(Photo courtesy of Tim Fitzgerald.)
One of the many great things about going to college is gaining life experience. For University of Nebraska-Omaha freshman Nick Seeler, his early college experiences have been pretty great.
In his first collegiate game against Army, in the Ice Breaker Tournament in Kansas City, the Minnesota Wild prospect scored the game-winning goal. With a mad scramble in front of the net, the defenseman snuck deep into the slot, found the loose puck and beat the outstretched Army goaltender. Seeler also added an assist on UNO’s third goal of the game.
On the season, the Mavs are 2-2-0, and Seeler has three points (1-2=3) and is plus-2. After making the jump from the United State Hockey League (USHL) last season, where he split time between the Muskegon Lumberjacks and Des Moines Buccaneers, the blueliner is learning the subtle differences between junior hockey and the college game.
“The speed increases from the USHL to college, and then to the AHL and finally to the National Hockey League,” said Wild Director of Player Developemnt Brad Bombardir, who was at both of UNO’s weekend games against Northern Michigan. “Sometimes when guys switch leagues and step up a level, there is a lot of adrenaline and focus that goes into your first few games, so there can be a bit of a drop off. But with Nick that would surprise me because he is such a competitor and a pretty focused kid.”
“The focus for him will be to get back to the puck a quick as he can, because that allows him more time to see the play and get the puck into the right areas,” Bombardir said. “And he did that.”
Along with focusing on the ice, the Eden Prairie native is concentrating in the classroom. He is currently taking 12 credits, a typical load for freshmen athletes, and adjusting to delicate balance between athletics and academics. The balancing act can be stabilized when studying with teammates, like Seeler’s Wednesday night Astronomy class. There are four other Mavs taking the course with him.
“It makes it a little easier with teammates,” Seeler noted. “It’s always good to get to know the guys during the first couple of days of class, especially being new to college.”
The time split between classes and the hockey rink leaves Minnesota’s fifth-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft with little downtime. But when he is able to relax, Seeler spends his time like a typical college freshman.
“We play a lot of NHL 13 and just hang out,” Seeler said. “Maybe go out to eat.”
Going out to eat includes a Thursday-night-before-game meal at the Olive Garden with fellow Mavericks. However, the first-year student relies mostly on the school cafeteria for meals.
“We have a cafeteria about 100 feet away from our dorm, which is nice,” Seeler said.
The 19-year-old admits that dorm living at UNO is a lot nicer than he expected. His memories of dorm life are from when his sisters recently attended college. Sister Ashley played soccer at Minnesota and sister Kelly was a four-year letter winner and a member of Minnesota’s National Championship hockey team in 2012.
“It’s a lot bigger than I remember their dorm being,” Seeler recalled. “It’s a lot nicer than I expected, so it’s a nice surprise.”
A dorm drawback is the chance of being paired with a nightmare roommate situation, but Seeler was lucky in the roomie lottery. He shares a “fourplex-like” living space with three other college freshman, including teammate Aaron Pearce. The teammates have their own rooms, but share a bathroom, “trying to keep things in our space clean.” The dual sides of the fourplex are separated by a common kitchen and living room. On the other side is a UNO soccer player and a fourth UNO student.
“We don’t see them too much because we’re on such different schedules,” Seeler said. “But it’s been great living with Aaron. We have a lot of things in common. I was lucky; it’s good to have another hockey guy around.”
Even though Seeler spends a majority of his time with teammates and balancing academics and athletics, he knows the college experience involves interacting with all types of students.
“I’m meeting new people here in Omaha and finding out about their backgrounds and what they are all about,” Seeler said. “It’s always good to see different perspectives.”
With the experience he is gaining at college, Seeler wants his future perspective to be from the ice at Xcel Energy Center, playing for the Wild.