By Warren Kozireski —
In his sophomore campaign at forward for Cornell University in Ithaca, Jack O’Leary is finding his way onto the scoresheet regularly when he able to slide into the loaded Big Red line-up.
The Big Red are receiving votes in the national poll after a rough 4-4 start to the season, but had won five of the last six heading into final exams and the semester break.
The 5’7, 162 lb. forward netted the first goal of the season at Minnesota-Duluth and had two goals and two assists despite playing in only seven of the team’s first 12 games.
“When I get in, I just need to work and do the little things right, but we have a lot of offensive weapons in that locker room, so it’s easy to play with them,” O’Leary said.
O’Leary is a product of the P.A.L. Islanders system spending two seasons with their 16-U team and one (2017-18) with the U-18 prior to three years in the USHL with Cedar Rapids and Lincoln.
But he didn’t even start skating until he was ten years old.
“I didn’t start playing until I was 11. I played lacrosse, soccer, baseball—basically every sport under the sun and when I was ten or eleven I kind of wanted to try it out and I’ve loved it ever since.”
After his two seasons with Cedar Rapids where O’Leary scored 17 goals and 49 points over a combined 91 games, a tornado made the rink unplayable. So, his rights were selected by Lincoln in a dispersal draft after Cornell’s season was cancelled due to the pandemic and he again put up a consistent 11 goals and 32 points in 47 games.
Then the Communication major arrived in Ithaca because?
“The culture. The coaches here do a great job of showcasing the culture and how much they care about each other and the players and I think that was a large contributor as well as the academics and tradition here.”
O’Leary won’t ever forget his first collegiate goal Jan. 7, 2022.
“Definitely—that was in North Dakota; that was a great weekend with the fellows. I think it hit off the backboard and I kind of snuck it in and I remember that weekend. We swept them and it was the first tie North Dakota got swept in their home rink in a long, long time, so it was really cool to be a part of that.”
And he fondly remembers his start with P.A.L.
“It was one town over and (Hockey Director of the Islanders Iceworks facility, Head Coach of the PAL Junior Islanders Midget 18U team) Bob Thornton came in and did a great job and got a couple of guys from areas outside (the region) and I just loved my time there. Couldn’t be more appreciative of what they did for me.
“I took that extra year played U-18 and that definitely helped me a lot going into juniors and making that transition a little bit easier.”
O’Leary registered one goal and one assist in 11 games as a freshman. If he keeps producing offense at the same clip as he is this season, it will be difficult to keep him out of the line-up going forward.
(Photos provided by Cornell Men’s Hockey)