Badgers reap returns on Carlson's maturity

A 21-year old freshman gave Wisconsin an unexpected boost when he first stepped on the ice

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At a time when the Wisconsin men's hockey team (14-6-6 overall, 8-3-5 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) is short on goals and struggling to find a way to win, they seem to have found a new offensive threat in freshman Ross Carlson. From game one the forward has contributed to the team and they will need his offense if they hope to get things back on track.


When Carlson played at Duluth (Minn.) East High School, he played two years on the same line as current teammate Nick Licari. The two, along with fellow Badger Tom Sawatske, led Duluth to the state hockey championship in 2000. After graduating, Carlson opted to play junior hockey for three years.


"(I played junior hockey first) in order to try and mature more. I didn't think it would take me three and a half years, but I guess it did. But it worked out," said Carlson, who played for Des Moines and Waterloo of the United States Hockey League.


Carlson spent the first semester of this year rehabbing a knee injury at a community college in Iowa. He began practicing with the team the week before the series at Minnesota State, and impressed associate head coach Troy Ward so much that he immediately inserted him into the lineup.


"It was a pretty good opportunity because we were missing some people," coach Mike Eaves said. "And the fact was that Troy liked what he saw in practice in terms of what he displayed, so let's find out what he could do right away."


Carlson did not disappoint either. He quickly tallied his first collegiate goal and two assists in the series at Minnesota State. He was rewarded for his efforts when he was announced as the WCHA's Rookie of the Week in his first week of play. His quick impact surprised everybody, including himself.


"It was kind of unexpected I guess you could say," Carlson said. "It wasn't one of those things that I thought I could do, but they gave me the chance and I took that chance and it ended up benefiting both me and the team.


"We expected him to be able to come in and do that based on what we saw," coach Mike Eaves said. "The fact that he came in there and did it so quickly, because we didn't know where he was as far as his conditioning and rehab, but Troy (Ward) put him in there right away and he was a big spark for us."


Carlson went on to add two more points in the following series against Michigan Tech, mounting a four-game point-scoring streak to start his career at Wisconsin. He will need to continue to be a spark for the Badgers if they hope to keep pace in the WCHA. With the toughest stretch in their schedule coming over the next few weeks and a lurking problem with scoring goals, Wisconsin may be looking for new people to step up and Carlson is surely capable and more than ready to be that guy.

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