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December 7, 2009

Lasch overcomes odds

Small in stature, the Lake Forest product is thriving at St. Cloud State

An underdog growing up, forward Ryan Lasch has developed into one of the top players in college hockey. (Photo: St. Cloud State University)

You’re too short. You’re too slow. You’re not good enough to make this AAA team.
 
Turns out it was all baloney, and Ryan Lasch of Lake Forest didn’t believe any of it.
 
A strong drive has carried Lasch to the summit of NCAA Division I hockey. The 5-foot-7 forward has piled up 139 points early into his senior season at St. Cloud State University. That point total put him one behind Ryan Malone (now of the Tampa Bay Lightning) for fifth on the Minnesota school’s scoring chart.
 
He’s within 40 points of becoming the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) school’s all-time leading scorer. Ever.
 
Lasch also has been an All-WCHA selection the past two seasons, a member of the WCHA’s All-Academic Team, a league all-rookie selection and a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the nation’s top college hockey player, in 2007-08 when he racked up 53 points (25 goals, 28 assists).
 
“When you’re smaller in stature, everyone is going to tell you that you can’t do this or that,” Lasch said. “That’s where the competitive drive comes in. My main motivation was to prove that an undersized player can play.”
 
What Lasch has been able to accomplish is not lost on his college coach, Bob Motzko, who has an extensive college and junior coaching resume since finishing his own Huskies playing career in the mid-1980s.
 
“Ryan’s been a great player for us,” Motzko said. “Three years, 130-plus points - you just don’t see that in college hockey right now. He’s one of the highest point producers in the past dozen years. That says something about the type of offensive ability he has.”
 
More than just filling the net, Lasch has become one of the pillars of the program, Motzko said.
 
“He’s helped us grow our program,” Motzko said. “He’s done tremendous in his offseason training, outstanding in the classroom - he’s become an all-around student-athlete.
 
“You’re judged by your teammates, and he’s one of our leaders. He trains extra hard and he’s one of the hardest workers in practice. He’s taken a leadership role and grown in it.”
 
This comes as no surprise to one of Lasch’s first coaches in California, Buddy McKinnon, who helped coach Lasch through Squirts, Pee Wees and Bantams.
 
“He’s a tremendous young man, first of all,” McKinnon said. “He wanted it so bad. He just couldn’t understand why others wouldn’t work as hard as him. He got shortchanged a lot, but he never gave up on his dream.
 
“He was never late to practice and he was always the last guy off the ice. And in the room, he wouldn’t even tie his skate if a coach was talking. That’s how much he paid attention because he wanted to learn.”
 
Lasch got his start in hockey at the old Costa Mesa rink in an in-house program run by Fred Nelson. From there he played for the South Coast Sabres, Westminster Wave and Long Beach Jr. Ice Dogs.
 
Lasch met Larry Barron at age 14 and forged a friendship that would change the course of his hockey career on several levels.
 
“At 16, I got cut from my AAA team and I didn’t have anywhere to play,” Lasch said. “Larry gave me an opportunity to play up in Pembroke, Ontario, Canada, with a (Central Junior Hockey League) Junior A team he’s involved with. I played for the Lumberkings for three years.”
 
It’s nothing new for 16-year-olds to leave home to pursue their hockey dreams, but going from Orange County to a hockey-crazed outpost 3,000 miles away?
 
“It was a culture shock,” Lasch said. “My parents helped me in a huge way.”
 
Barron, who owns and operates Barron Hockey Academy out of the Orange County Ice Palace, also helped Lasch develop his game.
 
“Larry’s training took me to a whole another level,” Lasch said. “His on- and off-ice training is excellent. We worked on my stride. Part of my weakness is my explosiveness. His whole culture over there is pretty hard-working.”
 
Lasch’s scoring touch and his continuous improvement caught Motzko’s attention during the 2005-06 season - Motzko’s first in charge of the Huskies.
 
“I had a tip on him and went to see him play in Pembroke,” Motzko said. “I saw that electric offensive touch. It was special. He gets the puck and he has a mission, and that’s to score a goal. You just don’t see that everyday. He put up astonishing numbers at Pembroke.”
 
Remarkably, Lasch was not drafted, but as the NHL game has opened up since the lockout, a premium has been placed on skill.
 
“Whenever you’ve got a player who can score like Ryan has, someone will give him a chance,” Motzko said. “That’s the beauty of players like that. When they can do something at one level, they can do it at the next level.”
 

 
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