The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s hockey team took a very bittersweet loss to its team after two players signed contracts to play professional hockey last week.
Senior Austin Ortega and junior Luc Snuggerud put their pens to paper and signed their John Handcock on a contract to earn a salary doing something they love.
Oretega will head back to his home state on the west coast and play just 30 miles away from where he grew up after signing an amateur tryout contract with the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League.
The California native was a finalist for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Forward of the Year for his effort on the season after finishing the year leading the conference with 20 goals and 27 assists for a total of 47 points in 38 games. Ortega finished his final year with three NCHC Offensive Player of the Week awards and was named the conference’s Player of the Month in December.
The senior finished his overall career in Omaha fourth best in scoring at UNO with 139 total points. His 70 goals and 69 career assists leaves him as one of the Mavericks’ best forwards to ever hit the ice. He is the first Maverick to tally three 20-goal seasons in his career, and he tied the NCAA record of most career game-winning goals with 23.
Though he will not be returning next season in Omaha, Ortega tweeted out a public thank you to the university and the hockey program on behalf of his four-year career at UNO.
“Thanks UNO for an incredible four years,” Ortega said. “I truly had the time of my life and made
unforgettable memories with life-long friends. Forever a Mav.”
Snuggerud will be leaving Omaha a year early after signing a three-year contract for the Chicago Blackhawks to join the National Hockey League.
The junior defenseman will forego his senior year after Chicago drafted him 141st overall in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL draft. Though he signed with a professional team, he will report to the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs.
Snuggerud finished his three years on a high note this season after being named to the NCHC’s All-Conference Second Team. His 11 goals, 20 assists and 31 points this season were all career highs, and he finished third in the conference with 18 power-play points.
As a freshman in 2014, he earned a spot on the NCHC All-Rookie Team with two goals and 14 assists in 39 games. Collectively, the Minnesota native finished his career at UNO with 17 total goals and 48 assists in 113 games and ranks in the top give in career scoring among UNO defensemen.
It will be sad to see these two great players leave Omaha, but the pride of the red and black will carry on in a national spotlight that just might make it into the TV’s in all of hockey fans’ homes.