POTSDAM — As his goal total has increased the jokes from teammates have mounted for Clarkson sophomore defenseman Mark Borowiecki.
Borowiecki, who had just one goal and one assist in 33 games last season, now is tied for second on the team with five goals.
Freshman forward Adam Pawlick, who also has five goals, said of Borowiecki, "He's a sniper now."
When told of that comment Borowiecki laughed. He also shrugged off jokes about if he should ask coach George Roll to consider him for the top forward line.
"I'm pretty happy where I am, doing what I do," Borowiecki said. "I've always wanted to take care of defense first. My goals aren't spectacular individual efforts. I've got a lot of guys making nice passes that I've been fortunate enough to bury."
But even Borowiecki joins in the humor about his recent scoring touch, which included two goals last Friday in a 6-5 loss at Boston College.
"I grew up being a centerman," Borowiecki said. "I guess that's where that offensive touch comes from."
The scoring has been a nice bonus for the Golden Knights this season, but Borowiecki would be a key member of the team even if he never scored another point the rest of his career.
"The No. 1 thing is his competitive nature," said Roll. "He's a battler. Any time he goes into a corner, he's coming out with the puck or he's made himself a physical presence. We need more of that from all our guys. They need to follow his lead.
"To me, he's the total package," Roll added. "We've had some good offensive (defensemen). He's good offensively and very good defensively and he competes at every level and has that offensive ability to make plays and get some timely goals."
Even though Borowiecki was voted the Central Junior Hockey League's Best Defensive Defenseman in 2007-08, he seemed to slip by most coaches.
Roll went to see his former team, the Smiths Falls (Ontario) Bears because current Clarkson forward Nick Tremblay was already committed and he was hoping to land defenseman Mike Bergin, who wound up choosing Rensselaer.
"I was there to watch (Bergin), but I really liked what I saw of Mark," Roll said. "I thought, 'This is the type of kid we want.' It wasn't a very long recruiting process. He committed within a week or so."
Borowiecki, who grew up in Kanata, Ontario, a suburb of Ottawa, had planned to go to college after being exposed to the collegiate game by former St. Lawrence University player Randy Sexton, the current general manager of the Florida Panthers.
"Early on, one of my coaches was Randy Sexton and he used to bring us down to St. Lawrence," Borowiecki said. "We watched a couple games at Appleton (Arena) and toured the campus. It's always something I wanted to do."
Lake Superior State also was in the running for Borowiecki, but once Roll contacted him he had an easy choice to make.
"Proximity to home was a big thing," Borowiecki said. "I'm pretty close to my family and I wanted to give them the opportunity to come watch me. Also it's a great hockey program with a really strong tradition. Those were two of the bigger factors."
Borowiecki spent most of last season paired with senior Phil Paquet, and now the roles are reversed as he's had freshmen Nik Pokulok and Andrew Himelson as defensive partners.
"He's a great defensive D-man," said Pokulok. "There's always nothing to worry about back in your own end. He always makes good, solid first passes. He doesn't make any mistakes in his own zone and he's a physical D-man."
Said Himelson, "He's real easy to play with. He supports you all over the ice. He never really makes a mistake when he has the puck and just always brings intensity. He's always in the right spots."
Borowiecki had a solid rookie season, even though he said it took him a few games to get used to the speed at the NCAA Division I level. But he was not satisfied and spent the offseason preparing to have even more of an impact.
"I think a lot of it is confidence with the puck," Borowiecki said. "Last year I was playing more not to make a mistake. This year, in the offseason, I wanted to be not only an impact player with the puck, but hopefully try to contribute on offense too."
And it's possible by this time next season Borowiecki could find himself with a letter on his chest as one of the team's assistant captains.
"He's a leader off the ice and he's a leader on the ice," Roll said. "The guys look up to him even though he's only a sophomore. Clearly he has leadership capabilities."
Sportswriter Cap Carey covers Clarkson University men's hockey for the Times. For more coverage, visit his "Knights Tales" blog online at watertowndailytimes.com. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.