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SLU hockey: Essery stepping up this season for Saints

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CANTON — By scoring four goals in the past three games for St. Lawrence University, Kyle Essery has elevated his offensive production.

While Essery has provided a much-needed spark, the junior center has once proven to be one of the team’s most versatile players this season.

“Kyle, in the two years I’ve been here, night to night has been our most consistent player,” St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. “Consistent in that you get the same game out of him every night.”

The talented two-way forward helped lead St. Lawrence to its first victory in six games in last Saturday’s 4-3 triumph over Rochester Institute of Technology. Essery scored the game-winner in the third period to help complete a comeback as the Saints earned the 1,000th victory in the program’s history.

Both Essery and his teammates look to carry over this success into ECAC Hockey play against No. 14 Yale and Brown at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at Appleton Arena.

“That was big getting that 1,000th win,” Essery said. “We had lost five in a row trying to get that, so it was good to get over that hump. I think that will help us getting back into league play.”

Mainly a second- and third-line center, Essery has been skating with sophomore Tommy Thompson on left wing and freshman Sean McGovern on the right.

“It doesn’t matter where he’s playing or who he’s playing with, you get the same effort from him every night,” Carvel said of Essery, who has six goals in all 19 games this season. “He’s got nothing but positive energy and he’s a real leader on this team.”

“I feel pretty good,” Essery said. “I’ve kind of had a slow start the last two years, but getting those three goals this weekend and getting that one before the break, I think I’ve turned my game around.”

The group was the most productive line last weekend, generating nine points, on four goals and five assists. McGovern, selected as the league’s rookie of the week, had four assists.

“I think we’re playing well,” Essery said. “We haven’t played together much, so it was nice to get some chemistry going and it’s working out pretty well now.”

Moments before Essery scored the deciding goal against RIT at 6 minutes, 5 seconds of the third period, he heard “a big crash” as he stepped onto the ice.

“On the game-winning goal, Thompson went in and made a big hit on a defenseman and got the puck in the slot to Kyle, who did a good job of finishing,” Carvel said.

“That was a nice win,” Essery said. “But we still have some things to work on, like continuing to be more aggressive by getting more shots on goal and crashing the net.”

One of the team’s top penalty-killers, Essery is tied for the team lead in short-handed goals (2) with sophomore Patrick Doherty. Essery scored his first career short-handed tally in a 4-2 loss at Yale on Nov. 10.

“He’s a tremendous penalty-killer because he has good instincts and good sense,” Carvel said. “But he also has the intangible in that he’s got character. He’s a kid that will throw his body in front of shots — and being just 5-foot-8 he’s strong out there. He wins battles against opponents that probably aren’t expecting him to.”

Essery, who scored a goal in a 5-2 setback against Vermont on Dec. 15, scored twice, including a short-handed goal in last Friday’s 4-3 loss to RIT. “It’s always good to get those,” he said.

IN SEARCH OF ECAC SPARK

With only four points, the Saints are tied for last place in the ECAC Hockey standings with Rensselaer and Brown.

“I think mentally we’re in a good spot,” Carvel said. “We have to be desperate ... so I think we’re a group that won’t take any game lightly. I think we’ll have that desperation and I think now that we’re healthy, we’ll find out what our identity is.”

St. Lawrence enters tonight only five points out of third place in the league.

“I think in lot of our losses, we had the lead, but going into the third period we let up on the gas,” Essery said. “I think we’ve got that out of our game and hopefully we’ll be able to strive to go forward in ECAC play.”

NATIONAL LEADERS

Kyle Flanagan is fifth in the nation in points per game (1.44), sixth in assists per game (0.94) and tied for eight in assists (17).

Junior linemate Greg Carey is tied for second in the country in goals scored (12), seventh in goals per game (0.63), is tied for ninth in points per game (1.37) and is tied for sixth in power-play goals (6).

FOR A GOOD CAUSE

The Saints spent part of Thursday serving meals to seniors at Canton United Methodist Church. “It just shows that its not just about playing hockey at St. Lawrence,” Essery said. “We like to give back to community as much as we can.”

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