by Warren Rappleyea
After missing eight weeks with a broken ankle, winger Vincent Velocci has returned to the Ottawa Junior Senators lineup.
Following his first game back, the Toronto, Ontario native noted that he was a step behind, but he followed that up with a goal and an assist in his next match, a 5-2 victory over the Pembroke Lumber Kings on February 19.
“I was very nervous coming back, it was kind of like the first game of the season for me,” Velocci said. “Still it was great to be playing again. It gets old watching games from the stands.”
While watching was tough it was nevertheless a learning experience for Velocci who noted how the Junior Senators got away from their usual style of play in a few games—with predictable results.
The 17-year-old, who wears jersey number 71, came to Ottawa this season after stints with the Toronto Red Wings and the Don Mills Flyers. Head Coach & GM Martin Dagenais brought the hard-working youngster along slowly at first, but gradually began to add Velocci to the penalty killing unit, as the newcomer showcased his abilities. The Junior Senators, however, nearly missed out on adding him to the squad.
“We actually let Vincent go last summer, but we called him back because a US player had decided to play closer to home,” Dagenais explained. “When he decided to join our team, we thought we were getting a depth forward, but he’s been one of the biggest surprises for us. What we like about Vinny is that he can play on any line. He reminds us of Élie Boulerice, and if he can be as good as Élie, we’re going to have a heck of a player for the next 2-3 years.”
In 40 games overall, the lefty shooter has produced eight goals and 15 assists, including game-winning tallies against the Kemptville 73s and the Navan Grads (twice).
“I was fortunate enough to score some big goals,” he said. “This has been a very good place for me. They roll all four lines so everyone gets a chance at even strength. That’s what every player wants. It led to an opportunity to play on the penalty kill.”
Joining the Junior Sens meant that Velocci would not only move away from home, but he also needed to attend a new high school and also maintain his grades as he eventually wants to play for an NCAA college. In addition, Velocci had to adjust to a longer season.
Playing the sport he loves clearly helped with the adjustment and the young player quickly settled into a routine where he could focus on hockey and academics.
“The guys on the team all made me feel welcome and everything got a little easier with time,” he said.
Away from the ice Velocci enjoys playing recreational soccer and he umpires youth baseball games (“the parents can be a little chirpy”) during the summer months.
Now that he’s back in the line-up, Velocci is looking forward to helping the Junior Senators have a strong playoff run.
“We have great leaders on the team and everything’s been coming together after the trade deadline,” he said. “The playoffs are really a different season and I think I can help the team with my speed and grit. I’m able to come in quickly and open up the defense, I can win races for the puck and I don’t mind going into the dirty areas.