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Erickson playing Division I hockey at Union College

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Emily Erickson returned to her hockey roots when she strapped on her skates and played on an outside rink in her hometown of Crosslake over the recent holiday break.

It felt good to skate where the 19-year-old Erickson started her career, which has progressed from playing youth hockey in the area to skating on a Division I women’s team at Union College in New York.

After playing for the Northern Lakes Lightning varsity team as an eighth- and ninth-grader, Erickson transferred to a women’s junior hockey program in Vermont for three seasons, and today she’s a freshman left wing with the Union College Dutchwomen.

“It was good to get back home,” Erickson said in a phone interview Jan. 2. “Everyone was home on winter break, and I skated with some of the kids that I played hockey with in high school.”

Erickson is enjoying her experience being part of the program, although the 5-foot-4 left wing is anxious to score her first goal.

“Playing juniors helped, but it’s definitely a wakeup call since everything is much faster,” said Erickson, the only one of five Union College freshmen to play in all 20 games. “Only one of the freshmen has scored, but I hope I will be next.”

Erickson has enjoyed success as a goal scorer all of her career. She contributed on offense for the Pequot Lakes’ 12-UB girls’ team that advanced to the state tournament in 2007-08. Despite being one of the youngest players, she was one of the top scorers and was an All-Mid-State Conference selection the next two seasons with the newly sanctioned Lightning varsity team.

Although she continued as a Pequot Lakes student during her sophomore year, Erickson left for Vermont during the winter months to play junior hockey for the North American Hockey Academy. Although she was hindered at times by injuries, Erickson enjoyed an admirable career playing in the Junior Women’s Hockey League.

“The most appealing thing (about the academy) is I was able to continue going to Pequot Lakes High School,” Erickson said. “I was able to keep up with the (educational) material, and the teachers were great. Going to school activities, like prom, were important to me.”

Erickson said her “biggest achievement” at the junior level was making the all-tournament team at Lake Placid in 2011-12. Last season, she was reunited on the team with her younger sister, Hannah, as they helped NAHA win the league title.

“I also played with Hannah on the 16U team my first year (at the academy),” Erickson said. “Hannah is at Achiever Academy in the Twin Cities this season, but she did receive an offer (from Union College) for next year. I hope we can play together again.”

Erickson said she didn’t know any of her teammates this season at Union College, which competes in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference.

“I was nervous at first because it’s a long way from home, but now I can’t be happier with my decision,” Erickson said of playing at Union College. “I didn’t know anyone, but it’s a smaller campus with less than 2,000 undergraduates. I was looking for a smaller school since I come from a smaller town.”

Erickson did quickly making friends with teammates, said her coach, Claudia Asano Barcomb.

“Emily is a positive influence in the locker room, and is well liked by her teammates,” said Barcomb, who adds that Erickson is a “skilled forward with great touch around the net” for her squad. “I’m looking forward to her contributing a great deal in the second half of the season.”

Erickson agreed.

“I would love to get more opportunities to contribute,” she said. “The first half was a learning experience. It’s a big jump to go from juniors to college. But it’s an honor to be playing Division I hockey.

“I owe credit to everyone who has helped me, like the girls that I played hockey with over the years in the Breezy Point Hockey Association.”

Union College, 7-12 overall, started the second half on a positive note with an overtime victory over the Rochester Institute of Technology on Jan. 3, which helped the Dutchwomen equal a program record for victories in a season.

“We’ve had a lot of close games, but there’s a lot of talent in the ECAC,” Erickson said. “We play all five schools from the Ivy League. And every two years we play some teams from Minnesota.”