- by Scott Radley, theSpec.com
It was late in a game against Brown University last month when his coach threw him out there to protect a one-goal lead. In the last minute actually.
With a few seconds left, he intercepted a pass near his own blue line and looking up, he saw an open lane to the empty net. Nothing but clear space between him and a goal.
Then something amazing happened.
“Instead of going for it and risking an icing, I just flipped it out,” Greg Carey says.
Anyone who remembers Carey from his days around here is probably saying the same thing when they hear that.
Are you talking about THE Greg Carey? The guy whose middle name is Offence and who likes scoring almost as much as he likes breathing?
Yup. That's the one.
The 22-year-old is still a magician with the puck. Playing for St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., he's currently third in NCAA scoring with 37 points in 26 games. That matches his career high in 10 fewer games than it took him last season.
But instead of thinking about scoring alone now, he's putting his efforts into the other less-glamorous facets of the game. Blocking shots. Protecting the puck. Creating turnovers. Hitting.
The gaudy stats? Don't even bother talking to him about that stuff right now. He trying hard not to pay attention to his numbers. He's trying really hard not to worry about where he is in the scoring race.
“I think you can ask any hockey player, scoring makes you feel great,” the history major says. “I think this year, especially, my coaches challenged me to improve in my defensive game. I definitely take pride in not getting scored on.”
There's a learning curve, for sure. He'll tell you that.
He could always score. As a kid, his dad taught him to shoot. Right away, the overmatched goalies who'd never seen a raised puck — let alone tried to stop one — had no chance. Through minor hockey, finding the net came rather naturally. By the time he reached the Burlington Cougars, it was obvious where his talents were.
In his last year with the provincial junior team he set a league record with 72 goals. He added 42 assists that year, and finished with a plus-59 rating.
“We were never even on defence,” he says.
It's not that he was avoiding his own goalie. Most of the time the puck was just down in the other team's end. The Cougars averaged something like six goals a game that year. It was high-octane, run-and-gun hockey.
But college hockey is different. It's more physical and faster. You've got to do all the little things really, really well if you want to win.
Not to mention, if you want to get some team interested enough in you to maybe offer you a pro contract once you're done.
That's more than a realistic dream. Since 2005, every NCAA player who's finished in the top three in scoring has gone pro, with 14 of the 21 making it to the NHL and another three reaching the AHL.
So he's committed himself wholeheartedly to the program. As he has, he's actually found it kind of addictive.
Meanwhile, the adjustments he's made clearly haven't hurt his performance in the offensive zone.
Nor have they hurt his reputation in the dressing room.
He's the university's nominee for the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference student athlete award for combining high marks and outstanding athletic performance. And he's sure to be in the discussion for the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in the States in April.
If any of this sounds vaguely familiar, it might be because he's just the latest Hamiltonian to carve out a spot in the high-rent district of the NCAA.
Last year, Spencer Abbott — now with the Toronto Marlies — led the country in scoring and was a finalist for the Hobey.
Going into the weekend, Carey was just three points out of the lead with two games in hand on the two guys ahead of him. He has a chance to make it two years in a row that a local guy wins the title. If he does, maybe then he'll talk about it.
After the season.
“That's not really my goal,” he says.
His goal is a championship. Before — and after — his younger brother, Matt, joins him on the team next season.