The QU Seniors’ Motto: “Take Nothing for Granted”


Photos: QBSN

Liz Flynn

As a college athlete, your senior season is unlike anything else.

You have become role models for the underclassmen that you once were, grew as a player and you hope to leave a lasting legacy on the program that has become your home for the past four years. The thought of it coming to an end crosses every athlete’s mind, but that usually comes when the season is wrapping up or games become a must-win during the playoff season.

For Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey seniors Nick Jermain, Alex Whelan and Karlis Cukste, they certainly weren’t expecting their college careers to end before their final playoff journey even began.

The three have had their fair share of success throughout their four years, including two NCAA games, appearances in the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals and semifinals and the program’s fourth Clearly Cup. Even before they stepped on the ice at the People’s United Center, there were high expectations to live up to.

“Coming in I remember my freshman year was right after they made it to the National Championship,” Jermain said. “We just worked as hard as we can.”

Cukste credits his teammates for the growth and success he had over the years.

“It’s a great group of guys and we have fun coming to the rink every day,” he said. “Having that bond with your teammates is very important.”

When March rolled around, the men’s ice hockey team was preparing to play Yale in the second round of the ECAC Hockey Tournament. However, this was also the time where COVID-19 began to rapidly spread across the United States. Teams would begin to drop out of the tournament and the future of the tournament itself became unknown.

“We found out Harvard and Yale both backed out,” Whelan said. “The next day we were at practice getting ready to play Princeton and then right after practice ECAC announced they were ending their tournament.”

The team still had some hope that the NCAA Tournament could go on as scheduled and Quinnipiac would earn a spot. 

Unfortunately, that hope didn’t last long.

“About an hour and a half later, we saw the tweet from NCAA canceling everything,” Jermain said. “I’ve been imagining the end of my Quinnipiac career for a long time now and that’s definitely not how I saw it coming.”

Even before the tournaments were officially canceled, the seniors had a feeling things wouldn’t go their way and took in every moment that they could.

“We had a practice that Thursday,” Cukste said. “We were just enjoying our time out there because we felt it was our last and that would be it for us.”

Cukste has thought about his final moment as a Quinnipiac player, but he never saw this coming.

“It was out of our control which is the hardest thing,” he said. “If you lose a game you know you can do something about it, but you can’t do anything about the coronavirus.”

Jermain, Whelan and Cukste imagined their last game being after winning the National Championship or at least after a loss where the team knew the end was possible.

“It wasn’t the normal feeling where you get a final moment,” Whelan said. “It just ended and our last game was two weeks ago.”

Today, the coronavirus is a pandemic and hits close to home for many players, including the captain.

“Seeing what’s happening now especially close to us in New York City it’s a no brainer it was the right decision,” Jermain said. “There are a lot of bigger things than hockey.”

While their time at Quinnipiac has come to an unfortunate close, the three are still keeping busy and preparing for the next phase of their lives. Cukste is staying with Whelan and the two continue to train and wait for the light at the end of the tunnel.

“I may have to go to a national team camp,” Cukste said. “So that’s my motivation to stay in shape and train pretty much every day.”

Whelan is heading to Hartford to join the Wolf Pack. He finds it’s a little easier to leave Quinnipiac knowing that there is hockey on the horizon. 

“If I played my last competitive game with hockey it wouldn’t sit well with me,” he said. “Having certainty that I’m going to play somewhere next year definitely helps.”

Jermain doesn’t have any set plans right now, but he’s taking every opportunity to spend time with loved ones which does not happen often.

“I’ve been talking to my agent but there’s a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “Right now I’m doing all I can, enjoying time with my family and staying in shape.”

The three have endless memories throughout their four years, but the comradery between teammates and family support are some of their favorites.

That’s one of the coolest things about hockey,” Cukste said. “You have so many teammates that you create bonds with and they last a lifetime.”

Jermain, a Norwalk, Connecticut native, loved playing at a school that was close enough to see family often.

“I’ll miss playing 45 minutes from home,” he said. “It meant a lot to have both my parents at every home game.”

Whelan’s advice to teammates is to take advantage of every day because no one really knows what the future holds.

“Don’t think because you’re a freshman or a sophomore you have time,” Whelan said. “As you can see you never know what’s going to happen.”

Jermain, Whelan and Cukste each had their own journey to get to where they are today. While they are heading down new paths in the future, their message rings out in unison:

“Don’t take anything for granted.”