Feb. 9, 2003
Notre Dame, Ind. –
By Tim Connor
When Notre Dame center iceman Aaron Gill takes the ice, he makes the game of hockey look simple.
At first look, the Rochester, Minn., native shows tremendous speed and skill every time he hits the ice. But, it’s his incredible work ethic that has gotten him to where he is today.
One of Notre Dame’s three alternate captains and the team’s lone junior captain, Gill has been a regular in the Irish lineup since the start of his career in 2000-01.
Over two-and-a half seasons, Gill has proven to be one of Coach Dave Poulin’s most consistent players. As a freshman, he received honorable mention all-CCHA rookie team honors when he scored 11 goals with 15 assists for 26 points. As a sophomore, he had eight goals and 14 assists for 22 points and this year he ranks third with eight goals and nine assists for 17 points.
The veteran center has played a variety of roles during his Irish career, but possibly the one that suits him best is his role as a team leader.
Gill leads by example whether it’s in a game or in practice.
I was taught that you have to practice as hard as you play in a game. If you go hard in practice, you’re not surprised by the speed or the way you have to react in a game,” says Gill.
Gill is the without question the quickest player on the Irish roster and while his skating prowess looks easy, it’s been developed over a long period through hard work and lots of sweat.
“My skating developed through lots of work and lots of power skating. My coach in squirts, Todd Lampmann, was big on power skating and how important it was to be a good skater,” explains the 22-year old center.
“For me, the key to my skating is keeping my feet moving. If you do that you are going to be fast. That’s one of the things I do well, keep my feet moving.
A product of the United States Hockey League’s (USHL) where he played for his hometown Rochester Mustangs, Gill comes into this weekend versus Ohio State fifth on the team in scoring with his eight goals and nine assists. Three of his goals have come on the power play with one being a game-winning goal.
The talented center jump-started the Notre Dame offensive attack in the Jan. 25 3-3 home tie with Michigan State when he knotted the game at 1-1 in the second period with a power-play goal.
After Rob Globke won a neutral zone faceoff just outside the MSU zone, defensman Evan Nielsen carried the puck down the left wing board. Gill beat the Spartan defense to the slot and Nielsen made a nice crossrink pass that Gill one-timed past goaltender Matt Migliaccio.
While Gill got the Irish on the board, it was Notre Dame’s third goal of the game with just under four minutes left that really got the usually reserved center excited.
His younger brother, Tony, playing in his freshman year at Notre Dame, picked up his first career point as he set up fellow freshman Tim Wallace’s game-tying goal at 16:13.
“I was really proud of the way he played versus Michigan State. His line gave us energy and it was great to see them come up with a big goal. The way he celebrated afterwards really got the crowd into the game. His play motivated me to go out and try to do more,” said the elder Gill.
One of nine brother acts in the history of the Irish hockey program and a member of a hockey family, Aaron and Tony saw action on the same line November 8th versus Miami (OH). Aaron collected a goal with five shots and was +1 for the game. Tony had one shot on goal and was +1 for the contest.
“It’s been great having Tony here at school playing hockey. After being away from him for a long time, it’s been fun having him around again,” says the elder brother.
“The night we got to play on the same line was something I’ll remember for a long time. I was proud as the older brother getting a chance to compete with my younger brother doing the thing that we both love to do.”
Tony echoed his brother’s sentiments.
“It was great being on the same line with Aaron again. We haven’t played together for a long time, so it was a great experience for me, ” commented the freshman forward.
Having a younger brother on a hockey team can be an interesting experience, especially when you as the older brother are one of the team’s leaders. Like when your teammates are playing a prank on your younger brother.
“It can be hard at times. I try not to get into his business too much, but as an older brother, it can be hard not to poke your neck in there sometimes,” explains the former Rochester Mustang with a laugh.
“There are certain times that I stick up for him. Other times he’s just another guy on the team and he’s got to take his punches just like everyone else does.”
As one of the Irish team leaders, the month of January was been a very trying time as Notre Dame was 1-5-3 in the month while experiencing a goal scoring drought prior to the three-goal outburst versus Michigan State.
“It’s an honor to be chosen as a captain by your teammates, but there is a great deal of responsibility that goes with it. They pick you to lead them and that’s in both the good times and the bad times,” says Gill.
“Right now, I’m just trying to lead by example and work hard. I hope that the comeback versus Michigan State shows everyone that if you really work hard, something good will come out of it. We just have to keep building on that.”
The son of Kirk and Jennie Gill believes that the Irish can still turn this season into a successful one.
“Playing hard every night and every shift is the key,” says the business major.
“As individuals, we have to reach back and find more to give and come out and play hard. We can go further than people thing we can.”