By Matt Mackinder
Special to The Citizen
For Carson Riopelle, hockey is a passion.
And it’s that passion that will take the 16-year-old Goodrich resident to Redford this fall to play junior hockey for the United States Premier Hockey League’s Motor City Hockey Club.
“I got the opportunity from playing at an Adrian College development camp,” said Riopelle. “I got to play with a lot of skilled great guys, a lot of older guys already in juniors. The step up and higher level of competition really inspired me to look around and to look into some leagues. I went to the Motor City tryout camp, and I made it very clear that this is where I wanted to start my career in juniors.”
Riopelle said that making the jump to the junior hockey level with Motor City will hopefully open more doors for him down the road.
“The coaches are very professional, and I know they will push me harder than I’ve ever been pushed to improve,” Riopelle said. “I know the team has had success in the past with going into the finals two years in a row. The league definitely has a reputation of being one of the top leagues in its tier. It’s a totally different thing for me but so far, the guys have been really nice and supportive, and they already have a nickname for me, ‘Hybrid,’ because of my shield, because I’m the youngest on the team by a couple years.
“My plan going into our camp in September is to get settled and be ready to work hard all season. My game is more of a defensive offense aspect. I shut a lot of guys down and I know the right passes to make and I’m always in front of the net for screens.”
Growing up, Riopelle said hockey has always been a major part of his life, and he credits his stepdad, Chris Turner, for turning him on to the game.
Riopelle was born in Flint, moved to Grand Blanc and has lived in Goodrich the past five years.
“My stepdad raised me pretty much my whole life, and he’s my dad to me,” said Riopelle. “He’s the one who got me into hockey since I was a year old. The Red Wings definitely played a role, and I always loved watching them play when I was growing up, especially Henrik Zetterberg. I try to base my style of play off of his own and play a 200-foot game and do whatever is possible to help my team win.”
Getting his start skating with local USA Hockey “learn to skate” programs, Riopelle started playing competitively in Lapeer and Burton and found his niche with the Flint Vengeance organization.
“I have a very strong bond with my old assistant coach from the Vengeance, Kirk Woerner,” Riopelle said. “He has helped me with a lot of my struggles and would always show me what I need to improve on and what I am doing right. He’s definitely the coach that comes to mind because I probably wouldn’t be where I am without his help.”
The 2020-21 season with the Vengeance was a stressful one due to the pandemic, but Riopelle was able to take a few positives from the season.
“We started late and we played a lot of teams that had better chemistry, but I made the most out of it that I could and ended up leading my team in points at the end of the season,” said Riopelle. “It was hard on everybody and every team last season.”
Looking ahead, Riopelle has set very attainable goals, both on and off the ice.
“I hope to go into this season and improve on my hockey sense and strength in the team’s weight rooms and to crack the roster out of our camp in September,” Riopelle said. “Long term, I hope to go as far as I can in hockey and see where it takes me. There’s nothing I love more than the sport of hockey. With school, I’m hoping to finish out this year and next year and then at that time I have a big decision to make of what’s best for me.”