The Daily Courier
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Forward Luke Erickson
, the Arizona Sundogs' leading goal scorer this season, begins every game day the same way.
He arrives at the rink 45 minutes before his teammates and then proceeds to the locker room, where he sits down to tape his stick.
Once his blade is taped up just right, he receives a chiropractic adjustment prior to consuming three specialty drinks that his father, who's also a chiropractor, devised for him.
"He pays attention to all the little details," forward Cam Keith said. "Every game he always has to do certain things at certain times. He's very superstitious."
Keith is very familiar with Erickson's routine, as they played together with the ECHL's Alaska Aces during the 2008-09 season.
Erickson also rides a stationary bike and then receives a foot rub from his wife before taking his customary pregame nap.
Now that's living.
But earlier this season when Erickson was playing for the Rapid City Rush, things weren't all foot rubs and back massages. He wasn't happy with the situation he was in and confronted the team about parting ways.
"He had a tough go at the beginning of this year and he just wanted to prove that he could be a top guy in this league," Keith said. "His results from playing at Rapid weren't accurate to the type of player he was.
"He wanted an opportunity and he worked extra hard to prove himself this season."
Erickson, 28, wouldn't elaborate on the specifics of why he wanted out of Rapid City, but he said, "It was a mutual thing. I didn't see it going where I was hoping it was going to go for me this year and I talked to coach (Joe) Ferras and we just decided it was best for both parties to go our separate ways."
The 5-foot, 8-inch and 170-pound Minnesota native left the Rush and ended up with the Sundogs in a trade on Nov. 12, 2010. He was acquired for future considerations.
"We got him at a time when we weren't scoring many goals," Keith said about what he thought was the best trade the team made all season. "At the beginning of the year we were struggling and he added that element, which gave us someone that you can depend on to score. Other teams had to key on him more, which opened things up for the other guys."
Erickson has scored 37 goals and netted 27 assists this season, which is statistically the best year of his career.
His highest goal total before the 2010-11 season was 25 in 2002-03, playing with the United States Hockey League's Topeka Scarecrows.
So, what's going so right for Erickson this season?
"He likes it here and he wants to stay here, so I think he's just played with more of an edge this year," Keith said.
Erickson, for one reason or another, always seems to be in the right spot at the right time. He has a knack for finding the "soft spots" in the defense.
"For a while there the puck was just finding me and I was able to put it in," he said. "Sometimes its luck, the puck just bounces out to you."
His skill of finding the open areas in the zone is something he's always had and has developed over the length of his 10-year collegiate and pro career.
"He's a natural goal scorer," Keith said. "He finds the soft areas. The areas where you kind of read the play and he finds spots where there's a gap in their defense. And when you get it to him in that spot, he can let it go so quickly, his release is so quick, hard and accurate, he scores a lot of goals that way."
Erickson has tallied three points-streaks of five games or more this season, including a 13-game streak mid-season, where he scored 14 goals and nine assists.
"He's gritty for a little guy," Keith said. "He battles hard to get into those areas and that's why he's successful."
Erickson's success continued in Arizona's final two home games, which were played against his former team, the Rush.
He scored 1 goal and had 1 assist.
But Erickson isn't just a goal scorer. He can kill penalties, he helps out on defense and he can even rough it up every once in a while.
"He's emotional, gritty, in your face, he doesn't care how big the opposition is, he'll go right in your face," Keith said.
Erickson hopes his impressive season continues into the playoffs, as the team is set to play Bossier-Shreveport in the first round.