Showing Perseverance in PU Men’s Hockey Career, Cressey Patiently Pursuing Opportunities to Go Pro
ACTION JACKSON: Jackson Cressey controls the puck in a game during his sophomore season with the Princeton University men’s hockey team. After completing his career by helping Princeton defeat Dartmouth in a first-round ECAC Hockey series last March before the rest of the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Cressey is looking to join the pro ranks. He signed with the Reading Royals of the ECHL but that deal fell through when its season was canceled due to COVID concerns. He is currently training in the Princeton area and looking to catch on with another pro organization. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Jackson Cressey gained some valuable lessons in perseverance last winter during his senior season with the Princeton University men’s hockey team.
After Princeton started the campaign with a win and a tie at St. Cloud State, the Tigers went 1-11-3 in their next 15 games.
“It is tough to stay positive in a season like that, but we knew that we had a lot of talent on our team and it was just a matter of time,” said star forward Cressey, a 6’0, 180-pound native of West Vancouver, British Columbia.
Serving as an assistant captain for the squad, Cressey felt an extra responsibility to keep things positive.
“It was a huge honor to be an assistant captain at a prestigious school like Princeton,” said Cressey.
“Being a senior captain, I just tried to lead by example and hold everyone accountable. We had a lot of young guys with a lot of talent and we just wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page as much as possible.”
Coming into the ECAC Hockey playoffs as the 11th seed, Princeton got on the same page as it upset sixth-seeded Dartmouth, sweeping the Big Green in the best-of-three first round series with both victories coming in overtime.
“Towards the end of the season, we started to feel better and then going into the first round of the playoffs we felt good,” said Cressey.
“We were able to get a couple of huge wins over Dartmouth. We just kind of felt like we were due, we hadn’t been getting the breaks. We had a lot of close games and we felt good about the matchup against Dartmouth. We felt like we were better than our record showed going in. We wanted to make some noise and we played really well.”
Cressey played a key role in the series, picking up two assists in the opener as Princeton prevailed 4-3 and then chipping in a goal to help the Tigers win 5-4 in the second game and improve to 6-20-5 overall.
“I feel like I had to raise my level as a senior,” said Cressey. “Going into your last playoffs, I wanted to make a difference. I felt like I was playing well all year but I wasn’t getting the points. So being able to contribute in the first round of the playoffs was important.”
But just as Princeton was hitting its stride, the rest of the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We were feeling good, we were going to play Cornell going forward; we were confident and really excited for that series,” said Cressey, who ended up with six goals and 16 assists in his senior year and tallied 116 points in his career on 32 goals and 84 assists.
“It is really tough. You want to be able to finish your college career and see what can happen. We were fortunate enough to have a good year and I still had almost four full years of hockey. I can’t really complain, but it was definitely unfortunate.”
In normal circumstances, Cressey would have gone from his college finale to a stint with a pro team in the spring.
“Usually after your senior year in college you would get a chance to play some pro hockey after the college season was over,” said Cressey.
“So that would have been cool but obviously this year was a little bit different.”
Having to wait things out, Cressey ultimately signed with the Reading Royals of the ECHL.
“It is pretty surreal to be able to say you signed a professional hockey deal,” said Cressey. “That has been a dream of mine ever since I have been a little kid.”
But that dream was deferred as Reading never hit the ice this winter due to COVID concerns.
“The whole North Division in the ECHL canceled their season so now I am just trying to find a new spot to land for the remainder of the year,” said Cressey.
“Reading retained my rights for next season when they come back to the ECHL so for this season, I am now a free agent.”
Drawing on the perseverance gained from his college experience, Cressey is well-suited to deal with the uncertain situation.
“You learn a lot at Princeton, there is always help if you need it but they trust you to get all of your stuff done,” said Cressey.
“School comes first with the coaching staff and the program, which I think is very important. Everyone is still committed to hockey. Over the four years, you just grow as a person at Princeton. You learn how to become a man and learn how to deal with problems so it was great.”
Currently, Cressey is committed to catching on with a pro team, wherever that might be.
“I am just trying to weigh all of the options and see what is available,” said Cressey.
“Even a lot of the leagues overseas in Europe are postponing or canceling their seasons. I am trying to see when everything settles down here, what is still going on and I will make a decision then.”
Having returned to Central Jersey, Cressey is working hard to be ready for the chance to play.
“I have been on the ice two to three times a week at IceLand with a pro hockey group over there,” said Cressey.
“It has been nice. I have been training in the gym with my trainer from home remotely so it has been a good little trip to Princeton.”
Looking ahead, Cressey is primed to apply the lessons he learned at Princeton on and off the ice.
“I should play a couple of years at least; I graduated with a Princeton degree so I am also excited to join the work force at some point,” said Cressey.
“I am not in a rush. I graduated with an operations research and financial engineering degree so it would be nice to put that to use.”