Like Father Like Daughter; Alex Carpenter Is Carving Out Her Own Legacy

Following in her father’s footsteps is a phrase that Alex Carpenter has heard a lot over the course of her young life. Despite the high expectations and her young age, the 16-year-old daughter of former NHL star and current VJW coach Bob Carpenter has already began creating a hockey legacy of her own.

This past spring, Carpenter was one of 18 players to compete on the U.S. Women’s National Under-18 Team at the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation World Women's Under-18 Championship.

alex_teamusa_march2010.jpgOne of the driving offensive forces for the team (see photos right courtesy of USA Hockey and Matthew Manor), Carpenter helped her team to a silver medal finish as the team fell by a score of 5-4 in overtime to Canada at the Walter Bush Rink in Woodridge, Illinois. Team USA finished the tournament with a 4-0-0-1 record (W-OTW-OTL-L) after suffering its first loss in the three-year history of the event. In that championship showdown, Carpenter put her team on the scoreboard first by netting a powerplay goal less than a minute into the first period.

“We have been fortunate to have Alex play for our program over the years,” said VJW Director of Player Development Fred Devereaux. “From an early age, she showed a tenacity and determination that you just knew would translate into something special. She has a lot of her father in her which says it all.”

Side by side is exactly how you’ll find Alex and Bob.

As a Warrior, Alex played for her father most recently as part of the VJW ’94 Elite squad. Upon entrance into high school, however, Alex has taken her game to the next level by competing on the varsity girl's team at The Governor’s Academy and by serving as a member of several US National teams.

Following Team USA's 15-0 defeat of the Czech Republic at the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation World Women's Under-18 Championship this past March, Alex shared the ice with her father once again. Bob was on hand to present members of each team with Player of the Game awards.

For more insight into this special family bond, here is an article that appeared in the Boston Globe.

Another Carpenter not to be missed
By Barbara Matson
Globe Staff / March 2, 2009

Alexandra Carpenter was 6 years old when she first beat her father at his own game.

It was in the backyard of the family's home in Glenmont, N.Y. Bobby Carpenter, retired after 18 years in the NHL, had moved his family there while he took a run at coaching with the Albany River Rats of the American Hockey League. Alex, the oldest of Bobby and Julie's three children, was not yet involved in an organized hockey program, but she relished the games of shinny on their backyard rink.

Of course, her famous father could score whenever he wanted, and sometimes just for fun, he'd pop in a few quick goals to put the pressure on. Alex got mad. So her father offered to change the rules: He couldn't score by shooting the puck straight into the net, he had to bank it off the boards.

"So she came down the ice and then she lost the puck [to me]," said Carpenter. "The minute she lost the puck, she didn't come try and get it, she went straight back down the middle knowing that either this way, or this way, it was coming off one of those boards. This is 6 years old. That's a smart athlete. At 6 or 7 years old, she already knew how to take advantage of something. That was unbelievable."

Call it hockey sense, or the ability to see the whole ice - it can't really be taught. It comes from somewhere within.

"A lot of hockey players can get better, but if you're a really smart player - a really smart athlete - you have it right from the beginning," said Carpenter.

Covered in glory

Bobby certainly had extraordinary talents from the beginning. The stories of his dazzling scoring moves came busting out of Peabody rinks when he was still a kid, tales like the day he engineered four goals in the first five minutes of a junior high game, scoring two and setting up two more. When he led St. John's Prep to the 1979 state championship as a sophomore, he had the attention of college coaches and NHL scouts. The newspaper and magazine stories multiplied, including a cover story in Sports Illustrated, which dubbed him "The Can't-Miss Kid."

By the time he was a senior, Bobby had his pick of colleges, as well as the NHL; he was chosen third overall in the 1981 draft by Washington, the highest an American player was ever taken. College or pro, he couldn't miss. He chose the NHL, and he and Julie, who began dating when she was 13 and he was 15, began the odyssey that took them from Peabody to Washington to New York to Los Angeles to Boston, back to Washington, to New Jersey, and to Albany.

Bobby was an assistant for the New Jersey Devils, on the track to a head coaching job, when the lockout shut down the league in 2004-05.

