Jake Livingstone didn’t have to wait long to score his first National Collegiate Athletic Association goal.
Livingstone scored in a 5-0 win for the Minnesota State University Mavericks over Bemidji State on Nov. 22. It’s a change from when he played in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League with his hometown Creston Valley Thunder Cats and in the B.C. Hockey League with the Langley Rivermen.
“It was exciting for sure. I didn’t think it would happen so quickly because I remember in my first year in Creston it took me until after Christmas to get my first goal. Even then it was into an empty net,” says Livingstone, who scored four goals and had 10 points in 40 games as a 16-year-old with the Thunder Cats. “In Langley, it took me over a year and a half to get my first goal, too. It was kind of nice to get it out of the way.”
An assistant captain in his final season with the Rivermen, Livingstone set career highs in all offensive categories – 11 goals, 38 assists for 49 points in 52 games played. Scoring in his first game with the Mavericks gives him confidence, but he remains focused on playing solid defensively and won’t be going out chasing goals.
His transition to NCAA hockey was a challenge because the athletes are bigger and stronger. The college game is played at a quicker pace, but Livingstone, 21, has benefited from a delayed start because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I got a little time to get used to that pace. It was kind of nice to transition,” says Livingstone. “I got to go into a game as prepared as possible.”
Livingstone enjoyed starting his junior career at home in Creston, giving him the opportunity to play with his childhood friends and older brother, Colby. Moving away at 17 to play in Langley was a hard transition because he loves his family, being at home and his hometown.
Playing in the KIJHL helped Livingstone get to where he is now as he worked hard and says playing against 20-year-olds was better for his development compared to midget, where he would have faced younger and smaller players. He debuted with the Thunder Cats as a 15-year-old affiliate player.
“Being in an older environment helped me mature faster,” says Livingstone, who is studying business management and would like to stay involved in hockey if he isn’t able to play professionally.
Since making the jump to the college ranks, Livingstone has been working on simplifying his two-way game. He has less time and space to make plays and is learning what works and doesn’t. He’s working on using his stick efficiently and keeping his feet moving.
The six-foot-four, 205 pound defenceman is loving the challenge of facing highly skilled players.
“Everybody from the first line to the fourth line can play with pace. They can really think the game,” says Livingstone. “You can’t take a shift off. I just keep pushing forward. Those types of things will help you get better as a player. Playing against a team’s top line, they are NHL draft picks and they are bound to be in the NHL. It makes going to the rink fun.”