Men's hockey: VandeVelde picks up the pace
The start of Chris VandeVelde's college career was a quiet one. He was in and out of the lineup and tallied just one point in his first 24 games as he adjusted to the pace of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Those days are long gone Van...
The start of Chris VandeVelde's college career was a quiet one.
He was in and out of the lineup and tallied just one point in his first 24 games as he adjusted to the pace of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Those days are long gone
VandeVelde is poised to leave the college game with a bang as one of the WCHA's dominant players. The senior power forward reached the 100-point mark of his career last weekend and he is once again proving that he's capable of turning it up at crunch time.
He did it as a freshman. After his slow start, VandeVelde had seven points in the last nine games while centering the team's second line.
He did it last year. After scoring nine goals in the first 30 games, VandeVelde had nine goals in the last 13, despite playing with a separated shoulder. He capped his season with a phenomenal, two-goal performance against New Hampshire in the NCAA tournament.
This year is shaping up to be no different.
Since going on a four-game point drought last month -- the longest since his freshman year -- VandeVelde has nine points in the last five games (eight in the last three). He had six points in last weekend's split against St. Cloud State, earning him WCHA offensive player of the week honors for the first time this season.
"In my mind, he's probably been the best player on the ice, night in and night out, for the last three or four games," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "That's his way of leading. He's elevating his play on the ice. He doesn't say a lot in the locker room. He doesn't have to. His method of leading is going out and doing it by example.
"He's elevated his play in the time we needed it most. He knows and understands that it has to continue for us."
VandeVelde's production is key for a UND team that has been goal-starved at times this season. The Sioux (14-11-5) have just three wins without VandeVelde contributing at least a point.
"He's our top dog up front," forward Mario Lamoureux said. "He has to be our best player every night. He's done that over the last couple of months. He's really stepped his game up and been a leader for us. Our team needs some goals and he has that skill up front."
Hakstol said that the coaching staff has asked VandeVelde to shoot the puck more often. That's resulted in more goals for the fourth-round Edmonton Oilers draft pick.
VandeVelde has five goals in the last five games after scoring six in the first 24.
"That's a weapon he has that is underutilized for him," Hakstol said. "He's got to drive to those scoring areas and shoot the puck. When he does that he's been very successful.
"When he's at his best, he plays with speed and goes north and south, instead of slowing things down and going east and west. When he goes up and down the rink and plays a fast, power-hockey type of game, all of the sudden, he's really tough to take off the puck. He can make plays at those speeds and it seems like he gets himself into a lot of scoring positions by doing that."
VandeVelde had his first-career, four-point game Saturday against the Huskies -- a team he has tormented throughout his career.
He scored his first-career goal in the National Hockey Center late in his freshman season. He had his first two-goal performance against them at the Final Five that year. After last weekend, he now has 18 points against St. Cloud State.
The Sioux are hoping that VandeVelde can continue his torrid place as they fight for an NCAA tournament spot and home ice in the WCHA playoffs.
"That's something I expect out of myself," VandeVelde said, "and I think the coaches do as well. Hopefully, I can continue to be that go-to guy."
His linemate, Jason Gregoire, agrees.
"He's been outstanding, our best player," Gregoire said. "There's a reason he's wearing that 'A'. He's been great for us down the stretch and we need him to continue that the rest of the way."
Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .