Former Lumberking Cross bounces back from knee surgery
By Chris Messina
@cmessina85 on twitter
Damian Cross had a tough freshman season playing Division-l hockey for Providence College in the Hockey East Conference of the NCAA. He injured his knee in the third period of his first game as a Friar last year but still suited up for the team’s next four games before the pain became too much to tolerate.
“Every time I’d get in a battle in the corner using my skate I’d aggravate it a little more, but the pain would go away so I thought it was fine. Eventually I just couldn’t take the pain anymore and I couldn’t skate anymore. I knew something was definitely wrong,” recalls Cross.
Hockey players are known for their toughness, but the alumni of five-years in the Central Canada Hockey League acknowledged that playing through the pain was probably not the best idea as he eventually had to have surgery to repair his ACL. Cross spent four months rehabbing the knee following the surgery before returning to the ice.
Now he’s back and looking like the player that scored 140 points in 62 games to win the CCHL scoring title as a member of the Pembroke Lumberkings in 2009-10. His coach, Nathan Leaman (in his first year as head coach at Providence), has noticed the impact Cross has had on the ice since his return.
“I think he’s extremely skilled, he’s a good skater as well. You can see with that skill package, he has the potential to be a pretty impressive player at this level.”
Through his first 10 games of the 2010-11 season the former Pembroke Lumberking has scored 2 goals and picked up 7 assists. His 9 points are good enough for third on the team in scoring. He’s getting no shortage of ice-time from his new coach as Leaman has been using him on the team’s second line as well as their power play.
“When he puts you out there he shows that he has trust in you,” says Cross.
His line has accounted for a good chunk of the team’s scoring early on as he plays with two of the teams more highly touted freshman Ross Mauermann (tied for the team scoring lead with 10 points) and Stefan Demopolous (6 points in 6 games).
“(The success) is satisfying, but it has a lot to do with my linemmates. When I’m having an off-day they are right there to pick me up,” says the Friars winger.
Providence College isn’t the first place Cross has experienced success. He compiled a very impressive junior hockey resume prior to playing US college hockey. During his time in the CCHL he racked up 322 points as a member of four different teams. Cross says his best memory of his time in the league was his final season which he spent as a member of the Pembroke Lumberkings. “Just being with those group of guys my last year, those are relationships that I’ll keep forever,” says Cross.
One of those relationships was with his former linemate Tyler Tosunian (now a freshman playing Div-l hockey at Bemidji State University). The two were unstoppable on the ice and became good friends and roommates off of it. They only played one full-season together in 2009-10, that was the year Cross won the scoring title while Tosunian was the runner up with 114 points.
“We started playing together late in my nineteen-year-old-year. We just developed a friendship and a chemistry that was pretty special,” says Cross.
“Our ability to read off of each other and anticipate what the other was going to do next on the ice made us successful.”
Pembroke won their fourth of five straight Art Bogart Cups (CCHL championship) that year and ended up losing in the Fred Page Cup Final (Eastern Canadian Championship) in Brockville to the Brockville Braves (the same team they defeated in 5 games to win the CCHL).
Other highlights from his CCHL career include the previous year (2008-09), when he scored the series clinching goal in overtime of game 6 in the Art Bogart Cup Final vs. the Nepean Raiders. The goal punched his team’s ticket to the Fred Page Cup in Dieppe, New Brunswick. Cross also had a chance to play for a national title when he participated in the 2008 RBC Cup as a member of the host Cornwall Colts.