Colorado Rubber

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Carlo, Eansor reflect on United States World Junior bronze

 

Carlo-Eansor-WJC

Admittedly, there were a few nerves for Brandon Carlo and Scott Eansor.

That was during the United States’ pre-tournament camp in Vierumaki, Finland, before the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship began in Helsinki over the Christmas holiday.

“I was rooting for him so much in camp,” said Carlo of his longtime friend and former Colorado Thunderbirds teammate. “I can’t tell you a guy who wanted to wear the USA sweater more than him.”

Eansor wasn’t sure how things would work out, but relief doesn’t do justice to what he felt when he received the news he’d made the team.

“It was an honor,” said the forward from Englewood. “Me and about four others were on the bubble. The guys who got cut were outstanding players. I will never forget the stress and anxiety of that camp, but once I found out I made it, it was one of those moments in your life when you feel good about yourself.”

The good feelings continued for the Eansor, who plays for Seattle of the Western Hockey League (WHL) and Carlo, a defenseman for Tri-City of the WHL.

They helped Team USA win a bronze medal with an 8-3 victory over Sweden to bring home the first U.S. medal in the tournament since gold in 2013.

“Even though we came up short of what we wanted, we came home with something not a lot of teams get an opportunity to do,” said Carlo. “Putting on a USA sweater was the coolest thing. You don’t know when the next opportunity like that will come up, if one will.”

“Playing against the best in the world was very humbling,” added Eansor. “I was very proud to play for (coaches) Ron (Wilson), Chris (Chelios) and Danton (Cole). It’s something I’ll never forget. It was a bit frustrating seeing how strong our team was and how tight it was that we came out with the bronze. Not too many can say they won that, but you still wish you won gold.”

Both players thrived in their roles.

Carlo was a top-pairing defenseman with captain Zach Werenski and the duo combined for a plus-19 during seven games. Carlo had a goal and an assist in the second period of the bronze-medal game among his four points in the tournament. He was selected Team USA’s player of the game after the U.S. limited Denmark to 17 shots in a preliminary round game.

Eansor played on an energy line, and his combination of tenacity, speed and skill was never more evident than during the 7-0 quarterfinal victory over the Czech Republic when he forced a turnover at his blue line and scored a shorthanded, breakaway goal.

Carlo and Eansor began playing together on the Thunderbirds when they were 12.

For Carlo, that meant he and his parents made the trek up from Colorado Springs several days per week.

“It was a big decision for us, but it set me up for success in every way,” he said. “(T-Birds director of hockey operations) Angelo (Ricci) and his staff made me a better player and leader – on and off the ice. Taking on more responsibility helped me so much.”

“It says something when you have two guys from a single program on a team like this,” said Eansor. “It’s a testament to the Thunderbirds program and to Colorado hockey.”

What’s next remains to be seen. Carlo, who will return to Tri-City, has signed his entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins, who picked him in the second round last June. Eansor is a free agent heading into his final year of draft eligibility – one of just two Team USA players in that situation.

“This was something I wanted to do all my life, and I know a lot of guys who play in it go on to the NHL, but I just wanted to take it in and enjoy it,” Eansor said. “And I really wanted to make my country proud and my teammates proud.”

— Chris Bayee