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Hockey season was not over for three of the Foresters who continued their careers at the next level. Captain Jack Lewis ‘17, Alternate Mark Esshaki ‘17, and Alternate Travis Hill ‘17 made their professional hockey debuts earlier this month. Lewis and Esshaki joined the rosters for the Norfolk Admirals and Hill joined the roster for the Knoxville Ice Bears.

The Admirals of Norfolk, Virginia are a part of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), whose National Hockey League (NHL) affiliate are the Edmonton Oilers.

The Ice Bears of Knoxville, Tennessee are a part of the Southern Pro Hockey League (SPHL), which is affiliated with the ECHL. With their affiliation, the SPHL can move players up to the ECHL or to the American Hockey League (AHL).

Vidas: What was your favorite memory from this experience?

Lewis: My favorite memory was playing at home at Scope Arena, scoring my first pro goal, having my dad in attendance for it, and being the Third Star.

Esshaki: My favorite memory was signing my first pro contract, just the overall experience at the professional level, playing in big stadiums with all the fans, and the professional treatment.

Hill: My favorite memory was scoring my first pro goal! Just awesome getting this pro experience and being able to play with guys from different colleges and major junior backgrounds. This league is extremely skilled and I’m blessed to be here.

Pictured: Travis Hill ‘18, Knoville Ice Bears

Vidas: How special was an opportunity like this?

Lewis: This was a childhood dream come true; personal fulfillment of being able to play pro hockey, especially after being a late bloomer, playing AA (being cut), playing Division III hockey, but still getting to where I wanted to be.

Esshaki: This opportunity was very special to me after such a long amateur career battling different injuries and overcoming so much adversity, to be able to finally sign my first contract and play at such a high level with so many amazing elite players was a big moment for me and everyone who has supported me and helped me along the way. Just eight months ago, I was spending my summer living in a hospital for over 60 days with my dad hoping for him to get a new heart. I promised him I was going to make the most of my year if he promised me he would be there to see it, so for him to be able to see me fulfilling my dream and be here with me has been an amazing feeling.

Hill: This was such a special opportunity for me. Getting a phone call to go play professional hockey is surreal! You work your whole life for something like this and for it to happen is a dream come true.

Vidas: What did you learn from this experience?

Lewis: Having the belief in myself and knowing that if the work is put, the results can be attained.

Esshaki: I have learned so much in my time here from experienced veterans who have been in the league for a long time and the coaching staff on what it takes to play and maintain a career at this level.

Hill: I learned a lot about professional hockey not only at this level but the high levels as well. Learning about different systems and getting advice from guys that have been in the league for a while is awesome.

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