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Clarkson’s Sexton rises above injuries

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POTSDAM — In his first two years at Clarkson forward Ben Sexton has given Golden Knight fans only a glimpse of what he can achieve.

Injuries early in each season have cost Sexton, causing him to miss 48 percent of Clarkson’s games during the first half of his career.

But Sexton, a 6-foot, 203-pound center, is determined to stay healthy this season and Clarkson will need him. Not only is he one of the best scorers on the team, he’s also the team captain.

“I’ve been around the team (when out), even though I’ve been injured,” Sexton said. “I was involved in all aspects of things. I missed 12 games last year, but I’m not going to miss any this year.”

Sexton was off to a promising start in his freshman season when he suffered a freak injury in the ECAC Hockey opener against Colgate. He scored 18 seconds into the game but crashed into the boards behind the net and broke his arm. He wound up playing in only 12 of Clarkson’s 36 games and finished with five goals and three assists.

Last year Sexton also was hurt, but this time before conference play began. He missed a dozen games but still finished third on the team in scoring with eight goals and 21 assists in 29 games, averaging more than one point a game.

“Look around college hockey and how many guys score a point a game?” Clarkson coach Casey Jones asked. “They are few and far between. He did that last year, and more impressively he did that after coming back off an injury where he couldn’t condition a lot. I don’t think he played at maximum capacity last year. I don’t think he ever got back where he was.

“(This season) he comes in, in great shape.

“He’s really competitive. I just feel he’s an extremely good player. He’s extremely competitive. He’s a good leader. He has good skill. He’s got the whole package. He treats himself right and he looks after himself. I think the sky’s the limit for him in terms of point production. He could be on our first line as our centerman and I’ll match him up against anyone we’re playing against. I’m excited about that opportunity as a coach.”

One reason Sexton is valuable is he involves his teammates in games. He has scored 13 career goals at Clarkson, but produced 24 assists. In the three years of junior hockey he played prior to coming to Potsdam he scored 42 goals and had 65 assists.

“He’s a good hockey player,” Jones said. “A lot of times if you talk about a deficiency or something (his) is sometimes he works too hard because he’s so competitive. He’s got some attributes that separate him. He’s strong. He competes at a high level.”

This season will mark a new role for Sexton, not just because he’s the captain. He also is going to be considered one of the main offensive options for the team for the first time in his career.

“I’m excited about it,” Sexton said of the captaincy. “Some things won’t change. I’m going to act as I have the last two years here. My role has increased in a leadership aspect of things, but personally I don’t change anything I do.”

It says a lot about Sexton’s value that even though he missed so much time due to injuries he still earned the respect of his teammates to be voted captain. Last year, after a freshman season that saw him miss even more time, he was voted as an assistant captain.

“(Injuries) are frustrating, but at the same time it’s a part of the game,” Sexton said. “Injuries are going to come with the way I play. I just have to learn from it. You can learn different things when you are out and you see the game from a different perspective.”

Sexton was drafted by the Boston Bruins in the seventh round of the 2009 National Hockey League draft before he arrived at Clarkson and comes from a hockey background. His father, Randy, is the assistant director of amateur scouting for the Pittsburgh Penguins and has been general manager of the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers. Randy Sexton also is a former St. Lawrence University player.

“St. Lawrence was an option, but at the end of the day St. Lawrence was right for my dad but Clarkson has been right for me,” Sexton said. “I’ve never looked back on it or thought twice about it. My little brother (Patrick, a defenseman) is in the recruiting process right now. I know both schools are after him, but hopefully he makes the right choice.”

Jones was not at Clarkson yet when Sexton made his decision to attend, but he feels fortunate to have him in a key role in his second season running the program.

“He has tremendous hockey sense,” Jones said. “He has a good feel of what’s going on around him. He has a good knowledge of our coaching staff and how we want to play and he’s very competitive. Hopefully that spreads. If you go into a game and we lay it on the line and we are competitive every single night, good things will happen.”

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