Any night the Port Huron Icehawks are at Memorial Coliseum, it’s common to hear several thousand fans mockingly chanting, “Larry … Larry … Larry.”
The ire is directed toward Icehawks goaltender Larry Sterling, who has been a favorite target of The Jungle’s faithful since 2008, when the Komets came back from a three games to one deficit in the finals to win the Turner Cup in triple overtime of Game 7 against Sterling.
“They chant my name? I didn’t even know that. That’s really cool,” Sterling said, jesting of course.
Sterling is one to try and elicit reactions, on and off the ice, with opposing players and even the fans.
But as the Icehawks prepare to take on the Komets in Game 1 of the IHL semifinals tonight at the Coliseum, he’s relishing the drama and fun of it all.
“Fort Wayne has got really good fans,” Sterling said. “They’re not disrespectful. You go to some rinks and guys are talking with kids next to them and you can’t believe what’s coming out of their mouths. It’s not like that in Fort Wayne. It’s a really good atmosphere.”
But Sterling doesn’t mind banter, even if it ruffles some feathers.
Take, for example, the midseason game in which Fort Wayne goaltender Tim Haun took a baseball-like swing with his stick at Port Huron’s Derek Patrosso, earning himself a fight with Sterling and a seven-game suspension from the IHL. Sterling called Haun a glorified Single-A goalie after that game and hasn’t really changed his tune, even though Haun took goaltender of the year honors this season.
“Absolutely not,” said Sterling, noting Komets goalies are aided by terrific defense in front of them.
“You can just give that award to Fort Wayne, to be honest, if you want. Look at the stats. The last three years, Fort Wayne has had different goalies (get the award). I don’t think Fort Wayne’s necessarily a Mecca for great goalies. I do have a lot of respect for Nick Boucher, let’s put it that way.”
As Sterling should, since Boucher has won two Cups. But Sterling is also accomplished – he’s won 74 of 129 games in three seasons, with a 2.65 goals-against average, a .910 save percentage and three shutouts. Though, in the playoffs, he’s 7-7 with a 2.92 GAA and .909 save percentage.
That’s why the Icehawks got Adam Russo to split time with him. But Russo left the team this month to skate for Italy in the World Championships.
“I know I can provide for us. I don’t think it’s going to hurt us,” Sterling said.
Komets coach Al Sims, who gave Sterling his first job in the pros with Fort Worth of the Central Hockey League, said Sterling has always had a unique and fiery personality.
“He’s really outgoing and rambunctious, as I think you can tell by his play,” Sims said.
“He’s very extrovert in his emotions, a very emotional kid. But he’s a good goalie.”
Sterling said the 2008 finals were an “unbelievable experience,” and he’s looking forward to this opportunity for redemption, as well as hearing his name chanted.
“My personality, I’ve always been pretty feisty, untraditional,” said Sterling, a 27-year-old native of Lake Orion, Mich.
“I like to jab back. I’ve slowed down as I’ve gotten older, but come Thursday, it’s all business. I’m there for one reason and that’s to win a hockey game.”