Quinnipiac is in the midst of another successful women’s hockey season.
Bobcats senior forward Mika Nervick is also having a outstanding campaign, even if she has only been able to skate in a handful of games.
Nervick is one of six finalists, and the lone female, for the 2016-17 Hockey Humanitarian Award, which is presented annually to college hockey’s top citizen for his/her service contributions to their team, school and community. She is seeking to become the first woman to win the award since Wisconsin’s Brittany Ammerman in 2015, and just the ninth woman overall since the honor was first bestowed in 1996.
The winner will be announced at the 2017 NCAA Men’s Frozen Four in Chicago in April.
“It’s obviously a huge honor,” said Nervick. “I’m excited about it, and I’m also super-humbled.”
Nervick, who hails from Lakeville, Minn., was quick to point out the nomination was not only indicative of herself, but her teammates, coaches, and the university as a whole.
“There’s been so much support,” she said. “It’s been an incredible experience, and I’m fortunate to have made it so far.”
Nervick’s foray into community service was spurred by injuries she has sustained during her career at Quinnipiac. After appearing in 29 games as a freshman, she suffered a concussion in an automobile accident prior to her junior year, and did not play in any games last season as the Bobcats won the ECAC and earned an NCAA tournament berth.
“I really got passionate about community service,” stated Nervick, who was still named a Quinnipiac Scholar-Athlete last year. “I found something to make a difference, and for the team to make a difference. It completely changed the way I prioritize my life.”
Nervick starred at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota prior to enrolling at Quinnipiac in 2013, and was also a two-time USA Hockey National Camp participant. After incurring her injuries in college, she said she realized that there was more to life than hockey, and that she needed to forge her own, alternate path if she couldn’t play.
She jumped fully into the fray as Quinnipiac’s community service coordinator.
“I was completely in charge, and it’s in my blood now,” she said. “As an athlete, you have the opportunity to make your community a better place.”
She has also spearheaded a mentorship initiative with some 50 Quinnipiac student-athletes academically assisting students at O.H. Platt High School and an accompanying middle school in Meriden, Conn. About two-thirds of those students are at risk of not graduating to their next grade, and the goal is to help 100 percent of them to move up.
“I’m excited and passionate about it,” said Nervick of laying the foundation for the new program. “It will stick around a long time, and Quinnipiac athletes will help students for years to come.”
“Mika went in the fall to just speak to them, about time management and such, and talked with the administration and students about the help she could give,” explained Quinnipiac head coach Cassandra Turner about Nervick and the mentorship. “It’s impressive to see how she navigated and created that.”
Other Quinnipiac student-athlete community initiatives under Nervick’s watch have included reading to second graders at Shepherd Glen Elementary School, helping to prepare and serve Thanksgiving meals at a local soup kitchen, running an ice cream truck and booth at Quinnipiac’s Fresh Check Day, and taking to the ice with the Shoreline Sharks U12 hockey team.
On behalf of the Bobcats, Nervick also recently presented a $500 check to the Do It For Daron organization, which works to improve youth mental health awareness and assistance. Nervick, who has dealt with similar issues in her own family, admitted that she was also passionate about this particular endeavor, and about raising money for it.
“Every dollar counts, in putting funds towards making a difference,” she said.
Nervick spoke philosophically of how a college and even a professional hockey career was ultimately limited, as all players eventually retire, and that it was important to make a difference in life that lived on. She also incurred a separated shoulder this season and hasn’t played since early January, but that hasn’t swayed her from still being a part of the Blue and Gold as it seeks a third straight NCAA tournament invitation.
“I try to be my best every day,” she said. “My teammates are all important in my life, and I try to do the same in theirs.”
“Mika is someone who cares tremendously about others, about her teammates, coaches and friends,” said Turner. “She’s evolved in how she cares about the community and what she’s willing to do to make lives better.
“She gives back, and I’m incredibly proud of what she’s created,” added Turner. “She’s really been a catalyst, and I’m really proud of what she’s been able to accomplish.”
Nervick will graduate from Quinnipiac in May with a bachelor’s degree in public relations, and a minor in international business, although she’s not exactly sure what the future will entail.
“That’s the question of the century,” she laughed.
She has enjoyed her time in Connecticut, her closeness with her coaches and teammates, and felt that she could make Hamden, Conn., a viable home back when she was being recruited.
“Community service has been my way of giving back, and as a senior I’m sad it’s coming to an end,” she related. “I’m excited about the impact I’ve made the last four years, and that it will stick around after I leave.”
Nervick is now readying to head back home to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. She participated in an internship a few summers ago with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, who will host Super Bowl LII next February at the new U.S. Bank Stadium. She would like to embark upon a career in sports public relations and has been applying for positions in her native state, with one eye on continuing her community service endeavors.
“I’m excited to go back home and reset,” admitted Nervick. “I see myself continuing to do things and help people out, and do those things forever. There’s nothing planned, but hopefully soon.”
Hopefully, it will come after picking up some Humanitarian hardware in less than two months’ time.