Cony senior Dallas Clark had to get bigger and faster to become a top two-way forward in Eastern A — and he did.
Furthermore, Clark was asked to lead, score and log more minutes than he cared to count — and he did.
“He became the complete player for us,” Cony coach Chad Foye said. “He stepped up his game and it really showed. He was our top player. He just really stood out. We expected a lot out of him, and he delivered.”
Clark had 23 goals and 20 assists for a team-high 43 points. He also emerged as a force at the defensive end of the ice to help Cony reach the Eastern A quarterfinals for a second straight year.
For his accomplishments this season, Clark has been named the Kennebec Journal Hockey Player of the Year. Marnacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop forward Dan Condon was also considered.
“Dallas was a good player last season,” Foye said, “but he became a great player.”
The transformation wasn’t easy.
“I pretty much realized after last season that I wasn’t producing as much as I thought I could,” Clark said. “I knew there had to be something more that I could do. I knew this year I was going to be more of a leader and that I had to set a good example. So I put in the time. I put in way more hours in the gym, and I focused on the lower body. In hockey, you need your legs, so I was lifting more than I usually did. I worked hard.”
The results paid off. As the year progressed, so, too, did Clark’s ice time.
Power play. Penalty kill. Even strength.
Clark was a key contributor in all facets of the game.
“I didn’t know how physical he’d be and how good he’d be at winning battles,” Foye said. “He won a lot of battles one-on-one. He knocked people off pucks but everything was under control. By being so much stronger he was so much more effective.”
Clark, whose team finished 11-5-3, said he embraced the high expectations.
“The coaches counted on me,” he said. “I love playing so I don’t feel any pressure. I enjoy it, actually. It feels good. I knew I had to be more of a complete player because last year we had a senior goalie (Matt Swan) and this year we had a freshman (Tommy Small) who would need some help back there. We knew it would be tougher back there. I definitely played a lot of minutes.”
None more than at the end of the season, when the Rams had three key players become ineligible for violating team rules.
The suspensions — which came before the regular season finale against Skowhegan — forced Clark and the rest of the Rams to elevate their games.
“We always do a lot of conditioning and that helped,” Clark said.
Added Foye: “I don’t know if we could’ve leaned on him more than what we did. Every key faceoff, every key moment, he was going to go out there. He just never said ‘No.’ I think he probably played two-thirds of the game against Brunswick in the playoffs, and that might be conservative.”
The fifth-seeded Dragons beat the No. 4 Rams 3-2 in double overtime in an Eastern A quarterfinal game. Clark played most of the third and overtime periods.
“I was a little tired,” Clark said, “but it was fun. It was my last game. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”
Clark added that he is deciding between playing junior hockey or attending college in the fall.
Bill Stewart — 621-5640