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Dorian Laganiere-Labranche sets up in a recent UNLV game at City National Arena

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FOR THE LOVE OF HOCKEY BY BETHANY DRYSDALE

Interviewed by Kat Craner and Christina Oka

Recently my friends Kat Craner and Christina Oka had the chance to sit down with UNLV goaltender Dorian Laganiere-Labranche. Since I am no longer living in Las Vegas, these wonderful ladies have conducted player interviews on my behalf. This past weekend, UNLV won their 4th game in a row, with 2 more victories over Utah. Although Dorian did not start in goal this past weekend, he has played the most games in goal this season for the Rebels. In 15 starts, he has a 2.77 goals against average and a 89.5 SVS%.

Born in Granby, Quebec, Canada, Dorian is listed at 5’11” and 181 pounds. We asked the 21 year old netminder what brought him to Las Vegas, he said, “Last summer, I had an opportunity to meet up with Angelos Tsalafos. I was with my friend from Boston, who visiting me in Montreal.  At that time, I didn’t know what I was going to do or where to play next. There were other options on the table, but nothing really interesting. We talked to the UNLV coaches and, right away, we got response that they were interested in me coming to UNLV.” It happened quickly for Dorian as the UNLV coaching staff were impressed with his videos and game footage.

Dorian has been playing goaltender since he was 7 years old. He admired Montreal Canadian goaltender Jose Theodore, who won the Venzia and Hart trophies during his career. His favorite hockey memory was last year with the OCN Blizzard, in the MJHL. He said that even though they weren’t the best team in the league, they bonded and were a close knit team. He loved being on the ice with his teammates and being scouted by other teams. His best advice for kids starting off in hockey is to watch and study players. Keep practicing and believe you can achieve your goals. Sometimes a young player will have to travel to get the best coaches and face better competition, but it is worth it to achieve the next level of success.

Like all student athletes, hockey is only part of a player’s day. When he is off the ice, Dorian is a Biology major. When ask what his plans are after college, Dorian hopes to attend medical school in Canada or a career in pharmacy. We asked him if he has had a chance to explore Las Vegas as a tourist yet. “A little bit, little bit. School has me very busy and keeping up my GPA. I had a little time during the break to go out to see Hoover Dam. I like the nice views, like the lights at night. It’s different than Montreal. Here it’s touristic lights, they want to get you to see the Strip. Compared to Montreal, it’s just street lights and building lights, nothing really attracting, just lights.”

Finally, we asked the young Canadian what he thinks of the ever growing hockey community in Las Vegas. “I think it’s really impressive because it’s the only professional major league Vegas sports and it’s impressive. It’s going to help UNLV to keep growing the game as well. Hopefully they stay the favorite team, even though the Raiders are coming.  I think the Raiders would have to win a big championship or something big to change everyone, like the Knights did the first year, where everybody is just really into it.”

When asked to compare growing up in Canada, where hockey is the most watched sport, how does Las Vegas compare to the hockey culture in Montreal, Dorian said, “Montreal fans think they know everything, they think they’re better than the GMs, better than everyone, they want to run the team instead of the GMs. Compared to Vegas, it’s more of, like, fans. They are real fans. It’s not like GMs in the stands, trying to scout, taking a certain stand. If you’re playing well, they’re going to tell everybody you are the best in the world, like Carey Price. Everyone [there] says he’s the best in the world. And when he’s in a slump, everyone wants to trade him. So that’s the worst. When you play good, it’s probably the best place to play in the world. The people, they probably go the craziest in the league, but when you play bad, it’s not fun.

[Fandom in Vegas] is just going to get better. The knowledge is going to come. It’s started. They’re making a big effort to come to games, to try to learn it.”

One of the best ways to understand the hockey community in Las Vegas is to come out on a Friday or Saturday night to City National and watch the UNLV Rebels take the ice. The price is right for a family fun night out and the players like Dorian really appreciate the packed stands cheering them on. If you are someone interested in the Golden Knights, this ticket is right for all fans. Hockey has been here in Vegas for decades; it is just more noticed more these days.