The final two regular-season games for the St. Lawrence Central hockey team will have plenty at stake.
The Larries (14-4 overall, 10-2 division) lead Division II of the Northern Athletic Conference with 20 points, but are just one point ahead of OFA (9-2-1).
St. Lawrence Central host Canton Friday at 8 p.m. and closes the season with a game at OFA on Monday at 6:30 p.m. The Blue Devils have a tough contest at Division I Potsdam at 7:30 p.m. Friday before meeting SLC again.
A key reason the Larries are in position to claim the regular-season title has been the play of sophomore forward Luke Arquiett, who leads Section 10 in scoring with 17 goals and 20 assists for 37 points in 17 games.
Probably the thing that impresses me most about Luke is some players are gifted offensively and choose to neglect defense, Larries coach Mickey Locke said. As much as he excels offensively, he is as good defensively. Hell give up his body to block shots. He takes a lot of pride in playing really good defense and hes an outstanding two-way forward.
Arquiett is also a playmaker, as his statistics show, with three more assists than goals heading into the final two games of the season.
Hes very unselfish with the puck, Locke said. Hes the player, if we rush into the zone, he has the puck. He looks to dish before he shoots. He has that unique ability to make the players around him better. He has that special gift. Hes extremely creative offensively and he knows where everyone is on the ice.
Arquiett has also been consistent. Hes scored a goal in all but five of SLCs games and hes scored two goals five times. Only three times this season has he been held without a point.
It makes (this week) a lot more interesting, Arquiett said of the one-point lead. I think we just have to stick to our game plan and give 100 percent.
SLC lost 4-2 at home to OFA on Dec. 10 in the Larries second game of the season. But any confidence that may have been shaken by a home loss to a division rival was restored when the Larries beat Massena, 3-2, nine days later. The Red Raiders lead the Division I standings.
The Massena game turned our season around, Arquiett said. They are up there with the state-ranked teams and it was a big upset.
Arquiett joined the varsity as an eighth-grader, and the sophomore wont turn 16 until late this summer.
But the results hes putting up on the ice this year mean it is possible he could be a player who leaves early to play junior hockey or attend prep school, though that may not happen until his senior season.
Hes a special player and I know he can play at the next level, Locke said. It rarely works out for players that leave early. It all depends on development, but I think hes got some very good potential of playing at a very-high level.
Arquiett was asked if he aspires to play at the NCAA Division I level and said, That would be one of my goals.
Arquiett has emerged as a leader for the Larries, but its more what he does on the ice than being a vocal leader at this stage of his career.
I think the players look to him in critical situations where we need offense and he usually delivers, Locke said. He has tremendous respect for his teammates. Hes extremely humble. Hes the type of player that will never call attention to himself. He will credits his teammates for any success he has.
Arquiett thanked Locke and Larries assistant coach Randy Roy for helping his development.
(Locke) reminds me a lot of Herb Brooks, Arquiett said. He keeps us conditioned pretty well.