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Well-to-do Sioux

There has been no sophomore slump for University of North Dakota center Chris VandeVelde. Actually, it's been more of a sophomore surge. "It was just a matter of adjusting," said VandeVelde, who has six goals and six assists in 15 games. "I adjus...

Chris VandeVelde

There has been no sophomore slump for University of North Dakota center Chris VandeVelde.

Actually, it's been more of a sophomore surge.

"It was just a matter of adjusting," said VandeVelde, who has six goals and six assists in 15 games. "I adjusted well the second half of last season and just carried it through to this year. I'm a lot more confident."

A Moorhead High graduate, VandeVelde has become a reliable source of offense in his second season.

Sandwiched on a line between 2005 NHL first-round draft picks Ryan Duncan - the Hobey Baker winner a year ago - and T.J. Oshie, VandeVelde has made the most of his scoring chances.

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He's buried 18 percent of his attempts, helping the Sioux offset the loss of talented forward Jonathan Toews from one of the top lines in college hockey. Toews left UND last season to join the Chicago Blackhawks.

VandeVelde said his linemates deserve much of the credit for his offensive output this season.

"Oshie and Duncan are two of the best players in college hockey," he said. "They get you the puck and you get more space when they are out on the ice. It's a really good line to play on."

After a slow start to his freshman season - he had just two assists through 34 games as a third-line center - VandeVelde heated up down the stretch to help UND to the Frozen Four.

VandeVelde scored seven of his nine points in the Sioux's final nine games. He had two goals and three assists in the postseason.

VandeVelde went on a career-best hot streak before No. 7-ranked UND's holiday break. The physical 6-foot-2, 205-pounder has at least a point in three consecutive games, gathering two goals and three assists during that stretch.

"I think he's so solid all the way around," Oshie said. "He's great in the defensive zone. He's very good on draws. He's very hard to knock off the puck. When he's given the opportunity, he takes advantage of it.

"He's made a huge jump from last year."

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The Sioux, however, have failed to mirror VandeVelde's consistency through the first half of the season, splitting each of its six Western Collegiate Hockey Association series.

"There have been some series that we've dominated but we end up losing a game," VandeVelde said. "Some we just haven't played very well. The WCHA is really talented with a lot of depth. To us, it's kind of frustrating because we feel like we definitely have had the opportunity to get the sweep and we just couldn't finish."

The Sioux resume the season with a two-game series against New Hampshire on Dec. 28-29. The WCHA schedule gets under way the following week with a series at St. Cloud State.

"It all comes down to being mentally strong," Oshie said. "... Hopefully, we can come back and keep getting Friday night wins. And if we figure our how to get another on Saturday, we'll be just fine."

If you go

- What: New Hampshire at North Dakota men's hockey

- When: 7:37 p.m. Friday and 7:07 p.m. Sunday

- Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler's small college blog can be found at www.areavoices.com

Well-to-do Sioux Heath Hotzler 20071226

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