SIOUX CITY | Cedric LaCroix reminds Sioux City Musketeers Coach Brett Larson of a defenseman from last year’s roster.
Standing six feet and weighing 178 pounds, LaCroix isn’t quite as big as the 6-2, 220-pound Kuqali, who came in a trade from the Indiana Ice last January and sparked a late surge that sent the Musketeers to the USHL playoffs for the second straight season.
But Larson was impressed with LaCroix’s performance at last week’s Musketeers Tryout Camp and put him on the 29-man post-camp roster.
“Cedric has a strong case for making the team,” said Larson.
But so do 28 other players -- and Larson must trim his roster to 25 by July 1.
“It’s going to be a tough decision,” the coach said. “There are players competing for roles on the team. We need first-line guys who can not only score but defend. We want defensemen who play tough in the defensive zone. We feel we had a great start with our camp.”
LaCroix, a native of Providence, R.I., scored 17 points (2 goals, 15 assists) for the Kemptville 73’s of the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL). He’s among nine defensemen on Sioux City’s current roster, a list that includes three Musketeers from last year’s 29-30-1 team that made the playoffs for the second straight year -- Michael Holland, Dan Molenaar and Cliff Watson.
“He’s a big defenseman who can skate, block shots and bring a lot of energy,” Larson said of LaCroix. “He played junior hockey in Canada, so he has the experience. He’s a little like Kuqali because he’s a physical, tough defenseman. I like his defensive game.”
Kuqali, who will play for Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) starting this fall, was also a key defenseman for a unit that allowed an average of 1.91 goals during a 9-3 stretch to conclude the regular season.
The list of 29 also includes four goaltenders who all participated in Sunday’s all-star game at the IBP Ice Center. Austin Priebe, who went 4-8 as last year’s backup to Penn State recruit Matt Skoff, is among the four, joining second-round pick Joe Ballmer, Finland native Ville Runola and Kyle Hayton.
“Goaltender is the most important position on the ice,” said Larson. “I’m not in a position to pick two guys right now. It’s tough to make a decision because all of them competed very well during the week.”
David Goodwin, the Musketeers’ second-leading scorer from last year (21 goals, 28 assists) didn’t compete in the camp because of concussion problems. Yet, Goodwin is among 16 forwards on the current roster along with five others from the 2011-12 team -- Nikita Sirotkin (9, 15), Jordan Boucher-Gould (7, 15), David Henry (10, 10), Josh Erickson (6, 5) and Cody Marooney (4, 4).