There’s only one thing that has surprised Omaha Lancer forward Jake Randolph about his new city since arriving last year.
“I can’t believe there’s no snow,” Randolph said. “I’ve been in Minnesota my whole life, so I’m used to a lot more snow, but I like it a lot down here.”
It’s good that the Duluth, Minn., native adjusted to life in the River City because he’s planning to live here for at least another five years.
Not only is Randolph planning to wear a Lancers sweater again next season, he’s also committed to play at the University of Nebraska at Omaha beginning in the fall of 2014.
“I knew when I came down here for tryout camp last year that this was the place I wanted to be,” Randolph said. “I didn’t even visit UNO before I committed because I knew this was a great town.”
Randolph’s affection for Omaha should be a soothing thought for fans of the Lancers and Mavericks. Though he’s a rookie, the 5-foot-9, 172-pound forward who turns 19 March 8 has had a big impact on Omaha’s offense.
Through the Lancers’ first 47 games, Randolph leads the team in assists (24) and is second in points (33). Randolph scored his ninth goal of the season in Omaha’s 3-2 victory last Wednesday against Sioux Falls.
Setting up others by getting them the puck in ideal scoring situations is the role Randolph said he’s used to and most comfortable playing.
“That was kind of my role in high school, so scoring a lot really isn’t my game,” Randolph said. “My game is play-making.”
Those 24 assists rank in the top 20 in the USHL. Omaha coach Mike Aikens said he’s not surprised Randolph has been this productive in his first season.
“He’s special in the vision he has and his hockey sense is off the chart,” Aikens said. “He’s one of the best passers I’ve ever been around. He makes whoever he plays with a better player.”
Like most skaters in their first season of USHL play, Randolph said adjusting to the speed of the game has been one of the toughest parts of transitioning from high school hockey, but not the biggest.
“The biggest difference is how many games there are,” Randolph said. “In high school we played 36, now we’re playing almost an NHL schedule (64 regular-season games plus the playoffs).
“When I first came into the league it was harder to score goals than in high school. All of the teams do a really good job of playing defense.”
Randolph has been lacing up skates since he was 3. His father is the hockey coach at Duluth East High School, and even on Sundays, when there was no practice, Randolph still wanted to find some ice and play a game or two.
“There’s a little outdoor rink a couple of blocks from our house,” Randolph said. “Every Sunday, for as long as I’ve played hockey, I’d always be out there playing pick-up games with random people.”
Though he’s now comfortable in his new home, Randolph said there are times he still misses Duluth.
“At the beginning of the year it was hard to say goodbye to my parents,” Randolph said. “Sometimes I still can’t believe I’m not in Minnesota. It was hardest at first, but I’m getting more and more comfortable with it.
“It was hardest for the first month, but I’ve got a new life here now and I love it.”
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