With a full-cage helmet impeding his efforts, it soon joined a discarded pair of gloves on the ice of what would soon become his home for the 2016-17 season. With his equipment out of the way and his hands raised, Jake Fuss squared up his opponent before exchanging a bout of fists to put a punctuation mark on his performance at Knights main camp. It was with that tenacity that Fuss made a lasting impression with the Knights staff last summer. It’s what continues to stand out to NA3AHL Knights head coach Josh Fusco.
“He has constant go in him and the more you put on him and the harder you push him, he just turns the dial up another notch,” he said. “You can look at Jake on the ice or the bench and you know the kid is ready and chomping at the bit to get right back out there.”
It’s with that same tenacity that Fuss set the tier-III single-season goals scored record last Saturday. The mark had previously been held by Dallas McLaughlin who scored 60 goals for the Marquette Royals of the MNJHL in 2013-14. With a four-goal effort against the Jersey Wildcats Saturday evening, Fuss set the new record at 63. He added two more last Sunday to close out his regular season with 65.
“I was kind of aware of it,” said Fuss on the significance of his Saturday performance. “I didn’t know out there when I scored, but [Josh] Kim and I have been kind of neck and neck all year and following the tier-III stats, so I knew he and I were close. It was kind of cool coming off the ice, learning I had set the record.”
Standing at 6-0 and weighing in at 175, Fuss’ speed and strength on the ice are evident to anyone attending one of his performances. His consistency is too. In 33 games, Fuss tallied goals in 31 of them. 22 of those performances were multi-goal efforts, 10 of which saw him record a hat trick or better. Heading into the playoffs, he carries with him a 19-game goal streak.
“Jake’s game throughout the season has gotten much better; he’s really grasped the concepts myself and the staff have pointed out to him,” said Fusco. “He’s an outstanding player with the puck, the things he’s able to do are eye-opening. When it’s on his stick, you can’t take your eyes off him because you know something is about to happen. It’s not just that though-his battle on the boards and his d-zone are strong. The harder you hit him, the harder he pushes back.”
Beyond the record, the Fairfield, Connecticut native has recorded at least one point in every game he’s played in 2016-17, was the first player drafted for Team Red at the NA3AHL All-Star game and has earned multiple games with the Knights NAHL team. Despite all the individual achievements, Fuss was quick to credit his teammates for his success.
“Between, me, Kim, and Hendrick [Simard], I’ve been part of a line that’s been clicking all year,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of chemistry and we’re always able find each other out there on the ice. Josh Kim passed the old goals record last weekend too.”
Kim finished just four goals behind Fuss in regular season play, but recorded three more assists to give him 128 points on the year to the latter’s 129. With Simard’s totals included, the trio combined to accumulate 158 goals, 172 assists and 330 points. Spending most of their ice time alongside one another allowed the line mates to often pace a tremendous Knights forecheck that averaged just over eight goals a game. Through all the numbers, the head coach was equally impressed with his points leader’s attitude.
“It’s something special, what he has,” Fusco said. “His passion for this game and his success with the game are obvious, but mostly Jake is team-first guy. I think that’s something I don’t think people realize because of all his individual success. His work ethic and behavior are just contagious and it brings out the best in his teammates. It’s one of the main reasons why so early on I put a letter on his chest.”
With the Knights set to kick off their NA3AHL postseason tonight against the Exton Bulls, expectations are high. The Knights finished in 2nd place in the NA3AHL’s regular season with a record of 32-4-0, and will take a 14-game winning streak into the playoffs. In six meetings, the Knights swept Exton in convincing manner, but still Fuss maintains a grounded approach.
“I’m nervous heading into the playoffs, but it’s a good nervous,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of success against them [Exton] and everybody else this season, but we have to go out there and prove what we’ve all been able to accomplish was no fluke. I think it’s cool I was able to set a record this year, but I want to win a championship. That’s what I’m here for.”