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High school hockey preview: Malone goalie Brown plays with diabetes

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Most hockey players spend time between periods resting, drinking water or sports drinks and listening to the coach talk over strategy for the rest of the game.

Malone freshman Joey Brown has a different routine.

Brown, a goalie, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in June 2010, and spends his time between periods pricking his finger to check his blood sugar and then taking whatever steps may be needed if the levels are too low or too high.

“If my sugar is low, I drink Gatorade and it takes 15 minutes, so it could be up by then,” Brown said. “If it is wicked high, then I’ll put some insulin in. I try not to miss any time.”

Despite his ailment, Brown has become one of the key players on Malone’s team. He earned the starting goalie position late in the seventh grade.

Last year, as an eighth-grader, he played 947 minutes and made 626 saves. He had a 9-11-1 record as a starter, with one shutout, and had a 3.30 goals-against average with a .900 save percentage.

“He’s very quick and he’s extremely good with his angles,” Malone coach Kevin St. Hilaire said. “He’s always in the right spot. He’s getting better at it every day.”

Brown was chosen as the team’s Most Valuable Player last year.

“I’ve never seen him get mad, never,” St. Hilaire said. “He’s given up six or more goals, but I’ve never seen him slide the stick or yell at another player. He’s very level-headed. He’s a quiet kid, we are working on that. He’s not vocal, but he’s only in the ninth grade.”

It was at a hockey tournament when Brown’s parents, Gary and Joanna, discovered he had Type 1 diabetes.

“He didn’t look well, he had lost a lot of weight,” Gary Brown said. “We went to a doctor and they diagnosed him with it. They sent us to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington (Vt.). We went there for four days and helped get it under control.”

Brown has dealt with his condition for almost four years, but it never gets easier.

“Every day is a trial,” Gary Brown said. “There are highs and lows. Any (carbohydrates) you eat, you have to cover it with insulin, so everything he eats, he was taking a shot. That’s 10 or 12 shots a day. You have to calculate how many carbs you are eating, which is the tricky part. There are other kids who have it, so you have to try and not think about it and just try to live life. At night it can go down, so you have to be careful. As parents, we check on him a lot. But we feel confident that he himself knows how to handle it.”

Communication has been important within Brown’s life.

“We have to monitor it,” St. Hilaire said. “Practices are easier than games. We always have him check between periods to see how he is doing, check his levels. He’s never missed any (game) time because of it.

“One time this year in practice he said, ‘I have to get off the ice.’ I said, ‘Don’t even ask permission, just go.’”

Brown has matured, and could be one reason he’s performed so well as a player before even reaching high school.

“Nothing bothers me physically,” Brown said. “I just feel normal. (The diagnosis) was surprising. I knew nothing about it. I had to learn pretty quick. I like challenges, so I tried to beat this one.”

Brown, who said his favorite goalie is former Vermont standout Tim Thomas, has high hopes for his own hockey career and is not going to let his illness be a factor.

“I’d like to play in college and the (National Hockey League) if I could,” Brown said. “That would be awesome. I don’t think (diabetes) will make much difference. If I can control it now than I can keep a close eye on it in the future.”

Former NHL Hall of Fame center Bobby Clarke of the Philadelphia Flyers played with diabetes during his 15-year career.

Based on what Brown has already done, it would be wise not to underestimate his chances to keep advancing in the sport.

“He worked real hard in the summer before seventh grade and had to pass the New York state agility test to be able to play varsity hockey,” Gary Brown said. “Not many seventh graders can pass that.”

Said St. Hilaire, “His worth ethic is there and he has the ability. The sky’s the limit for him.”

NAC OUTLOOK

Massena (Division I) and St. Lawrence Central (Division II) both reached the state final four last season. The Red Raiders lost 5-1 to Section 5’s McQuaid Jesuit and St. Lawrence Central fell 6-4 to Section 1’s John Jay-Cross River.

Massena finished one point behind Potsdam in the Division I standings a year ago, but edged the Sandstoners 3-2 in overtime in the Section 10 championship game. Both teams figure to contend for that division again this season. Canton improved a bit last year, but lost starting goalie Jake Watson to prep school. Salmon River had an off year last season, falling to 3-14-2 overall.

The Larries edged Ogdensburg Free Academy by one point for the Division II regular-season title but could win that a little more comfortably this year. Norwood-Norfolk, which lost 6-1 to the Larries in the championship game, should also be in the mix.

Some of the top individual players returning include: St. Lawrence Central’s Luke Arquiett and Kody Kocsis, Massena’s Tyler Young and Connor Paquin, Potsdam’s Logan Ford, Chad Varney and Trevor Keleher, OFA’s David Prudhomme and Salmon River’s Ty Terrance.

The Islanders are entering their third season competing in Section 10 as a combined team drawing players primarily from former hockey rivals Alexandria and Thousand Islands.

This Islanders team is a “very young group,” according to head coach Joe Eppolito.

The squad, which is made up “mostly of sophomores and a few juniors,” includes only four seniors. The team will be led by senior forward Kyle Delaney of LaFargeville. The Islanders also are solid in goal with sophomore netminders Miles Kearns of Alexandria and Noah Crandall of Thousand Islands. The Islanders will play in the NAC’s Division II for the second consecutive campaign.

SECTION 3 OUTLOOK

Immaculate Heart Central will compete once again in the Section 3’s Division I American Conference, sporting a 20-player roster, which includes seven seniors and several key returners.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” IHC head coach Randy Pound said. “We have good numbers, and I think we have depth this year, which is a big thing at this level.”

Senior defenseman Jared Pignone, senior forward Jake Renzi and junior forward Jordan Trudeau will be counted on to provide leadership for IHC as well as senior goalie James Cole and sophomore defenseman Trevor Hughes. Junior goalie Grant Chamberlain played plenty of minutes last season for the Cavaliers.

IHC is also comprised of players from General Brown and Watertown High School.

Ontario Bay will skate in the section’s Division II American Conference after competing in Division I the past four seasons. The Storm’s roster includes seven upperclassmen, including just four seniors.

“We are anticipating having a more competitive season this year with a majority of our players returning,” Ontario Bay head coach Chris Sturick said.

Players to watch include forwards Gabe Fedorko (Sackets Harbor), Josh Kilts (Sandy Creek), Tom Taplin (Pulaski) and Brett Wolfe (Sandy Creek), defenseman Morgan Deleel (South Jefferson) and goalie Edward Sheats (Pulaski).

The Storm, which also includes players from A-P-W and Mexico, will look to improve on last season’s one-win campaign.

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