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Former Bulldog, Hermantown standout Neal Pionk receives first call up to NHL from New York Rangers

Neal Pionk of Minnesota Duluth controls the puck during a game against St. Cloud State at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. (File photo / News Tribune)

Neal Pionk, the Hermantown native and former Minnesota Duluth defenseman, received his first NHL call up from the New York Rangers on Thursday after the team placed defenseman Brendan Smith on waivers.

The 22-year-old Pionk signed with the Rangers in May after two seasons with the Bulldogs that culminated with an appearance in the NCAA championship game.

As a rookie, Pionk has one goal, 16 assists and a minus-9 rating in 48 games with the Rangers’ top minor league affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League.

The Rangers (25-24-5) are currently last in the Metropolitan Division following a 6-1 loss at home to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night. The Rangers play the Calgary Flames on Friday.

Pionk becomes the fourth member of the 2016-17 Bulldogs, who won an NCHC postseason title, to get called up to the NHL this season as rookies. Two — Dominic Toninato (Colorado Avalanche) of Duluth and Alex Iafallo (Los Angeles Kings) — have already made their NHL debuts.

Bulldog Hockey Blog: Bulldogs in the Pros

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

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