Mercyhurst forward Vanessa Upson is the 2020-21 USCHO Rookie of the Year.
There is usually a period of adjustment for freshman players as they adjust to a new team and the pace of play in the college game. Additionally, no one would have been surprised or faulted the players if this season’s rookie class took a bit of extra time to acclimate after the uncertainty and limited ice time of the previous year and a half.
Defying those expectations, Upson scored in her very first collegiate game, transitioning seamlessly into the Lakers’ offense and she never really slowed down. She led her team in points (39), shot percentage (.171), power play goals (3), shorthanded goals (2) and game-winning goals (5), two of which came in overtime. She was second on the Lakers in goals and plus/,minus and third in assists.
Those 39 points were also the most scored by any freshman in the nation, as were here 19 goals and 20 assists. She also led all freshman in faceoff wins (291), showing another dimension of her game.
Her prowess in the faceoff circle helped the Lakers keep possession of the puck and direct the course of play. Upson would often win the faceoff to start a play and end it by lighting the lamp. She has shown great timing on the ice and that innate sense of knowing where she needs to be on the ice.
The Stoney Creek, Ontario native was named the CHA Rookie of the Year and to the All-CHA first team. She was the CHA scoring champion with 22 points on 12 goals and 10 assists for 1.375 points per game.
One of eight newcomers to the Lakers this season, Upson was able to have chemistry with a number of teammates as Mercyhurst worked to find the optimal line pairings. The center with a wicked shot and a nose for the goal was just as generous in dishing off passes and assisting her teammates, especially as she began to draw more of the opponents’ defensive attention.
Upson joins the likes of Mercyhurst alumnae Valerie Chouinard and Meghan Agosta, who were named USCHO Rookies of the Year in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
The smart, efficient and clean game that Upson plays give hope that the Lakers can string together wins more consistently and return to the top of the CHA.