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Carson Riddle ready to bring 'tough love' as Austin Bruins captain

Carson Riddle has been a mainstay in the lineup since joining the Austin Bruins in the fall of 2018. The gritty forward, and Western Michigan University commit, has been named the Bruins' captain for 2021-22.

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Austin Bruins forward Carson Riddle, a Western Michigan University commit, is entering his fourth season with the team. The native of Holly, Michigan, has played in 152 games with the Bruins and will be the team's captain this season. Contributed / the Austin Bruins

AUSTIN — Carson Riddle is a rarity in junior hockey.

The Holly, Michigan, native is on the verge of playing his fourth season of juniors, all for the Austin Bruins.

And this season he’ll have a letter on his sweater.

Riddle has been named the Bruins’ captain for the 2021-22 season.

“It’s an honor,” the gritty 5-foot-8, 165-pound forward said last weekend as the Bruins’ main tryout camp wrapped up at Riverside Arena. “I’ve played with some really good captains here: Lane Krenzen, Jed Pietila, Connor Mylymok, all those guys. Just to be able to say ‘I’m one of you guys’ and to get to wear the ‘C’ like they did, it’s a really cool experience and I’ll do whatever I can to keep the tradition going.”

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Carson Riddle

Riddle has been a mainstay in the lineup since joining the Bruins in the fall of 2018. He’s played in 152 games in Austin and has recorded 27 goals and 72 total points. He’s played every role imaginable for the Bruins, too — from a tough-nosed checking line guy whose job it was to keep the opposing team’s top line off the scoreboard, to playing on the penalty kill, the power play and all other situations.

His experience in all of those different roles can help Riddle relate all of his teammates, whether they’re veterans or first-year players, top-line forwards or guys who are in and out of the lineup.

“Just staying on the guys, tough love, some guys need that, but keep the group tight knit,” Riddle said about his philosophy of being a good captain. “We need everybody on board, on the same page. I’ve learned throughout the years, if you have a tight group and guys willing to do what it takes to win, then you’ll be successful.”

His development over the past three seasons has taken the trajectory his coach hoped it would. Riddle is coming off a career-best year, having scored 14 goals and 37 points last season. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last year and led the team with three short-handed goals.

“I’m expecting him to do all of that and then some, just be a leader,” Bruins fifth-year head coach Steve Howard said. “I think he’s seen our culture enough, been around four different captains — Krenzen, then (Ben) Almquist, Pietila and (last) year Mylymok.

“I want him to be the best version out of those four guys.”

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When the Bruins’ season officially begins at the North American Hockey League Showcase on Sept. 15, Riddle will join Travis Kothenbeutel as players who’ve spent four seasons in Austin. Kothenbeutel played 182 games for the Bruins from 2014 through 2018 and spent the past three seasons at Nebraska Omaha.

Riddle’s combination of a blue-collar work ethic and his ability to produce offensively has endeared him to Bruins’ fans, too.

“He’s not afraid to speak his mind and he plays with some jam, so there’s definitely … nobody can look at CR and say eh doesn’t try hard,” Howard said. “He’ll call guys out right away if he needs to. He doesn’t care who they are or how big they are.

“I’m looking forward to him being an extension of the coaching staff and telling guys how it is.”

A year from now, Riddle is expected to add his name to the list of players who’ve taken the pipeline from Austin to Western Michigan University. He committed to the Broncos four years ago and will join a long list of recent Bruins who’ve played, or will play, at the NCHC program in Kalamazoo — including current Bruins teammate Braidan Simmons-Fischer, last year’s leading scorer Barrett Brooks, current pros Austin Rueschhoff and Dawson DiPietro, and current Bronco Hugh Larkin.

“Just talking to other guys I know who play college, they say the experience is great,” said Riddle, who’ll likely play for Rochester native Pat Ferschweiler, the first-year head coach at WMU this season. “They get treated well. I can’t complain at all, it’s college hockey. I’m just looking forward to the whole experience, playing in front of big student sections.”

Before he heads to WMU, Riddle has a mission to accomplish in Austin this winter.

“My first year here we made the playoffs, the second year got cut short by COVID and last year we didn’t make it, just missed,” he said. “There’s that fire inside me. I really want to make the playoffs and I know all of our veterans do, too.

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“I know myself and the rest of the guys are on board to do whatever it takes to win.”

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