Musketeers captain led League blueliners in scoring
The United States Hockey League today announced that Neal Pionk of the Sioux City Musketeers has been named the 2014-15 USHL Defenseman of the Year as determined by a vote of League coaches and general managers.
Pionk recorded 48 points (7g, 41a) in 53 regular season games to lead all USHL defensemen in scoring. His point total was the most by a Musketeers defenseman in the Tier 1 era (2002-present), breaking the mark of 44 by Jordan Schmaltz during the 2010-11 season. The 41 assists by Pionk are also the most by a Musketeers defenseman and tied for the fifth-most by a USHL defenseman in the Tier 1 era.
The 19-year-old tallied 20 points (4g, 16a) on the power play, helping the Musketeers lead the USHL in power play conversion (25.2%). His 16 assists on the man-advantage tied for seventh overall in the League. He also ranked tied for fifth overall in the USHL with a plus-23 rating which included finishing plus-three in a game on six occasions this season.
Pionk was named captain of the Musketeers for the 2014-15 season and helped lead them to a 38-17-5 record to finish first in the Western Conference standings. It was the most wins by the team since they won 38 during the 2003-04 season. He anchored a defensive unit that gave up the fifth-fewest goals in the USHL (170) and ranked fourth overall in penalty killing (84%).
Prior to the 2014-15 season, Pionk helped lead the Musketeers to a bronze medal at the 2014 Junior Club World Cup in Ufa, Russia. He was named the best defenseman of the tournament which included top junior clubs from nine different countries.
Pionk was selected by the Musketeers in the fifth round (66th overall) of Phase Two during the 2012 USHL Draft. He has recorded 77 points (10g, 67a), 199 penalty minutes, and a plus-44 rating over 119 regular season games during his USHL career.
The defenseman is a product of Hermantown High School in Minnesota and also competed in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League prior to his time in the USHL. He will play college hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth beginning next season.
Pionk is the second Musketeers player ever to earn the USHL Defenseman of the Year, joining Mike Hodgson who captured the award following the 2003-04 season.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrated its 13th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2014-15. A record 35 players were chosen in the 2014 NHL Draft and more than 350 players on team rosters this past season are committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.
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