Don’t worry, Janesville Jets opponents, you’re not seeing double.
It only seems that way when head coach Dane Litke sends his line of Derek Jacobson, Larkin Jacobson and Pat Dalbec over the boards.
“It’s funny, they both started slowly, but both just figured out that working harder and being consistent pays off at this level,” said Litke.
The jump in play from Midget AAA hockey to Junior A has been noticeable to the brothers.
“The NAHL is a good league,” said Derek (a ’90 birth year). “It’s bigger, stronger and faster than what we were used to. It took us a bit to get used to it. Now things are starting to click for us; we’re coming together as a team.”
Derek is the line’s center, standing 5-foot-11 and weighing 185 pounds. He has 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in 36 games. Larkin (a ’91) plays left wing and goes 6-2 and 205. He also has 21 points (8-13) in 37 games. Dalbec has 17 points after 29 games.
“On paper, Larkin looks bigger, but Derek’s a pretty big kid, too. They’re both pretty muscular,” Litke said. “They work very well together. Not only are they on the same line, they play on the same power-play unit.
“Derek’s a better skater, and Larkin really uses his size to his advantage. Both work hard and play important minutes for us. And neither are fun to play against.”
The brothers came to Janesville from the Pittsburgh Hornets program, where they had played together for the past three seasons.
Derek was on Litke’s radar after a colleague recommended him for the expansion Jets, who subsequently drafted him. Larkin, however, made the Jets by going through a tryout.
“I figured I might as well give it a try,” Larkin said. “I did what I could at tryouts.
“It’s really nice to be able to stay together at the same place for another season.”
Added Derek: “We liked to stay together if possible. It was a new team, and Larkin thought he had a chance to make a statement. We’re excited that we’re not only on the same team, but the same line.”
The brothers’ transition has also been helped by the input of their stepfather, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Ruslan Fedotenko.
“(Ruslan) has always told us to play as long as we want, and that he’ll support us on whatever we want to do,” Derek said. “If we have a question, he’s not afraid to tell it like it is.”
Added Litke: “I’m sure (Ruslan) has been a big influence on them. They’ve been around the National Hockey League, and there’s no better person to ask questions of than an NHL player. I know he helps them out whenever he gets a chance.”
Another advantage was training with Fedotenko during the summer.
“He really puts us to work,” Larkin said. “He got us in the best shape we’ve been in.”
The brothers’ summer also included a visit from someone every hockey fan is familiar: a guy named Stanley.
“We had the Stanley Cup for a day,” Derek said. “We took it to Door County (Wisconsin). Our family has a place we stay in the summer. We had some friends meet us up there to enjoy it with us.”
That perk came as a result of the Penguins’ Finals triumph in June (Fedotenko also was a member of Tampa Bay’s Cup-winning team in 2004).
“That was quite an experience,” Larkin said. “It’s a dream of so many kids who grow up playing hockey just to see it. But to spend the day with it, to hold it, to drink out it, it’s something I’ll never forget. It motivates you to keep going.”