April 9, 2006
Notre Dame, Ind. – The Notre Dame hockey program announced its individual awards for the 2005-06 season at the its Awards Program held Sunday afternoon at the Mendoza College of Business Atrium and Auditorium. While honoring the past year’s team, head coach Jeff Jackson and his staff honored the program’s past by introducing two new awards – the Distinguished Alumni Award and an Honorary Alumni Award. The Irish also honored former defenseman Bill Nyrop `74 and the first coach in the modern history of Notre Dame hockey, Charles “Lefty” Smith by naming awards after them.
Nyrop, who played for the Irish from 1970-74, is one of the top defensemen ever to play at Notre Dame. Selected all-WCHA and All-American in 1973, Nyrop had 17 goals and 72 assists during his Notre Dame career. He went on to play on three Stanley Cup championship teams with the Montreal Canadiens from 1976-78, before retiring to attend law school. He returned to the NHL for one season in 1981 with Minnesota. He returned to hockey in 1992 as general manager of the Knoxville Chiefs in the East Coast Hockey League and later founded a team in West Palm Beach, Fla., in the Sunshine Hockey League. Nyrop died from cancer on Dec. 31, 1995. In 2002, he was named to the WCHA’s 50-year anniversary team. The William Donald Nyrop defensive player of the year award will go to Notre Dame’s top defensive player.
Smith was the first coach in the program’s history and he guided the Irish for 19 seasons from 1968 to 1987, compiling a record of 307-320-30 behind the Notre Dame bench. During his tenure, his teams produced six All-Americans and finished second in the WCHA twice (1972-73 and 1976-77). He was selected the WCHA coach of the year following the 1972-73 season. In 1981-82, when the Irish moved to the CCHA, Smith guided Notre Dame to the Great Lakes Invitational Championship and the CCHA championship game. He retired following the 1986-87 season and has been the director of the Loftus Sports Center at Notre Dame since. During his time as head coach of the Irish every player who played for him went on to graduate. The Charles “Lefty” Smith Coaches Award will bear his name and is an award selected by the coaching staff that will go to the unsung hero of the hockey program, a player who is unheralded, has overcome adversity and shows loyalty and commitment to his teammates, Notre Dame hockey and the University of Notre Dame.
In Jackson’s first season behind the Notre Dame bench, the Irish were 13-19-4 overall and 11-13-4 in the CCHA, good for eighth place in the standings and home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Notre Dame improved by eight wins overall and in the CCHA and their 15-point improvement in the conference was second best to Miami’s 16-point move.
Leading the list of award winners was junior goaltender David Brown (Stoney Creek, Ont.) who was chosen as the Notre Dame Monogram Club’s team most valuable player. Brown finished the season with a 9-15-4 record and a 2.47 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. He sparked Notre Dame’s late-season playoff run by playing in 11 of the team’s last 12 games with a 1.47 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage. Notre Dame’s CCHA Perani Cup winner for star of the game with 38 points, Brown was also the RBK Financial/CCHA goaltender of the week for Feb. 13 and the RBK/CCHA player of the month for February. His season goals-against average and save percentage were both the third best single-season marks in the program’s history.
The Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award went to junior Jason Paige (Saginaw, Mich.). Paige has served as one of the team’s alternate captains in each of the last two seasons and is a two-year member of Notre Dame’s Academic Honors Program. He was selected to the CCHA Scholar-Athlete Team for the 2005-06 season and has a 3.624 grade-point average in Finance in the Mendoza College of Business.
Erik Condra led the Irish in scoring as a freshman and was named the team’s rookie of the year.
The Notre Dame rookie of the year award went to freshman right wing Erik Condra (Livonia, Mich.). Condra led the Irish in scoring with 34 points on six goals and 28 assists and was the first freshman to lead Notre Dame in scoring since 1992-93 when Jamie Ling `97 did it with 40 points. Condra also led all CCHA freshmen in scoring with 34 points and was selected to the 2006 CCHA all-rookie team.
