For the past three years, Austin Prep junior Jessica Jacques has been playing up a level for the U-19 Shamrocks in the prestigious Junior Women’s Hockey League, considered by many to be the top league in the country for elite girls.
Jacques comes from a hockey family; she’s the daughter of Ray Jacques, who grew up in Peabody and starred at Matignon before going on to captain the University of Maine. He has helped coach his daughter every step of the way and pushed her to attain her goal to play Division 1 hockey. Last summer, the elder Jacques was one of the coaches for his daughter’s Team ONE at Hockey Night in Boston, and they surprised everyone there by upsetting a heavily favored Minnesota squad, 4-3, in the championship game.
Now, she’ll continue her hockey education by matriculating to the Ivy League and play at Brown University in Providence.
“Sometimes it’s not easy having your Dad as coach, and we’ve had some pretty loud rides home from the rink,” said Jacques, who lives in North Reading with her family. ““But I really appreciate all that he’s done for me. “He’s been my coach since I was 10 years old starting with the Lowell Junior River Hawks, then at Assabet. He’s been through the same thing and has helped me a lot.”
A standout forward, Jacques is fulfilling her goal of playing at the Division 1 college level and will do so at the oldest women’s hockey program in the country.
The Bears are celebrating their 50th anniversary season, and Jacques fell in love with the school after going for an unofficial overnight visit. That’s when she knew Brown was the one, and the coaches there really wanted her.
“I stayed with a couple of hockey players and was able to see what they go through,” said Jacques. “I liked the idea of a small campus, and the coaches are awesome. I want to play right away and not have to sit for a year. It’s perfect for me, and being an Ivy League school is something I always wanted. Brown is so close to my home (that) my parents and grandparents can come to watch my games.
“I can’t sign yet, but I’m looking forward to the day when I can. I didn’t hesitate to make the verbal commitment, and the Brown coaches wanted me to make it official so I posted it on the Shamrocks’ website.”
The Shamrocks do quite a bit of traveling and play at different colleges, so Jacques had a good idea what would be a good fit for her. Clarkson University, Harvard, Vermont and Union were others high on her list.
The Boston Shamrocks, who practice at the Boston Bruins’ training facility in Wilmington, head for Washington, DC for the JWHL Challenge Cup next week. The league playoffs will be held in Vancouver early next month; the Shamrocks are the No. 2 the South Division.
“We go some place different every year,” said Jacques. “Last year it was in North Dakota and the year before that Colorado. There is a lot of traveling and every team comes to the same place for weekend competition.
“When I started playing for the Shamrocks U19s three years ago, I was the baby on the team,” she added. “I have two different worlds: my hockey family and my friends at Austin Prep. I love them both. My coaches (Josh Hechter and assistant Hailey Wood) have been pushing us a lot lately because the playoffs are coming up; we have a good chance to win it all.”