NHL: UMD's Soucy making big adjustment with Wild

ST. PAUL -- Nine days earlier, Minnesota Wild defenseman Carson Soucy was in the stands of Xcel Energy Center with tears in his eyes watching his former Minnesota Duluth teammates celebrate an NCAA championship.

ST. PAUL - Nine days earlier, Minnesota Wild defenseman Carson Soucy was in the stands of Xcel Energy Center with tears in his eyes watching his former Minnesota Duluth teammates celebrate an NCAA championship.

Later that evening, Soucy snuck his way into the Bulldogs locker room to congratulate his cousin, junior wing Parker Mackay, and along with fellow 2016-17 senior Kyle Osterberg, they joined in on the party. It was a bittersweet moment for the former 'Dogs, who a year ago shed tears of disappointment in Chicago after falling a game and a goal short of the national championship.

"It was awesome just to be there for those guys, especially with Parker and his family," said Soucy, who at one point was offered a chance to hold the NCAA championship trophy, only to turn it down. "It was awesome just to be there to celebrate."

Soucy's visit to Xcel Energy Center over a week ago as a fan was part of a short sabbatical granted to the rookie defenseman by the Wild, a bridge of sorts between the first three NHL games he ever played between April 2-5 to wrap up the regular season, and the four since that have made up his Stanley Cup playoffs debut.

The most recent was Tuesday, when Soucy and the Wild lost 2-0 to the Winnipeg Jets in Game 4 of a best-of-seven first-round Western Conference playoff series. Down 3-1 now, the Wild return to Winnipeg at 6:30 p.m. Friday for a do-or-die Game 5.


Soucy finished with three blocked shots and a plus-minus rating of minus-1 for the third time in four playoff games after he and defensive partner Nate Prosser got caught in their own zone - along with Charlie Coyle, Matt Cullen and Tyler Ennis - late in the first period, leading to the night's deciding goal.

Soucy and Prosser saw just three shifts in the third period - same for Zach Parise's last-second replacement, Ennis - as the Wild went with a heavy dose of Matt Dumba-Jonas Brodin and Nick Seeler-Jared Spurgeon on the blue line late in an attempt to salvage what coach Bruce Boudreau called a must-win game earlier in the day.

"This was a 1-0 game that should have been a 0-0 game going into overtime at this stage," said Boudreau, who blamed the Jets' game-winner more on a missed check to the head of Jordan Staal than anything his guys did. "Our guys worked their butts off and we didn't get rewarded for it. Winnipeg played really good. They got a goal."

Soucy finds himself closing out the 2017-18 season in the NHL after spending the majority of 2017-18 in Des Moines, Iowa, with the Wild's top minor-league affiliate in the American Hockey League, the Iowa Wild. He appeared in 67 AHL games before receiving his first NHL call up on April 1 on an emergency basis after Ryan Suter suffered a broken ankle.

Those first three NHL games went well for Soucy, so well that come time for Game 1 in Winnipeg he was bumped up from the third pairing with Prosser to the second pairing with Spurgeon.

The promotion didn't last long and by the end of the 3-2 Game 1 loss, he was dropped back down alongside Prosser, someone he said he's more comfortable with since the two were able to build some chemistry together at the end of the regular season.

Soucy said that while the almost-full season in Iowa prepared him for his NHL debut on April 2, he wasn't as ready for that first playoff game against the Jets. That's because the jump from the NHL regular season to the NHL postseason is the equivalent to making the jump from juniors to college, college to the AHL or the AHL to the NHL.

A few games into the series, he's a much more comfortable and confident NHL defenseman, he said.


"It was definitely a learning curve," Soucy said prior to Game 4. "The first couple games seemed easier because it's the end of the regular season. People are a little more fatigued. Once the playoffs start, it's like a new season. People get that refresher. It was definitely a jump going to Winnipeg. Making that trip was incredible to be there but it was a jump and an adjustment period coming out playing a big, fast team. I've felt like I've got better each game."

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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