Junior Wes O’Neill (Essex, Ont.) was named the first winner of the William Donald Nyrop defensive player of the year. The big defenseman finished fourth in scoring for the Irish with six goals and 19 assists for 25 points on the year, setting career bests with 19 assists and 25 points while equaling his best goal output with six. O’Neill played in all situations for Notre Dame on the blue line and recorded four goals and 13 assists while on the power play.
Senior goaltender Rory Walsh won the first Charles “Lefty” Smith Coaches Award – an award selected by the coaching staff that will go to the unsung hero of the hockey program, a player who is unheralded, has overcome adversity and shows loyalty and commitment to his teammates, Notre Dame hockey and the University of Notre Dame.
Goaltender Rory Walsh (Sr., Milton, Mass.) received the first Charles “Lefty” Smith Coaches Award an award voted on by the coaching staff as the unsung hero of the hockey program, a player who is unheralded, has overcome adversity and shows loyalty and commitment to his teammates, Notre Dame hockey and the University of Notre Dame. As the team’s third goaltender, was the consummate team player while seeing limited playing time. He pushed the team’s top to goaltenders in practice everyday and was a positive influence in the locker room all season long.
Notre Dame’s offensive player of the year was junior center Josh Sciba (Westland, Mich.) who blossomed this past season, leading the Irish in goals (17) while finishing second in scoring with 30 points. Sciba was +3 on the year and scored 10 power-play goals and one short-handed tally on the year. His 17 goals were third best among CCHA scorers and his 10 power-play markers tied him for third in the league. He was chosen the CCHA offensive player of the week on Feb. 19th.
The team’s Most Improved Player Award went to sophomore forward Mark Van Guilder (Roseville, Minn.). After scoring just eight points as a freshman, Van Guilder finished fourth on the team in scoring with eight goals and 18 for 26 points and became one of the team’s key players on the power play and in penalty-killing situations. He had six power-play goals and one short-handed goal on the year. Van Guilder picked up his first career hat trick on Feb. 17 in a 7-4 win at Bowling Green.
The Distinguished Alumni Award went to two former Irish hockey players to honor their accomplishments and the example they set to others as an alumnus of the program. Former Irish defenseman Dave Bossy `77 and forward Paul Regan `73 were the first two honorees. Bossy has distinguished himself as the chairman of Mid-American Real Estate Corporation in Chicago and has served as a board member on Notre Dame’s Monogram from 2002-05. Last summer, he made a $100,000 donation to the Monogram’s Summer Service program that sponsors Irish student-athletes involved in summer community service programs.
Regan was a member of one of the program’s first recruiting classes and finished his career in 1973 with 89 goals, 97 assists and 186 points. One of the team’s captains in 1972-73, Regan is currently fifth in goals, 10th in assists and eighth in points on Notre Dame’s all-time scoring list. He went on to teach and work in educational administration in Simcoe, Ontario.
Receiving the first Honorary Alumni Award was Tim McNeill. The first assistant coach in the program’s history, McNeill served the Irish for seven years and was Lefty Smith’s top recruiter and helped the Irish hockey program achieve a 100% graduation rate during his tenure. McNeill was presented a Notre Dame jersey by his son, Mike McNeill, one of the top players in Notre Dame hockey history and a 1988 graduate of the program.
The awards program also recognized the various weekly award winners for the Irish and those players who received end-of-the-year honors from the CCHA. Also, the six-members of the hockey class of 2006 – Matt Amado (Surrey, B.C.), Tony Gill (Rochester, Minn.), Chris Trick (Troy, Mich.), Tim Wallace (Anchorage, Alaska), Mike Walsh (Northville, Mich.) and Rory Walsh – were honored and spoke to the crowd of over 150 in attendance. They received their Notre Dame hockey jersey; a senior plaque and a CCHA watch to celebrate their four years with the program.