Brandon Lajoie can’t wait to get back to his home state to join the UAA hockey team as it relaunches into NCAA Division I for the 2022-23 season.
But first things first.
Lajoie, an Eagle River native, still has hockey to play this season as a member of the St. Cloud Norsemen of the North American Hockey League. The Norsemen will face the Anchorage Wolverines in the semifinals of the NAHL’s Robertson Cup Championship starting Friday in Blaine, Minnesota.
“It’s awesome this is the farthest I’ve made it my entire career,” Lajoie said of the playoff run. “There’s a toll and your body gets tired but you overcome it. This is the type of hockey every player plays for, to win something and that’s quite the achievement. There’s a lot of determination in this group. We want to win and want to be a part of something.”
The Norsemen cruised to the Central Division regular-season title with 85 points, 17 clear of the closest competition.
A forward, Lajoie has been right in the middle of it all for the Norsemen. His 26-goal total was third-best on the team, and he amassed 40 points in his fourth season in the NAHL. But he’s also been a utility guy on the team and a big piece of special teams.
“It’s been a productive season,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot and played a lot of a different roles. Anything the team needs I’ll do. If I need to score a goal I’ll go out and do it; if it’s limiting the other team, I’ll do that.”
A 2020 graduate of Eagle River High, Lajoie played the previous three seasons with the Kenai River Brown Bears. And while the Wolverines are in their first year in the NAHL, he has a deep familiarity with many of their players from growing up at Anchorage rinks.
“There’s probably 7-8 guys,” he said. “(Aiden) Westin, the Morris brothers, (Clay) Allen, (Raythan) Robbins. They’re all a year younger than me but I grew up playing against them all the way up to juniors.”
He expects a competitive best-of-3 series against Anchorage: “All those kids work their butts off and they’re a tough team to play.”
Once his season wraps up, Lajoie will return to Alaska and start prepping for the UAA team, which was reinstated and will be a Division I independent next season.
“I am so excited I’m just ready to go up in the Anchorage area and playing hockey,” he said. “I love the area and I’m excited to get back and hopefully build something back up in that program. I always wanted to (play at UAA) and when they came back on the map, that’s the place I wanted to be. It’s perfect and it couldn’t have worked out any better.”