Patient Peltier excited about joining Gophers

Plymouth (Minn.) native Derek Peltier grew up watching and emulating hometown hero and former Gopher hockey star Jordan Leopold. Now, the 5-11, 185-pound Peltier will be able to follow his childhood dreams of playing hockey for the Gophers – after another year of seasoning in the USHL

Like most Minnesota hockey players Derek Peltier grew up dreaming of playing hockey for the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

"Our family had season tickets, and I went to every game I could," said Peltier. "It was always a dream of mine to be able to play for the Gophers."

Peltier, a 2003 graduate of Armstrong High School in Plymouth, Minnesota, will still have to wait for that dream to come true, but with a little more patience, he will achieve that dream. The defenseman spent last season playing with the Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the USHL and will spend next season with the Roughriders before joining the Gophers for the 2004-2005 season.

"I can't wait to play for the Gophers, but I know another year in the USHL will help me get bigger, stronger, and faster," said the 5-11, 185-pound Peltier.

Peltier said while his ultimate goal was to play for the Gophers, he seriously considered attending WCHA rival Denver University.

"I can't say anything bad about Denver," said Peltier. "It was a great school, and a good program, but being a kid from Minnesota, it's tough to pass up the opportunity to play for the Gophers."

When Peltier attended those Gophers games there was no player he enjoyed watching more than former Gopher Jordan Leopold. The 2002 Hobey Baker Award winner and current member of the Calgary Flames is also from Plymouth and attended Armstrong High School.

Eric Rud, Peltier's assistant coach at Cedar Rapids, played for Gophers coach Don Lucia at Colorado College in the mid-1990's. Ironically, Leopold and Rud were the last two players to be named back-to-back WCHA defenseman of the year, so it's safe to say Peltier has had some great role models to pattern his game after.

"Derek's a good kid who should do well at Minnesota," said Rud.

Peltier said the recruiting process became strenuous and time consuming, but with the advice from Rud and Roughriders head coach/general manager Mark Carlson, he was able to make the right decision.

"They told me to enjoy the ride, because it only happens once," said Peltier.

Peltier describes himself as an offensive-minded defenseman. He scored four goals and had 20 assists in 54 games last season. He also played in the USHL All-Star game. Peltier said he couldn't have asked for a better place to grow as a person and as player before starting his collegiate career.

"Every night you are playing against guys who were the top guys on their high school team, so the competition each night is as good as you can find until you play college hockey," said Peltier.

"And by playing so many games you really adjust to a different schedule, a different lifestyle. It really was the way to go for me."

Peltier is spending the offseason playing summer hockey, where he has played against current Gophers Barry Tallackson and Garrett Smaagard.

It has given Peltier a taste of Gophers hockey, but it still hasn't satisfied his appetite.

"I can wait another year because I am looking forward to playing in the USHL another year," said Peltier. "But I will always be wondering how the team is doing and looking forward to the next season when I do become a Gopher."

Matt Krumrie covers Gophers hockey for Goldensports.net. He can be reached at Gophershockeyinsider@yahoo.com.

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