Photo by Hillary Ehlen
Freshmen Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jonny Tychonick could be teammates for life.
In collegiate athletics, it is tough to keep a team together for a full four or five years. Sure, there will be athletes who stick it out for their full college tenure. However, with advancements and opportunities for student-athletes to play professionally, they seem to be leaving college for a career in athletics. College hockey is one of those sports, with players being drafted before they set foot on a college campus.
That was the case for North Dakota freshmen Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jonny Tychonick. However, if you know the story behind these two defensemen, you’ll quickly learn that their paths cross in more ways than that. In fact, the two knew each other and were friends well before they signed on to come to Grand Forks.
“Me and Jonny started playing spring hockey together probably when we were around nine or 10 years old up till we were 12. We kind of got to know each other throughout those years and played against each other in Bantam,” said Bernard-Docker, a freshman from Canmore, Alberta. “When Jonny committed here, I was still kind of looking around and wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to the Western league or come here and when UND offered and I knew Jonny was here, it was a pretty big opportunity to come somewhere with a friend is pretty special.”
- Selected 26th overall by the Ottawa Senators in the this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
- Spent the last two seasons with the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers.
- Collected the AJHL’s W.G. (Bill) Scott Memorial Trophy as its most outstanding defenseman.
- Scored 20 goals and dished out 21 assists in 49 games with the Oilers last year.
- Won a gold medal with Team Canada West at the 2017 World Junior A Challenge.
It was easy for the two to team up with one another at the collegiate level. Both feel they developed a chemistry on the ice with one another throughout the years. They figured it would only be right for them to transition that to the University of North Dakota. “Our style of play really works together,” said Tychonick, a native of Calgary, Alberta. “Jacob is a great two-way defenseman and really reliable in the offensive and defensive zone. That really compliments how we play and it works out for us. We haven’t had a lot of opportunities to play with one another here yet, but who knows what the future holds. I know when we play together it’s something special.”
Bernard-Docker feels the same way in terms of the chemistry him and Tychonick share on the ice. “I think just playing together in the past, we know each other’s style and kind of know where each other are and what our tendencies are,” he said. “We’ve had a few shifts together here, but I think at the end of the day, I think we have a really good D corp here and we’re happy to play with anyone.”
- Selected 48th overall by the Ottawa Senators in this year’s NHL Entry Draft
- Spent the last two season’s with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees.
- BCHL All-Star First Team in 2017- 18 after scoring 47 points (nine goals, 38 assists) in 48 games.
- Has represented Canada the last two years at the World Junior A Challenge
That defensive corp includes captain Colton Poolman, senior Hayden Shaw and Gabe Bast, all of whom have seen previous ice time for the Fighting Hawks. Regardless of the shifts they get with one another, the two continue to find common ground with one another. They both agree that one factor played the most vital role in them coming to the University of North Dakota.
“The comfortability I felt with the coaches. How easily I could talk with them and I knew they wanted what was best for myself and each one of the guys on the team,” said Tychonick. “They all want to see you excel and become the best player you can be on and off the ice. That was really important, they build and NHL tradition, an NHL culture and I mean if you watch a game here, you can see how passionate everyone is.”
The highly-touted Bernard-Docker agreed, but with one caveat. “For me, the facility is unbelievable and the reputation of guys here is pretty crazy. I think it was the coaching staff for me,” he said. “When I met the coaching staff, it was pretty eye-opening how much they knew about the game and how humble and nice they were. For me, it’s being around good people and the coaching staff definitely helps.”
As if their paths could not cross enough, the two seem to be on pace to play in the professional ranks with one another. Before the two of them set foot in Grand Forks, they were drafted in this past year’s NHL Entry Draft. Oddly enough, the two Alberta kids were drafted by the same franchise, the Ottawa Senators. Bernard-Docker was drafted 26th overall while Tychonick went 48th overall.
“I think just playing together in the past, we know each other’s style and kind of know where each other are and what our tendencies are.” – Jacob Bernard- Docker
“It was pretty surreal for me, those days in Dallas, Jon and I hung out a bit there and we were with our families, so it was definitely a really special time,” said Bernard-Docker. “To go to the same team and be in development camp together was really cool.”
For Tychonick, it is one thing to get drafted into the highest level of hockey, but to go to the same team as a friend and, at that time, a future college teammate, it was even more special. “Knowing Jacob and having that chemistry since we were young that we’ve really built up is cool,” he said. “I know after I got picked and I was up in the Ottawa suite they had, they kind of talked about having the North Dakota pipeline and so that was pretty cool. I think that will be a great step for Jacob and I to be able to come and hopefully one day be able to play with one another at a higher level. This is just a step in the right direction.”
It seems as though both Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jonny Tychonick will play in the NHL one day. While that may come at different times for the both of them, it seems as though that they will remain teammates on the ice long after their days at the University of North Dakota are finished. Brad Berry can savor their talents on the defensive end for now, but soon they will take their next leap forward. Luckily, they both have someone to rely on when that time comes.