As featured in Ignite Magazine.
Dan Carlson is the type of player any coach would dream of signing. Hard working, dependable and consistently a great all round player, he’s one of the key guys you need when putting together a team aiming for the top. As fans, we expect a lot and Carlson is someone who delivers. Week in and week out we watch him on the penalty kill, winning face offs and racking up the points.
In his five seasons with Blaze, he’s been there to lift the league trophy three times but success hasn’t gone to his head. Speaking after Blaze’s 6-1 win over Hull Stingrays at the end of January, he seemed quietly confident about the rest of the season.
“At the end of the day, it was a pretty straightforward result. We played a solid game, didn’t give them any opportunities and took advantage of the ones we got” he said. “We’ve been a bit up and down so it’s nice to win. This weekend we’ve put in two solid performances so hopefully we can carry that over to next weekend.”
After a few patchy results in January, a couple of decent wins saw Blaze return to the top of the table. Carlson explained what Thommo has been grilling the team on to ensure they stay there. “One of the things we need to focus on is playing a full 60 minutes. Other games, we’ve played well for a period or two periods, then sort of let it slide a little bit.”
Nonetheless Dan has still had some great form the past few months. The fans have shown their appreciation in the form of December’s player of the month award. And since then he’s still been chipping in with the goals and assists. Full of praise for his teammates, Dan was pleased with just how many players are contributing to the score sheet. He knows it’s hard to take advantage of chances against us, especially with Peter Hirsh in goal.
February is an important month for Blaze. Unfortunately having been hit with the injury of Adam Calder, Carlson explained the impact of losing your captain at such a crucial time in the season. “Obviously, it’s tough, you can’t really replace a guy like Calder. Consistently scoring goals for us and he’s good on the powerplay. But we’ll certainly try and make do.”
With Brad Cruikshank as a replacement, it certainly seems better than just making do and Dan seemed happy with the new guy’s first weekend in blue.“It’s always a little bit different to come to a new club but I suppose you adjust pretty quickly. You don’t really have a choice.
“From the look of it Cruikshank’s going to contribute to the team. He’s a good player and he played well for us this weekend. He’s played with a few other guys before so that always helps, sort of eases him into it.”
Carlson doesn’t give too much away during the interview but his ambitions couldn’t be clearer. “I’d like to say I see us at the top at the end of the year, obviously that’s our goal so hopefully it’ll happen. I think if we keep playing well then we’ll be there. It’s tight right now. It’ll come down to us, Nottingham and Belfast and hopefully it’s us that’s making the push to the end of the year. Right now, both of them are chasing us and I’d like to stay in that position, definitely.”
I get the impression he doesn’t spend too much time analysing his game, preferring to just get out there and do what he has to do to win.
With the club celebrating ten years in the city, he did, however share some proud memories from his time here.“You see the level of professionalism has increased over the years as we’ve grown as an organisation. We’ve got great fan support, I can never complain about that. The grand slam would be hard to top, my first year here. And then back to back league titles is pretty impressive as well.
“It’s hard to defend, look at Sheffield, they managed to make a push last year and win it. This year they’re struggling at the bottom of the table. It’s hard to maintain that high level for two years in a row.”
Coventry are a club determined to succeed and even a second place finish last season was a defeat for Carlson. “We weren’t at the level we expected and I guess that was a little bit of a letdown” he said.
Hoping to make up for it this season, however, he has silverware firmly in his sights. “Again, the goal is just to keep winning trophies. To stay in the position to at least give us a chance to win. Obviously it’s hard to do, it’s getting more and more competitive every year.”
I ask him how long he expects to stay here for. “I don’t know, good question. I’m sure Thommo would ask the same thing!” he laughed. With that I left him to catch up with some of the old faces from the Blaze who were hanging around the locker room. He assured me it wouldn’t be a big night out, but I’m not so certain, not with Tasker hanging around.