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SLC hockey heads to Division II semi-finals in Utica ranked first in the state

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BRASHER FALLS - The St. Lawrence Central hockey team heads to the New York State final four ranked on top of the latest state sportswriters Division II poll.

According to veteran coach Mickey Locke, now comes the time for the Larries to prove it on the ice.

“It’s a nice feather in our cap to be ranked number one but our objective is to be number one after Sunday,” said Locke as the Larries get set to take on Section 1 champion John Jay-Cross River in the state Division II semi-finals at the Utica Aud on Saturday starting at noon.

“It’s definitely a little more than just another game. They are going to be a formidiable opponent. We’ve had a great week of practice and we’ve been telling the kids to concentrate on doing the things that they’ve been doing all season to get to this point,” Locke added.

The Larries have put together a banner season so far in Locke’s 30th year behind the bench, the majority of those years assisted by Randy Roy. The captured the NAC Divisivion II regular season banner before going on to claim the Section 10 title for the first time since 2010 with a convincing win over Norwood-Norfolk in the Division II final.

The Larries followed that up with a 3-1 win over Section 5 champion Webster Thomas in the first round of the state tournament last Saturday at the Tri-Town Arena to earn their bid to the semi-finals. They head to Utica with a 17-4-1 record and will be looking to end a state championship drought that dates back to 1982 when they won their only title. In their previous trip to the state tournament, they made it past the first round before falling to Queensbury in the semi-final round..

The core members of this year’s team played limited roles as freshman on the 2009-10 squad but they have stepped up to lead the Larries’ hopes this winter. Senior forwards Ian Lynch (20-19-39) and Blake Baldwin (8-18-26) are the third and four leading scorers on the team while Eric Lynch (2-10-12) has been a versatile anchor on the blueline.

The Larries have also gotten outstanding leadership from a talented crop of underclassmen. Sophomore Lukas Arquiett leads the team in scoring with 21 goals and 25 assists for 46 points while junior Kody Kocsis has tallied another 39 points on 20 goals and 19 assists. Senior Devon Euto (7-17-24) and sophomore Nathan Stickney (12-6-18) have also been leading contributors. The third-line trio of sophomore Luke Peets, senior Isaac Beckstead and sophomore Nick Kowlachuk has seen limited action in the post-season but combined to score the eventual game-winning goal in the win over Webster Thomas.

The Larries defensive corps took a big hit when senior Parker Meashaw was lost for the season to an injury but senior Jarek Crump, sophomore Joe DiMatteo and freshman Jake Sutton have combined with Eric Lynch to be one of the team’s strengths along with tthe play of senior netminder Nate McLaughlin (2.36 goals against, .905 save percentage).

“We’ve played well defensively as a team. We have as strong a group of defensive-minded forwards as there is in our section, maybe even the state. Even with the loss of Parker, we’ve had some of the younger guys step up and we’ve been solid on defense and Nate has been stellar for us in goal,” noted Locke. “We’ve also been doing a great job on special teams in the playoffs with six goals on 10 power plays and were 7-for-7 in penalty kills.”

John Jay enters the game at 22-1-1 as the second-ranked team in the state. They outscored Rye 5-1 in the Section 1 final before skating to a 4-2 win on the road over Sedction 2 champion Queensbury in their state tournament opener.

Shawn Smith leads a potent John Jay offense with 48 points on 36 goals and 12 assists. Frazier Bostwick has 40 points (23-17) followed by Jack Grimm (16-9-25) and Mark Laprine (9-15-24). Six other players have generated 13 points or more while Matt Lanza had posted a 1.57 goals against average and .923 save percentage handling the bulk of the goaltending duties.

“They have some very good forwards and they have good overall team speed,” said Locke. “We just have to come out and perform like we have all season. If we do that, we can be successful.”

The other Division II semi-final on Saturday between Beekmantown (17-3-1) of Section 7 and CBA-JD (15-8-1) of Section 3 is slated to start at 9:30 a.m. The state Division II final is scheduled for Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

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