In order to have an opportunity to play at home, Kenai’s Jake Eubank had to leave home.
Eubank has been tendered by the Kenai River Brown Bears for next season. The tender does not mean Eubank has the team made, but it does mean the Bears have exclusive North American Hockey League rights to him.
Eubank joins Ross Hanson as a former Kardinals skater tendered by the Bears for next season.
“It’s been a pretty big deal to me,” Eubank said by phone. “It’s been a lifelong goal of mine to play at home, and now I have the opportunity to play at home.
“I’ve still got to try out and make the team.”
Eubank, the son of Terry and Tawni of Kenai, would have been a senior at Kenai Central this school year, except he elected to go play hockey for the Pikes Peak Miners in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“Being away from home is difficult,” Eubank said. “There’s a lot of negatives to it. But the billet family I live with here is a good family.”
Eubank said he has been able to develop because his season started in August and could go through March, depending on how the Miners do in the postseason.
The Miners 18U AAA team plays in two leagues. In the Colorado league, Eubank has six goals and four assists in 13 games. In the North American Prospects Hockey League, Eubank has 10 goals and nine assists in 23 games to lead the team in goals and points.
Eubank was a lethal scorer for Kenai Central, but Bears head coach Geoff Beauparlant said Eubank would need to develop more areas of his game for the NAHL.
“We had him out to skate last year and this year, and we really like that he was able to get into a program like Pikes Peak that demands a lot of players,” Beauparlant said. “He’s been able to play competitive hockey nine months out of the year.”
Eubank has used all that time to improve. Beauparlant said Greg Vanover and Bob Nolette with Pikes Peak do a great job developing players. Alec and Evan Butcher played at Pikes Peak, and Hanson also is currently with the Miners.
“I’ve worked on foot speed, and using my body more,” Eubank said. “I’m a bigger guy, so I’ve learned to use my body better driving to the net instead of shooting from the perimeter.”
Eubank, who is 18 and will have two more years of junior eligibility starting next year, said he is hoping to follow in the footsteps of current Bears forward Zack Zulkanycz, another Kenai Central product.
“I’d go to a lot of their games,” Eubank said. “I used to play with Zack in high school, so I’ve kept tabs on him.”
He got to skate for three days of practice over Thanksgiving with the Bears.
“He was solid, but he had some spurts where the pace affected him,” Beauparlant said. “For the most part, he fit in as an affiliate.
“His foot speed increased, and his compete level increased. He still has a little bit of a ways to go. He needs a good offseason to solidify a place on the roster.”
Beauparlant said Eubank could even see time with the Bears this season. He is on the list of affiliate players, and whether he plays with the Bears will be determined by how long the season of Pikes Peak lasts.