Carter Randklev has been able to enjoy the best of both worlds so far in the 2017-18 hockey season.
Randklev got to play his senior season of high school hockey in Minnesota, and by crossing the Red River and the state line into North Dakota, he has still been able to have a significant junior hockey experience before and after the scholastic season.
While remaining at home and continuing his studies at Moorhead High School, Randklev has become a prominent part of the United States Hockey League postseason, helping the Fargo Force advance to the conference finals of the Clark Cup playoffs.
“To us, Minnesota high school hockey kids, high school hockey here is really big,” Randklev said. “It’s kind of a tough decision whether you want to stay in high school with your buddies or move on to the next step when you’re a senior.”
Ultimately, Randklev chose both, playing his high school season for the Spuds then moving into junior hockey as he transitions toward the University of North Dakota.
Randklev was assistant captain and leading scorer at Moorhead, earning All-State Second Team honors while leading his team to the section finals, falling one win short of the state tournament. He now shares the USHL playoff scoring lead for the Force, which has secured a spot as one of the last two Western Conference teams alive in the Clark Cup playoffs after placing third in the division in the regular season.
After playing just one previous USHL game last season, Randklev is still a relative newcomer to the league and plans a full season of junior hockey before college. At 5-foot-7, 150 pounds, he says there is work to do off the ice, as well as on.
“I’m trying to obviously get a little bit bigger,” Randklev said. “I can’t do anything about my tallness, but I’m just trying to put on some more weight because juniors is definitely a little different than high school.
“The guys are a lot bigger; a lot stronger.”
So far, Randklev is holding up well against the bigger competition.
Randklev spent training camp with the Force, then waited for the team to need him prior to the high school season. He was in the lineup for three weeks from late October to mid-November.
Back-to-back, three-point efforts, including a two-goal game, in his second and third USHL games of the season, left Randklev and the Force with something to look forward to for later.
“I wasn’t expecting to provide that many points in a game for it being my first full juniors experience in a game,” Randklev said. “I was happy with that and the feeling that I got, I knew I was going to want to try to do it again for them.
“I was surprised at the start I ended up having.”
Randklev returned for his high school season full of confidence. During his all-state performance, he followed the Force when practical and kept in occasional contact with the coaching staff.
The Force came within three points of finishing on top of the entire USHL.
There was an adjustment period for Randklev upon his March 10 return to an already successful junior team. After scoring seven points in seven games during his first stint with the Force, Randklev got in seven more games to complete the regular season, but two assists were all the points he could produce.
“It definitely took me a couple weeks in practice and a couple weekends playing, but I think I’ve kind of found my groove now,” said Randklev.
That groove was discovered as Clark Cup play commenced.
Randklev made his junior playoff debut with two goals and an assist in the opener, then another goal in a two-game sweep of the Tri-City Storm. He has five points in six games after adding another assist during a three games-to-one victory over the Omaha Lancers in the second round.
“I know where I’m at and know what I need to do to help the Force keep going in the playoffs,” Randklev said. “My first goal back was really big in the first game against Tri-City. It felt really good to get that out of the way.
“I had a couple before I went to high school and I was just kind of aching to get that first one when I got back.”
As the Force try to continue through two more rounds of playoffs, it helps that Randklev is back to stay.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc. Photo courtesy of Fargo Force/mJoy Photography.