Oil Kings’ Carroll had a tough decision between school and hockey

Title: Oil Kings’ Carroll had a tough decision between school and hockey
Date: January 1, 2013
Original Source: The Edmonton Journal
Synopsis: I am doing a short internship over the holidays at The Edmonton Journal. My latest piece was a feature on the newest Edmonton Oil King, a defenseman with great marks facing a tough decision with respect to hockey and school. This article appeared in the Jan. 2 edition of the Edmonton Journal.

EDMONTON – Christmas gifts aren’t supposed to require thought and introspection, but the biggest holiday surprise Ben Carroll received required just that.

When the Edmonton Oil Kings came calling, the Sherwood Park Crusaders defenceman had a tough decision to make. The Oil Kings needed short-term help on the blue-line with Griffin Reinhart, David Musil and Dysin Mayo all participating in international tournaments, so there was an opening at the back end they hoped Carroll could fill.

On one hand, it would be a foot in the door with a Western Hockey League club and an audition for the 2013-14 season, when the Oil Kings will likely see a lot of turnover at the point. On the other, a single game of WHL action renders an athlete ineligible for participation in NCAA hockey.

Essentially, Carroll was being asked to make a decision on his hockey present and academic future.

“It was a long process for my family and I,” Carroll said. “Making the decision on what would be best for me from a school aspect, as well as as a player. Both factors played in and I tried to make the best decision.”

What made the decision more difficult, in this case, is that Carroll is an exceptional student with an average in the high-80s. That means the list of NCAA teams that would show interest next year, when Carroll will be returning to high school for a fifth year, was likely to be a long one.

“There were a few teams that talked to me personally,” said Carroll. “And my coach said there were a couple that talked to him.”

Carroll, of course, chose to sign the contract and suit up for the Oil Kings. He made his debut on Dec. 27 against the Red Deer Rebels. He’s already played in three games and will likely play in two more before the incumbents return.

“I just decided this would be a better choice for me,” said Carroll, a native of Sherwood Park. “Being from The Park helped too, just kinda being in the backyard. It works well, I can stay at home still.”

The 17-year old, who has six points in 27 games with the Crusaders this season, has made the most of the short opportunity. With three assists and a plus-two rating through three games, Carroll has caught the attention of teammates and coaches.

“Extremely impressed,” said defenceman Keegan Lowe, who has been paired with another callup, Aaron Irving, for the past few games.

“They’ve done an unbelievable job. Carroll’s obviously doing a good job by looks and by statistics. We’re extremely thankful for how they’ve played when they got called up here.”

Irving was a first-round pick of the Oil Kings in 2011 and has also looked strong thus far. Carroll wasn’t selected due to injuries in his bantam draft year, so his path to the WHL was less clear than the 16-year old Irving’s.

“It was definitely a goal of mine,” said Carroll. “I wasn’t too worried about it. I was just trying to get better every day and hope that I could maybe play there one day.”

Even if the audition ends after the Jan. 5 game against the Vancouver Giants, Carroll believes he’s made the most of the opportunity. His play has certainly put his name in the discussion for next year’s team.

“That’s why they’re playing right now,” said head coach Derek Laxdal. “I thought Ben’s been very good for us, he hasn’t looked out of place at all. They’re gonna have some struggles here, but it’s good to see them playing and getting that quality ice time.”

Even though he’s passed up a chance at the NCAA, where five of his Crusader teammates will be playing next season, Carroll still has the Canadian Interuniversity Sport as an option. The WHL awards players a fully funded year of education for each season of play, so this short audition has also helped with his academic future.

But for right now, the focus remains on hockey and doing what he can to make sure he’s back here next season on a permanent basis.

“I’m just trying to play the best I can,” said Carroll. “Leave the best impression for when I have to go back and, hopefully, do it again come fall.”


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