April 18, 2017 07:14 PM
Along with the seven seniors graduating from the University of Minnesota Duluth men's hockey program, two underclassman announced they will forgo their final seasons.
Sophomore defenseman Neal Pionk confirmed with Eyewitness Sports on Tuesday he will pursue a professional hockey career after two seasons with the Bulldogs. The Hermantown native posted 7 goals and 27 assists in 42 games this season. As a northland kid, he said this was one of the hardest decisions for him to make.
"Leaving the hometown team is always a hard thing to do. The other thing is school. I would still like to finish school," said Pionk. "I told my parents I would finish. I know it's two years, but I think it's more of a mindset more than anything. If you put you're mind to it, you're going to do it. So, that's something I would like to do in the future, but that opportunity was there so I decided to jump on it," continued Pionk.
He left today to meet with his agent in Chicago, Ill. Pionk said he expects the process of talking with NHL teams will take up to a week to a week and a half. In addition to losing Pionk, UMD will graduate four senior defenseman and will return one freshman defenseman Nick Wolf the only defensive player with 30-plus games of experience.
Freshman goaltender Hunter Miska was the other UMD underclassman to leave school early. This weekend he signed with the NHL's Arizona Coyotes. Miska spent just one season with the Bulldogs and sported 27-5-5 record on the season. He also tied a program record of five shutouts in a single season.
"I felt after this season I was really well prepared for the opportunity and obviously playing five years of juniors really helped me to be successful in the college level," said Miska. "I felt this year I played well enough to get my spot for an NHL contract, so I'm really excited."
Miska also added he and his dad plan to come up with a new design for his new goalie mask. His dad Todd Miska of Miska Designs is known for his painting a few NHL goalie masks already.
Updated: April 18, 2017 07:14 PM
Created: April 18, 2017 07:09 PM
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