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Kucerovy's journey could end with Robertson Cup

By Eric Schmoldt
April 30, 2015

It's safe to say Danny Kucerovy's junior hockey career has been a journey.

In four years, he's made seven different stops for five different teams in two separate leagues.

Kucerovy is on stint number three with the Janesville Jets, and it's one that he hopes will allow him to end the long, winding road with the ultimate prize—a championship cup. Kucerovy and the Jets travel to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, with a 2-0 lead over Soo in the best-of-five NAHL North finals series. Game 3 is Friday night.

“It's been unbelievable; I've met so many great people along the way, with billets, teammates, coaches and so many lifelong sources,” Kucerovy said after practice at the Janesville Ice Arena on Wednesday. “I've been all over the United States. It's been incredible.”

It all started with the United States Hockey League's Chicago Steel back during the 2011-12 season. Kucerovy scored eight points in 37 games with the Steel that year and opened with them the year later but quickly wound up in Janesville for the first time.

Kucerovy had 14 goals and 16 assists in 46 games for the Jets in 2012-13. It was good enough to get a look back in the USHL one year later, where he made stops with the Lincoln Stars and later the Sioux City Musketeers.

“He was going through the junior hockey growing pains of just trying to find a place where he fit,” Jets head coach Joe Dibble said. “Every team he was on and every coach he played for wanted him to be something else.

“It took him a while to find his identity as a hockey player, but we always knew what his ability was.”

And so, Kucerovy found himself back on the Jets to open the 2014 calendar year. But he only played nine games with Janesville before Dibble and the Jets traded him to Rio Grande for the remainder of last season.

After playing most of his junior days in the Midwest, he was suddenly a few miles from the Mexican border.

“It was a cool experience seeing different parts of the United States and different cultures,” Kucerovy said. “It's hard at first, but you adjust real quickly.

“I'm obviously comfortable with this city (Janesville) to begin with and knew some of the guys coming back this year. Things just weren't really clicking down there. I had a feeling I was going to get moved, and I was so thankful it was back here.”

Rio Grande traded Kucerovy back to Janesville in late October.

Dibble, the NAHL's General Manager of the Year, admits he was nervous about trading to get Kucerovy back. He and the Jets were going all-in on making a run at the Robertson Cup. Getting Kucerovy back for a few months was pivotal, but it meant trading away a player that could have been an important part of the next few years in Janesville.

“We felt at this point, he was ready and could be a key piece to our puzzle,” Dibble said. “And he has been. He's been oustanding, especially in the playoffs.

“He kind of put us over the hump this year.”

In 45 regular-season games back with the Jets, Kucerovy had 14 goals and 32 points.

He's got three goals and five assists in the five playoff victories during the Jets' current run. He had a goal Satruday and three assists Friday in the two wins against Soo.

One more victory over the Eagles and Janesville would be four home victories away from a title. The semifinals and finals are best-of-three series, and Janesville owns home-ice advantage as the regular-season league champion.

Like the rest of his junior hockey career, the next step for Kucerovy is a bit of an unknown. Dibble says Kucerovy will certainly play college hockey, and his chances of getting a look in Division I will only increase as long as the Jets' run toward the Robertson Cup continues.

“DI's the goal,” Kucerovy said. “If we make a deep run, I think it's going to help a lot of guys out on this team. We're all just trying to help each other out.”

It's been a long, strange trip for Kucerovy.

It'd all be worth it with five more wins and a Robertson Cup.