Team of the Week: New Hampshire
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
If you want to credit any one person for why New Hampshire is the new CHN Team of the Week, might as well start with James vanRiemsdyk.
College coaches have little issue with their top players being taken off the roster in mid-season so they can play in the World Junior tournament each year, because they realize the player will often come back better for the experience.
At least that's the theory. It doesn't always work out that way.
But in the case of vanRiemsdyk, the second overall pick in last year's NHL Draft, it has worked out swimmingly.
VanRiemsdyk returned from a fourth-place finish in the Czech Republic, where he led the entire tournament in scoring, and led the Wildcats to a pair of huge Hockey East wins over Massachusetts in a home-and-home series last weekend.
His goal Friday helped kick-start a rally from down 2-0. He added an assist in that game, and another goal and an assist Saturday.
"Hopefully this is the (weekend) that gets the ball rolling for us," vanRiemsdyk said. "But we just decided to take the bull by the horns and dictate the style of play to them, and that rolled over into Saturday. And it was pretty big considering how good a team UMass is."
He has played with various players all season long, but last weekend, was teamed with Bobby Butler and Jerry Pollastrone, to great results. So expect that to stay this weekend when New Hampshire plays Dartmouth in a cross-state battle. After that, it's all Hockey East games, starting with Boston University.
The results, personal and team-wise, were assisted by the World Juniors.
"That has a little bit to do with it," vanRiemsdyk said. "I know the first half is a little bit of a transition. ... I just feel like playing over there and doing well in that tournament gave me a lot of confidence to go forward from there."
Unfortunately, the team results there weren't what Team USA was looking for. Despite a 4-0 start in the preliminary round, the U.S. suffered a bad loss to Canada in the semis, then lost to Russia in the bronze-medal game.
"It was one of those things where the bounces didn't necessarily go our way, and they capitalized on our mistakes," vanRiemsdyk said of Canada. "They played an air-tight system and we kept grinding away at them, but a couple mistakes wound up in the back of our net, and that's just the way hockey is.
"It is nice to play well over there and make a name for yourself. But we were over there to win a gold medal and we came up short, and that's a little bit disappointing."
Back here, vanRiemsdyk is disproving the critics who believe he's only biding his time until signing a pro contract. And, off the ice, his grades are among the best on the team.
"It's not like someone was holding a gun to my head," said vanRiemsdyk. "I wanted to come here because I think it would help me as a hockey player in the long run, and to get an education, and I'm really happy with my decision to come here."
With more work to be done.
"Just growing into my body more, and keep working on everything else so I can become a better all-around player," he said. "There's nothing you can't work on."