Thursday, 12.07.17 / 10:20 am CT
Photo: Chip Pitcairn
IceRays goaltender Chad Veltri has committed to play Division I NCAA hockey at Niagara University of the Atlantic Hockey Conference. He plans to begin his college career at the start of the 2019-20 season.
“I’m very excited to announce my commitment to Niagara University,” Veltri said. “I always knew I wanted to play college hockey, and after visiting the campus and speaking with staff members I realized that was where I was supposed to be. I thank everyone who’s helped me this far, especially my family. I would also like to thank the IceRays organization for all they have done for me.”
From the moment he was signed to a tender back in November of 2016, Veltri has been an enticing prospect for both the IceRays and colleges alike. He earned his tender with Corpus Christi shortly after pitching a 41-save shutout in his first-ever game of junior hockey, back on November 4th, 2016 against Amarillo. He had another extremely impressive outing on home ice back in February, stepping in for Tomáš Vomáčka who had been in Europe playing for the Czech U18 team. Veltri backstopped the IceRays to a 4-1 victory over the Odessa Jackalopes, making 25 of a possible 26 saves in the process.
Needless to say, these two performances—by a goaltender who was still playing at the midget level back home in Pittsburgh—impressed Brad Flynn. Veltri cracked the 30-man roster at main camp and, before long, rose his way to becoming the number one goaltender on the IceRays.
This season, he has been among the NAHL elite as far as goaltenders go, posting a 2.29 goals against average and a .931 save percentage in 17 games played. Only Lone Star’s Mitchell Gibson has played in more games and still managed to keep his save percentage so high. Just five NAHL goalies have stopped a higher percentage of shots than Veltri has this season, three of whom play in the South Division (James Durham, Mitchell Gibson, and Alex Camarre).
The NAHL is regarded by many as a “goaltender’s league,” and the NAHL South is regarded by many as a “goaltender’s division.” Even still, Veltri has stood out as one of the best in both departments this season. He’s been a steady anchor who’s kept the IceRays afloat, during a campaign in which the team has undergone substantial amounts of turmoil.
“We’re extremely proud of Chad Veltri,” IceRays head coach Brad Flynn said. “He had many options to tender with different teams last year and had several USHL options, but he chose to play for us. He’s been rewarded for his hard work and his natural ability. We feel he is going to have a great junior career and will follow that up with a very good college career.”
Veltri became the third player in IceRays history to commit to Niagara, behind Michael Benedict and Tanner Lomsnes. Benedict, also a former assistant coach with the IceRays, is now an assistant for the NAHL’s Minnesota Wilderness. Lomsnes is in his junior year, and is second on the Purple Eagles in scoring this season with 17 points in 15 games played. Niagara is a team on the rise and has had an incredible turnaround, going from last place in the AHA last season to leading the conference this season with an 8-2-1 record.
Becoming the first IceRay to make his commitment this season, Veltri will be one of the key pieces Niagara adds as it continues to rebuild its program into a force to be reckoned with in college hockey.