Jr. Sharks, Tahoe Prep grad Larsson leaving mark in NCDC
Moving East wasn’t much of a problem for South Lake Tahoe resident Erik Larsson.
Moving – anywhere – is a skill that the Swedish-born forward has developed over the course of his 20 years, so it was no problem to pack up clothes, his hockey bag and stick and fly 3,000 miles to join the Boston Bandits in Bridgewater, Mass.
Larsson is just entering his second season with the Bandits’ team in the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC). The NCDC is the United States Premier Hockey League’s (USPHL) tuition-free junior league that plays at the Tier II junior level.
“I started playing when I lived in Sweden,” said Larsson. “I lived there until I was 8, then I moved to Canada, until I was about 15. I’ve only lived in California for two years.”
Along with additional stops in Canada and in the Bay Area, Larsson has his miles. The same can be said for his skates, having played 60 games already in the USPHL between the 18U Division and the NCDC.
“A lot of the top California teams play most of their games in the Eastern United States – that’s where the games are,” said Larsson. “If I’m playing games there anyways, why not join a team there and cut down on the travel?”
Entering his third season with the Bandits, Larsson remarked on how special an organization he has joined.
“It’s just the way the key characters in the organization – the general manager and the head coach – make me see that they’re all for the players and the team,” said Larsson. “There’s also a lot of exposure here, as it’s a lot closer for the college scouts to come and see games.”
Larsson hopes to increase the offensive side of his game in 2019-20, after proving himself as an intense two-way forward at two levels.
“My contributions on the ice are typically my work ethic on the penalty kill, and playing in key situations in the defensive zone, making sure we get pucks out,” said Larsson. “This year, I’m focusing more on the offensive side of the game to put up some points and get more attention towards college placement.”
First-year Bandits head coach Jim Gaudet brings college hockey coaching experience at the ACHA level, as well as the wisdom handed down from a Division I head coach for a father – Dartmouth’s Bob Gaudet. Jim also played under Bob at Dartmouth.
Coming back to a team that changes their coach can sometimes be an unsettling situation for a veteran. However, after the short time that Gaudet has been in the head position, Larsson is fully confident he can both improve the Bandits’ league standing and get Larsson the college looks.
“Jim Gaudet is obviously a phenomenal coach in the way he’s running things for the Bandits,” Larsson said. “He has a great hockey mind, and he knows what he’s talking about. You have to make sure you’re listening because he’s always saying things you need to listen to. He’s always calm and collected, which helps the team focus, and we don’t panic.”
In California, Larsson cut his teeth with the San Jose Jr. Sharks for a season, before joining the Tahoe Prep Academy for the 2016-17 season.
With Tahoe, he showed his offensive flair, scoring 20 goals in 15 contests and totaling 32 points. Tahoe has become a bit of a USPHL feeder program, as Larsson is one of five alumni to be on a 2019-20 USPHL roster.
He still loves returning home to that big lake in the mountains, though.
“In the summers, it’s obviously beautiful, and I love being outside, love going to the ocean,” added Larsson. “When I was there, skating and going to the ocean in the same day was a luxury I did not take for granted. I loved being able to train while also taking advantage of the perks of California.”
— Joshua Boyd/USPHL.com
(Oct. 8, 2019)