UND’s Jones happy for second shot at college hockey
GRAND FORKS — University of North Dakota forward Nick Jones’ first shot at college hockey came at 18 years old.
Now 21, he’s hoping to make the most of his second chance.
The junior transfer from Ohio State has impressed coaches and teammates with his work ethic and competitiveness and Fighting Hawks coach Brad Berry said Jones is going to be counted on heavily.
Jones, 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, saw a little bit of recruiting interest from UND out of his first round of junior hockey, when he was playing for the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
With the Crusaders, he played in 52 games in the 2013-14 season and tied for third in the league with 72 points, scoring a league-best 41 goals.
Jones, however, said he committed early in his recruiting process, at age 17, to Ohio State.
As a freshman in Columbus in 2014-15, Jones was named the team’s most improved player after seeing action in 26 games. He had one goal and five assists.
During his sophomore season at Ohio State, Jones left the 0-6 Buckeyes for the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League.
“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.”
Jones spent the 2016-17 season and most of the 2015-16 season with the Vees. He served as captain last year and led the Vees to a BCHL championship.
He scored 25 goals and had a team-leading 62 points in 58 regular-season games. He added 10 goals and 27 points in 21 playoff games and ranked second in BCHL playoff scoring behind only fellow incoming UND player Jordan Kawaguchi.
In Penticton, Jones was also teammates with fellow UND rookie Gabe Bast.
“He’s a battler,” Bast said. “He’s a guy who will give you 110 percent every shift. There’s not too many battles I saw him lose in two years. He’s got a good skill set to go along with that work ethic. He leads by example. He’s one of the best captains I’ve ever had.”
UND’s intel on Jones from his first go around in junior hockey drew the initial interest from Berry, he said.
“He’s team-first, very competitive, hates to lose … those are all things we are here,” Berry said. “When you peel back those layers, and you think that fits.
“He brings us energy. Everything he does in his life is professional and focused. He’s going to be counted on heavily in our group.”
Jones, who was born in Vancouver and grew up in Edmonton, said he was drawn to UND because of the history of the program, the coaches, the facilities and the culture.
“To have this opportunity at a great university is a real privilege,” Jones said.