To be a leader, you don’t have to be a talker. Extra bluster isn’t a guarantee anyone will listen.
But lead by example, and you can be like Omaha right wing Luca Frigo — one of the most respected players on the Lancers’ roster.
Having a year of North American hockey experience on his résumé also has made things easier for the L. San Giovanni, Italy, native. With fewer cultural barriers, both on- and off-ice tasks have been easier to navigate.
“I’m not a big talker, probably because of my language,” Frigo said. “I try to be a leader on the ice. Work hard, show the guys it’s a privilege to play for the Lancers. You’re here because you want to work hard every day, show the coaches you care about the team and the other guys you care about them.”
Assimilating to both the North American game on a smaller sheet of ice and the U.S. culture are things Frigo said he’s glad he’s been able to experience.
“A different country, a different culture, the food is different,” Frigo said. “At first I was trying to understand how you guys live here. It was really hard the first couple of months. My English wasn’t good and I had some problems communicating with the other guys.”
What helped him through those tough times was the encouragement and camaraderie he found from teammates like Gage Hough and Cole Bruns.
“They helped me out,” Frigo said. “They wouldn’t let me be alone, they took me with them wherever they were going.”
Lancer coach Brian Kaufman said Frigo is succeeding at becoming a player others seek to emulate.
“You know what you’re going to get with him every night,” Kaufman said. “He’s a hard hockey player. He’s a leader for us for sure on the ice.”
Next season, Frigo will begin his collegiate career at Minnesota State-Mankato. This season, he’s putting together some impressive numbers.
Frigo has played in 42 of Omaha’s 43 games. He has scored 24 points on 14 goals and 10 assists, including one of each in Saturday’s 7-3 victory against Lincoln that improved the Lancers to 30-9-4.
Omaha is four wins from matching the victory total from last season, the first time the franchise didn’t qualify for the postseason in more than two decades.
That’s a feeling Frigo said he didn’t want to go through again, especially in his final season in a Lancer sweater.
“We just have to keep doing things like we’re doing them right now,” Frigo said. “We don’t think about last month, just look forward to the next games and then the playoffs. I’ve tried to work hard every game and work the other days to get better every day.”
Frigo and other Omaha veterans had a chance to play for Kaufman late last year when he led the Lancers in the final week of the season. He and his teammates agree that Kaufman is the right man to lead the team.
“He’s doing a great job,” Frigo said. “He’s a good coach, he has a good staff behind him, and they help him. He listens to us, he wants us to talk to him. Everybody likes him, every guy on the team likes him a lot. He’s in a good spot, it’s his role.”
The role Frigo has accepted on the ice also makes Kaufman very serious when he talks about what Frigo means to this 28th edition of the Lancers.
“He shoots the puck well, he’s a great athlete, he’s willing to block shots,” Kaufman said. “He’s what you want in a hockey player. You tell him something once, he’s got it.”