Alex Carpenter makes a name for herself

Feb. 10, 2011, 1:05 p.m. (ET)

Alex Carpenter distinctly remembers her introduction into the world of USA Hockey.

Sure, her father, 18-year NHL veteran Bobby Carpenter, had his tales about life as U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer.

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Team USA players, coaches and staff gather for the celebratory photo. (USA Hockey/IIHF Images on Ice)

But this is a story about her. Not him.

She was introduced to USA Hockey in 2008 when she was 14. That’s when she made her way to the Girls’ Select 14 Player Development Camp in Rochester, N.Y.

These days, she is introducing herself to the hockey world.

Carpenter reached another goal last month when she helped the Team USA claim gold at the International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Women’s World Championship in Stockholm, Sweden. With a 5-2 victory over Canada in the final, the U.S. went unbeaten and untied in five games to win its third world title in four years.

Carpenter, who led the tournament with 10 points (6 goals, 4 assists), was named the top forward.

Only 16 and in her senior year at The Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Mass., Carpenter credits her experience at the introductory camp for 14-year-olds as a springboard to her success.

“I had a really good coach that year — Rush Zimmerman,” Carpenter said of the former Providence College star who was part of the USA Hockey National program from 1999-2007. “She took special attention to me right away and motivated me to some day make the U-18 team. She stuck with me throughout the whole camp and stuff.

“She helped me with my confidence. I went into that camp a little nervous. I was like ‘Wow, these are the greatest hockey players in the country at my age level.’ ”

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Team USA sings the national anthem after winning the gold medal. (USA Hockey/IIHF Images on Ice)

Carpenter, now a two-time member of the Team USA Under-18 squad, appreciates the outreach from Zimmerman.

“She saw my work ethic,” Carpenter said. “A lot of people joke around, but I was there for a reason and I wanted to prove that. I think she saw that I wanted something more.”

After claiming silver in a disappointing loss to Canada at the 2010 Under-18 World Championship final in the Chicago area, Carpenter did get something more this time.

“The whole experience with Team USA has been pretty special,” she said. “Going from silver last year to gold this year is what I’ll remember the most. You really become close to your teammates. I really miss them right now and it hasn’t even been a month.

“Overall it’s a great experience to represent your country in a sport you love, and I’ve been fortunate enough to do that.”

Carpenter has been playing hockey for just about as far back as she can remember. She joined her younger brothers on the ice when their dad was coach of the American Hockey League’s Albany River Rats.

“There were other girls playing, so I asked my dad and he said, ‘Why not?’ ” Carpenter said.

From there, she was hooked. She joined the New Jersey Colonials in 2001. Her teams qualified for the USA Hockey National Championship tournament twice. A bronze medal from nationals is one of her favorite pieces of hardware.

“I was 10 when I went to nationals with the 12-U team, and that’s when I first saw how big a hockey competition could be,” said Carpenter, who has spent the last three seasons with the East Coast Wizards in the New England Girls’ Hockey League. “It was something special to come back with a bronze medal. That was the first time I had traveled that far. We were all the way out in Colorado.”

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Team USA lifts the world championship trophy high.
(USA Hockey/IIHF Images on Ice)

But home is where Carpenter’s hockey heart is. That’s why she decided to live at home in North Reading, Mass., while she attends the Governor’s Academy. It’s a 30-minute drive from her family’s home.

“There are some boarders, but I’m a day student,” said Carpenter, who will make the move to Boston College for 2011-12. “I prefer to be at home. It’s easier.”

Plus, she gets to skate on the family’s backyard rink alongside brothers, Bobo, 14, and Brendan, 13, as she plays out her senior season.

“Growing up, we’ve always had a rink in our backyard. We still have one,” she said. “It’s just a couple of boards, some plastic and water — nothing special, but we love it.”

Any tips for backyard rink rats?

“I don’t help build it at all,” Carpenter said with a laugh. “I just wait ’til it freezes. I’d go out every night after I got done with school and homework.”

Carpenter certainly possesses the touch of a rink rat. She chalked up 114 points (56 goals, 58 assists) in 22 games for Governor’s in 2009-10.

“I wouldn’t say my speed stands out,” Carpenter said. “Maybe my vision of the ice; I can move the puck pretty well and know when to move it. And I get some shots.”

At the 2010 Under-18 World Championships, she ranked fifth overall at the tournament with nine points (8 goals, 1 assist) before following that effort with a 10-point performance in 2011 for coach Jodi McKenna’s squad.

“I was really nervous last year,” she said. “But with that experience, I was little more used to it this year. I was really calm going into it and knew that we had to play our game.

“Last year I did fairly well. Haley Skarupa (9 points in 2010) was my linemate both years. Last year was my first year, so I knew I had to prove myself. I didn’t expect to play that much, but coach (Katie King) gave us a shot and we did really well.”

The same, however, couldn’t be said of the 2011 team’s foray into curling during some down time in Stockholm.

“That was really interesting — and really hard,” she said. “It’s a little bit different than hockey. My group wasn’t too hot.”

But it was the perfect bonding experience for a team that was ready to make amends for the hiccup last year in the Under-18 final against Canada.

“We were really motivated,” Carpenter said. “It was a new job to do, with a new team and a new year. We used it as motivation instead of being nervous about playing them. We had great team chemistry and we brought a lot of confidence into the game.”

Prior to departing for Stockholm, the U-18 team had a whirlwind visit to Blaine, Minn., for a 24-hour pit stop at the USA Hockey Women’s Training Camp. With the focus on the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Carpenter left Minnesota with hopes of more gold down the road.

“I still hopefully have another year of U-18s and I want to see if we can win another gold,” she said. “But definitely in the back of my mind there’s the thought of trying to be on that 2014 Olympic team. Having the older girls there who have played in the Olympics — that was one of the special things about being in Blaine for the short time we were there.”

Carpenter’s academic path took an interesting turn when she joined an accelerated program prior to high school that allowed her to skip eighth grade, now making her a 16-year-old senior.

“It has worked out really well,” she said. “I have a ton of good friends at school. Freshman year was difficult getting used to it, but it really worked out. I love being around my family and friends.”

And family, especially her father, has helped her reach this new level in hockey. Bobby Carpenter, who chalked up 728 points (320 goals, 408 assists) in 1,178 NHL games, is now a scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The biggest find he might make might be in his own home. Alex Carpenter credits her father for keeping her grounded.

“He always gives me constructive criticism,’’ she said. “He doesn’t try to fill my head. He keeps me humble.”

From father to daughter, it’s apparently jobs well done.


Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Dave McMahon is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.