Sophomore defenseman and San Jose Sharks prospect Matt Carle has enjoyed a stellar year with the University of Denver this season. He helped lead the Pioneers to capture the Broadmoor Trophy as the WCHA Final Five Champions as well as to their second consecutive National Championship appearance.
Carle led all WCHA defensemen in scoring with 40 points (12 goals, 28 assists). His outstanding season earned him numerous accolades including selections to the WCHA All-Conference First Team and most recently to the CCM All-American First West Team.
In Thursday’s Frozen Four semi-final game versus Colorado College, Carle notched a goal and two assists to help guide the Pioneers to a 6-2 win and another trip to the national title game.
Matt Carle spoke with Hockey’s Future after the Pioneers practice on Friday at the Schottenstein Center.
HF: First off, congratulations on the win yesterday. How does it feel?
MC: It’s awesome. You don’t get too many opportunities to play your archrival in the semi-final for the National Championship. Our team came out yesterday and played a good game. You look at Colorado College and they pretty much dominated the game at even strength. Our power play was clicking, so we came out better with that.
HF: Do you think that the power play was the key factor in winning the game?
MC: It’s hard not to say that because we scored like five goals on it, but it’s not good to have to rely on that. It’s definitely going to be different on Saturday. North Dakota is a tight, defensive team and I don’t think that they’re going to give us many opportunities. We’ll have to go out and put a better effort in.
HF: This is your second trip in a row to the National Championship game. Do you feel that there is a lot of pressure on you guys right now, because you are the reigning champions?
MC: I don’t think so. We weren’t predicted to be here and we were picked to finish sixth in our league. We’re a team that exceeds expectations. That’s what we did last year. I think we’re just going with the flow, enjoying the ride and hopefully will win another one.
HF: What do you see are the differences between this year’s team and last year’s team?
MC: The consistency that we’ve had throughout the year and the confidence we were playing with on a game-by-game basis. Last year we went through a lot of ups and downs and this year it’s been kind of a steady team. We didn’t slide under the radar this year. So those are the differences that I feel.
HF: Obviously, you had a great season this year. What do you feel was the one area that you made the biggest improvement in from last year?
MC: Just my overall game. I really tried to establish being a solid two-way defenseman this year. I tried to add a little offensive side to my game. I worked out a little bit this summer and playing a little more offense in our summer league (laughs). That paid off. With the way that our power play was all year and playing with Brett Skinner and so forth, was partly due to those as far as numbers that I put up. It was a good team effort this year and it was a lot of fun.
HF: I’ve noticed that you’ve gotten more into physical aspects of the game this year. Do you feel that that’s another area where you’ve improved?
MC: A little bit. I’ve always loved to hit guys and stuff. It’s nothing new to my game.
HF: But you’re more involved in that type of play.
MC: With the working out, I guess so. It pays off and makes it easier. When you’re bigger and stronger, you can knock guys around a little more.
HF: What is it like playing with Brett Skinner?
MC: He’s such a dynamic player. Some of the passes that he makes, I just stand there and watch in awe because he’s so good with the puck. He can see things that most guys can’t and can make stuff happen with the puck.
HF: You guys just click so well together on the power play.
MC: Well, we’re really good friends off the ice and I think that helps. We’re friends and we don’t get into arguments about who has more points and stuff. It’s not like that. We both hope for the best for each other. So I think that makes it work a lot better. Neither one of us is selfish with the puck. We’re there for the betterment of the team.
HF: You two seem to know where the other is every time you’re on the ice together.
MC: I guess you can say that. We were on the power play together last year and we’re on the ice together every day during practice when we’re practicing the power play. It’s gotten easier and easier to play with him. Hopefully that’ll keep growing and have us playing better next year as well.
HF: What was your first reaction when you found out that the San Jose Sharks had drafted you?
MC: I haven’t been asked that question in awhile, because it’s been so long since the draft. Prior to the draft, I went through the interview process with them. They have a different way of doing things, with me anyway. So I was really surprised by that. Central Scouting’s rankings had me lower than where I was picked, and they traded up to pick me so I was really shocked. Overall the experience was a lot of fun. I was with my dad and my coach here, Steve Miller (DU asst. coach). I went to San Jose over the summer and worked with them. I can’t say enough good things about the organization. They’re real personable and I’m really happy with them picking me.
HF: You mentioned having been there. Have you gone to any of their prospects camps?
MC: Yeah. We had a developmental camp. There were about 24 or 26 guys there last August. I was out there for just four days. I had to pay my own way and everything, which was a great experience. I’m glad that I went and hopefully they’ll have another one this summer that I’ll be able to attend. It was real beneficial for me and helped me with different aspects of my game. I got in there and got to know some people and know the organization.
HF: What do you feel was the one thing that you got out of the prospects camp?
MC: Well it added a lot of stuff to my game. I also got a chance to get to know the area, the team’s facilities and the team personnel. Doug Wilson is a great general manager. He came in and had a talk with all of us. So getting to know everybody was a real benefit.
HF: Have you had a chance to speak with the Sharks at any time this season?
MC: No and that’s what I like about the organization. I’m sure that they’re watching my games, but they just leave me alone. They allow Coach Gwozdecky to do what he needs to do with me. They know that I’m developing here as a player and as a person. So they just let me do my thing during my season, so that’s another good thing about the situation.
HF: You played with Team USA’s World Junior Championship team that won the gold medal, what was that experience like for you?
MC: That was awesome. I can’t say that I’ve had a more enjoyable time in hockey. With the group of guys we had, many of us played together in previous championships, getting all of us back together again and with a terrific coach in Mike Eaves, it was a great thrill. Sort of like a last hurrah with those guys. We still hang out together during the summer and talk about that kind of stuff. That’s one of the memories that I’ll have for the rest of my life. To do that for USA Hockey and in the World Junior Championships, I couldn’t have been part of a better tournament.
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