By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com
Thank heaven for modern technology, that’s certainly what Larkin Dolan is thinking.
While tending goal this year for the USPHL Premier’s Motor City Gamblers, he was able to work with the coaching staff at Anna Maria College, an NCAA Division III school, by sending them film of his performances in net.
“I emailed them in February and they were interested right away. I sent some film and they liked my skating and compete level,” said Dolan, who announced his AMC commitment in late April. “I knew some guys that had played there and some that had just committed, and they all had really good things to say. I was most interested in the hockey program because it seemed like they had grown a lot in the last few years and looked like a really good place to grow as a player. Off ice, I was drawn to the small school setting and the location. I haven’t spent much time in the Northeast and I really want to.”
Dolan, an ‘02 out of Boulder, Colo., just completed his third season in the USPHL and second in the Premier. Dolan originally played with the Charleston Colonials team that went to the USPHL Elite National Championships in 2021. Last season, Dolan made the jump to the Premier level with the Lake Tahoe Lakers before signing in 2022 with the Motor City Gamblers in Detroit. He had his best success with the Gamblers, going 11-2 with a 2.53 goals against average and a .919 save percentage, posting two shutouts along the way.
The Gamblers rebranded after previously competing as the Motor City Hockey Club, and turned heads around the league with a huge year-over-year improvement, especially in Year 1 with Head Coach Sam Shaheen on the bench.
“It always seems hard to start a new team and I think the coaching staff and management handled it really well. Any kinks that needed to be worked out off the ice never carried on to the ice which was really important,” said Dolan. “We were able to just do our own thing, Coach Shaheen really trusted us and that made every day at practice fun, and we were able to prepare exactly the way we wanted during the week. My goalie partner [Robert Allport] was awesome. He was very intense and we pushed each other every day to be at our best and help each other fine-tune everything we wanted.”
Dolan said that the oft-branded “COVID season” of 2020-21 saw him and his family have to make some big decisions after he’d already played a year of junior hockey in a different Tier III league. He certainly made the best of playing in the USPHL Elite with Charleston, finishing with a close loss in the finals to the eventual champion Charlotte Rush.
“It was a valuable experience to make a deep run at Nationals, and it was also a younger team so I was forced to lead better,” said Dolan, who went a combined 10-9-0-1 that year.
He has enjoyed the last two seasons in the Premier as he always knows he’ll see teams loaded with top college hockey prospects, whether on the West Coast or in the Midwest.
“The USPHL always has opportunities to play against a lot of different teams, so getting to play good hockey against these powerhouse programs from other divisions is important for seeing how you stack up to the rest of the league and make adjustments if needed,” Dolan said. “It also helps with exposure.”
He’ll also have to work on his game during this off-season to make sure he stacks up well against college opposition next year. Anna Maria College is an independent team, so they face all different kinds of NCAA Division III squads over the course of a season.
“I need to get faster. Everything will just have to be faster and more precise,” said Dolan. “ If I can come into next season, at the very least, quicker on my feet, then I think the transition will be smoother.”
He’ll be making the transition not just to a faster and overall better brand of hockey in the NCAA, but a faster and tougher level of education at the college level. He’s starting off as a business major “for now, but I’m open to exploring other majors as well.”
Along with working the recruitment process online and by phone, he also only got a chance to view the online offerings of the campus in Paxton, Mass., that he will soon call home.
“I wasn’t able to visit, but just from talking to the coaches and the other players I knew that had visited, I was sold,” said Dolan. “Seeing the trajectory the program is on, I knew that it was something I wanted to be a part of.”
The USPHL congratulates Larkin Dolan, his family, the Motor City Gamblers, and Anna Maria College for his commitment.