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O.C. hockey player of the year: Francis Lemay, JSerra
Hockey is hard.
The ice is hard. The boards are hard. The puck is hard. The work is hard.
Almost no one worked harder or hit harder in Orange County hockey this season than JSerra senior forward Francis Lemay.
For his contributions and all-around play, Lemay has been selected as the Register’s Orange County hockey player of the year.
“I like throwing the body,” Lemay said. “I like when I get a really good hit.”
With his style of play, Lemay is a perfect fit in JSerra’s structured and defensive-minded scheme.
“It fits very well,” Lemay said. “We want to take the game to them, make them not want the puck, and get to work.”
When the Lions did get to work, Lemay was as effective as anybody.
Lemay led the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League in goals (17), points (24) and shorthanded goals (2), and he was second in the state in goals (33) and fourth in points (50).
Lemay set an ADHSHL single-season record with five winning goals and assisted on the ADHSHL championship-winning goal in overtime.
Lemay took time to build into his current 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame, but his penchant for physical play was evident as he grew up in hockey-mad Montreal.
“Our other children, when they were running in the house, if they were getting close to the wall and the furniture, they would slow down and try to judge the space,” Francis’ father Eric Lemay said. “Francis would see the tight space and start to accelerate.”
The Lemays moved to Southern California when Francis was 10 years old, and much to his delight, hitting was allowed one youth level earlier in the United States than Canada.
“We didn’t think he was big enough to be able to go and body check,” Eric said. “We asked him, and he said, ‘yeah, sure!’ He wanted to go play physical.”
Hockey eventually brought Lemay to JSerra where his growth spurt allowed him to blossom as a hard-hitting forward.
“When we got Francis, he was a chubby-cheeked freshman,” JSerra coach Mike Perkins said. “He didn’t even play travel hockey. He was unsure of himself. He came in and just worked.”
Lemay’s physical play also caught him on the wrong side of things, as he led the ADHSHL and state in penalty minutes.
“Coach would say I play on the edge of the cliff,” Lemay said. “Sometimes take it over. Sometimes stand several feet behind it. He told me to play with my toes on the edge.”
While penalties are rarely a positive, it’s a tradeoff Perkins was more than willing to take.
“He’s got that grit to his game,” Perkins said. “We were prepared to take his style of grit and penalty kill when we have to. I love his style of play.”
Lemay’s style of play is just hard.