Teams from all around the United States Hockey League made bus rides of various significant lengths last week to head for Pittsburgh to open the regular season in front of more than 300 scouts in the USHL Fall Classic.
The trip was no big deal for Carson Bantle, who has long been willing to hit the road to better develop his hockey talents.
The top level of U.S. junior hockey is filled with promising players who have committed themselves to leaving home in pursuit of their goals, and the 17-year-old from Onalaska, Wis. is one clear example.
Bantle, who learned to skate on the Mississippi River in western Wisconsin as a 3-year-old, spent summers playing hockey in Minnesota before enrolling as a ninth grader at Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school in Faribault, Minn. He has been to three USA Hockey Player Development Camps and twice represented Team USA internationally.
When it comes time to begin his college career, Bantle is committed to play at Michigan Tech.
For now, however, Bantle showed he is ready for his second season from an in-state home base with the Madison Capitols.
Bantle is the early USHL scoring leader with six points in three games, and the forward selection in the first set of USHL Players of the Week.
It all started in Pittsburgh, where Bantle scored his team’s only goal in a season-opening 4-1 loss to the Omaha Lancers, then had a power-play goal and an assist in a 4-3 loss to the Dubuque Fighting Saints.
Bantle made sure the Capitols picked up a win on their way back from Pittsburgh on Sept. 28, scoring again and assisting on two goals in a 6-5 overtime win over the Youngstown Phantoms.
Madison rallied from a 4-1 deficit after one period, tying the game on Bantle’s unassisted goal while playing with an extra attacker in the final minute.
“It was a fun weekend,” Bantle said. “Our team took a few steps forward and got our first win under our belt.”
The strong start, personally, is something Bantle has been building toward for years.
“I played for the Minnesota Blades for four summers up there before my freshman year,” Bantle said. “I knew Shattuck was a big thing and I thought it would be a great step for my development; thought it would be a good next step hockey-wise and so did my parents.”
Following his second season at Shattuck, an annual contender for USA Hockey National Championships titles on multiple levels, Bantle represented the country for the first time in the Under-17 Five Nations Tournament. He scored the game-winning goal against Switzerland and had another goal in five games while helping Team USA to a third-place finish.
“My favorite part was just putting on the USA jersey,” Bantle said. “It was an awesome experience … We were all so close. We were together for a short period of time, but we had a strong bond and a strong trust for each other.”
Bantle made his USHL debut as a 16-year-old and put up 10 goals and 10 assists in 62 games, impressing Capitols coach and general manager Garrett Suter in the process.
“Carson is one of those players that is big and gritty, where he can go play in the corners, but then he hops out and surprises you with some skill as well,” Suter said in April, when Bantle announced his commitment to Michigan Tech. “To think that Bantle is only an ’02 birthyear is astounding.
“He’s got a bright future ahead of him.”
The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Bantle used toughness to help produce the strong start to his second USHL season.
Bantle played with one linemate, Kristof Papp, often last season and the other, Reid Pabich, occasionally.
“We work hard down low,” Bantle said. “We push pucks and feed off each other.
“We like to keep going one shift after another.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.