If for some reason one is not impressed by the fact that junior Carson Skove had 25 goals and 22 assists through the Notre Dame High ice hockey team’s first 20 games this year; consider that most of his production came on a left knee that will need surgery upon season’s end.
In a Dec. 20 game with Princeton, the Lawrence resident took a hit with 20 seconds remaining in the game. His knee popped out and popped back in, and the damage was done. For the second time in four years, Skove had torn his patellar tendon.
He did it to his right knee in ninth grade just taking a shot, and missed the entire season as he was sidelined for five months. This year, however, he was able to keep playing due to all the work he did in the off-season to strengthen himself.
“Over the summer I took skating lessons, did some lifting, some more activity with hockey,” Skove said. “I guess this summer all the lifting got my knee stronger and my quad really stronger to support my knee. I also tore some cartilage and broke some bones, but the lifting helped out the strength of the quad. The first time I hurt it, I didn’t have the option of playing because the knee wasn’t built up.”
As anyone who has torn a patellar tendon can attest, there is pain involved; but the rush of competing helps Skove ignore it.
“The adrenaline just keeps you going,” he said. “Sometimes I ice it. I just keep on chipping away and it feels fine.”
Skove’s efforts helped Notre Dame to a 10-8-2 record entering the Feb. 18 Mercer County Tournament semifinals. The Irish carried a three-game winning streak into the contest and, regardless of how the MCT turned out, they still have the state tournament looming as well.
The fact Skove gutted it out to play on a shaky knee is a big reason for the team’s success.
“He’s had some injuries this year but he’s playing through it, trying to stay healthy,” coach Mike McVey said. “He’s a key on our team. We have some very good players but pretty much the guys know he’s our guy.”
“If he’s on, which he usually is, we’re just constantly putting pressure on the other team and they have to account for him,” McVey continued. “He’s a really good teammate, a super strong player. But he’s a team player. He’s a machine. He’s just non-stop. Our team basically revolves around his energy.”
Skove is following in the footsteps of his brother, Dakota, who graduated from Notre Dame in 2015. Carson used to watch his older sibling play for Notre Dame and thought it would be cool to follow in his footsteps.
“I was always at the games,” Skove said. “I watched him, saw how good a player he was and how good he made other players.”
When they played street hockey together, however, Carson got stuck in goal.
“There used to be two people and there was one set of pads,” Skove recalled. “I was the youngest one so I had to put them on and play in goal. There were actually a couple times I told my mom I thought I wanted to play goalie but I kind of grew out of that over time and stuck with playing forward.”
He certainly made the right move. Not that he wouldn’t have been a good goalie, but he’s an outstanding scorer and playmaker.
Skove first donned skates at age 3 when his parents and brother took him to skate at the Lawrenceville School rink. He began playing club hockey at age 6 with the Princeton Tigers “and really fell in love with the game there.”
Due to his injury, Skove missed his entire freshman year. He wasted little time showing Notre Dame what it missed as missing as he led the team in scoring as a sophomore with 19 goals and 12 assists.
Carson got off to a blistering start this year with 8 goals and 10 assists in Notre Dame’s 5-1-1 start. After tearing his tendon, Skove missed four games and the Irish lost all four.
“When he was out for a little while we struggled,” McVey said. “It takes that offensive pressure off the other team and puts some defensive pressure on us and you’re playing back on your heels a lot. It allows the other team to get in a comfort zone without him in the lineup.”
Skove doesn’t just score, he collects points when it matters most. With Notre Dame trailing Robbinsville 2-0, he assisted on the next two goals as the Irish tied it, and scored an insurance goal in a 5-2 victory.
“He brings a lot of leadership and fire to the team to get us going, get us motivated if we’re down,” goalie Mike Fitzpatrick said. “He’s that person we need to score to bring up the motivation.”
Skove understands that role and embraces it.
“Against Robbinsville, I thought that was a game to step up and make a statement and try to lead the team to a win,” he said.
McVey feels that attitude is what makes Skove great. He refuses to be taken off the puck and knows exactly what to do with it when it comes to passing or shooting.
“He’s so strong on his skates,” the coach said. “He sees the ice well. He involves others, which takes that pressure off him, and he’s a competitor. He wants to play, he wants to win, he wants to be in those tough situations. That’s what you want. If he could stay out there the whole time he would. I have to pull him off the ice.”
McVey pretty much summed it up by saying “As Carson goes, we go.” While that could put pressure on some skaters, it merely gets Skove more excited.
“I mostly feel proud to hear that,” he said. “It’s more a team game but I have to step up sometimes and keep my head in there and try to help other people out.”
He does so with a lethal wrist shot, mostly from the left wing, but can also score from in close if the situation is called for.
“I would say competitiveness is his biggest thing,” McVey said. “And he’s just very strong on his skates. He’s like a bull. To look at him he’s not an imposing kid, but he’s like a monster out there.”
Just think how the monster will grow when both knees are healthy.