SCHENECTADY — Chris Theodore joined the Union College men’s hockey team after winning Atlantic Hockey Player of the Year while at American International last season.
He had 10 goals and 19 assists in 35 games for the Yellow Jackets, including seven goals and 17 assists in 24 conference games.
Theodore got off to a great start with Union. The senior left winger had three assists in the Dutchmen’s season-opening 4-3 victory over RIT on Oct. 1.
Unfortunately for Theodore, the points haven’t been coming at a pace he would like.
Theodore has just two goals and seven assists in 21 games for Union.
“Obviously, it hasn’t been the season I’ve wanted and the team’s wanted,” Theodore said during Tuesday’s media availability at Messa Rink. “Sometimes, especially as a skilled player, you’re doing the right things. You’re making plays happen. The puck’s just not going in, or you’re setting up guys and they’re not scoring. It just happens like that. It’s been frustrating for me, and a little bit stressful, too, because it’s obviously not the year I want and not the expectation I hold.”
Theodore has been playing on the Dutchmen’s top line with freshman center Nate Hanley and sophomore right winger Caden Villegas. But after last Friday’s 6-1 loss to Cornell, Union head coach Josh Hauge broke up the line. Villegas was demoted to extra skater for the next day’s game against Colgate.
Hauge wasn’t just sending a message to Theodore. It was also telling the rest of the team that it needed to play better than it did against Cornell. The Big Red scored three goals in each of the first two periods, and Union was held to under 20 shots on goal for the third straight game.
“I think it’s a little bit of everyone,” Hauge said. “[The message of] if we’re going to put Chris as the extra forward, we can do it to anybody. He missed a couple of shifts early in the game, but by the end of the game, he was out there in key situations. He was still on our power play and going for us. Right now we’re trying to develop a little bit more of an identity offensively and [I] was just trying to shake it up a little bit.”
Theodore understood what Hauge was trying to do. He has no complaints. He sees the team’s record — 3-7-0, 9 points ECAC Hockey; 8-12-1 overall — and knows he and his teammates can do better.
“We have too much skill, too many good players in that room to be playing the way we are,” Theodore said. “It’s a little bit of a wake up call for a lot of guys, especially for myself to get going. But I feel like we’re a lot better than our record showed. I feel like we’ll prove it down the line that we’re a good team. We could be good when we want to be. We’ve just got to fix some things.”
It took until Union’s 15th game for Theodore to score his first Dutchmen goal, which came against Northeastern on Dec. 3. His other goal came against New Hampshire on Dec. 30.
It’s not as if Theodore isn’t getting scoring opportunities. Far from it.
He had a great opportunity to score during Union’s five-minute power play in the third period against Colgate, when the Dutchmen were down a goal. He took a shot from the right circle that was stopped by Raiders goalie Carter Gylander. The rebound kicked over to Josh Nixon in the left circle. Nixon fired quickly, but Gylander slid over and got it with his right pad.
Instead of coming out of it with a point, Theodore came away frustrated.
“It’s kind of been the story of the year,” Theodore said. “There’s been a lot of times like that this year. For me as a skill player, everyone views my game through my points, my goals and my assists. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen that way. Sometimes a puck is not rolling. It happens to great players sometimes. It’s frustrating, but you’ve just got to keep going.”
Theodore’s teammates see a player who is working hard and not letting the scoring slump affect his games.
“When everybody goes in a slump like that, you can always sense a little frustration in someone,” junior forward Liam Robertson said. “But he works his tail off every day. He’s always doing extra [work]. He’s putting the work in. It’s going to come for him. It’s not like he’s not making an impact. He’s in the lineup for a reason, and he plays a lot for a reason. He’s doing other things out there for us where if he’s not on the score sheet, he’s helping the team. I think it starts there in doing the little things, and the points will take care of themselves.”
If Theodore can score some goals this weekend when the Dutchmen visit Brown and Yale, he believes they could start coming in bunches.
“I feel like I’ve been waiting for the floodgates to open,” Theodore said. “I think it’s just a matter of time. There’s still a lot of time left in the season. There’s still 13-plus games left before the playoffs. We’re just halfway through the year. I feel like once it clicks, hopefully the floodgates will open.”
Contact Ken Schott by email at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @slapschotts.
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Categories: College Sports, Sports, Sports, Union College