VandeVelde will stay at UND for senior season

It has been 10 years since the UND men's hockey team didn't lose anyone early to the pros, and this offseason is starting to look eerily similar to 1999.

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Chris VandeVelde

It has been 10 years since the UND men's hockey team didn't lose anyone early to the pros, and this offseason is starting to look eerily similar to 1999.

Back then, a MacNaughton Cup champion team with eight seniors fell short of making the NCAA Frozen Four and watched its leading scorer, among others, graduate.

The most likely candidate to leave school early that summer was 6-foot-3, 205-pound power forward Lee Goren. He decided to return to school and UND went on to win the national championship. Goren was the most outstanding player of the Frozen Four.

Chris VandeVelde can only hope that history will repeat itself.

UND again had a MacNaughton Cup champion team with eight seniors fall short of making the Frozen Four, and it had to say goodbye to its leading scorer, among others.


The most likely candidate to leave was VandeVelde -- a 6-foot-2, 205-pound power forward. But today, VandeVelde announced he's returning to UND for his senior year.

That means UND expects to have all of its underclassmen back for the first time since 1999-00 -- which also marks UND's last national title.

VandeVelde said he talked with former Sioux teammate Taylor Chorney, who gave up his final year of eligibility after the 2007-08 season to sign with the Edmonton Oilers, the same team that drafted VandeVelde in the fourth round in 2005.

Chorney played nearly all of his rookie season in the American Hockey League.

"I didn't want to play a full year in the 'A' like Chorns and a lot of other guys did," VandeVelde said. "Just talking to Taylor and some other guys, I felt that staying would benefit me and the team as well.

"Taylor had a fun year and he had a good year, but he really misses hanging around the locker room and hanging around a true team. He gave me some good advice. I took it and I feel like I still have stuff to prove, so that's the direction I'm going to go."

VandeVelde is coming off of a strong season in which he had 18 goals and 35 points -- both figures ranked second on the team. He was UND's best face-off guy and will be penciled in as the top-line center.

Despite playing with a separated shoulder at the end of the season, VandeVelde was still dominant. He scored two goals in the NCAA regional loss to New Hampshire on highly skilled plays.


Oilers assistant general manager Kevin Prendergast told Edmonton's The Pipeline Show last week that it won't hurt VandeVelde to play another year at UND.

"Dave Hakstol's a tremendous coach at North Dakota," Prendergast said. "He feels that VandeVelde is going to need that one more year. It isn't going to hurt him, from our standpoint, to be there. They are going to have a very, very good team there next year."

Chay Genoway, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's defensive player of the year, already has informed UND that he will return for his senior season instead of entertaining free agent offers that he was receiving.

"Everybody has to make good, solid decisions," Hakstol said. "I think our guys have done that. We never try to push one direction or another. We just try to be part of decisions. To know that these guys are excited to come back and that they are genuinely excited about our team, I think that speaks volumes to the culture that we have inside the locker room."

This may be the earliest in more than a decade that UND can turn the page to next season knowing which players will be back and which won't.

The Sioux are expected to soon finalize which recruits will come to campus in the fall and fill out the 2009-10 roster. That team probably won't be picked to win the WCHA, but if history has anything to say, don't count it out.

"It looks like we have a great incoming class of freshmen," VandeVelde said. "Our freshmen from this year will continue to improve. Every class will continue to get better. It's going to be exciting and I'm looking forward to next year. This is a great place to play. It's a great atmosphere with the rink and the fans. We go to work every day and we also have fun.

"Why would you want to leave here early if you didn't have to?"

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at
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