It started modestly. Jared Cockrell was a child, learning to skate for the first time. His father, Larry, was a former Division III college hockey player and newcomer to prep school coaching, helping him along.

Hockey was a part of the Cockrell family. There was no way of knowing just how big a part it would become.

Jared Cockrell of St. Cloud State skates up the ice in a game against the University of Denver earlier this month in Omaha, Nebraska. Mark Kuhlmann

Now, Jared, 25, is playing for Division I St. Cloud State, one of the best programs in the country. Larry, 53, is a volunteer assistant with the University of Maine, following 16 years as a championship-contending prep school head coach.

Jared Cockrell Photo by Tom Nelson

For both, hockey started as an interest. For both, it’s become a life.

“My parents made a huge sacrifice for me, and made it possible for me to get the competition I needed,” Jared said. “I’m really lucky that my dad is a really good coach, and he knows a lot about the game. Obviously, he was huge for my development.”

Larry coached 16 years in New England prep leagues, with 12 coming at Kents Hill School and four coming at Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Massachusetts, but he downplayed his role in Jared’s achievements.

“A lot of people, when I recruit kids, they say ‘What did you do for your kid to play Division I hockey?’ ” said Larry, whose son, Jake, and daughter, Thaney, also played. “The answer is always ‘I didn’t do a darn thing for my kid to play Division I hockey. He did it on his own.’ ”

That Division I career took place for four years at Colgate, where Jared scored 23 goals and had 29 assists in four years and served as an alternate captain. He played only seven games as a junior in 2018-19, however, giving him eligibility to play as a graduate student. With Colgate offering few programs, he transferred to St. Cloud State, where he’s found himself adjusting to a new culture with a program that’s made six of the last seven national tournaments.

“The hockey here, it’s a whole other beast out in Minnesota,” he said. “I’m very fortunate to be part of it.”

Jared has played on St. Cloud’s fourth line so far, and has tallied a goal and an assist while providing the 6-3 Huskies with leadership and poise.

“That was why we recruited him,” St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson said. “He brings a real maturity to the room, he’s been through it, he’s played college hockey at a high level. He’s a real smart kid that understands the game.”

Meanwhile, over 1,000 miles east, UMaine’s players take the ice for work with Larry, be it for drills or practicing a gameplan that his work breaking down the opponent’s film helped prepare.

“You’re hopping the ice with a bunch of Division I hockey players who are just so motivated,” he said. “And going to the rink never sucks.”

The Cockrell family’s hockey ties go back to 1997, when Larry, a former player at Norwich University and Navy pilot, began his prep coaching career at North Yarmouth Academy as an assistant under Kevin Potter. In 2004, he took over a program at Kents Hill that was only two years old and still gaining a foothold in the competitive New England prep scene.

With Larry leading the way, Kents Hill’s status as a program began to climb. The Huskies won a New England Division II championship in 2008, and finished runner-up for the same title in 2013.

“We were able to take a program that didn’t really exist, and actually make it a really, really strong program,” said Larry, who went to Governor’s Academy in 2014 and then returned to Kents Hill in 2018. “It wasn’t just about playing on the hockey team. It was about buying into the school, and what the school did. The bonds that were created at Kents Hill for those players are still very tight.”

The 2013 team featured Jared, who began his career in the sport as someone who was always a step ahead of the action around him. He grew up on campus, and got onto the ice whenever he got the chance.

“He studies the game,” Larry said. “He’s a typical coach’s kid.”

Larry Cockrell

Jared had goals from the start about playing in college. He had the drive, he had the brain, but he didn’t have the body. A late bloomer in his own words, he spent his freshman and sophomore years wondering if he’d ever get the growth spurt he needed.

“I definitely had a couple of really frustrating years,” said Jared, now 5-11 and 185 pounds. “I felt like, mentally, I was ready, but my body wasn’t. But I think that set me up with a really strong base.”

His body caught up in his junior year, and Jared became a dominant player on his father’s team, finishing his Kents Hill career with 48 goals and 73 assists. By now he had the attention of Division I coaches, and after two years in juniors with the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, where he tallied 123 points in 115 games, he started his college career with Colgate and checked off a lifelong dream.

“I love the sport so much, I was going to be happy to keep playing no matter what. Having the opportunity to play Division I is the cherry on top,” he said. “It’s been everything. … It means the world to me to get a good education and play at a high level.”

It’s been a different role so far at St. Cloud than he’s been used to, but Jared is fitting in, doing whatever he needs to do to help the Huskies make another run at a national championship.

“For me, it’s key for me to bring some leadership to the room, some maturity, some experience,” he said. “It’s different. In my past probably six years of hockey, I’ve been more of an ‘expected to score’ kind of guy, expected to produce. I’m just here to be a yes man, do what the team needs, do all the little things right and lead by example.”

It’s already paying off. After St. Cloud came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat Colorado College 4-3 in overtime on Dec. 18, Coach Larson credited Jared’s play with helping to key the rally.

Jared Cockrell of St. Cloud State dives at the puck in a game against Western Michigan earlier this month in Omaha, Nebraska. Cockrell played at Kents Hill from 2011-13 Mark Kuhlmann

“Cockrell brings a ton of pace, he brings a lot of grit, he’s first on pucks,” Larson said. “I thought that line started to tilt the tide in our favor a little bit, just by gaining a lot of offensive zone time.”

Jared’s not the only one in his family enjoying the D-I life. In helping the Black Bears, Larry has found a job that is both rewarding and challenging.

“I still feel like I have a ton to learn,” Larry said. “And I’m in an environment where I can do that.”

He’s enjoying every minute of that environment. A few states to the west, his son is doing the same.

“The competition is so high, it makes the experience so much more special,” Jared said. “The wins feel better, the losses hurt more. The feeling of community is so strong.”


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