Zac Dalpe was told to report to practice early last week.
“I knew something was up, because I don’t usually come in that early,” he said.
When Dalpe arrived, he was greeted with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association’s Player of the Month award.
Dalpe was honored for the month of January as he led the conference with five goals and three assists.
“It’s flattering,” Dalpe said. “It’s a reflection of my team and its play.”
The Buckeyes played at an all-conference level throughout January, posting a 4-1-1 record. For Dalpe, the award is just the most recent of many accolades he’s accumulated in his short career as a Buckeye. As a freshman, Dalpe was named to the CCHA All-Rookie Team and was a top-three finalist for Rookie of the Year honors in the conference. His 13 goals ranked seventh in the NCAA for all freshmen and tied him for third on the team.
But that wasn’t enough for him. The 6-foot-1-inch forward added 15 pounds to his frame in the offseason.
Now in his sophomore campaign, Dalpe leads the team with 15 goals. He has also chipped in 16 assists totaling 31 points, which is also a team high. The assistant captain has played brilliantly all season and is playing his best hockey now as the Buckeyes near the postseason.
However, the Buckeyes almost missed out on seeing Dalpe suit up in scarlet and gray. Dalpe, who is a native of Paris, Ontario, had to decide between Ohio State and the Ontario Hockey League.
“There was a lot of talk of me going to play in the OHL and I was going to be an older guy [in that league],” Dalpe said. “I didn’t really want to be that. I wanted to be a small fish at first and try and get bigger.”
For being a small fish, Dalpe has been a big catch for the Buckeyes.
Another factor in Dalpe’s decision to come to Columbus was that he’d be joined by teammates Cory Schneider and Devon Krogh. Dalpe teamed up with the duo in 2007 as a member of the Penticton Vees in British Columbia.
“I knew coming in as a freshman I wasn’t going to not know anyone,” Dalpe said. “I was obviously going to have a friend to start out with. That made the transition a little smoother.”
Regardless of the reason Dalpe decided to become a Buckeye, the team and fans alike are glad he did and enjoy his ability to light the lamp. But for coach John Markell, Dalpe’s most redeeming quality isn’t his ability to score or to distribute the puck, like he did in a four-assist night Friday. Rather, it’s how hard he works every day in practice.
“What I like about him is [that] he and his line mates are [assistant captains] but they’re practicing the way they want to play and it’s making it easier in the games,” Markell said.
Dalpe’s effort on the ice – both in practice or during games – sets the tone for the Buckeyes.
“He provides us with energy and leadership, even at a young age,” Markell said. “He’s got a lot of passion for the game and that’s what you need at this level.”
Growing up in Canada, Dalpe has long since possessed that passion. Dalpe started playing hockey when he was 3 and says he played as much hockey as he could with his brothers Phil and Ben.
“We spent a lot of time at the rink growing up, maybe too much for my mom and dad,” Dalpe said. “My brothers have a passion for the game and you can relate to them like no one else through hockey.”
It goes without saying that Dalpe’s brothers were ecstatic for him when he was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2008 NHL entry draft. Dalpe said getting drafted was a life-long dream come true.
“That’s all I wanted growing up. Sharing it with two brothers, who also play hockey, is something special,” Dalpe said. “Obviously to play in the NHL is my dream and I’m still working on it. Hopefully it can come true.”