Daniel Carr was angry.
Coming to Union after being recruited from the British Columbia Hockey League’s Powell River Kings, Carr thought he would be a regular right at the start of his freshman year. But the coaching staff viewed him more as a “fifth-line player.” That meant Carr would be spending more time watching from the stands than playing.
“When I found that out, I had a few issues with the old staff here,” Carr said. “It wasn’t what was really promised on my visit along those lines. I came in and ended up playing like they told me I was going to play.”
It’s a good thing that then-Dutchmen head coach Nate Leaman let Carr play. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have the opportunity to become the Dutchmen’s all-time leading scorer in the team’s Division I era.
The quest to achieve that milestone begins tonight, when the ECAC Hockey-leading and fourth-ranked Dutchmen (8-1 ECACH, 12-3-3 overall) play their first game since Dec. 14 when they face second-place and No. 7 Quinnipiac (6-2-3, 15-3-5) at 7 in Hamden, Conn.
Already the career leader in goals (65) and power-play tallies (31), Carr needs three points to surpass Adam Presizniuk and become the Dutchmen’s top point-getter all-time. Presizniuk collected 131 points from 2007 to 2011.
“There’s been a lot of great players that have come though here — Adam Presizniuk, Mario Valery-Trabucco, Kelly Zajac, Jason Walters and Jeremy Welsh,” Carr said. “It’s an honor to be said in the same sentence as those guys. I don’t think you can put as much weight on that record. I’ve been on some very, very good teams here. For the last four years, we’ve had a lot of success. That gives you a little more opportunity to get some more points. I don’t think you can compare it to those guys because they were in different situations.”
Union coach Rick Bennett, who was the associate head coach under Leaman, explained why the staff thought Carr would be a fifth-liner, and how glad they were that they were wrong in their assessment.
“Nate saw him at the Chowder Cup [tournament] in the summer,” Bennett said. “We got to talking, and coming in [to the 2010-11 season], we felt he was going to be on the fifth line after watching and making some predictions.
“You can tell where that went. Some guys exceed expectations, which is always a nice, pleasant surprise. I think the rest is history.”
Playing with linemates Josh Jooris and Welsh his first two years was a big key in Carr’s success. He scored 20 goals in each of his first two seasons, the first Dutchman to ever do that at the Division I level.
“When you play with two great players, opportunities are going to happen,” Carr said. “That’s just what occurred freshman year, and it worked out pretty well.”
Carr and Jooris were on the same line for three seasons. Jooris gave up his senior year to sign with the Calgary Flames last summer.
Jooris believes Carr’s love of hockey makes him a special player.
“His work ethic and compete level was just so noticeable, and he was always working on little thing to improve his overall game,” Jooris said. “I was fortunate to play on a line with Dan for three years. Any playmaker would love to play with a guy like Dan because of his passion to score goals. He is one of the better players I’ve seen in tight spots around the net, but he can also beat goalies with his shot.”
Carr is also unselfish. Earlier this season, with injuries to Eli Lichtenwald and Max Novak, Carr played center, a position he hadn’t played since his junior days.
And Carr is more than an offensive player. He is a key member on the penalty kill, and has improved his defensive play over the years.
“Anytime he’s on the ice, he’s doing whatever it takes to win, whether it be getting that important power-play goal, or killing a five-on-three for us,” said Union defenseman Mat Bodie, who was also teammates with Carr at Powell River. “He’s willing to play any position for the team.”
Carr isn’t satisfied. At the end of a practice this week at Messa Rink, Carr and Bennett were looking at ways to make Carr’s shot better.
“We’re just trying to get his feet moving when he’s shooting the puck,” Bennett said. “You have a tendency to get on that one leg. When you do that, a goalie has a chance to set up on you. Dan’s got such a tremendous shot. So, if you put the two together, by moving your feet and ripping it, he has a better chance of finding the back of the net.”
Bennett believes the Dutchmen’s younger players can learn a thing or two from Carr.
“He comes to work every day. He prepares like an absolute pro,” Bennett said. “I don’t know if a guy like Kelly Zajac had an affect on him. From day one, he’s always brought it. No one works harder, I know that. In my time, we’ve had some guys that just have a tremendous work ethic and love to be out there.
“There’s a difference. When I hear ‘Rink Rat,’ there’s guys that hang around the rink and just goof around, and there’s guys that get out there and work on things they need to work on, and he’s one of them.”
Carr has a vision on how the record-breaking point will be scored.
“Maybe it will be the way it’s been the last three years,” Carr said. “Mat Bodie will just shoot it off my stick, and it will go into the net.”