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Captain’s log

The journey begins

Senior forward and UND hockey captain Austin Poganski drives the puck past the blue line at the Ralph Engelstad Arena against Minnesota Duluth last season.

Daniel Yun

Senior forward and UND hockey captain Austin Poganski drives the puck past the blue line at the Ralph Engelstad Arena against Minnesota Duluth last season.

Kyle Kinnamon, Staff Writer

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Austin Poganski is entering his fourth and final season at the University of North Dakota, this time as captain of a historic hockey program. Poganski is joining an elite group including the likes of past captains Gage Ausmus, Matt Greene and Dave Hakstol.

Poganski came to UND after playing one year for the Tri-City Storm in the United States Hockey League. In his one year for the Tri-City Storm, Poganski had 31 points in 55 games played. He had 19 goals, 11 of which were on the power-play, and 12 assists. Poganski ended up playing well enough to be drafted in the 4th round (110th overall) by the St. Louis Blues in the 2014 National Hockey League Entry Draft before ever playing a shift at UND.

“It is a great honor. Coming in as a freshman, I didn’t really expect to have any leadership role on the team. Obviously, being a senior now, it’s pretty special.””

— Austin Poganski, Captain of UND Men’s Hockey

Since Poganski’s freshman year at UND, he has been a power forward that does his job night in and night out for the betterment of the team. He always puts the team ahead of himself, regardless of the sacrifice needed. His leadership and play has stood out to his coaches and his teammates over his time at UND.

“He (Poganski) is a really physical power forward,” junior defensemen Hayden Shaw said. “It is fun to watch his game, but it is not too fun to go against in practice, but when he is on your side it’s a blast.”

When the announcement was made for the captains, Poganski was genuinely surprised, because he genuinely believed others deserved to be named captain. Poganski’s selfless reaction just reinforces his team-first mentality, in turn making him more fit to be the captain.

“I was a little bit surprised,” Poganski said. “There are so many other guys that in my mind deserve the captain role.”

Though Poganski was surprised, his teammates were not. When asked if Poganski embodies the tendencies and attitude of a captain, his teammate for the last three years, Shaw was quick to respond.

“Yes, absolutely,” Shaw said.

Poganski’s hardnosed gritty style of play not only shows up in the games, but in practice too as Shaw mentions.

“He (Poganski) holds guys accountable, and he leads by example when we go out on the ice, especially every day at practice,” Shaw said.

Practicing hard may go unseen to many, but not to the young players. Young players seeing the captain practice as intensely as if he is playing in a game, sets the culture and work ethic for the upcoming year. Showcasing how important perfecting their craft truly is.

“He (Poganski) is a really physical power forward. It is fun to watch his game, but it is not too fun to go against in practice, but when he is on your side it’s a blast.””

— Hayden Shaw, Junior defenseman

Poganski is taking his new duties as serious as possible. As a senior, he now fully understands how important leadership is in the locker room, and has seen how a captain can impact a team, especially for the young players.

“It is a great honor,” Poganski said. “Coming in as a freshman, I didn’t really expect to have any leadership role on the team. Obviously, being a senior now, it’s pretty special.”

With being named captain, many would think the captain would feel more pressure to perform and showcase how they earned that position. But, Poganski is different.

“I don’t think it adds any self-pressure,” Poganski said. “As a captain, I am probably held more responsible for other’s actions and play on and off the ice.”

Poganski can attribute some of his calm reasoning and composed demeanor to former captain Gage Ausmus. Being as he saw what at it took to be the captain for the UND hockey team on and off the ice during last year.

“I lived with Gage Ausmus last year,” Poganski said. “I learned a lot of tendencies and different ways to carry myself on and off the ice. I definitely think that will help me this year.”

Although Poganski now has a bigger role on the team, that does not stop his teammates from giving him a little grief now and then. As Shaw was glad to poke fun at Poganski’s first speech to the team.

“I think all the guy were excited for his first speech around the net. At times, it sounded like he was reading off a script,” Shaw said jokingly. “But, he did a good job.”

In its history, North Dakota has a knack for finding, recruiting and developing young players into not only great hockey players, but great men off the ice as well. Including the likes of players such as Zach Parise, Jonathan Toews, Gage Ausmus and Stephane Pattyn. All great leaders on and off the ice, and Austin Poganski is once again continuing the trend. Embodying what it means to represent the University of North Dakota hockey program.    

Kyle Kinnamon is a sports writer for Dakota Student. He can be reached at kyle.kinnamon@und.edu

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