By Jon Brooks
If you are “roster junkies” (like we are), then this time of year is like manna from hockey heaven.
In addition to graduations and pro signings that come with the end of the season, the “transfer portal” is a fascinating story to observe.
This year, the UNO Hockey program has had three players sign pro contracts (thus far): Goalie Jake Kucharski (read our article), forward Jake Pivonka (read our article), and defenseman Jonny Tychonick (read our article).
Those three departures weren't particularly surprising. Pivonka and Tychonick had used up their eligibility, and conventional wisdom suggested that Kucharski was going to move on after the season.
The transfer portal is another story. The portal was set up to streamline the transfer process in the NCAA.
A key pair of sophomores — forward Cam Berg and defenseman Davis Pennington — have entered the transfer portal.
The portal opened on March 20. NCAA rule changes two years ago allow players to transfer to a different school without sitting out a full season (which was the procedure in the past).
There is a 60-day window in which players can enter the portal this year. That window will close on May 18.
Nearly 200 players entered the transfer portal last year. It is possible that we will see more Mavericks enter the portal over the next couple of months.
The Berg and Pennington departures are rather surprising for Omaha.
Both players garnered considerable playing time this season. (Berg appeared in 37 games, Pennington appeared in 36.)
Both players ranked among the top point producers on the team:
Omaha Hockey forward Jake Pivonka has signed an amateur tryout agreement (ATO) with the Bridgeport Islanders (AHL).
The grad student had 18 points with the Mavericks this season (10 goals and 8 assists) — a season-high tally during his collegiate career.
Pivonka transferred to Omaha after four seasons at Notre Dame.
The extra “COVID” season granted to NCAA athletes (who played in the NCAA during the 2020-21 season) allowed him a fifth year of eligibility at the collegiate level.
Prior to joining UNO, Pivonka had 9 goals and 29 assists in 129 games over four seasons with the Fighting Irish.
Pivonka played alongside fellow Maverick Tyler Weiss with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (USNTDP) from 2016 to 2018.
Pivonka stood out at UNO for his steady play, ability to win faceoff draws, and veteran presence on the ice this season. He made numerous appearances on UNO’s top line during the 2022-23 campaign.
Pivonka was drafted in the fourth round (103rd overall) of the 2018 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders (Bridgeport is the AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders).
Transaction: Forward Jacob Pivonka has agreed to terms on an amateur tryout agreement (ATO). pic.twitter.com/DohDHyIRKP— Bridgeport Islanders (@AHLIslanders) March 21, 2023
Transaction: Forward Jacob Pivonka has agreed to terms on an amateur tryout agreement (ATO). pic.twitter.com/DohDHyIRKP
Omaha Hockey goalie Jake Kucharski and defenseman Jonny Tychonick have both landed professional contracts.
Kucharski’s status at the end of the season was somewhat in question. Fan circles on social media had wondered what the future held for the goalie.
The senior goaltender started his collegiate career at Providence (according to Elite Prospects, Kucharski didn't play for the Friars during his lone season there).
He then transferred to American International and played two seasons for Yellow Jackets (and was named Atlantic Hockey Goaltender of the Year for the 2021-22 season).
Kucharski transferred to UNO for the 2022-23 season. He had at 2.72 goals-against average (GAA) and a .904 save percentage (SV%) in 20 games with UNO this season.
Taking into account the extra season the NCAA allows players who competed during the 2020-21 season (as a result of COVID restrictions), it appeared — on cursory glance — that Kucharski would have a season or two of eligibility left for the Mavericks (despite being recognized in the team’s senior night festivities on March 4).
Be that as it may, the general consensus seemed to be that this would be his lone season in Omaha. That ultimately turned out to be the case.
The netminder has moved on to the pro ranks, signing an ATO (Amateur Tryout Contract) with the Chicago Wolves (AHL).
Oh hey Jacob!
Welcome to Chicago, #31. pic.twitter.com/awe78gsKcl— Chicago Wolves (@Chicago_Wolves) March 16, 2023
Oh hey Jacob!
