Mark Essery Finds Home, Confidence as Key Cog in Mentor
Ice Breakers: Mark Essery finds home, confidence as key cog in Mentor
By Chris Lillstrung of The News-Herald | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mentor, OH - Mark Essery has found a few homes to this stage in his hockey career.
His upbringing and junior career was in Connecticut.
His college hockey was in Massachusetts.
His last port of call before this winter was in Germany.
But if the early going is indicative, Northeast Ohio may very well be where Essery truly found his game.
The 26-year-old forward paces the fledgling Ice Breakers with six goals and three assists through eight games.
To date, the crowning achievement for the Federal Hockey League expansion franchise came with a 4-3 win Nov. 21 over Carolina, which came into the night leading the FHL with a 7-1 record.
Essery notched a vital second-period power-play goal and assisted on another against the Thunderbirds.
Mentor had just notched its first win in franchise history Nov. 17 at Port Huron, 6-4, a game in which Essery recorded a hat trick.
So all in all, it's been a memorable extended Thanksgiving week.
"It's just very cool to be able to chase a dream now," Essery said.
Chasing that hockey dream came with a late start, when he was 10 growing up in Rockfall, Conn., which is about 20 miles south of Hartford.
"I started skating in North Carolina, and it kind of took off from there," Essery said. "There's too many memories to count at this point, though. But it's good, because we're building some more here with these guys.
"Honestly, my mom put me and my brother and sister in learn to play one day, and it was one day we all came back tired, not talking and slept in the car. She said, 'You guys are stuck with this one.' "
And the game has stuck with him.
Essery logged time with the Hartford Junior Wolfpack, with 35 goals over three seasons.
At a junior hockey showcase, Essery was approached with an offer to attend Framingham State, a Division III school in Massachusetts.
"I gave it a shot, and it worked out pretty well," Essery said.
He played in 82 games over four seasons from 2013-17 for the Rams, with 17 goals and 21 assists in his career, including 11 goals and five assists as a junior.
When the Breakers started off 0-6 before their recent breakthrough, unfortunately that was not unchartered territory for Essery. During his senior season at Framingham State, the Rams went 2-26.
That experience imparted on Essery that consistency is key to find light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
"I just try to keep my head down and work as hard as I can and hope people follow," Essery said. "Obviously, losing games is never fun. It gets harder the more games in a row. But I don't know, my mindset has always been to keep my head down, work hard and good things will happen."
The next good thing in Essery's hockey journey came a long way from home.
Essery played last winter for the Dinslaken Kobras, a German fourth-division team in the western part of the country on the shores of the Rhine near the Dutch border.
He scored 11 goals and assisted on 18 others for 29 points over 17 regular-season games for the Kobras, also logging a goal and three assists in four playoff games.
"Just a little networking and emailing a bunch of teams," Essery said of finding his way to Dinslaken. "I tried out for two teams last year, and I didn't make either one of them. And then somebody in Germany emailed me and said they saw my highlight video online. So he offered me a spot, and I went. I want to say he emailed me on a Wednesday and I left on Friday.
"It was difficult with the language, but luckily everyone is bilingual. I had a lot of helpful teammates and friends who translated for me when I was in a tough spot. But everyone in Germany is so nice and helpful. I didn't feel like I was out of place or lost at all."
That feeling is especially true now.
Essery was looking for a new team and saw the Ice Breakers were conducting a tryout camp last month. So he contacted Coach/General Manager Iain Duncan, who invited him in and got offensive-zone punch in the process.
"Mark has been a kind of player that's just not had confidence in himself," Duncan said. "I'm a big believer in boosting a player's confidence. I'm also there to tear them down, though, if he needs to get torn down. But Mark is one of those players, as I've known him over the last month and a little bit last year, he feeds off the encouragement.
"He feeds off the learning process, and that's one thing he's doing. He's shooting the puck quicker. He's getting his shot off. He's got a good shot. He's just got to believe in himself."
From Connecticut to Massachusetts, from Germany and now to Northeast Ohio, it's a safe bet if this trajectory continues, that belief will only grow.
"Honestly, the goals always feel nice," Essery said. "But my game is just going out there and trying to cause a ruckus and get pucks in front of the net. So some games they'll go in, some games they won't.
"But I just try to keep a pretty level head, and it's worked out so far."
Photo credit: Paul DiCicco of The News-Herald