EVELETH — The Golden Bears’ Elliot Van Orsdel is a player that has a passion for and a love of the game of hockey.
The Eveleth-Gilbert/Mesabi East senior lives right next to the Hippodrome and getting into the sport was a natural progression.
“I was always around the rink. I’ve always been watching games since I was little. I had nothing better to do so I walked down to the rink and watched whatever was going on,’’ Van Orsdel said at the Hipp Friday night.
The Golden Bears standout has helped his team to a 14-6 record this season, which includes winning the last eight games.
He has also scored 16 goals so far this year and handed out 26 assists. His point scoring total included the overtime game winner on Jan. 16 against Greenway.
The Mesabi Daily News Prep Athlete of the Week said the Greenway game was special for him and his teammates.
“It was an awesome feeling. Everyone was into it. Everyone running off the bench and hugging each other was a great moment for all of us. It was a big game for us going down the line.’’
Asked about what has been the key to his success this season, Van Orsdel said it is a whole team effort. “It starts there.’’ Having a team with a lot of seniors makes his job so much easier, he added.
“We have such good defenders back. We’re stacked defensively and I think my greatest asset to the team is just playing offensively. I mean, you have to score goals to win games.’’
Speaking of the line he is on, “we are finding a way to put the puck in the net. I think I have a knack for the offensive side of the game. I’m just trying to contribute as much as any of the other guys.’’
“I always love scoring a goal and celebrating, but when it comes down to it I just want to win games.’’ He said he’ll do whatever it takes, whether it be cheering on the bench for the guys or passing the puck or killing a penalty. “At the end of the day, I don’t care who scores, or if it’s from me or my teammate, I just want to win the game.’’
Van Orsdel is learning to love the art of the assist, according to Golden Bears head coach Jeff Torrel.
“He has that ability no doubt. When he can see the ice and move like he does, it’s natural to be a good passer. I think he’s finding it can be pretty fun.”
As the old saying goes, “good players are good players but great players make other players better. That’s what starting to pass the puck has done for him.’’
Van Orsdel moved to Eveleth from St. Cloud when he was 6 or 7 and has pretty much been playing hockey ever since.
All of his friends were playing and he decided to give it a try. Teammate Gage Everson was his first buddy that always wore a hockey jersey to school and always talked about hockey so “that was just something I had to try,’’ Ironically, he said he was ‘’terrible’’ at the sport at first. “I picked it up pretty quick. I’ve been in love with it ever since.’’
In his years coaching Van Orsdel, Torrel has seen the teen grow into a top-notch hockey player.
“He’s a very passionate player — sometimes too passionate — but we’d rather see him bring that passion than kind of hold back. He works hard every night. We know he’s going to bring it.”
In addition, Van Orsdel is “just a natural leader on the team.’’ He does it by example with his work ethic and his standout offensive skills, the coach said. “So we can count on him and his line and power play units for some production. That’s huge.”
Torrel has also seen a lot of growth maturity-wise since Van Orsdel joined the varsity team as a sophomore.
“That maturity has helped him to lead the team the way he has this year.”
Van Orsdel has found out the kind of player he can be as a senior, Torrel added.
“He can create space. He knows how to turn defenses inside out sometimes.’’ He might try to do that too much, but it’s a positive as long as he’s doing it in the right places, the coach stated. “He’s very creative on the ice and sees the ice pretty well.”
One such example came in Thursday’s win over Virginia/MI-B.
He used his backhand to pass the puck around the defense and put it right on teammate Bryce Kopp’s stick. “That was nice,’’ Torrel added.
The coach’s goals for his star player include continuing to lead the team through the regular season and the playoffs.
Past that, Torrel said he knows Van Orsdel wants to play hockey after high school. He added that people have contacted him about Elliot and they want to see him further.
Van Orsdel has gotten a lot of exposure playing outside the high school season, as well. He has played in the Elite League, along with the High Performance team in the Great 8 last year and the 2019 Kernz and Co. Duluth/Iron Range All-Star Game.
Torrel believes all of that extra ice time helps Van Orsdel in his high school games.
“You play with different talent and you get to see what other talented kids do. It makes you kind of think about your own game.’’ It is beneficial because the young skaters are in the Elite League on a weekly basis (for example) playing with the best hockey players in the state, he added.
Beside the extra games he was in, Torrel has also helped Van Orsdel get to where he is today.
“He’s always cared for me and wanted the best for me in the end. I think at the end of the day we want the same thing. He wanted me to grow into a responsible young man first and foremost. I think he’s done a great job of that. He’s helped out the team — not just myself — but the team throughout this year and it’s just been getting better and better throughout this year. I just can’t thank him enough.’’
Van Orsdel is looking forward to the Section 7A playoffs, which are coming fast.
“All of us (on the Golden Bears), we’ve had this year in our minds for a long time. I don’t think there’s anything less that we want than state. We have an older group of guys, a great group of guys, and there’s no one I’d rather do it with.’’
The section tournament will be tough, “but I’m excited for it.’’
No matter how the season ends, his prep career has been a great ride.
“Everything that this game has given me, it was all worth it in the end. Every year I think I fall in love with the game more and more. … Being a senior I have really come to appreciate it.’’