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How Swede it is: Lasch wins championships, scoring title

 

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To reach the Swedish Hockey League’s mountaintop, Ryan Lasch has climbed out of his share of valleys.

His perseverance helped him accomplish a rare feat this season. Not only did he help Frolunda HC win Sweden’s championship, but he also helped Frolunda capture the Champions Hockey League against other top teams from around Europe.

Lasch, a Lake Forest native, led the league in points (51) and assists (36) then added 19 more points, including eight goals, in 16 playoff games.

“We had the same goal in mind instead of competing with each other and that’s a big part of why we were able to be successful,” Lasch said.

Lasch joined Frolunda late last season, coming over from Finland, for the stretch run. Fourteen of his 55 points came in Frolunda’s final 12 regular-season games. Frolunda lost to eventual champion Vaxjo, led by Huntington Beach’s Rhett Rakhshani, in the semifinals.

“For him to win it and then our team to win it is pretty cool,” Lasch said. “You get a golden helmet for winning, and we sent each other pictures of us having coffee with them.”

After the loss, Lasch realized Frolunda had the team to make another deep playoff run this season.

Frolunda’s roster included 11 NHL draft picks from this decade, including Anaheim Ducks 2015 first-rounder Jacob Larsson.

So Lasch did what he’s always done, went to work with Larry Barron of Barron Hockey and Chris Martin of Mettle Strength and Conditioning in Yorba Linda. Barron is also a skating consultant for the Ducks, while Martin is the strength and conditioning coach for their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in San Diego.

“It all started last summer, training with Chris Martin,” Lasch said. “I had a really solid summer with him, and that was the basis for everything. I felt like I was in the best shape of my life at 28.”

Half a life ago, pro hockey was but a dream for the 5-foot-8 Lasch, who had to not only leave the state, but the country at 16 because no AAA team would take him. He landed on a Junior A team in Pembroke, Ont., that Barron had an ownership stake in.

“My family met Larry at the Aliso Viejo rink and not only was he a good teacher on the ice, but off the ice, he was very influential,” Lasch said. “He showed you how to do things the right way.”

Lasch’s 147 points in just 56 games in his third junior season caught the attention of St. Cloud State University. Lasch then shattered whatever expectations the Huskies had when he scored 39 points in 40 games as a freshman. He was a Hobey Baker Award finalist as a sophomore after 53 points and 25 goals.

He finished his college career in 2010 as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 183 points (79 goals) in 161 games, but offers from the next level were few and far between.

He landed in Sweden and scored 30 points as a rookie with Sodertalje SK. From there, he moved to Finland, scoring a league-high 62 points (24 goals) in 59 games and 16 more in 17 playoff games for the Pelicans, who lost in the finals in 2012.

That summer, his dream of signing an NHL contract was realized with the Ducks. But things didn’t go as planned. He played in the AHL, ECHL, got traded to Toronto’s organization, went back to the AHL and ended the year in Sweden with Vaxjo. The next season, he and Rakhshani finished second and third on the team in points, but lost in the second round of the playoffs.

Lasch kept plugging away and this season, the reward was more tangible.

“That’s how the hockey world works,” he said. “If you have that positive attitude and you’re willing to work, good things are going to happen, especially if you surround yourself with knowledgeable guys.”

— Chris Bayee