ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Luke Jaycox had been progressively playing through more and more pain in his first three seasons on the St. Cloud State men's hockey team.
The senior from Warroad, Minn., began feeling some hip pain as a freshman. By the end of last season, literally getting onto the ice for games was causing pain.
"I remember last year (March 6-7) at Duluth, we could hardly play him and he could barely get over the boards," Huskies coach Brett Larson said. "I'm hoping he'll be fully recovered from his double hip surgery and be free to play his game, not be battling through pain every night."
Jaycox and 25 of his teammates went through a full practice that took place in front of about 100 fans Friday morning at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. The practice was open to the public as long as people wore a face mask and show a COVID self-assessment green screen entering the building.
The NCHC announced on Oct. 16 that it plans to begin play on Dec. 1 in an eight-team pod at the home of the University of Nebraska Omaha before returning to home rinks. Teams will play 10 conference games 21 days in the pod and then 16 more games will be played after December.
Jaycox is just happy to be back on the ice and feeling better. After last season was shut down early because of the coronavirus pandemic, Jaycox had one hip surgically repaired in March and the other one in April.
"I had double labrum surgery after the season ended," he said. "I'm certainly feeling better and better every day. It's a process thing. They told me it's going to take a while to get back feeling 100 percent, but I never felt what that was like for a few years.
"Hopefully, as time goes on, the soreness and tiredness will just keep going away."
Jaycox, a 6-foot-3 and 205-pound defenseman who likes to play a physical game, said that he was able to continue to play through the pain during his college career with the help of athletic trainer Bryan DeMaine.
"Bryan did a great job my first couple years of helping me manage it, but last year, it just seemed like instead of managing it, it just got worse and worse," Jaycox said. "It was hard to get up and walk at times. I'd come in and practice and all I'd want to do is sit the rest of the day because I was in so much pain.
"As (bad) as it was for the season to end like it did, it was probably a blessing in disguise for me. I was able to get in a month earlier to get my first hip done."
Jaycox has played in 112 straight games and was named an alternate captain on Wednesday.
"He's a warrior, willing to block shots (third on the team in 2019-20 with 52), willing to play physical and willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win," Larson said. "His sophomore year, he didn't play much. But he was in that role as the seventh defenseman and he would kill penalties and I think the guys saw that put his team first. He's a team-first guy and that's why the guys respect him."
Here are some other news and notes on the Huskies:
Donohue, Cockrell living in 'penthouse' of apartment
After defenseman Seamus Donohue decided to become a graduate transfer for St. Cloud State, the next order of business was to figure out where and with whom to live with.
"I knew that I'd be living off campus in one of the three houses that the (hockey) boys are in already," said Donohue, who played the last three seasons at Michigan Tech and is from North Oaks, Minn. "I kind of knew where I was going to be and then I was talking with (graduate transfer) Jared Cockrell and we decided we wanted to live together, even though I hadn't met him yet.
"I had a buddy who played football at Colgate who said that he's a beauty. We connected and we're kind of going through the same thing where we're like freshmen and upper classmen, which is a weird combo. It's been great so far."
The pair are living in a house with eight teammates, four of whom live on the first floor and four others on the second floor.
"Me and Jerry are on the top floor — we're in the penthouse," Donohue said, laughing. "It's more of an attic than a penthouse, but we call it a penthouse.
"I'm just kidding. It's really nice."
To show you the kind of impression that Cockrell and Donohue have made on their new teammates, Cockrell received votes to be a captain and Donohue was named an alternate captain.
"To gain the confidence of teammates and coaches, you can't complain about that — that's what you want," Donohue said. "It's even more of an honor because there's so many leaders on this team. There's a lot of responsibility with wearing a letter, but the load is a lot lighter when others step up and that's the way it is here. We all support each other here."
Larson said that the late announcement of the captains was because he wanted all of the players to get to know one another before having them vote. Both Cockrell and Donohue were alternate captains at their respective schools last season.
"It wasn't hard to accept them and they just fit right into our culture here," Jaycox said.
Meier ecstatic about wearing 'C'
Junior defenseman Spencer Meier was named the team captain on Wednesday. That is an honor for any player, but for Meier, who grew up only a few miles away from campus in Sartell, Minn., it is something special.
"It means the world, to be honest with you, a dream come true," said Meier, who wore replica St. Cloud State jerseys to games growing up. "I was talking with my parents and how I would come to these games as a little kid and be so pumped to go watch the Huskies.
"To be a captain of the team is truly special."
Larson, of course, was not surprised that the team voted for Meier.
"I think Spence, No. 1, he leads by example," Larson said. "He works as hard as anybody, puts in the extra work, he's committed to getting better. On top of that, it's just clear that he genuinely cares about his teammates and about this program. He's a real genuine leader that way.
"His leadership is authentic. Now that he's got the 'C,' he's not going to change at all. He's going to be himself. There's nothing fake about Spencer Meier. He's the real deal."
Veeti Miettinen, the freshman forward from Espoo, Finland, had his visa appointment on Tuesday and it was approved. Larson said that Miettinen should receive the visa in the mail "within a week."
Earlier this month, Miettinen was a fourth-round draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs.