NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, TX — Robertson Cup-winning defenseman Jack Zielinski has announced that he will be playing for the Niagara University Purple Eagles next fall, making him the twelfth player from the 2016-17 Brahmas squad to commit to an NCAA Division I program.
Zielinski, a 6-foot-2 defenseman from Virginia, was a key part of the Brahmas’ record-setting championship season in 2016-17. A steady 200-foot player, Zielinski suited up for the Brahmas more than any other blue-liner on the squad, marking his ability to do his job — and do it well — day in and day out.
A sound defensive player, Zielinski displays plenty of offensive upside. Before coming to the NAHL to play for Lone Star, Zielinski scored 10 goals and tacked on 24 assists for the OJHL’s Kingston Voyageurs in the regular season. He stepped up in the postseason as well, tallying seven points in 12 games during Kingston’s playoff run.
With the Brahmas, Zielinski filled a slightly different — and more defensive — role. Nonetheless, he registered 20 points during the regular season, along with an assist during the Brahmas’ playoff run. Characterized by his calm and collected demeanor, Zielinski played heavy minutes against top players all year and never looked out of his depth.
Used in all situations, Zielinski is a particularly strong penalty killer who relishes in the opportunity to shut the opposing team’s power play unit down. He’s also very effective from the point on the power play, and excels in breaking the puck out of his own zone.
All in all, he’s exactly the type of player that Niagara will want bolstering their back end.
“Jack has been one of those quiet leaders on our team all year long,” Head Coach Dan Wildfong said. “He’s obviously coming off helping us win a championship and I think he’s a great fit for a program that’s looking to instill a winning culture with a new coaching staff. Jack is going to come in there and do his job every day.”
For his part, Zielinski is looking forward to doing just that. “I’m thrilled to come in and play under a new coach and be part of changing the culture around here. Everything kind of fell into place, and I really wanted to be here. Even just walking around campus today, you can see the buzz about the hockey program and everyone’s excited to see them start winning again.”
Thanks to his time playing junior hockey, Zielinski feels well prepared to move to the next level in his own career. “Playing at Lone Star under Dan and Al, the kind of coaches they were, it definitely feels like it will relay to the college level. They were really particular about the small things in the game and how they wanted us to learn and develop. That should definitely help me succeed here.”
“I’m really proud of Jack,” Wildfong said. “I always thought he could be a Division I guy and obviously that’s happened for him. Couldn’t be happier.”
With a Robertson Cup Championship under his belt, Zielinski feels that his junior career ended on the highest note possible. “I couldn’t picture it any better,” he said. “We kind of felt like we were destined to win the league this year and I’m super excited that it actually came true and happened for us. I thought we deserved it and I just want to take that winning culture up here now. Definitely a picture perfect way to end my junior career.”
Zielinski, who currently plans to pursue accounting and business management, will no doubt be an important part of Niagara’s turnaround as they look to build a winning program in New York. If his time with the Brahmas is any indication, he’ll do so by leading by example — and his example is certainly one to follow.