POTSDAM Midway through his final season of junior hockey, Norwood native Alex Boak was starting to wonder if hed ever get a chance to play at the NCAA Division I level.
Boak, now 24, was in his third full season with the Brockville (Ontario) Braves, but he was not sure even of his own future with that organization, let alone when college offers would start coming.
Christmas break (2009), I was really skeptical, said Boak, a defenseman. Finally I started playing well and I got a couple (NCAA Division III) offers. Luckily, later in the year, Clarkson gave me an offer and it was a dream come true.
Boak had a solid last season with Brockville, finishing with five goals and 28 assists in 57 games and helping the Braves reach the Royal Bank Cup in the spring of 2010.
I played really well in the playoffs and the RBC Cup and I was just hoping something would come about, and it did, Boak said. The call from then Clarkson head coach George Roll was an answer to a dream for Boak, who grew up going to Clarkson games and like most area hockey players hoped to one day play at either Clarkson or St. Lawrence University.
I remember Willie Mitchell and (Kerry Ellis-Toddington), the defensemen that were good back in the day, Boak said. My dad (Gregory) used to point them out and tell me to watch what they did. It was pretty cool to watch those guys play here.
Boak has been a steady player ever since arriving at Clarkson, playing in nearly every game in his four years. This year hes the only senior among Clarksons defensemen, so hes taken on a leadership role.
Hes the elder statesman on the staff back there on D, Clarkson coach Casey Jones said. Hes easy to coach. Theres no question his compete level is his biggest asset. Hes tough. On any given night hes coming to play and compete. Hes that guy thats got to stay in check and make sure its on the smart side of things, from a discipline standpoint. You go into any (arena) in the league and you know his physicality and effort is going to be there. As a coach, you like to coach those things down, versus having to coach them up.
Boak, who often grins at opponents after a rough exchange as he skates either back to the bench or to the penalty box, has kept working to improve his game during all four seasons.
Ive always been kind of a physical kid, said Boak, who is 6-foot-1, 210 pounds. My skill and puck moving ability have come a long way. This year Ive been working on my skating and my foot speed.
Any key player going down with an injury will be tough for a hockey team, but Clarkson suffered a big loss last Saturday when senior captain Ben Sexton was injured after crashing into the boards in a game at Princeton.
Sexton will definitely not play this week, but his status beyond that is not certain. Those who saw the injury in person reported on Twitter that it looked bad enough to cause him to miss many games.
If there was any player Clarksons coaches, players and fans wanted to see play the full season this year it was Sexton, who has already missed 41 games in the first three years of his career due to various injuries.
Sexton is tied for the team lead in scoring with fellow senior Allan McPherson. He has six goals and 17 assists in 29 games, including four power-play goals.
Even though he played in only 12 games as a freshman, he impressed his teammates enough to be chosen an assistant captain in his sophomore year. He was the teams captain by his junior year and this year was the only player with a letter on his jersey.
We feel we have a good group of leaders in the senior class, Jones said. The senior class has been behind Ben in that supporting role, so we really didnt have a need for assistant (captains), they just did it by committee. Well have to talk about that obviously, because we have to have someone nominated, so well just talk to the team. I would assume it will be a rotating basis with multiple guys (as temporary captain).
Clarkson senior Mike Garlasco, a native of Mahwah, N.J., has appeared in only two games this season, but hes taking full advantage of his educational experience at Clarkson.
Right now Im trying to start my own business, Garlasco said. Im in the process of working with the school and talking to some investors, so its a pretty exciting time. It has something to do with loose change and being able to maintain it and less of a chance of handling the loose change. I was at the local IGA getting a sandwich and some stuff and I just realized there was an issue that needed to be solved and it looks like Im going to be able to solve it.
Cap Carey covers Clarkson University hockey for the Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org