As a graduate transfer on a UNO hockey team with 10 freshmen, Jake Pivonka is viewed as a team leader.
Coach Mike Gabinet said in that regard, the former Notre Dame forward has delivered.
“He’s been a tremendous addition,” the coach said. “He’s fully invested in our culture and our program.”
Pivonka and the Mavericks will return to action this weekend with a pair of road games against 20th-ranked Minnesota Duluth. Game times are 7 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday.
Gabinet said it can be tricky when a player joins the program from the transfer portal.
“You’re always a little hesitant because they’re coming from different environments,” he said. “We’ve really enjoyed having Jake and he’s a valuable piece of our puzzle.”
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Pivonka, who graduated from Notre Dame earlier this year with a degree in finance, is the son of former NHL standout Michal Pivonka. He played for the Washington Capitals from 1986 to 1999 and had 181 goals and 418 assists.
“I wanted to switch leagues, but I wanted to stay in a league that’s one of the best in college hockey,” Jake said. “Sticking with that competition and playing an NHL style is what I was looking for.”
A fourth-round draft pick of the New York Islanders in 2018, Pivonka has two goals and four assists in 10 games. He’s also a key faceoff man for the Mavs, with 90 wins out of 170 faceoff draws – eighth in the NCHC at 52%.
Pivonka said the switch to UNO is all he hoped it would be.
“I’ve loved coming here,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed mixing it up with the team and getting to know all of the guys.”
Pivonka added that he likes being one of the senior statesmen on the squad.
“I always like having a young team and being an older guy,” he said. “It’s nice when you can make an impression on these guys and they know I’m there, even just to listen.”
Gabinet said Pivonka leads by example.
“He does the work on and off the ice,” the coach said. “He’s a great leader and very, very good on the bench as far as keeping it positive and still holding guys accountable.”
The Mavs will need those positive vibes against Duluth, always one of the toughest teams in the league. Pivonka said a shootout victory over 12th-ranked North Dakota last Saturday night at Baxter Arena should help.
“Getting that win was huge for us,” he said. “It was huge for our confidence moving forward.”
Forward Jack Randl continues to lead the nation in goals with 11. Carter Mazur of Denver is next with 10 … Duluth is 5-5-0 overall and 1-1 in the NCHC while the Mavs are 4-4-2 and 0-1-1 … UNO got an extra point in the standings for its shootout win but the game officially goes on the record as a tie … Scott Sandelin is in his 23rd year as the head coach at Duluth … The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 27-12-4 … Duluth has won three championships under Sandelin – 2011, 2018, 2019 … UNO is idle next weekend before a road trip Nov. 25-26 to defending national champion Denver.
UNO (4-4-2) at Minnesota Duluth (5-5-0)
Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m.
Amsoil Arena, Duluth, Minnesota
Radio: 1290 AM (KOIL)