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Lake Placid native to play prep hockey in Minnesota

C.J. Ericson (Provided photo)

LAKE PLACID — Despite being a Boston Bruins fan, Lake Placid native C.J. Ericson has always admired three-time Stanley Cup Champion and former Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. Even though one of Toews’ Stanley Cup victories was against the Bruins in 2013.

“Although he is a Blackhawks player and kind of a rival, he’s probably been one of the guys I’ve looked up to and taken as an idol,” Ericson said.

This fall, Ericson, whose parents are Catherine and Chris Ericson of Lake Placid, will be able to follow in the footsteps of his idol when he attends and plays prep school hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault, Minnesota, the same school Toews played at during his high school hockey career. The 15-year-old was one of only three hockey players born in 2009 that were offered a spot to join the team for the upcoming year.

The school has produced over 100 NHL players, including superstars Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon. The projected first overall pick in the upcoming NHL draft, Macklin Celebrini, also attended Shattuck-St. Mary’s School.

“The alumni list is pretty crazy,” Ericson said. “It’s pretty awesome to go the same school that they went to and seeing them play in the NHL today.”

Ericson, too, has aspirations of having a professional hockey career in some manner. While he’s at least three years away from even considering a professional career, his passion for hockey and competing at the highest level is what has driven him to the same spot Toews and many other players were when they were his age.

“Hockey has been my sport since I was about 3 or 4,” Ericson said.

While he did dabble in lacrosse and youth soccer, nothing matched his love for hockey.

He started out playing youth hockey in Lake Placid, before taking his game one step further when he made the Clifton Park Dynamo’s AAA team nearly four years ago.

While the trip to Clifton Park, which is about 250 miles there-and-back, isn’t necessarily ideal — especially considering he had to practice two or three times a week — his parents were committed to supporting his hockey journey.

For the past two years, Ericson has played for Northwood School in Lake Placid. While he saw limited time on the ice as an eighth -grader at Northwood, he practiced with the team daily and continued to play for the CP Dynamo. In his freshman season, Ericson played in nearly all of Northwood’s 60 scheduled games.

While still playing AAA hockey, he was named to the top line for CP Dynamo and was selected as an All-League player, which helped him get invited to the CCM 68 Camp. The camp invites 68 of the best 14-year-old boys hockey players around the North America to a week-long camp in Chicago with scouts in attendance.

Shattuck-St. Mary’s was one of the prep schools with a scout there. The school used game footage, along with what they saw at the camp, to determine if he was right for the program.

“When we visited Shattuck, he actually didn’t skate out there — they had all the information they needed, so it was just an interview with him and an interview with us,” Chris Ericson said. “We spent about eight hours on campus and then we kind of went from there.”

A few months later, when Chris was picking C.J. up from school, he received a phone call from an unknown number with the location that said “Faribault, Minnesota.”

“We were both like, ‘Well, we’re going to find out right now,'” Chris said. “The coach had called and told us that he was in and has a spot on the team. We were kind of air high-fiving and I was really trying to shake him by the shoulders and not make any noise because we were so excited. I didn’t want to seem over eager.”

The decision to leave Northwood for Shattuck-St. Mary’s wasn’t easy, considering the school is 20 hours away and in a different state from his hometown. But with a couple of his friends already on Shattuck-St.Mary’s team, he decided it was the right school for him.

“It was a pretty big decision for my family and I,” C.J. said. “I know that it’s going to be a massive change for my life in general and overall I was just super excited and looking forward to what’s coming up.”

Along with its long list of NHL and PWHL alumni, the school has a long history of success. The school’s hockey programs have won 36 national championships, including four this past year.

The school, which is located about 45 minutes south of Minneapolis, has two full-sized rinks and a practice rink on campus, as well as a weight-training and conditioning facility.

“It was nothing like I could’ve imagined it,” C.J. said. “Every aspect of it is pro level. Training facilities, rinks, coaches. It’s all professional level. It’s pretty crazy.”

There are about 450 students attending Shattuck-St. Mary’s, which runs from seventh grade to 12th. The hockey players are on the ice six days a week for seven months and will compete in a 60-game schedule against teams from all over the U.S. and Canada. Seventeen coaches guide Shattuck’s teams, which include a U14, U15, U16, U18 and prep.

When C.J. arrives to Shattuck-St. Mary’s in August, he’ll try out of the school’s boys teams. Based solely on his age, he’ll likely be on the school’s 15U team.

Right now, he’s just excited to play hockey in Minnesota, the only U.S. state that lists ice hockey as its official state sport.

“I’ve seen videos, pictures and have been to games out there that have crazy atmosphere and student section,” he said. “It really just changes the game being out on the ice and having all those people cheering for you.”

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