Photo courtesy of Shannon Valerio
Like most freshmen, Jarid Lukosevicius was just competing for any spot in the lineup last year and he earned it: 4th line right wing for the 2015-16 University of Denver Pioneers. Not exactly the most glamorous spot, but hey, he was a freshman. Now a sophomore, Lukosevicius has ascended in the lineup to become the top line right wing as one of DU’s most consistent forwards.
“Last year was tough because we had a lot of older guys and it was tough to crack the lineup so you had to compete against your freshman class like Logan O’Connor,” Lukosevicius said.
Nicknamed “Luko,” the Squamish, British Columbia native edged out O’Connor for a spot during the incredible second-half of the 2015-16 campaign. He skated on the fourth line alongside former captain Grant Arnold and current assistant captain Matt Marcinew in Denver’s grittiest and highest-energy line (you know, MASH 2.0).
“Luko was brought in here to help us score goals,” Head coach Jim Montgomery said. “A lot of times freshmen, especially Canadians coming from junior hockey don’t understand how hard it is and how hard you need to compete in practice to have success in games. Luko in the first half of the year got caught up in that and actually sat out some games. In the second half of the year, he started to understand that consistency and effort in practice and it translated to him playing on a line that was extremely important to us down the stretch. We had four balanced lines that I had a lot of confidence in.”
Behind Henrik Borgström (13G) and Troy Terry (11G), Lukosevicius is the third leading scorer thus far with 10 goals, already nearly doubling his 2015-16 season total of six markers. He leads the team with a margin over 15 in SOG with 91.
“My game is just to shoot the puck and it shows,” Lukosevicius said. “I know I can’t go through everyone like [Borgstrom and Terry] can, but if they give it to me I’m going to shoot it. That’s what my role is.”
He remained on-campus for two months before returning home during the summer and his offseason training impacted his current success. With a 5’10” 185 lb. frame, Lukosevicius prides himself on being a grittier player, crashing hard down low and utilizing the boards.
Lukosevicius’ class matured quickly, playing big minutes as freshmen and now sophomores. After DU’s first trip to the Frozen Four since 2005, graduating four seniors and eventually losing Danton Heinen and Trevor Moore prematurely to NHL entry-level contracts, Lukosevicius knew he would be an important component this season.
“As a freshman, I had to watch people play big minutes like Danton Heinen as a sophomore. He was kind of my role model last year, seeing as he shot the puck every time,” Lukosevicius said. “Going into [my] sophomore year, I knew we were missing big players like Danton Heinen and Trevor Moore so I knew I had to step up and so did other guys so we had to change our roles a little bit to fulfill those roles.”
With Terry’s abrupt and indefinite absence due to an upper body injury, Lukosevicius’ ice presence is what the Pioneers need to maintain consistency and excel as an elite team.
“He understands what he is and he’s just continued to get better and better,” Montgomery said. “We’re seeing a better hockey player right now than we did in the first half and that bodes well for our team.”