“Obviously, Derek and Larkin are a big part of this team,” said Jets head coach Dane Litke. “We expected that they’d help provide leadership this season, and that’s exactly what we’re getting from them. Basically, that’s our first-line center and first-line wing.”
The Sioux City, Iowa, tandem have provided much more than leadership thus far. Derek, who is older than Larkin by about 15 months, is tied for the team lead with seven points, with Larkin right behind at six. Their synergy is born of familiarity and forged over numerous seasons on the same teams and same lines.
“It definitely helps to be out there with him,” said Larkin, who finished last season with 11 goals and 16 assists over 56 games. “We play the same style, and it’s easy to know where he is and where he’s going to be as the play develops. I think that gives us a slight advantage.”
Not surprisingly, Derek offered a similar assessment.
“We compliment each other on the ice, and it’s pretty comfortable for both of us, I think. It’s been great getting to play together these past few years.”
While the age difference meant the brothers were on-again, off-again teammates throughout youth hockey, they reunited for good in Midgets, playing for the Russell Stover program in Kansas City and the Pittsburgh Hornets a year later before joining forces again in Janesville just in time for the Jets’ inaugural season. The duo helped propel the team into the playoffs with a 29-23-6 record.
“They both have some skill, but the thing that really sets them apart is how hard they work,” Litke explained. “They help set the tone for the whole team. They obviously had a taste of success last year, and want even more this season.”
Derek, who was third among Jets skaters last year with 31 points over 53 games, had at least a point in each of Janesville’s first five games. He had two goals in the club’s season-opening victory against Chicago (both set up by Larkin), which included the game-winner, then dished out a pair of assists the following night in the Windy City. Larkin assisted on two markers against New Mexico at the Showcase, and levied goals against Austin and Alaska in a pair of victories.
“I’m the older brother, but he’s a bigger body,” Derek explained. “And he’s a good skater for his size. He can protect the puck in the corner, he’s got great vision and a big shot. And we look out for each other out there, especially if one or the other is getting picked on.”
Hockey has been a family affair so far this season in Janesville, even when it isn’t. A third Jacobson – David – has also been instrumental in the Jets’ hot start. While he’s not related to Derek and Larkin, the Janesville native has backstopped the club in each of the first six games, claiming a pair of shutouts and earning SBK Hockey NAHL Goalie of the Week honors on Sept. 13.
“David’s not related, but if he keeps it up I think we’ll adopt him,” Larkin joked.
While the brothers are aiming for a playoff spot and subsequent Robertson Cup berth, the Jacobsons hope they have yet to co-author the final chapter in their shared hockey history.
“We grew up together, we grew up playing together, we billet together, and it’s been great,” Derek added. “And going forward, I’d like to keep playing together at the next level, and however far we make it after that.”