March 31, 2006
NCAA Frozen Four
INCH Measures Up Wisconsin's Ross Carlson

By Mike Eidelbes

In 97 career games, Wisconsin junior Ross Carlson has scored 28 goals and added 39 assists.

No need to rub your eyes or do a double take. Don't call the people in charge of printing the game program and tell them a typo slipped past their editors. And be assured that, unlike Latin American baseball players who sometime doctor birth certificates to appear younger in the eyes of scouts, no paperwork was fudged to make him appear older than he actually is.

Wisconsin's Ross Carlson really is 24 years old. The junior forward, who celebrated his birthday on Feb. 21, is a full six months older than his nearest competitor for graybeard status on the Badger roster (A.J. Degenhardt). And he's a full five years, three months older than the team's youngest skater, freshman Jack Skille.

Being the oldest doesn't necessarily mean one is also the most mature, but Carlson's journey from a standout high school hockey career at East H.S. in Duluth, Minn., to a three-year stint in the United States Hockey League to a significant role on a Wisconsin team that has qualified for the Frozen Four for the first time since 1992 has made him wise beyond his years.

Inside College Hockey recently caught up with Carlson, the Badgers' sixth-leading scorer with 10 goals and 11 assists, in Madison as the first week of preparations for the Frozen Four drew to a close.

INCH Measures Up:
Frozen Four Edition
Boston College's Cory Schneider
North Dakota's Jordan Parise
Maine's Josh Soares

Inside College Hockey: You had a solid high school career, but you ended up in the USHL for three years. Was it a case of you needing more time to develop or was the USHL your only option?

Ross Carlson: I didn't have anywhere else to go. Des Moines tendered me out of high school. No colleges were interested in me. It helped me out more out [in the USHL], too. Jumping into college, it's so much faster than it is in high school and I don't think I could've made the transition as well.

INCH: Three years is a longer-than-normal period of time to spend in juniors, first with Des Moines and then some time in Waterloo when you were traded.

RC: I think I had a bad rap in juniors. When I was in Waterloo, a coach asked me, "Did you have a bad attitude in Des Moines? A coach said that you had a party attitude." That's a big problem when you're trying to get a scholarship...when they don't think you're serious about the game.

INCH: So that obviously hurt your status in the eyes of college coaches.

RC: I didn't have any offers. Minnesota sent me a letter saying they were interested, but I never heard anything else from them. At the end of my third year, Minnesota Duluth asked me to walk on. So did St. Cloud State and [Minnesota State] Mankato.

With UMD, I was doing the whole "good angel, bad devil" thing big time. It would've been good to be at home and be around your parents and your friends. But then you get around your friends and they want to hang out and party and it's like your back in high school again. I just wanted to move away...and stay away from home for another four years.

[Wisconsin] is a big-time school. I liked Coach Eaves and how he said he'll be honest. There's no grey area – it's all black and white. And [former Badger assisant] Troy Ward was good friends with my coach in Waterloo, P.K. O'Handley. He helped with my transition a lot.

Actually, I had a scholarship offer from Lake Superior State. I started traveling at 8 a.m. and didn't get there until 11:30 p.m. The assistant coach was a half-hour late picking me up and I thought, "This is a good start." The snow drifts were so high and it was freezing. I didn't really like it up there.

INCH: You get to Wisconsin and after sitting out the first semester, you make your way into the lineup and starting putting up points almost immediately.

RC: [The coaches] put me right on the power play for some reason. [Jake] Dowell, [former Badger Ryan] Suter and [Jeff] Likens were with the U.S. team at the World Junior Championship, and so was Coach Eaves. Wardo had a lot of faith with me. We were in Minnesota playing against Mankato State and I had three points.

Nick Licari was helping me, teaching me how to play the game in college. He taught me a lot about the game.

INCH: You and Nick were high school teammates in Duluth. Is the trip to the Frozen Four more special because he's with you?

RC: It makes it really special. It means a lot to me and Nicky if we do well at this tournament, the Frozen Four. His mom and my mom are really good friends. They used to talk a lot when we were in high school, but when I went to juniors they didn't talk as much. Then when I went to Wisconsin, they started talking more and more and now they share hotel rooms during the weekends. His mom has to talk to my mom to tell her to keep quiet. [My mom] used to play hockey and comes from a hockey family and she's always yelling. [Nick's mom] goes to buy her popcorn to keep her quiet.

INCH: Are you enjoying yourself?

RC: I'm having a blast. We get another week of hockey, and that's all I really wanted, and that's all we wanted for our seniors. I'm gonna have a smile on my face the whole time. Hopefully, everything pans out for us."