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Alex Killorn makes playoff homecoming

by Dan Marrazza / Tampa Bay Lightning

When the Norfolk Admirals face off with the Monarchs in Game 3 on Wednesday night in Manchester, it will be the Admirals’ first game in New Hampshire in 15 months.

While playing in northern New England will be a new endeavor for many Admirals, it will serve as a homecoming for rookie Alex Killorn.

Before turning pro and making his Admirals debut on March 23, Killorn was finishing a four-year career at Harvard University, which is located approximately 50 miles southeast of Manchester. Prior to college, Killorn, a native of Halifax, NS who spent part of his childhood in the province of Quebec, played high school hockey at the prestigious Deerfield Academy, which is also located within an hour’s drive of the Monarchs’ home ice.

“I’m going to have a bunch of buddies coming up for the games,” said Killorn. “A kid who worked with our team at Harvard lives in Manchester and is coming to the games with his father. I’ve never actually played a game at this specific arena, but it will be good to have some familiar faces in the crowd cheering me on.”

Lately, Killorn’s cheering section has had plenty to clap its hands about.

During the first two games of the series, the line that Killorn plays on with Alexandre Picard and Pierre-Cedric Labrie has been Norfolk’s highest-scoring unit, having figured in on four of the Admirals’ five goals in the series.

Killorn contributed his first two professional playoff points in Game 2 last Saturday, using a hard-charging forecheck to bully Manchester defensemen off pucks to set up each of Picard’s two tallies.

“Usually when kids come into pro hockey, it takes anywhere between eight and 10 games for you to gauge where they’re at,” said Admirals head coach Jon Cooper. “By no means was Alex perfect in his first couple games. But you could immediately see that he could keep up with the pace of the game and he’s worked his way up our depth chart in a short time ever since.”

While Killorn has successfully adjusted to the pace of the pro game, in college, he set the pace.

Killorn finished his 34-game collegiate season with a 46-point total (23g, 23a) that was at least 11 points more than any of his Harvard teammates. This came on the heels of his junior season in 2010-11 when he was Harvard’s second-leading scorer with 29 points and his sophomore season when he was third with 20 points.

“Growing up, I was always one of the smaller kids,” said Killorn. “I had to catch up. In college, I started focusing more on training and my diet. The added size has helped my game a lot.”

When an 18-year-old Killorn was drafted by the Lightning in the third round (77th overall) in 2007, he was 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds.

At the start of the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs, a more mature Killorn stands 6-foot-1 and weighs just a shade under 200 pounds.

“Where I went to high school, sports weren’t taken nearly as seriously,” said Killorn. “The high school I went to was great because I think it paved the way for me to get into college hockey. But sports were more of a hobby there and I train now like it’s my career. High school hockey was so different than the American Hockey League.”

Killorn’s high-school experience wasn’t just different than the AHL; it was different from the high-school experience of virtually 99 percent of American teenagers.

At Deerfield Academy, a boarding school in Massachusetts, Killorn arrived to the United States as a young Canadian kid amongst one of the most exclusive environments imaginable.

Deerfield Academy has a long and distinguished list of notable alumni, ranging from former Boston Red Sox general manager and current Chicago Cubs head of baseball operations Theo Epstein, to foreign princes and even a few generations of Rockefellers.

“A kid who lived down the street from me growing up ended up getting recruited to Deerfield,” said Killorn. “I always wanted to play college hockey and was told Deerfield would give me the best chance to make that happen.”

As calculated, attending Deerfield, where he captained the hockey team and led the golf team to an undefeated season during his senior year, led Killorn to Harvard. And, also as calculated by the honor-roll student, Harvard led Killorn to professional hockey, where he’s now just one short step away from the NHL.

Although Killorn’s destiny may be as a forward with the Tampa Bay Lightning, New England will always be one of his second homes.

“I’m not sure when I’ll be up in this area again after this series,” said Killorn. “My college graduation is actually on May 24. We hope we’re still playing hockey at that point. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it to my graduation. I’ve thought about just flying in for the ceremony in the morning, but it’s really going to be based on the team’s schedule. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

Killorn and the Admirals are knotted at one win apiece with the Manchester Monarchs in the teams’ best-of-five Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series.

Game 3 will be in Manchester on Wednesday night, with Game 4 being slated for Friday and the possible Game 5 scheduled for this Saturday night.

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