming in (this year),” Kraft said. “I just go out and work as hard as I can every day to try to get the most opportunity and try to see where I fit in to the team.”

(Jake Kraft)

Kraft scored his first collegiate goal on home ice at Lynah Rink against Harvard Nov. 11 after registering his first two points—assists—in the second series of the season at Yale and Brown University. He had played in all 13 games of the season as the calendar turned to January.

He started getting serious about hockey at 13 years old and dressed with the Rochester Monarchs for two seasons before jumping to the Buffalo Jr. Sabres for his 15U and 16U campaigns, the latter where he scored 39 points in 50 games.

Then came two prep seasons with the Kent School in Connecticut, though the first was abbreviated due to the pandemic. His 2021-22 year with 25 goals and 44 points in 28 games put him on the USHL radar and he joined Cedar Rapids for the 2022-23 season where he played with current teammate Ryan Walsh from Penfield. There he scored 17 goals with 32 points in 56 games and committed to Cornell that December.

“He’s fast, he’s physical for being his size but I think his biggest asset is his speed; he can get to places really quick which is nice,” Walsh said about his former and current teammate. “He’s a great passer and can score so he’s a great all-around player, but his speed is his biggest attribute which is great to be on a line with.

“We have ten freshmen on the team, which is a lot, so (head coach Mike) Schafer definitely giving us a lot of opportunities to fill big roles early on which helps build confidence right away and shows that he trusts you a little bit.”

“I’ve always been an undersized guy, so I feel like I try to fight my way through everything,” Kraft said. “It’s accumulated over the years, but definitely picked up in the more physical college game.”

The Cornell men’s hockey team competes against Massachusetts on December 29, 2023 at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y.

As for why Kraft chose to play college hockey at Cornell?

“I always knew the tradition of Cornell (hockey) was second to none and being close to home was definitely something so my parents can get up and watch pretty much every game,” Kraft said. “And then once I toured, I fell in love with it…it felt like home.”

Kraft does have at least one quirk where he is often the first player off the ice after a pre-game warmup.

“I always kind of just got off the ice first; I try to be one of the last guys on the ice when we go out, so just keep it short and sweet. Maybe a little superstition is involved.”

No need to change what has obviously been working.

(Photos provided by Cornell Men’s Hockey Dept.)