UND HOCKEY: Junior Jones Earning Confidence in New Location

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When forward Nick Jones left the Ohio State University in late October 2015, there was no big fan fare or questions about where he might be going next. Hell, according to SB Nation, there wasn’t even a press release that he had left the school to pursue other options. He just up and left. It wasn’t an easy decision, but as he told Tom Miller of the Grand Forks Herald in September, it was one he needed to make for himself.

“I just didn’t feel like I was developing at a rate I would like to develop,” Jones said. “I felt I was young enough, coming in at 18, that I could get a second opportunity. It didn’t feel like the right fit and wanted to try somewhere else.”

The loss of tOSU is the gain for the University of North Dakota. After spending the better part of two seasons in Penticton of the BCHL, Jones returned to the NCAA with UND and has yielded some pretty solid results thus far. It’s not just the points he has produced so far– two goals and two assists in eight games– but the intangibles that he has brought to the team in his penalty killing prowess and his ability to win face-offs in any zone. In fact, Jones leads the Fighting Hawks in face-off percentage with a 64.8% win rate (70 out of 108), which also puts him at the top of the NCHC for those players who have taken a minimum of 100 face-offs.

However, if you just looked on his stats in the BCHL, you’d think that he would have a bigger scoring role on the Fighting Hawks. Jones left Penticton after 100 games with 46 goals and 125 points, as well as captaining the Vees to the BCHL title last season. The adaptability that has gone on speaks to the character of Jones who will do anything to to make sure his team is on the winning side.

Getting comfortable has been helping, too. Jones has been able to gain confidence as the season has gone on and, it would seem, has earn the trust of the coaching staff to be put in those situations. As such, Jones has returned the favor, especially in the last three games, where he has garnered all four of his points on the season.

“I felt I was playing well in the first five games,” Jones said to the media on UND’s weekly press conference Wednesday, “I got a lot more confidence now. I’ve had chances, but it wasn’t coming. Once that first one came, there’s a lot more confidence and have felt a lot more confident in the last week and a half of practice. I think confidence goes a long way in my game. I’m doing things now that I think I would have done if I had gotten on the board earlier.”

Jones seemed to know what was going to be best of him, especially in choosing a place like Penticton and the BCHL to play. Jones played alongside former UND standout and current Avalanche rookie Tyson Jost, as well as current teammates in Colton Poolman, Gabe Bast, and Dixon Bowen.

“It was good. Going to a program like Penticton, there’s a lot of players who went through there to get to here,” mentioned Jones. “Penticton’s philosophy is a lot like UND’s. Going from Junior-A to Ohio State was a little different, but going from Penticton to here, there isn’t that much of a difference. The coaching staff’s thinking is very similar.”

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