With her fifth and final season in the books, Kelsey Vander Veen leaves behind a legacy of strong leadership with the Carleton Ravens’ women’s hockey program. Displaying remarkable versatility at the forward and defensive positions, she was not only a reliable member of the Ravens roster, but a true team player. Being able to play at either position when needed, it alleviated any injury woes that the team endured during the season.
After the 2012-13 season, Vander Veen was eligible to graduate from Carleton University. Although the decision to return for another year employed some soul searching, it was one that she was glad to have made. The opportunity to spend one more season with fellow seniors such as Victoria Gouge, Erin Beaver and Sydnie MacDonald was highly cherished.
“When May came about, I realized that I could not leave. I realized this was my last year of eligibility and I had to keep playing. I loved it too much to quit.”
Two seasons prior (2010-11), a four-game stretch would prove to not only be a character building moment in her Ravens career, but it stood out as the favorite moment of her career. “During my second year, we had to win the last four games to make the playoffs. We came back and we won.”
Said wins included a pair over Concordia (Feb 12 and 18), the Montreal Carabins (Feb 13) and archrival Ottawa to close out the season on February 20. Although she went pointless during the monumental winning streak, she played disciplined hockey, not committing one penalty.
That season, she would rank 19th in scoring among defenders in CIS play, while finishing third on the Ravens in scoring, trailing Victoria Gouge and Claudia Bergeron. The following season, she would climb to 17th in scoring among all defenders, while tying with Claudia Bergeron for third in scoring on the Ravens.
Of note, the program was glad to have her return. Taking into account that the freshman class consisted of over a dozen players, Vander Veen’s leadership was essential. For a group of players being introduced to Canadian Interuniversity Sport play, the opportunity to seek guidance and mentoring from Vander Veen helped make that transition a much easier one. Such a role is one where she was bestowed the alternate captaincy, “It was more a feeling of responsibility. My job was to help lead the team by example.”
A key aspect in taking the leadership role was attributed to a teammate from her earlier years with the Ravens program. Sara Seiler, who competed with Germany at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, was a captain with the Ravens, setting a positive example that she would follow, “Seals is one of my favorite leaders ever. I am proud of her for getting where she is. She is a good leader and deserves this.”
Although she has aspirations for a career in law enforcement, the Lucknow, Ontario-raised Vander Veen is not ready to extinguish her desire for competitive hockey. With plans to begin the next chapter of her life by relocating to Brampton, Ontario, she is pondering the possibility of declaring eligibility for the 2014 Canadian Women’s Hockey League Draft. “I hope to continue. Going to live in Brampton this fall, I am hoping to play for the Brampton Thunder, if things go well.”
Despite a difficult season in which the Ravens missed postseason play, the strong sense of family was a key defining aspect. Such feelings were not lost on Vander Veen. The bonds of friendship and respect for her teammates helped to ease the pains of losing. Such features are things she will miss most about donning the Ravens jersey, “I will miss the team the most. I love these girls and I love playing here.”
Through it all, her family and the strong friendship with 2013-14 captain Victoria Gouge were an important and strong source of support. Of note, Vander Veen and Gouge actually worked security at the university. Also Gouge’s senior night, it was a fitting ending for Vander Veen,
“Gouge and I were roommates together the past two years. We were best friends in that sense, so it was a very special night. We got to graduate together and she was one of the best players I ever played with. It was a really good feeling.”
Although the Ravens lost their senior night contest against the Montreal Carabins, who would play in the 2014 CIS national championship game, Vander Veen reflects on the valiant effort of her team in the heartfelt loss, “It was an emotional game. We did our best and did everything we could to win. It was all we concentrated on.”
With her parents in attendance, it only added to a feeling of reflection and celebration that defined senior night. It was a great source of pride for Vander Veen, who proudly acknowledged their influence in her career. “My mom and dad, Brenda and George, got me where I am today. I also want to recognize all my coaches along the way.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Alan Dunne Photography