Developing Story: Dominic Zombo

UNO center has emerged as an offensive threat as a sophomore.
Zombo hasn't gone more than one weekend without a point this season (Photo: Jeff Beiermann, UNO Athletics).

In Developing Story, a regular feature on, we highlight current college hockey players who have developed their skills during their careers – either on the ice or off – and in turn made a bigger impact on their team’s success.

Dominic Zombo admits a little frustration crept in last February, as he neared the end of his freshman season without a point, despite playing in almost every game.

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A little persistence – and a good dose of perspective – helped him turn the corner late in the year, and a strong summer helped make him, arguably, the nation’s most improved player this season.

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Biggest One-Year Point Improvements Among the Top 100 Scorers

+32 – Drew LeBlanc, SCSU*
+28 – Dominic Zombo, UNO
+24 – Ryan Walters, UNO
+24 – Chris McCarthy, UVM*
+23 – Matt Neal, RPI
+22 – Matthew Zay, Mercyhurst
+21 – Cason Hohmann, BU
+20 – Tanner Fritz, OSU
+20 – Chris Saracino, RIT
+20 – Jeremy Wick, SLU

* Limited to 10GP or fewer in 2011-12


That’s what the numbers suggest, at least, as Zombo’s 3 points last season (all in the last six games) have grown to 31 in 2012-13, the biggest increase among players who played all of last season. He has also helped linemate Ryan Walters dramatically increase his production to become a legitimate Hobey Baker Award contender.

Zombo knew, all along, that his hard work could pay off.

“College hockey is a process,” he said. “I knew if I kept working hard and putting in the time, I would get rewarded. Even late last year, it felt like the work was paying off.”

Important offseason

That strong finish probably helped propel him into the offseason, which saw the Maverick team stay on campus, take summer classes and work toward this year. Working as a group also provided the motivation needed to stay on schedule for 6 a.m. lifts at the school’s weight room, or the two or three skates the group took on each week.

Zombo noticed the improvement as soon as fall practices started.

“I had a pretty good summer,” he said. “I got a little bit stronger, a little bit faster, and coming into the year I knew I had the chance to contribute a little more.”

Those improvements have shown from the start of the season. A defensively responsible center with decent size, he hasn’t gone more than one weekend without a point. By November he was on a line with Walters and fellow sophomore Josh Archibald, a group that gave UNO great balance alongside Matt White’s line.

After back-to-back two-assist games last weekend, Zombo enters the final weekend of the regular season tied for third on the Mavericks with 31 points and a team-leading four game-winning goals.

Father knows best

Zombo correctly identifies college hockey as a process, an insight he likely gleaned from his father, Rick. The former NHLer is now coaching at Lindenwood, and is one of three UNO fathers who once played for Dean Blais at North Dakota.

“His insight as a coach, and as a player, definitely helped,” Zombo said. “He can keep me straight on my goals, and I trust that. He knew Coach Blais well, too, from when he was at North Dakota, and he knew he would help me develop.”

That faith in the process is certainly paying dividends for Zombo – and the Mavericks – now.

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