Northeast Tarrant

Carroll skates to improbable championship

Cinderella wears a green sweater. And skates.

Carroll’s run through the Varsity Silver Division hockey playoffs yielded glass slippers as they knocked off the fourth, first and second seeds en route to the City Championship of the AT&T Metroplex Hockey League recently.

The Dragons’ run was made even more remarkable as they headed into the playoffs with a meager 5-15 record and the fifth seed.

The secret – if there was such a thing – was a full roster and defense.

“We turned it on defensively,” said Carroll head coach Knute Anderson. “And, we finally had a full and healthy roster going into the playoffs. We had a goaltender who went from solid to playing lights-out which never hurts.”

Carroll had given up an average of four goals per game during the season. In the playoffs, they gave up a total of four in the three games.

In the playoff run, Carroll knocked off Highland Park 4-1, and then baffled top-ranked Arlington/Midlothian 5-2. In the finals, the Dragons used a power play goal by Michael Walsh and a William Wood score to oust nemesis Keller for the championship, 2-1.

Carroll had flipped the script with Keller after being torched by the same team, 8-1, earlier in the year.

The goaltending which Anderson spoke of was from senior Christian Westerberg.

But in addition to Westerberg’s heroic play through the playoffs, some of the captains showed what senior leadership can mean down the stretch.

“We had strong senior leadership,” Anderson said. “They showed up for practice, even after we had lost about eight in a row. They knew they could accomplish something. Without their conviction, we couldn’t do it.”

Some of those seniors, such as Connor Moss, Blake Taylor and Tyler Culp, never let the others on the team quit, the coach said.

The fact the team even made the playoffs is a testament to the team’s character, Anderson added.

But for Culp, some of his leadership came by example.

Culp had been run into the boards in the Arlington/Midlothian game. He tried to play in the finals, but after just two 10-second shifts, the injury to his collar bone left him with the realization he wouldn’t be able continue.

The senior said the players were focused on leaving their stamp on the Carroll program by doing something important.

“We finally started putting the team ahead of ourselves,” Culp said of the turnaround.

Taylor said the season had many trials and tribulations, ranging from promising scrimmages at the start of the season through the long and trying season.

“We went on a losing streak and couldn’t find a way to string things together,” Taylor said.

After a demoralizing loss, Taylor and Culp said the team came together for a long meeting which turned out to be the season’s turning point late in the year.

“It was a really long, soul-searching talk with Coach to figure things out,” Taylor said. “We had to come together because we had one week before the playoffs.”

“I’ve never seen a Southlake team play better in my four years,” Taylor said of the playoff run. “Westerberg put us on his back. He stood on his head all three games.”

And, to beat Keller in the finals – Anderson’s former team – was sweet revenge, they all agreed.