Lucas Erickson made his college commitment during the same week the Fairbanks Ice Dogs are finishing a season-opening, four-week North American Hockey League road trip.
The 20-year-old Ice Dogs defenseman committed Wednesday to St. Lawrence University, a member of the NCAA Division I Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Erickson visited the St. Lawrence campus in Canton, New York, last weekend after the Ice Dogs swept the Janesville Jets — 5-3 on Friday and 6-0 on Saturday — in a Midwest Division series in Janesville, Wisconsin.
The Saints also have a new head coach in Brent Brekke, a former Miami (Ohio) associate head coach and Clarkson University assistant coach who was a finalist two years ago for the then head-coach vacancy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“I loved the direction the coaches are taking with the team,” Erickson said by phone Thursday, a day before the Ice Dogs’ weekend division series against the Minnesota Magicians in Richfield, Minnesota.
“The facilities that they’re putting in there were obviously great, and I loved the small campus and the feel of it,” said Erickson, who is planning to work for a degree in economics with a minor in business.
Erickson, a 6-foot-21/2, 210-pound native of Woodbury, Minnesota, is in a five-way tie for third place in team scoring for the Ice Dogs with a goal and four assists in six games this season.
He contributed 12 points (two goals and 10 assists) in 40 games last season for Fairbanks, which reached the championship game of the Robertson Cup National Tournament in Blaine, Minnesota. He contributed four assists in 10 postseason games.
Erickson came to the Ice Dogs as a forward but has developed into an effective defenseman.
Stewart said that St. Lawrence coaches liked Erickson’s potential. They also saw him play at the NAHL Showcase on Sept. 18-22 at the Schwan’s Super Rink in Blaine.
“He can play both forward and defense,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said by phone Wednesday. “(They liked) his skating and offensive ability.
“They’re in a situation which they felt was a good opportunity for them to get a player of his caliber. I think it’s going to be a good situation for both parties.”
Erickson is the second Ice Dog this season to commit to a Division I program. Rookie defenseman Jasper Lester committed Sept. 24 to the Air Force Academy.
“The coaching staff here is unbelievable,” Erickson said of Stewart and associate coach Scott Deur. “They help you develop your game; especially me coming from a different position. That helped me a lot.”
There’s three reasons why this weekend’s series could test the Ice Dogs.
First, last season in Richfield, Fairbanks defeated the Minnesota Magicians in the Midwest Division championship series to advance to the Robertson Cup tournament.
Second, the division rivals are dropping the puck at 4:05 p.m. AKDT today and Saturday in the Richfield Ice Arena.
Third, they’ll also get reacquainted Oct. 11-12 at the Big Dipper Ice Arena for the Ice Dogs’ first home games of 2019-20. The games at the Dipper begin at 7:30 each night.
“The Magicians are a team that has a ton of talent usually, and we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Stewart said. “Coming in here (Richfield Ice Arena), we’re obviously familiar with the setting and what we’re going to be going through, and a little bit of what type of team they are.
“Both teams are different this year. We have a lot of changeover on our roster, and they do as well. It’s a little bit exciting for our guys because they know this is the place we were before the Robertson Cup (tournament).”
The Ice Dogs also enter this weekend series with a power play with life. Fairbanks went 3 for 8 in extra-skater situations Saturday in Janesville after entering the game 0 for 16 this season.
Stewart said it was a matter of time before the Ice Dogs scored with the man-advantage.
“The opportunities were there, being sorted out,” he said. “It was a matter of time before it clicked a little bit.
Guys made some plays, guys made some shots; so that was the difference.”
This weekend’s games against the Magicians can be seen in Fairbanks at the Finish Line Restaurant in the LaQuinta Inn and Suites, 4920 Dale Road off Airport Way.
The Oasis Party Suite in the Big Dipper Ice Arena is available to rent during the Ice Dogs home games.
The suite is located above the goal in the south end of the arena.
Rental of the suite includes game tickets, early entry into the Big Dipper and a taco bar catered by the Oasis Restaurant and Lounge.
Contact the Ice Dogs office at 452-2111 or email@example.com for more information.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter: @newsminersports.