"You think you do a lot with your kids - they were into baseball, lacrosse, karate, everything - until we had that lockout year," said Bobby, who also has two younger sons, Robert and Brandon. "I realized then I wasn't doing that much [with the kids]. I wasn't really into the coaching anymore, I was into what my kids were doing. I knew if I got back to [the NHL] schedule I would not have done my job well because I knew I was missing all these things."

In New Jersey, Alex was playing Little League as well, but her hockey options were limited as she got older. She reached the national tournament twice with the U12 and U14 New Jersey Colonials, but finding a high school with good hockey was almost impossible. In Boston, she could have her choice.

So the Carpenters came home and Bobby put coaching on hold to be a dad.

"I was born here," said Alex. "I moved around quite a few times - I moved about four times and this is home, this is great. I love everything about here."

The family business

Now, Alex Carpenter is a high school sophomore, playing on the varsity at The Governor's Academy. She looks just like her father, except for the blonde ponytail sticking out from under her helmet. But she has the same round face, the same sturdy frame, and she plays center, just like her dad. In a game against the Rivers School last week, the one time the defense left her unattended near the net, she looked even more like her father - taking a feed from Alanna McDonough and roofing a shot into the top left corner.

It was a pure hockey shot: instinct and power.

"In terms of describing her hockey talents that maybe separate her from normal players, she has probably the best vision of anyone I've coached at the girls' level," said Governor's coach Babe Ceglarski, who will lead his 18-7-1 team in the quarterfinals of the NEPSIHA Division 2 championship Wednesday when it hosts Proctor.

"She has the ability to find people on the ice and she knows where her teammates are at all times," said Ceglarski, son of Len, the BC coaching legend. "She has great hands. With pucks in the air, she has an uncanny ability to knock them down with the stick."

Alex is 14 years old, a young sophomore, but she already has a thick hockey résumé, including the MVP award from last year's championship, which the Governors won. In 26 games this season, Carpenter has a staggering 57 goals and 97 points. Moreover, her linemates - also sophomores - have a bucketful of points, too: Kate Leary has 42 goals and 35 assists, and McDonough has 13 goals and 43 assists.

"During a game, I usually look for the open people," said Alex. "Most of the time I can work with my linemates really well. I have two great linemates. We make perfect passes all the time."

Governor's had only 12 players on the girls' team last season; this year there are 13.

"We're essentially a two-line team," said Ceglarski. "The benefit that I have is that she's on the ice every other shift."

Time to savor

Bobby Carpenter carried big-time expectations with him to Washington. He delivered 32 goals in his rookie season 1981-82, and he became the first American to score 50 in a season in 1984-85, when he had 53 for the Capitals. He won a Stanley Cup with New Jersey in 1995.

Alex's ability begs the question: Did Dad teach her something special or was she born with it?

"I played hockey mainly because my dad did and I used to watch him growing up," said Alex, who, according to Bobby, learned to skate from her mother, a figure skater. "We're a hockey family. My dad grew up playing. My brother played and I joined his team when I was 7, I think.

"I played on boys' teams most of my life and most of them did know [who Bobby was], so they were excited. The girls I played with, they do know he was an NHL player but I don't think they know what significance he had there. After a while, knowing me, they learned more about him."

Bobby said Alex is a natural at all sports. She was on a soccer travel team in Albany for three years that Bobby can't remember losing a game, last year she was all-league in softball as a freshman, and "you should see her play basketball," her dad said.

"It's fun to watch," said Bobby, who leaves the hockey coaching to Ceglarski.

"Last year, when Alex wanted to talk to me about something, she asked [her dad] if he would talk to me and he said no, that's your job now," Ceglarski said. "After that, our relationship has been improved and grown. He did her a big favor by helping her grow up. He's her biggest fan and keeps that in perspective."

Also watching the game against Rivers was USA Hockey's chief talent scout, Ben Smith.

"She's way ahead of people in her age group because of her understanding of the game," said Smith, the former US Women's Olympic hockey coach. "It's interesting that her talent has been recognized, and obvious, so early - just like her father. It's uncanny the way she's always in the right place at the right time, just like her father. She's making a good first impression. Of course there are miles to go before we sleep."

Alex hasn't spent much time thinking about the future.

"I'm just focusing on what's going on right now," she said. "I'm focusing on the next game and I'm focusing on the New Englands coming up. I have ideas, but I don't really know right now."

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