Everything you need to know about Amanda Pelkey can be summed up in one 30-second video clip. A burst through the neutral zone to burn two defenders, a double deke to render the last defender useless, and then the signature backhander to stash it top-shelf.
Quick acceleration, top-end speed, and a dangle and finish to rival those of the game’s most skilled players-Pelkey has all of the physical tools a coach looks for in an elite forward.
That is exactly what she has become over her time with the University of Vermont. When all is said and done, Pelkey will finish her collegiate career as the best player to ever skate for the program. She already owns the program’s single-season records in goals and points, and is closing in on the Catamounts’ best career marks as well. Now, at this week’s Four Nations Cup, she will become the first UVM player and Vermont native to suit up for Team USA at the senior level.
“It means the world to me,” Pelkey said of being named to the roster. “It’s a privilege to finally be a part of that group and competition-wise, I haven’t been with them yet so I’m looking forward to this first opportunity.”
The Montpelier, Vt., native has represented her country before, at both the Under-18 and Under-22 levels. She captured gold with the U18 Team in 2009 and 2011 at the IIHF World Championships to go with a silver medal in 2010, and this past summer earned a stint with the U22s in a series against Canada.
Fourteen of Pelkey’s U22 teammates will join her on the Four Nations roster—something that she feels is a benefit.
“The team that was at U22s is a pretty tight group,” she said. “It’s been about the same core group of girls that I’ve played with in U18s, so being able to go from U18 to U22 with the Four Nations teams, we’re going to have a solid group.”
With Ken Klee, who will coach the U.S. in the Four Nations Cup, behind the bench, the U.S. U22 Team swept a three-game series with Canada this past summer in Calgary, Alberta.
“[The series] went really well,” Pelkey said. “We went to Calgary, we swept 3-0 against Canada, and I think that gives the younger part of the Four Nations team a good confidence booster going in.”
Pelkey stepped in immediately for the Catamounts as a freshman in 2011-12, scoring five goals and 14 points, good enough for second-best on the team and Hockey East All-Rookie Team honors. She followed that up with a 20-point sophomore campaign.
In June, 2013, Pelkey was one of 41 players invited to try out for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team. She didn’t make the cut, but the selection camp was just the start of a breakout season for her. As a junior at Vermont, she doubled her output from the previous season—totaling 21 goals and 40 points while collecting Second-Team Hockey East All-Star honors.
So what changed for her after the U.S. selection camp?
“Coming from the Olympic tryout in the summer, that obviously helps a lot with the mental and physical games,” Pelkey said. “It’s quicker; it gets you prepared for the college season, that’s for sure. But when I came into junior year last year, I really had that confidence boost knowing that I could get to that level.”
Pelkey also credits her teammates and coaching staff at Vermont for helping to raise her game.
“Having a college team surrounding me with great players and a great coaching staff, I knew that I could take it away junior year,” she said. “Without my team, without the coaching staff, it would’ve been a lot harder for me.”
Spending three years competing with the Catamounts in Hockey East has challenged her game in and game out, and she said she will draw on that experience at the Four Nations with Team USA.
“Being in Hockey East, it’s really competitive, so every single game that you play is going to be real high competition with a high, fast speed,” Pelkey said. “Really every team has competitive depth to it so every team that you play, it really gets your confidence up. It pushes you. It’s challenging.”
So far this season with Vermont, Pelkey has collected four goals and four assists for eight points in eight games. She’s now just five points away from tying the Catamounts’ record for most points in a career, which stands at 87. Vermont, meanwhile, has set its sights on improving on last year’s trip to the Hockey East semifinals and making a run for some postseason hardware. Pelkey knows that there are some elements she can bring back from her time with the Four Nations team that will help her Catamounts squad.
“Every time I come back from playing with Team USA at a training camp or evaluation camp or tryout or anything…I feel more energized,” Pelkey said. “I think energy is a really big aspect of the game, and quick speed; I like to come and bring that to my game. My UVM team is doing really well with speed right now. We’re always moving our feet. So it’s nice to come back, playing at a high speed at the national team level and coming back to UVM and helping incorporate that into our system here.”
This week, her goals are simple. She hopes to make an impact with the U.S. on every shift throughout the tournament.
“I have a goal for myself every time I go out there, every time I step on the ice, to create an offensive scoring chance or make a nice defensive play,” Pelkey said. “I want to make every single moment worth it.”