Sunday, November 17, 2013

Meet Marcus Vela: UNH's Newest Recruit

16-year-old Forward
Marcus Vela

The University of New Hampshire has been fortunate to attract some high-scoring forwards from the province of British Columbia. The 1999 team that lost in overtime in the NCAA Championship Game was lead by Hobey Baker Award winner Jason Krog (Fernie, BC). Lanny Gare from Vernon, BC was the leading scorer on the 2003 team that also advanced to the Championship Game. And, of course, there's Grayson Downing, UNH's leading goal-scorer last season and a top scorer this season, who hails from Abbotsford, BC.

Now, another high-scorer from British Columbia has set his sights on UNH. 16-year-old Marcus Vela (DOB: 3-3-1997), a 6'2", 190 lbs, power forward from Burnaby, BC has committed to play for UNH. Vela, a rookie with the Langley Rivermen, is one of only 8 players in the British Columbia Hockey League born in 1997.

UNH Recruit Marcus Vela Scores 1st BCHL Goal
(Photo: Garrett James Photography)
Over the last 5 games, Vela has been on a scoring tear posting 5 goals and an assist. These included an unassisted goal (vs. Merritt), a game-winner (vs. Surrey), and two in one game (vs. Victoria). He also earned the #1 Star in the 5-7 loss to the Victoria Grizzlies.

Marcus began to attract serious attention from scouts last season as a 15-year-old playing for the Burnaby Bulldogs, a Midget Minor team. Over a 30-game schedule, Vela scored an impressive 25 goals and 55 assists. He was the only midget minor player selected for Team British Columbia in the Western Canada Under-16 Challenge Cup. Team BC won the Challenge Cup in November, 2012 and Vela scored the game-winning goal in the second game against Team Saskatchewan.

Last April, Vela impressed the Langley Rivermen organization at their Prospect Camp and made a commitment to play for them this season. In the announcement, Marcus described his playing style:
"I like to use my size out on the ice whether that is taking the puck hard to the net or dumping it in and working hard to get it out of the corner. However, before I worry about offense, I take care of my own end first and foremost.”
Not surprisingly, Vela has also attracted interest from a Canadian Major Junior team. In May, he was drafted in the 7th round of the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft by the Spokane Chiefs.

I had an opportunity to interview Marcus, via email, about his background, commitment to UNH, and future plans:   

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"):  Congratulations on your commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire.  What are the main reasons you chose UNH?
Marcus Vela: Some of the main reasons I decided on UNH were, that they play in the best division which is Hockey East, they have a very good hockey program that I felt would suit me best, and they are also a good school academically which is also important to me. I was also very comfortable and confident in deciding to commit to UNH. It felt right!

Mike Lowry:  What other college programs were you considering?
Marcus Vela:  I was also considering a few other schools such as Western Michigan, University of Connecticut and Denver. They are all very good programs and exceptional hockey teams but I just felt that UNH was the right fit for me.

Lowry:  Have you and the UNH coaches agreed on a target date for you to enroll as a freshman at UNH and join the team?
Vela:  The coaches and I have targeted for the fall of 2015 for me to attend UNH but the UNH coaches, my family and I will decided if I am ready to go at that time.

Lowry:  The Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League selected you in the 7th round of the 2012 Bantam Draft. Do you have any interest in foregoing the NCAA route and playing major junior hockey in Canada?
Vela:  It was an exciting time for my family and I when I was selected to the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL but my plan is to pursue the NCAA route and play for UNH.

Lowry:  Following a successful season of Midget Minor hockey with the Burnaby Bulldogs last year, you made the jump to the Langley Rivermen of the BCHL. What's it been like playing against older, more experienced players?
Vela:  At first it was not an easy adjustment. it was tough for me at first not knowing what to expect. The only thing I was coming in with was knowing that everyone was older, bigger, faster and stronger than the players in the league I previously played in. Although going through a big jump, I feel that I have adapted well to the Jr.A game.

Lowry:  You were invited to try out for the Canada Pacific Under-17 team and are on the current roster. The final roster, who will compete in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, will be announced later this month. What would it mean to you to represent your country in that prestigious tournament?
Vela:  For me to represent Canada in the Under-17 Hockey Challenge would be a tremendous honor. I would be so excited and honored to be given the opportunity to represent Canada.

Lowry:  What are the strongest aspects of your skills as a forward and what areas are you working to improve?
Vela:  Some of my strengths as a player are that I am a big body and can take pucks to the net and work pucks out from the dirty areas. I also feel that I am a good skater who can move well and I am a hard worker.
Some of the areas I am working on to improve are consistency and baring down on all of my chances. This season I have been working hard to play every game to my fullest and not take one shift off because you never know when it could be your last.

Lowry:  What are your academic strengths? Is there a major course of study you might like to pursue when you get to UNH?
Vela:  I am a pretty solid student academically all around. Some course I want to enroll in at UNH would be there Business and Law program. I have yet to set my mind on one particular program I would like to pursue but I do know I would like it to be in one of those two fields.


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