College Hockey: Vela embraces role as new UNH captainBy ALEX HALL
New Hampshire Union Leader
October 10. 2018 9:29PM
DURHAM — Marcus Vela saw how Collin MacDonald, Matias Cleland and Dylan Chanter approached being captain of the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team.
The senior forward will lean on what he learned from the Wildcats’ previous three captains as he wears the C on his sweater this season, which begins Friday night (7) at Colgate of the ECAC.
“We’ve had some great captains since I’ve been here,” Vela said. “All three years, they’ve been great people and great leaders. Basically, it’s just the small things. It’s just how you act in situations when people don’t see you. That’s really what defined those guys and what made them the men that they are and who they are today.”
Vela, who is from Burnaby, British Columbia, said it was an honor to be chosen as the program’s 115th captain. UNH sophomore defenseman Benton Maass cited Vela’s leadership and strong work ethic as some of the reasons the players felt he was the right person for the role.
“His teammates elected him captain and I think there’s a difference,” Wildcats coach Mike Souza said of Vela. “And I think that’s a testament to who he is as a person. The one thing that stands out to me about Marcus is work ethic on and off the ice, his practice habits, he plays hard all the time, he’s detailed. He’s a guy that aspires to play in the National Hockey League some day and he comes to the rink every day like that’s his goal and I think the guys have followed him.”
Vela, a seventh-round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2015, wants to lead by example but also noted that it is not the sole responsibility that comes with being captain.
“I’ve still got to keep learning from the guys as well,” Vela said. “We have a bunch of leaders on this team. Just because one guy is named captain doesn’t mean other guys stop leading as well.”
Vela said MacDonald, Cleland and Chanter each approached the position in a similar manner and he does not plan to deviate much from the precedent they set.
“If you notice, those guys like Collin MacDonald, Matias Cleland, Dylan Chanter, they’re very well-respected men and they had good careers here,” Vela said. “And just above that, they did everything off the ice and on the ice and approached it the same way with that leadership role. And I think as long as I can do that, I, hopefully, should be fine.”
This past offseason was an especially long one for UNH sophomore Patrick Grasso.
The forward underwent shoulder surgery for a torn labrum and received a medical redshirt for last season after missing all but 12 games due to the injury.
“If anything, it was just as tough mentally as it was physically,” Grasso said of last season during UNH’s media day on Oct. 3. “Anytime you go through something like that when you’re not able to compete at the level you want to, it can be tough. But I think it’s all a learning process and it’s something that I can use going forward.”
Grasso had 33 points (20 goals, 13 assists) as a freshman and contributed 10 points (two goals, eight assists) last year before being shut down.
“I know it’s been a very long stretch for him,” Vela said of Grasso. “I know it’s always hard being sidelined by an injury or whatever the case is — to not be able to help your team when you think you can. And we all believe Grasso will help our team and I think he does too and it’s very exciting for him as well as our team and our coaching staff to have him back in the lineup.”
Souza did not divulge whether freshman Ty Taylor, sophomore Mike Robinson or junior Joe Lazzaro will start in goal on Friday. Souza did, however, provide some insight on what he has seen from each netminder.
Taylor, a seventh-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning last June, was named the top goalie in the British Columbia Hockey League last season. Bedford’s Robinson, a third-round pick of the Sharks in 2015, logged a 3.21 goals-against average and .894 save percentage over six appearances last year. Lazzaro, of Hampton, recorded four saves over 8 minutes, 9 seconds on the ice last season.
“Michael and Ty in particular are probably your prototypical pro-style goalies,” Souza said. “They’re bigger guys. They’re long. They have a lot of length to them. They cover a lot net and they play a similar style. They look similar in the net. Joe is not as big as those guys and sort of relies on his reflexes and athleticism where Michael and Ty, they’re NHL prospects both guys.
“And they’ve had a great competition among the three of them. All three guys have worked hard and I think they’ve pushed each other, which I think is not only enhancing the level of our practices but is also helping them to develop as players themselves.”