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VanRiemsdyk enjoying the college life at UNH

by Bob Snow
Seven days before the NHL's March 4 trade deadline, ESPN had New Hampshire sophomore James vanRiemsdyk's draft rights rolling on its ticker as possible trade banter.
Outside UNH's Whittemore Center, a sunny day is the setting as vanRiemsdyk heads to practice -- his college performance and NHL forecast in symmetry with the weather.

Heralded as the most complete package in Wildcats history, vanRiemsdyk had big skates to fill in a program that has boasted players like Jason Krog, Ty Conklin, Mark Mowers and Darren Haydar.

"We knew he was the complete player entering the (2007 Entry) Draft," said Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren in June 2007 when he tapped vanRiemsdyk with the second pick after he led the U.S. National Team Development Program with 33 goals and 30 assists in 42 games.

Last April, Sports Illustrated labeled him the No. 1 college prospect across the 58 teams.

He remains the highest NHL draft pick on any campus as his No. 9 Wildcats look toward postseason play and that elusive first national championship.

How does the UNH campus respond to the far-away fanfare?

"We haven't talked about it," said coach Dick Umile. "He's a pretty mature kid. He understands -- it's out of his control. At this point he's OK."

How does the chiseled 6-foot-3, 209-pound power forward respond to the trade hype?

"It first started on my Facebook with people saying there are trade rumors and you're going here and there and blah, blah, blah," said vanRiemsdyk. "Hockey's a business and the NHL is a business. GMs are going to do what's best for their team."

Not much different from what vanRiemsdyk has done for UNH since Day 1.

"When he came in," said senior captain Greg Collins, "he was expected to play at a higher level and he picked it up right away. This year he's so much stronger, and you can see his will to get to the net. He makes things happen. He's put more on his shoulders and expects to make certain plays -- and he does. He carries the team night in and night out. A lot of our success is because of him."

"The little things, like battling for pucks and being stronger, better positionally -- these get you ready for the next level," said vanRiemsdyk about his focus. "Sometimes you see guys score a hundred points in college and then they get to the next level and their abilities don't really translate.

"My strength and confidence is definitely better this year; defensively, also. My plus-minus (plus-17) is already past last year. That was a numerical goal. I'm working on these translations."

He has 13 goals and 35 points in 30 games this year, a notch up from the 11 goals and 34 points in 31 games last season. For vanRiemsdyk, the magnet and bull's-eye are worn with each shift.

"I've talked about that with Colin Wilson (the No. 7 pick by Nashville in 2008) at BU and some other guys," said vanRiemsdyk. "You obviously play against the best 'D' pairings and opposing players. You just have to fight through it because those are challenges you have to get used to."

Getting used to life without vanRiemsdyk may be creeping into the bigger picture at New Hampshire.

"With his experience," said Umile, "he plays at a very high level, like a senior."

Does Umile expect vanRiemsdyk to become a senior?

"That would be really nice, but I think that's like a dream. I'd like him to just become a junior," said Umile.

"He's obviously going to the next level," said Collins. "I don't know what he's doing next year, but he's definitely up there with the best I've seen over my four years."
What does vanRiemsdyk think about his eventual NHL landing site?

"Getting drafted is the thrill of a lifetime," he said. "It gets you up to come to the rink and work hard. I'd get up at 5:30 in the morning and drive (90 minutes each way) to work out with their training staff and some of the other Flyers (during the summer). They've been nothing but great to me -- first class. Since the Flyers did draft me, there is a connection there."

Now that the trade deadline has passed, the connection remains in place between vanRiemsdyk and Philadelphia.

On Campus clips -- Three of the six conferences completed regular-season play last weekend: Yale won the ECACHL title; Air Force and RIT ended co-champions of Atlantic Hockey; Notre Dame topped the CCHA. ... Hockey East and WCHA champions will be decided this weekend with Northeastern and North Dakota holding a one-point lead on BU and Denver, respectively, while Bemidji State is a lock to win the CHA crown in its final weekend. ... Michigan State's Jeff Lerg became the CCHA's all-time saves leader and moved past Tim Thomas into second place on the all-time NCAA list with a 35-save performance in Saturday's 2-1 loss to Notre Dame. He has 3,951 career saves, and would become only the second netminder in NCAA history to reach 4,000. ... sends condolences to the family, friends and Notre Dame hockey community on the unexpected passing last Friday of the team's play-by-play announcer, Mike Lockert, at the age of 43. The hockey program honored Lockert with a tribute prior to its game against Michigan State, which included some of his recent radio calls and a moment of silence. Lockert, who hailed from Los Angeles, had been the radio voice of Notre Dame hockey for seven seasons. "It's just devastating to me," Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said after his team's 5-0 win against Michigan State. "I got to know Mike real well. I was just dumbfounded (Friday) morning when I found out. There's nothing I can say except that he was a part of our team. It's not just so much about the voice but the man behind the voice. He was a tremendous man."

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