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SCS Unified hockey coach discusses late-season surge

By: Jason Carmel Davis | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 3, 2017

 St. Clair Shores Unified forward Steve Gentilcore handles the puck against Dakota. The Lakers’ next game is against Royal Oak High at 8 p.m. Feb. 11 at the St. Clair Shores Civic Center.

St. Clair Shores Unified forward Steve Gentilcore handles the puck against Dakota. The Lakers’ next game is against Royal Oak High at 8 p.m. Feb. 11 at the St. Clair Shores Civic Center.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — The St. Clair Shores Unified hockey team, called young and inexperienced by coach Keith Knight at the start of the season, has had its share of growing pains but is starting to get things figured out at the right time.

The Lakers have gone 3-4 in their last seven games and a 2-10 start to the season. 

An increased effort on defense has keyed the turnaround, Knight said.

“For the most part, they’ve progressed a bit,” said Knight. “They have a better understanding of positional play, which has allowed us to cut down on the number of scoring opportunities we allow.”

At press time, his team was 5-14 overall and 0-5 in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division. 

“They really just needed to realize what their job is on defense. You don’t have to chase the puck handler. Everyone has a lane to cover. By doing that, you’re not allowing the opposing team to attack you at top speed,” Knight added.

Another reason for the team’s change in fortune is the return of some healthy defensemen, Knight said.

John Mears and John Woyt have helped bolster the team’s blue line.

“Those are both solid players,” Knight said. “They’ve helped in a lot of ways and have kind of served as tutors for the younger guys. They’ve forced everybody to play a little bit better.”

Two Lakers who have played well all season long are junior forward Austin Zeiter and sophomore forward Steve Gentilcore. Zeiter leads the team in goals (14) and points (19). Gentilcore is second in goals (7), first in assists (8) and second in points (15).

“It’s not really a surprise that those two guys are leading the team,” Knight said. “Austin played last year and was expected to be a big part of the offense this season. He’s a solid kid. He works hard and is strong in front of the net.

“(Gentilcore) is probably the most individually skilled guy on the team. He’s good with the puck, good in one-on-one battles. Both of those guys are doing great.”

The team has five games left before the Division 1 playoffs begin. Knight said he wants to see his team improve on its consistency, noting that his team has stretches where it plays great defense and creates scoring opportunities, but also long periods where it gives up odd-man rushes and allows goals.

“We can’t take shifts off,” Knight said. “If we play hard for a full three periods, I think we can play with anybody.”

The Lakers open the playoffs against Warren Mott at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at Viking Arena in Hazel Park. The winner gets U of D Jesuit at 6:30 p.m. March 2 at the same location. The Lakers are 2-0 against Mott this season.

“I expect our guys to work hard, and hopefully we can (beat Mott),” Knight said. “U of D Jesuit is not as dominant as it has been in the past, so if we do everything right, we should have an opportunity to win that game. The key is consistency.”

The Lakers’ next game is against Royal Oak High at 8 p.m. Feb. 11 at home.

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