Former Selkirk Steeler (2011-2014) and current University of Nebraska Omaha Defensemen Joel Messner is headed to the NCAA Frozen Four. As a freshmen and for the first time in school history, Messner’s UNO Mavericks will take on the Providence College Friars on April 09, 2015 at the TD Garden in Boston Massachusetts. The winner of this game will face the winner of UND and Boston University on April 11th for the National Championship.
Messner capped off a stellar MJHL career in 2014 when he was named a First Team All-Star and took home Top MJHL Defenseman Honours. Messner also captained the Steelers during the 2013-2014 campaign as a 19-year-old that saw the Steelers finish an incredible regular season as the #2 ranked team in the nation.
Messner takes time out of his busy schedule at UNO to speak with us one-on-one as he prepares for the biggest journey of his hockey career thus far.
Q: How has your first year been in the NCAA?
A: My first year in the NCAA has been unforgettable, making the Frozen Four in my first year and for the first time in school history. Also playing in the TD Garden in front of 19,000 fans is going to be an amazing experience. When you are having a successful season it makes everything a lot easier, including school. Having 11 freshmen coming into the season I wasn’t really sure how our season was going to go but with the great leadership we have along with the great group of guys, it has been a great season.
Q: How do you compare the NCAA to the MJHL?
A: The biggest difference between the NCAA and the MJHL is just like everyone says, bigger, faster and stronger. The atmosphere in college hockey is also very different. Having bands and a student section makes for great atmosphere. There is also a couple rules that are different compared to the MJHL. We only play 36 regular season games compared to 60 in the MJHL. Being able to fly to games was also something that was very different for me and took time getting used too.
Q: What has campus life been like for you at UNO?
A: Living on campus has been great. I am fortunate that here at UNO we have some really nice dorms. The dorms are like little apartments. I live with three other teammates and we each have our own room which is very nice. The rest of the freshmen also live in the same building, so we are pretty much living with 11 of our best friends in one building. It’s nice living on campus and being so close to everything. Walking to class or taking the shuttle, I am really enjoying my time here at UNO.
Q: How do you find balancing hockey and academics?
A: Being a student athlete is all about time management. You really need to take advantage of the free time because you don’t get much. With the time I always try and get the most homework done. I always try to get it done before the weekend because on the weekends I only want to be thinking about the games. The teachers are usually also very helpful with homework if we are out on the road and have homework due. As long as you talk to them before you leave there is usually never a problem.
Q: What advice would you give a young player in the MJHL who wanted to pursue the NCAA?
A: Make a resume at a young age and sent it to college coaches. Talk to your current Head Coach to see if there is anything they can do for you. It’s not only the on ice things either, clean up your social media, you have to show that you work hard and you are a professional. Work hard in school and get good grades. It makes a very big difference. It was one of the first things that scouts would ask me when I talked to them. Grades can bring you a long way. Hard work pays off, on and off the ice.