WAKEFIELD, Mass. - After being named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) Player of the Month for December, Omaha sophomore forward Austin Ortega has been selected as the Hockey Commissioners’ Association (HCA) National Division I Player of the Month for December 2014 after scoring seven goals and tallying nine points in eight games. Ortega is the second consecutive NCHC player to earn HCA National Player of the Month honors after North Dakota junior forward Drake Caggiula claimed the award for November.
Ortega guided the Mavericks to a 5-2-1 record while playing in all eight games. The Escondido, Calif., native paced the NCHC with his nine points during the month, which also tied for the national lead in December, while his seven goals led the NCAA for the month. Of his seven goals, four were game-winners, again leading the country for December, while he is also now tied for the NCAA lead with seven game-winning goals this season. Ortega tallied a point in seven of his eight games during the month, including two multi-goal games, while also handing out two assists.
Ortega opened December with an assist in a loss at Miami Dec. 5, but rebounded with a pair of goals, including the game-winner, the next night as the Mavs earned a split. The 5-foot-8 winger was named first star of the game in the series finale. The next weekend, Ortega led Omaha to a sweep of St. Cloud State, scoring the game-winning goal in both contests. In both games he broke a tie game in the third period, while earning second star of the game in the series finale. Ortega was also tabbed NCAA Second Star of the Week following the SCSU series.
After having his four-game point streak and three-game goal streak snapped on Dec. 20, Ortega responded with another two-goal outing the next night, scoring twice on the power play in the third period to help UNO rally for a tie with Alabama-Huntsville. He then closed his month with another game-winner, scoring in overtime Dec. 30 to lift Omaha to a 2-1 win over New Hampshire, again earning first star of the game. He also chipped in an assist in a loss to UNH on New Year’s Eve. Ortega was named NCHC Offensive Player of the Week for his outings against UAH and UNH and led the NCAA with 33 shots on goal in December.
On the season, Ortega is tied for the NCHC lead with 22 points in 20 games while his 12 goals on the year rank second in the conference and tie for sixth nationally. A total of three NCHC players have now been recognized by the HCA this season as joining Ortega and Caggiula is Minnesota Duluth freshman goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, who garnered HCA National Rookie of the Month for November.
Claiming HCA National Division I Rookie of the Month for December was Mercyhurst freshman forward Jack Riley. Both Ortega and Riley were selected from candidates that included each of the six Division I conferences’ December Player and Rookie of the Month winners.