Kenai River Brown Bears forward Lucas Carroll became the first member of the team to make a college commitment this season, verbally committing to Division III University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Carroll, 20, said the commitment grew out of a team visit to UW-Stout on Feb. 16.
“I really like the coaching staff there and I was able to meet some of the players and I really like them,” Carroll said. “They have a good format for success in these upcoming years.
“The coach is emphasizing the hard-working aspect of the freshmen and sophomore classes. They have a promising future.”
Brown Bears head coach Jeff Worlton said that should fit Carroll perfectly.
“He’s just a hard-working, blue-collar type player,” the coach said. “He keeps it simple, and he’s going to improve. He improved from his first year of juniors to this year, and freshman to senior year, he will keep getting better.”
The commitment for Carroll was about more than hockey. Division III schools don’t offer athletic scholarships, but Carroll is such a good student Worlton said he can get academic money.
“I wanted to go there because they have a great program in plastics engineering,” Carroll said. “There’s a demand for that in that region, so they have good job placement. It’s a perfect fit.”
Carroll played four games this season for the Austin (Minnesota) Bruins of the North American Hockey League before moving to the Bears for the past 39 games, notching two goals and seven assists.
“Without the opportunity of being here, I never would have even gotten a look from scouts,” Carroll said. “The coaching staff set me up with their coach. I owe it all to the Brown Bears.”
UW-Stout is led by Terry Watkins, in his 21st year as the men’s varsity coach. In 2009, Watkins led the Blue Devils to the NCAA Division III Frozen Four, falling in overtime in the semifinals.
“He’s a very good coach and he’s been there awhile,” Worlton said. “It’s an up-and-coming program, and they want guys like Carroll that work hard.”
Carroll, son of Landa and Steve Carroll of East Bethel, Minnesota, has another year of junior eligibility, but he said the timing is right for him to get started on the next stage of his life.
He said he will always cherish the year he got to spend in Alaska with billet brother Preston Weeks, a Bears defenseman, and billet parents Lori and Byron Weeks of Sterling. The two have made sure to go on an adventure each weekend in Alaska. He said seeing a bear on a hike with goalie Robbie Goor and a winter hike up Slaughter Ridge in Cooper Landing during a time of avalanche danger are things he will always remember.
“I’ve got to make a big-boy decision, even though I’d love to stay and play junior hockey,” Carroll said.