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Arrivals and Departures: Transfer Portal and Recruiting Notes — March 28, 2023

Tuesday, March 28, 2023 3:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

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: 

  • Cam Berg (F) - 10 goals, 14 assists (6th on the team in points)
  • Davis Pennington (D) - 1 goal, 15 assists (9th on the team in points) 

Players decide to enter the transfer portal for a myriad of reasons. Unless we hear more specifics, much of the speculation is just that…speculation. 

Berg is an interesting story. While he ranked sixth on the team in points, he also had a minus-5 rating — despite the 24 points he tallied this season. 

This stat was pointed out by Chris Boehm on our message board, and it is worth noting because it suggests — in this particular instance — that his defensive play might not be as strong as his offensive game. 

Where he might end up is unknown. But, as Mike McMahon noted in his College Hockey Insider newsletter, Berg is originally from West Fargo, ND. He pointed out that there was “a story out when [Berg] was drafted that he grew up in a family of huge North Dakota fans.”

Pennington has proven himself to be a “spark plug” on the blue line for UNO. While he might not be the flashiest player on the team, he did make strides offensively this season (more than doubling his point production from his freshman campaign). 

One factor to consider in all of this are recruits waiting to join the roster for the 2023-24 season. 

UNO has a number of interesting prospects waiting in the junior ranks. The COVID season in 2020-21 has meant (in certain instances) that a number of NCAA hockey recruits have had to wait longer than normal to join collegiate teams. 

This is due to the fact that collegiate players who played in the NCAA during the 2020-21 season are granted an extra year of eligibility (which allows a player like Nolan Sullivan to stay with the team for a fifth season). 

As of this writing, our research has determined that Omaha has had five (5) recruits sign National Letters of Intent (NLIs). Below are their point totals (if they have played with multiple teams, the numbers are combined): 
  • Tanner Ludtke (F) - currently has 28 goals and 26 assists for the Lincoln Stars (USHL) 
  • Charlie Lurie (F) - currently has 12 goals and 13 assists for the Omaha Lancers/Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL) 
  • Liam Watkins (F) - currently has 26 goals and 41 assists for the Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL) 
  • Ethan Whitcomb (F) - currently has 20 goals and 15 assists for the Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL) 
  • Marcus Broberg (D) - currently has 5 goals and 15 assists with the Omaha Lancers (USHL), Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL), and Springfield Jr. Blues (NAHL) 

At this point, we don’t know how many NLI signees will arrive at UNO this fall. In addition, there are other recruits on Omaha’s recruiting rolls who could join the team. 

For example, a recruit like forward Alexi Van Houtte-Cachero, who has had 12 goals and 24 assists playing for the West Kelowna Warriors and the Powell River Kings (BCHL) this season. 

One area UNO needs help in is point production. In the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC), a team really needs three productive lines to be competitive. 

Omaha might also be bringing in some players via the transfer portal. At this point, it is anyone’s guess as to whether they are targeting any forwards or defensemen for the 2023-24 season.

We only gained one (1) portal player (in Jake Pivonka, who transferred from Notre Dame) last season. My gut instinct says that the coaching staff would prefer to bring in some of their talented recruits instead of shopping the portal.

It is possible we will get one (1) or more goalies from the portal this season. Netminder Jacob Zab’s status is unknown at this point. If he decides to move on, the Mavericks will be faced with finding two goaltenders for the 2023-24 campaign. 

It seems unlikely that recent goalie commit Jack Spicer — who currently has a 2.99 GAA and a .890 SV% with the Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL)  — would come to Omaha early. Also don't expect to see Louka Cloutier for a few more seasons. 

With freshman Simon Latkoczy playing well for UNO down the stretch this season (and likely to log most of the minutes in net for the Mavs next season), it seems unlikely Omaha would get a lot of interest from some of the more “battle-tested” goalies currently in the transfer portal. 

Instead, UNO might look for a stable, veteran goaltender playing in the junior ranks who has yet to commit to a school — much in the way they brought in Austin Roden to back up Isaiah Saville during his freshman campaign. 

It will be fascinating to see what transpires during the spring and summer. 

In the meantime, be sure to follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for all your recruiting, pro signings, and transfer portal updates!
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