Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Walpole native James Corcoran enjoying Bruins experience

Ty Anderson
July 08, 2017 - 5:38 pm

It was on Thursday that James Corcoran’s phone rang with a call from Goalie Bob.

Goalie Bob, which is the alias for Bruins goaltending coach Bob Essensa and as he’s known to almost everybody in the Bruins organization, extended a personal invitation to Corcoran for the club’s final two days of development camp, held at Warrior Ice Arena.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Corcoran, a Walpole, Mass. native, seen making some big stops during a five-on-five scrimmage despite his status as a fresh-faced high schooler, said after his first day on the ice of going against the best of B’s prospects. “I’ve tried to prepare as much as I could, but I’m also just trying to live in the moment and have a lot of fun with it.”

But this wasn’t Essensa treating a local kid to a dream.

Corcoran's invite was more than deserved.

The backbone of a Walpole High team that shocked the local hockey world this past season by becoming the first public school entrant of the state’s new Super-8, best-of-three state championship format introduced in 2013, Corcoran posted some straight-up ridiculous numbers, with a .970 save percentage and 0.46 goals against average for the Rebels. His 13 shutouts during the regular season also matched a state record. (He would add a 14th, by the way, in Walpole’s Game 1 win over BC High.)

“We really bought into the system this year,” Corcoran recalled of the Rebels’ improbable run, which included a win over Massachusetts hockey superpower Memorial Catholic in a play-in game (Corcoran also noted that he played for CM in middle school before switching back to Walpole). “It was a lot of fun. We all had great seasons.”

A student of GDS in Exeter, N.H. for his goaltending camps, and frequent workouts at Edge Performance Systems (whose clients include NHLers like Brian Boyle and Charlie Coyle as well as NFL stars like Rob Gronkowski), Corcoran shoots for the moon when it comes to the goaltender he most wants to emulate as he continues to grow.

“I like Tuukka [Rask],” Corcoran, a lifelong Bruins fan, began, “But — and I hate to say it — I love [Canadiens goaltender] Carey Price and the way he plays.”

But don’t confuse his admiration for fandom. The Bruins are in Corcoran’s blood.

“Two of my uncles have played for [the Bruins],” Corcoran said.

“Oh, really?” this reporter asked Corcoran, who was sitting just two stalls over from a player with similar connections to the Black and Gold in Ryan Donato. “Who?”

“Tommy Songin and Terry O’Reilly,” he replied.

He shot both of them a text when he was invited to camp by the Bruins, and noted that Songin, who skated in 43 NHL games for the Bruins from 1978 to 1981, is going to try and make it up to Warrior for tomorrow’s camp finale in Brighton. O’Reilly, a Bruins legend whose regular presence at Bruins games is still met with a standing ovation, is currently in Canada and will be unable to make it to any sessions, Corcoran said.

Skating in the practice facility of your hometown team and for your hometown team -- and with a replica of your uncle’s retired number No. 24 banner hanging up and to the right of your crease -- can be daunting, and Corcoran couldn’t deny that. But that didn’t prevent him from allowing himself to enjoy the ‘surreal’ feeling of this two-day opportunity.

“In the locker room before practice, I took a couple of minutes to walk around and get a feel for everything,” Corcoran, who has yet to commit to a college program, admitted. “But after that, I had to focus myself. I had to be like, ‘OK, it’s time to work.’”

And given where he’s from (Walpole has produced two NHL-drafted players, the most recent of which being the Ducks’ Chris Wagner), Corcoran has made it known that he’s here to learn as much as he can about the work needed to make his dream a reality.

“Coming from Walpole, there’s not that many hockey kids there per se, so I’m kinda on my own,” the 6-foot-4 goalie, who will move to The Winchendon School next season, said. “So I kinda have to learn from these guys with what they’re doing and stuff like that."

“I just have to keep working hard and get better everyday,” Corcoran, who is looking for more exposure and against stiffer competition with the move to Winchendon, said of his next opportunity. “I’m looking for where I can hopefully play [in college].”

But when talking about the current opportunity given to him by the B’s and Essensa, even if it’s just for a weekend getaway right off the Mass Pike, Corcoran couldn’t hide his smile.

“This is probably my best opportunity yet,” he said.

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