PREP YEAR IN REVIEW: Hockey Player of the Year Lawson Bell, Alton
Nathan Woodside/For The Telegraph
ALTON - Shhhh. Lawson Bell has a not-so-secret secret:
He's a combo Redbird/Explorer.
Even though Bell patrols the ice for the Alton Redbirds hockey team, he attends classes at Marquette Catholic High School. And since Marquette no longer has its own team in the Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association, he plays for Alton High's Redbirds.
AHS is plenty glad he does.
After all, he's constantly looking to increase his effectiveness on the ice.
"I think as the year started, I was testing the waters trying to get back in my groove," Bell said. "I do think I progressed throughout the year and felt like I continued to improve, like I hope to again next year."
Bell, who will be a senior this fall at Marquette, scored 18 varsity goals and had nine assists for Alton last season. He also put in plenty of ice time with the Redbirds junior varsity and scored 15 goals with 17 assists.
There's much more to Bell than just goals, however. In fact, he would just as soon dish out an assist as score a goal, as long as the play ends up with the puck in the back of the net for the Redbirds.
For his efforts on the ice, Bell is the Telegraph Hockey Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
It was a challenging season for the Redbirds. They found it difficult to establish any rhythm and finished 7-14-3.
"The high school season was definitely a struggle for both me and all of my teammates," Bell said. "I think it really came down to showing up ready and having a desire to play. Consistency was a huge problem for us, whether it be practice attendance or game effort."
One constant, however was Bell.
"Since I was the team captain, I obviously felt a lot of weight on my shoulders," Bell said. "I feel like my main role was to keep everybody focused and motivated by trying to keep the team morale high."
Early in the season, Bell provided a measure to raise that morale when he scored a goal with one second remaining in the game to lift the redbirds to a 4-4 tie with Edwardsville at the new R.P. Lumber Center in Edwardsville.
Bell's goal came just before the final buzzer sounded and salvaged the deadlock for the Redbirds in a game during which they once held a two-goal lead.
With the Redbirds goalie pulled in favor of an extra attacker, Alton used the man advantage to score the tying goal.
"We sustained pressure in their zone and got a buzzer beater from Bell," said Nick Boswell, who coached the Redbirds last season. "A big topic for us after the game was we have to bring the same energy we had in the last minute of the game for the full game."
Boswell said earlier that Bell's penchant for dishing out assists makes him an effective weapon.
"Goals are obviously important," Boswell said last season, "but finding someone who is so good at passing it off can be rare."
Bell has played club hockey with the Twin Bridges Lightning Under 18 team as a forward.
"The biggest difference between club and high school, as I see it," Belle said, "is the speed of play and skill gap between players. In high school, each team has a few standout players whereas club teams are mostly a combination of all of the standout players from all of the different high school."
Bell, who will be a senior this fall, said playing for the Redbirds while attending Marquette has been ":fun."
So, does he catch any grief from either side?
"I wouldn't say I ever get a hard time with many people, but I think it is pretty funny that I can be wearing blue all day at school and then suiting up in red right after," he said.
"I find it extremely fun, because the hockey team has been a way for Alton and Marquette kids to get together and form a bond, rather than a rivalry for once."
Bell will get a chance to see what life looks like wearing a Marquette uniform this fall, although not a hockey one. He has elected to play football as a senior for Explorers coach Eric Dickerson and has been taking part in summer workouts and 7=on-7 scrimmages for MCHS.
"I've decided to play football for my senior year," Bell said. "A few players from the team reached out because they were in a need for players, so I just figured I would have fun."
Bell has been going through summer football workouts as a defensive back and wide receiver.
As he prepares for fall football and the hockey that will follow, Bell has been thinking about post-high school plans.
"I hope to go play hockey in college for fun," he said. "I want to play at a competitive level while also still being held to a high academic standpoint."