Tempe native Vance chooses Wisconsin as NCAA destination
Carson Vance grew up playing youth hockey in Arizona, but since leaving home at 16 four years ago to play juniors, he’s been all over the country.
Quite literally, actually.
The 20-year-old Tempe native and steady defenseman has played more than 200 games of junior hockey in the North American Hockey League for the Kenai River Brown Bears (Alaska) and Janesville Jets (Wisconsin), as well as for four United States Hockey League teams – Chicago Steel, Youngstown Phantoms (Ohio), Muskegon Lumberjacks (Michigan) and currently, the Dubuque Fighting Saints (Iowa).
Luckily for Vance, he has his next four years planned out after a recent commitment to NCAA Division I University of Wisconsin. In the classroom, he’s looking at a business curriculum.
“Being traded from Muskegon to Dubuque was one of the best things that’s happened to me,” Vance said. “The coaches in Dubuque have really brought my game out in small details. Dubuque is only like an hour and a half from Madison (Wis.), so those guys came and watched a few of our games. I’m very fortunate to get this opportunity.”
“Carson is, in my opinion, one of the better skaters in the league,” Dubuque coach-GM Jason Lammers said. “Wisconsin is very fortunate to get a player of this caliber at this time of the year. He has been a great veteran presence for us and someone we’re going to count on as we continue to move forward.”
Years back when he began his journey through the junior hockey ranks, Vance hoped he’d wind up making a commitment if he put in the time and effort. He said making the choice to be a Badger was worth the wait.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything better, to go to a school like Wisconsin,” Vance said, “If you would have told me I’d be going to Wisconsin three years ago, I’d be jumping up in the air. The last two years have been just hockey for me. Junior hockey helps mature you as a player and a person and prepares you for the next level. I feel like the USHL is the best league to play in if you’re looking to go D-I.
“I guess you can call me a suitcase for playing on six teams in four years, but that’s just how it goes. Each place you go, there is a new opportunity and you just have to keep looking at the positives and bring out the best. If you go in with a negative attitude, you’ll have a negative experience. If you keep a positive attitude, you’ll be able to do a lot of things in life.”
During his youth hockey career back home, Vance played for the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes, Phoenix Firebirds and Claude Lemieux Hockey Academy. He was also coached as a youngster by his father, Randy, and played with his brother, Nick Novin. With the Firebirds, where he was coached by Kurt Goar, Vance was part of the team that played at the prestigious Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament and was runner-up at the USA Hockey national tournament.
Vance said growing up, he looked up to Arizona-born players such as Luke Moffatt, David Spina, Austin Carroll, Trevor Cheek, J.T. Barnett and even played with Henrik Samuelsson, who would up being a first-round draft pick of the then-Phoenix Coyotes in 2012.
Vance still sees many of those players during summer skates at the Ice Den Scottsdale, only now, he’s one of the older players that gets wide-eyed looks from the Arizona youth.
“I’ve always had high expectations of myself, like being humble and confident, not arrogant,” Vance said. “Some players that have talent, they don’t know how to approach it, but I just want to be the most humble guy you’ve ever met, kind of like Nicklas Lidstrom.
“To have a little kid look up to you, that’s quite a gift.”
Photo/Dubuque Fighting Saints/Picture Perfect Portrait and Design
— Matt Mackinder