The last thing Blake Carpenter of Slave Lake expected was to be living and playing hockey – not to mention going to school – in Bottineau, North Dakota.
“I’d never heard of the place,” he says.
Probably not many people around here have. But it turns out there’s a junior college there with a competitive men’s hockey program and they’ve been keeping an eye on the Northwest Jr. Hockey League. That’s where Carpenter spent the past two seasons as a centre ice-man, helping the Peace River Navigators to two appearances in the league final.
“They were watching a couple of games in Peace River,” he says. “Then at provincials they watched a couple of games.”
Apparently they (‘they’ being scouts from Dakota College) liked what they saw, because this past April Carpenter heard from the college, offering him a chance to play for the team. It’s not the full scholarship deal one hears the big schools offering; but around $12,000 in scholarships was available and – Carpenter says – has been applied for. Last week he departed for Bottineau, expecting the drive to take a couple of days.
“Orientation is this Friday,” he says.
He isn’t sure when he’ll be on the ice, but it will probably be soon enough. The team – called the Lumberjacks – is a 10-time champion of the NJCAA (National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association), mostly recently in 2017. The season starts in October, and runs for about 30 games.
Carpenter will study business – at least for starters. That, plus the hockey should keep him pretty busy. The past two years he’s played in Peace River and worked for a plumbing company there. More recently he worked in line locating back home in Slave Lake. Carpenter enjoyed his two years of junior hockey and did well.
“I was third in team scoring last year,” he says.
Carpenter is following in the footsteps of fellow Slave Laker Austin Kuhn, who also played for the Navigators and last year was a member of the Adrian College Bulldogs, in Adrian, Michigan.