Along with his parents, 4-year-old Jake Cox was a frequent spectator at Columbus Cottonmouths games in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
That was when youth hockey started in Columbus, Cox’s Georgia hometown, and he was one of the program’s original participants. He had as much fun playing the game as he did watching it and never left.
“From there, I just asked if I could play every year and things just kind of took off,” Cox said.
After making his way to Atlanta to play AAA youth hockey with the Thunder, then heading to Alabama to begin his junior hockey career with the Point Mallard Ducks, Cox established himself as one of the top goal-scorers in the North American 3 Hockey League.
A midseason move to the St. Louis Junior Blues did nothing to slow Cox down this season. With a goal in the final minute of Sunday’s 5-2 victory over the Atlanta Capitals, Cox became the all-time career goal-scoring leader in the NA3HL.
“At the beginning of the season, I didn’t think about it at all,” Cox said of the record. “It was brought to my attention at some point and when I got closer, I paid a little bit of attention, but I tried to just go out there and play the right way every night and not really think about it.
“It’s something that I’m almost glad to get over with so I can play now and not really have to worry about anything.”
Cox has 98 goals in an NA3HL career that began in 2014-15 with Port Mallard. He has 22 goals in 24 games with the Junior Blues this season after coming to the team in a trade from the Ducks where he had scored five goals in the first five games.
“Jake’s been a great player in our league,” said Chris Flaugher, St. Louis coach/general manager. “We were able to add a seasoned-veteran-type player who has the ability to play in all situations and make our team better.”
Cox had played 47 regular-season games in Point Mallard each of the past three seasons, scoring 20, 18 and 33 goals. He was more than a point-a-game player, topping 50 points in each of those seasons.
St. Louis was already a strong team before adding him to the roster.
The milestone goal completed a night of celebration for the Junior Blues as well. An established veteran took a pass from Jack Hazleton, the team’s youngest player, on the power play with 13 seconds left to secure the win that clinched the Midwest Division title.
Cox, who has two hat tricks while scoring 10 goals in the last 10 games, generally plays with other veterans. Cox, Jack Hatton and Ivan Galaguzov all made their way to St. Louis after spending time in the higher-level North American Hockey League earlier this season.
Junior Blues captain Hatton and Cox played together in the NAHL with the Shreveport Mudbugs.
Once they were all in place on the roster, Flaugher put Cox with Hatton and Galaguzov, who had already been linemates in St. Louis last season.
“He’s playing with a couple good linemates,” Flaugher said. “They play well together.
“He’s got good instincts; he’s hard on pucks and he’s a player who’s going to give you his all.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.