Welcome to Chicago, #31. pic.twitter.com/awe78gsKcl
News | We've signed defenceman Jonny Tychonick to a two-year AHL contract. #LongLive— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) March 20, 2023
News | We've signed defenceman Jonny Tychonick to a two-year AHL contract. #LongLive
On this week’s episode of the #mavpuckcast... Jason and Jon analyze the Omaha Hockey team’s first-round NCHC playoff series against North Dakota at Baxter Arena — includes video highlights and their picks for “Player of the Week.” They look at some “Things You Missed at Baxter Arena” — including the UNO Tuba Parade and Jon’s broken seat at Baxter Arena. They talk about the Mavs nominated for individual NCHC season awards. They wrap up the episode with their thoughts on UNO players who might “stay or go” during the offseason in a new segment called “Will They Stay or Will They Go?”
Omaha Hockey freshmen defensemen Joaquim Lemay and Jacob Guevin have been named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team for the 2022-23 season.
The Québécois defensemen have been fixtures on the blue line for the Mavericks this season.
Guevin finished the regular season ninth on the team in points (3 goals and 12 assists) and leads UNO freshmen in points this season.
Lemay finished the regular season 11th on the team in points (1 goal and 10 assists). He ranks second among UNO freshmen in points this season.
In the 2021-22 season, Guevin played junior hockey for the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the USHL. He ranked 20th overall in points among skaters in the league (6 goals and 51 assists) and was fourth in the league in assists. He led Lumberjack defensemen in points that season.
Lemay had 46 points (9 goals and 37 assists) for the Lincoln Stars (USHL) in the 2021-22 season. He ranked fifth on the Stars in overall points and second in assists that season.
Individual award winners will be announced at the annual NCHC Awards Celebration on March 16 in St. Paul, MN.
Read the full NCHC release:
NCHC Announces 2022-23 All-Rookie Team
UNO freshman goalie Simon Latkoczy’s second period save in the March 3 game at North Dakota is the #4 play in the NCHC Top Plays of the Week – March 6, 2023.
The save came with 13:04 left in the second period. Latkoczy’s effort on the play thwarted North Dakota forward Gavin Hain’s attempt in front of the crease (off of a backhand feed from UND forward Jake Schmaltz).
UND was up 2-1 in the contest at that point. The Mavericks went on to lose the game 5-4 in OT.
Latkoczy currently has a 2.25 goals-against average (GAA) and a .920 save percentage (SV%) for Omaha.
His GAA currently has him tied for 15th best among all NCAA goaltenders and his SV% currently has him tied for 11th best.
Among NCHC goaltenders, Latkoczy’s GAA is currently second best in the conference (behind DU’s Magnus Chrona) and his SV% is currently second best (behind CC’s Kaidan Mbereko).
>> Latkoczy’s performance in the North Dakota series is discussed on this week’s episode of the #mavpuckcast — click here to view this week’s episode.
On this week’s episode of the #mavpuckcast... Jason and Jon discuss the Omaha Hockey team’s recent series at North Dakota — includes their picks for “Player of the Week.” They recap the recent movie theater hockey “Watch Party.” (hosted by the UNO Alumni Association, MavPuck, and Aksarben Cinema). They give an update on NCHC playoff tickets for Omaha’s first-round series at Baxter Arena — including a way for UNO students to get a free ticket voucher. They conclude the episode with a discussion of the matchups in the NCHC playoffs and offer their analysis and predictions for UNO Hockey’s first-round matchup against North Dakota.
Omaha junior forward Matt Miller’s unassisted goal in the Feb. 24 game against St. Cloud State is the top play in the NCHC Top 5 Plays of the Week – Feb. 28, 2023.
The even-strength goal — scored 7:43 into the second period — came off of an offensive zone steal by Miller. The score narrowed St. Cloud’s lead to 4-1 in the contest.
The Mavericks lost the game 6-2.
Miller has 11 goals and 10 assists in 28 games this season for the UNO Hockey team. He currently ranks third on the team in goals and fifth on the team in total points.
>> Miller’s goal was also featured on this week’s episode of the #mavpuckcast — click here to view this week’s episode.
On this week’s episode of the #mavpuckcast... Jason and Jon discuss the Omaha Hockey team’s recent series against the St. Cloud State Hockey team at Baxter Arena — includes a discussion of the current NCHC standings and their picks for Maverick “Player of the Week.” They talk about a few “Things You Missed at Baxter Arena” during the St. Cloud series and also discuss UNO’s Senior Night for 2023. A new segment is introduced — “Hot & New” — where Jason and Jon discuss some new concession items at Baxter Arena. They conclude the episode with their predictions for Omaha’s upcoming hockey series against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks at Ralph Engelstad Arena.