Carson Bantle’s level of play made a noticeable jump between his first and second seasons of junior hockey with the Madison Capitols.
It’s now the University of Wisconsin that stands to benefit if he can do the same for his second season in college.
Bantle, a former captain for the United States Hockey League’s Capitols who is from Onalaska, plans to transfer to the Badgers after one season at Michigan Tech.
He’s the third player set to enter the UW depth chart this offseason through the transfer portal. Former Minnesota goaltender Jared Moe and ex-Bowling Green center Max Johnson previously signaled their moves to the Badgers.
Bantle was picked by media members who covered Western Collegiate Hockey Association teams to be the league’s top rookie before last season, but his production — two goals and one assist in 19 games — didn’t match expectations.
“It just wasn’t the right fit for me,” he said about his decision to leave Michigan Tech. “I just wanted something different.”
UW showed interest after he put his name in the portal early this month, and the 19-year-old winger said that made it a straightforward decision.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play for Wisconsin, growing up a Wisconsin boy,” he said.
That desire grew in two years playing for the Capitols, a period that also changed the outlook for the 6-foot-5 forward. He started as a third- or fourth-line player who put up 10 goals and 10 assists in 62 games in 2018-19.
A bigger role in the next season put him 12th in the USHL with 49 points in 49 games. He was drafted in the fifth round by the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes in 2020.
“Having that experience, already playing a few games and getting those underneath my belt, I think that those were huge for me,” Bantle said.
The same goes for NCAA hockey.
“Now that I know what it’s like, I’ll be able to focus on more of the things I need to work on, which will get me ready for next year,” he said.
Speed and strength are high on that list. Bantle played at 205 pounds with Michigan Tech after being recorded at 194 early in his draft year with the Capitols. He’s filling out his tall frame and learning how he can be a productive player at higher levels.
His freshman season was disrupted by a separated shoulder that made him miss 11 games in February. He was a left wing on the third and fourth lines after he returned.
The Badgers aren’t short of left wings: Roman Ahcan, Jack Gorniak and Dominick Mersch are scheduled to return as seniors next season, although Mersch could slide into a center position. UW also has signed left-handed forwards Caden Brown, Liam Malmquist, Brayden Morrison and Zach Urdahl.
Coach Tony Granato said the Badgers would be active this offseason in recruiting via the transfer portal, and it has played out as he predicted. UW isn’t going to find a replacement for Hobey Baker Award winner Cole Caufield in the portal, but it has added depth.
“That’s just the nature of today’s movement in college athletics if you can improve your team,” Granato said.
UW grabbed graduate transfer Robbie Beydoun from Michigan Tech last offseason, and he brought stability to a goaltending position that sorely needed it.
Beydoun didn’t get a chance to play against his old team; the pandemic forced schedule changes that wiped out UW’s planned series against the Huskies last October.
But because Michigan Tech tends to show up on the Badgers’ non-conference schedule frequently, Bantle probably will have to line up against former teammates at some point.
“Talking to some of my buddies from Tech, they’re pretty pumped to play me,” Bantle said. “It’ll be a lot of fun playing against some of those guys.”
Look back on State Journal coverage of Badgers men's hockey games in the 2020-21 season
Read stories from University of Wisconsin men's hockey games in the 2020-21 season.
Bemidji State was the aggressor from the beginning and kept UW from playing the brand of hockey it has used to generate scoring chances.
The Badgers paid for a lackluster effort in the second period as the Gophers beat UW for the first time in six championship-round games.
Cole Caufield scored his 27th goal of the season 6 minutes, 50 seconds into the extra session to send the fifth-ranked Badgers past the Nittany Lions 4-3 on Monday in the Big Ten semifinals.
Cole Caufield scores twice to give the Badgers a 2-1 victory at Michigan State and the Big Ten title on the final day of the regular season.
Robbie Beydoun, playing in his home state, makes 28 saves as the Badgers keep the heat on Minnesota in the chase for the Big Ten title.
If a 7-0 victory against Ohio State at LaBahn Arena was Cole Caufield's last time playing at home for the Badgers, it was the kind of effort UW fans will want to remember him by.
Holloway scored twice on the power play to lead the Badgers past the Buckeyes.
Ty Pelton-Byce scored twice for the Badgers, including the tying goal with 26.8 seconds left after UW let two third-period leads slip away.
Coach Tony Granato went down the lineup in handing out individual laurels for good chances created, hits dished out or composed plays in the defensive zone.
The Badgers erase the sour taste of their largest loss of the season with their first victory at Michigan in their past eight tries.
A four-goal second period by the Wolverines was the difference after the Badgers took the lead.
No. 11 UW is alone atop the conference standings after completing its first series sweep at Minnesota in 12 years with an emphatic 8-1 victory against the second-ranked Golden Gophers.
Cole Caufield broke a tie with seven minutes remaining and Dylan Holloway figured in two goals in the following 2:18 as Wisconsin beat Minnesota 4-1.
Cole Caufield scores two goals for the second straight game and Linus Weissbach records his first three-point game of the season.
Robbie Beydoun stopped 19 shots for his second shutout of the season.
After falling behind 3-0 in the first period, the Badgers couldn't pull all the way back with a late push.
The Badgers scored two power-play goals to win at Penn State for the first time in five tries.
A third-period penalty kill was "probably the biggest five minutes of our season so far," Badgers coach Tony Granato said.
UW freshman Cameron Rowe makes 11 saves for his first shutout.
The Badgers outshot the Gophers but paid the price for turnovers, a slow line change and a bad penalty.
Beydoun made 35 saves as the Badgers knocked off the Gophers in their first game since Dec. 4.
Cameron Rowe made 40 saves in his first collegiate start as the Badgers split a series at the Buckeyes.
The Badgers have lost all three games since four forwards became unavailable due to COVID-19 protocol.
Sophomore Jax Murray scored his first two collegiate goals for the Sun Devils as the Badgers fell to .500.
The Badgers were missing five forwards, one of whom sources said was held out because of a positive COVID-19 test and three others who were close contacts.
Caufield had his second hat trick for the Badgers and Tarek Baker scored a key short-handed goal.
Robbie Beydoun made a career-high 49 saves for the Badgers.
Missing their top two centers, the Badgers nearly emerged with a split against the sixth-ranked Wolverines.
The Wolverines scored three times in the final 5 minutes, 22 seconds of the second period to turn a deficit into a two-goal lead going into the intermission.
Dylan Holloway's third-period goal put the Badgers ahead for good after they lost two-goal and one-goal leads.
Linus Weissbach helped provide the offense and Robbie Beydoun was a stable presence in goal in the Badgers' 2-0 victory over No. 20 Notre Dame.