By Avery Wenck, Sports Editor
Most college students will neverhave the opportunity to play Division-I athletics. Those that do will probably not get to play for a top five team in their respective sport in front of crowds reaching as many as 12 thousand. David Pope, a freshman left-winger for the University of Nebraska at Omaha Mavericks, has that opportunity and is making the most of it.
Pope, a freshman from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, is already makinga name for himself in Omaha. Popeis known as “His Holiness” by Omaha fans and media for both his last name and status in the UNO lineup. Pope, a Red Wings fan, was a fourth round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by Detroit.
Pope is having a very good first year and currently sits tied for fifth in scoring for the Mavericks, despite having played fewer games than his teammates. He has seven goals and three assists for 10 points and his .163 shooting percentage is second for the Mavericks behind roommate Avery Peterson.
“I’m happy with how the year’s gone for me personally,” Pope said.“I’ve been scoring consistently and I want to continue and try to get to that 10 goal mark.”
Pope’s consistency has earned him a spot on the top line for the past two series in place of senior captain Dominic Zombo. He used that opportunity to score the opening goal in the Mavericks’ win against Western Michigan last Saturday.
The biggest challenge, Pope said, is building the chemistry with his new line mates.
“I think we have really good depth up front and it doesn’t matter as a player which line you’re on, it’s more about being able to read off each other and create that chemistry,” Pope said. “That’s been the biggest change, finding out where guys like to go on the ice and what their tendencies are.”
The series didn’t go as planned for the Mavericks but that win helped them keep pace with other teams in the NCHC title race. After Friday’s loss, head coach Dean Blais challenged his team to step up in Zombo’s absence and said his team “kept talking about championships” and would have to continue playing to that standard. Pope says they are still focused on winning the championship and believes they can achieve that goal, but it’s up to them to do it.
“One hundred percent, we think about it every day,” Pope said.“Our conference is so tight right now and all three of the top teams could finish as low as seventh at the end of the season. We are taking it game by game and trying to make every game as important as we can.”
That NCHC Championship dream took a big hit this weekend as the Mavericks were swept by St. Cloud. All is not lost for UNO though, and they should still be safe as long as they secure three wins before the end of the season. Omaha will goon the road next weekend to takeon Minnesota-Duluth before hosting Colorado College in their final series of the regular season.
Despite playing for a top five hockey team, Pope’s average day is not very different from any other student. He lives in the dorms with two other hockey players, Avery Peterson and Brian Rideout, and attends class like any other student.
The university requires that student-athletes live in the dorms for their freshman year before they are free to move into a house or apartment off campus. Pope saysthe only real difference in his life is that he would take more classes if he wasn’t playing hockey, but the busy schedule doesn’t allow him to.
“We can’t take as many classes due to our practice commitments,” Pope said. “I have classes early in the morning before noon, practice and then go back to campus for night classes, so my days are pretty busy. It’s important that you make time for food and make sure you watch after your body.”
Pope has shown a lot of promise in his early career at UNO and fans will be hopeful he can continue to succeed moving forward. The accomplishments of this season will only help him and the other young players on this team continue to develop and improve individually and as a team.