The Omaha Lancers’ goals-against average is going down and Nick Perbix’s numbers are going up.
Before reporting to the U.S. Junior Select Team this week to prepare for the World Junior A Challenge, Perbix picked up United States Hockey League Defenseman of the Week honors for his play in Omaha’s recent surge.
After going scoreless in the previous nine games, Perbix is on a four-game scoring streak that has produced five of his nine assists on the season. During the streak, he is also plus-10, improving his overall rating to plus-11, which is tied for sixth-best in the league.
The Elk River, Minnesota, native said there is no common thread between the moments that led to the assists.
“It’s just a variety of plays,” he said. “Our coaches say it all the time, ‘If you play hockey the right way, it will reward you.’”
The rewards are coming, but there is one thing Perbix is trying to do that could boost his point total. Again, following coaching advice, he is trying to increase the number of shots he takes.
“Shoot the puck,” Perbix said of a message he hears often. “I’m usually a pass-first kind of guy, but in the USHL, you need to put as many pucks as possible on net for it to translate into scoring and points.
“That’s one thing I have to work on.”
While Perbix has been producing, the Lancers have been improving.
Omaha has won four straight. The Lancers, who are ranked third among the league’s 16 teams in the fewest goals allowed per game, had a shutout to start their current stretch of six wins in seven outings.
“We’re just clicking right now,” Perbix said. “Everything is working. As our record shows, we’re turning it into wins.”
All seems to be clicking for Perbix.
The 6-foot-4 19-year-old completed his high school hockey career earlier this year, then was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the sixth round of the National Hockey League Entry Draft.
The first season away from home, playing junior hockey, is off to a positive start as Perbix continues to work on his game in preparation for the beginning of his college career at St. Cloud State University, a mere 40 miles from his hometown.
“You just focus on what you’re doing in the now,” Perbix said. “You’re not necessarily focusing on each individual step of how you could get to the NHL or how you’re going to get to where you want to go.
“Just as long as you get better each and every day, hopefully then one day the goal will be within reach of making it to the NHL.”
Perbix met his World Junior A Challenge teammates Tuesday. He is one of four NHL Draft picks, joining fellow Minnesotan Clayton Phillips from the Muskegon Lumberjacks, Jack Dugan from the Chicago Steel and Cole Guttman from the Dubuque Fighting Saints, on the roster, which is made up of 22 players from the USHL.
The team will first face off against the Czech Republic in Truro, Nova Scotia, on Dec. 10, followed by Canada West to complete the round robin. Other teams in the tournament are Canada East, Russia and Switzerland. The tournament concludes Dec. 16.
Before heading off to a season in the USHL, and now international competition, Perbix had many chances to get to know other future teammates at St. Cloud.
“I live 40-45 minutes from the home rink and campus,” Perbix said. “The last couple of years, I’d go up to games whenever I had an off night and they had a home game.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to watch them play. I really like their game; I like the coaches and I like the guys on the team. It seems like a great fit for me.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc. Photo courtesy of Hickling Images.