April 2, 2007
Notre Dame, Ind. – The Notre Dame hockey program announced its individual awards for the 2006-07 season at its’ annual Awards Program held Sunday afternoon at the Mendoza College of Business Atrium and Auditorium. While the team honored the recently concluded record-setting season, they also took a moment to honor the past as two alumni of the program and a former athletic trainer were honored for their service to the program.
Led by CCHA coach of the year and Spencer Penrose Award candidate, head coach Jeff Jackson; Notre Dame posted a 32-7-3 overall record in 2006-07. On the way, the Irish won their first-ever CCHA regular-season and CCHA tournament titles. They appeared in the NCAA tournament for the second time in the program’s history while winning the first NCAA tournament game, a 3-2 double-overtime win against Alabama-Huntsville on March 23. The 32 wins was an improvement of 19 victories on the season and the 19-point jump in the CCHA standings followed a 15-point jump in 2005-06.
Leading the list of award winners was senior goaltender David Brown (Stoney Creek, Ont.) who was chosen as the Notre Dame Monogram Club’s team most valuable player for the second consecutive season. As a senior, Brown shattered most of Notre Dame’s goaltending marks. He finished the year with a 30-6-3 overall record to go with a 1.58 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage with six shutouts. His 30 wins led the nation, as did the 1.58 goals-against mark. His .931 save percentage was second in the nation while his six shutouts tied for second overall. At Notre Dame the wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts were all single-season records. For his outstanding season, Brown has been named first team all-CCHA, the CCHA goaltender of the year, the CCHA player of the year and he was the CCHA goaltender of the week three times during the regular season. In the postseason, Brown was selected to the CCHA all-tournament team and was the CCHA tournament most valuable player. A finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and Lowes Senior CLASS honors, Brown finished his Notre Dame career as the all-time leader in goals-against average (2.32), save percentage (.916) and shutouts (12). His 55 wins are the second-best total in the program’s history. He will compete in the NCAA Skills Competition at the NCAA Frozen Four this coming weekend.
For the second year in a row, Jason Paige was selcted as the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete award winner.
The Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award went to senior Jason Paige (Saginaw, Mich.). Paige has won the Rockne Student-Athlete Award two years in a row and he will graduate in May with a degree in Finance from the Mendoza College of Business. After seven semesters, Paige has a 3.612 grade-point average and was named to the CCHA Scholar-Athlete team for the second consecutive year. On the ice, the senior center had a career-best season as he scored 11 goals with 11 assists for 22 points, all career highs. Among his 11 goals were five power-play goals and four game winners.
The Notre Dame rookie of the year award was presented to freshman left wing Ryan Thang (Edina, Minn.). One of three Notre Dame players selected to the CCHA all-rookie team, Thang led the Irish with 20 goals and his 41 points overall ranked him second on the team in scoring. Among his 20 goals were 10 power-play goals and six game winners as he led Notre Dame in both categories. Thang also was a finalist for CCHA rookie of the year honors and was a two-time CCHA rookie of the week selection during the season.
Senior defenseman Noah Babin (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) was selected by his teammates as the winner of the William Donald Nyrop defensive player of the year. The award is named after former Irish All-American defenseman Bill Nyrop `74, who played for the Irish from 1970-74. Recognized as one of the top defensemen ever to play at Notre Dame, Nyrop was an all-WCHA and All-American in 1973. 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.
Babin led all Notre Dame blueliners in scoring this season with two goals and 20 assists for 22 points and he turned in a +10 plus-minus mark. An honorable mention all-CCHA selection, Babin signed as a free agent with the Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL and is currently playing with Albany in the American Hockey League.
Team captain T.J. Jindra (Sr., Faribault, Minn.) was selected by the coaching staff as the winner of the Charles “Lefty” Smith Coaches Award an award presented 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. The award is named after the first Irish hockey coach of the modern era – Charles “Lefty” Smith who served as head coach of the Irish for 19 seasons from 1968 to 1987, compiling a record of 307-320-30. During his 19 seasons, Smith produced six All-Americans and was the WCHA coach of the year following the 1972-73 season.
Team captain T.J. Jindra received the Charles “Lefty” Smith Coaches Award at the Annual Awards Banquet.
Jindra, a two-time captain of the Irish, was honored for his work on and off the ice. The consummate team leader, Jindra was instrumental in the success of the Irish as he served as the liaison between his teammates and the coaching staff over the last two seasons. Jindra had two goals and seven assists for nine points in 41 games this season.
Notre Dame’s offensive player of the year was sophomore right wing Erik Condra (Livonia, Mich.) who led the Irish in scoring with 14 goals and 34 assists for 48 points, all career highs. Condra had four power-play goals and four game winners on the season. He finished second in the CCHA this season with a +30 plus-minus and was a two-time CCHA offensive player of the week. Condra was selected to the CCHA all-tournament team in 2006-07 and was an honorable mention all-CCHA selection. His 48 points tied him for sixth in the CCHA and his 34 assists tied him for second in the conference.
The winner of the team’s Most Improved Player Award went to sophomore left wing Garrett Regan (Hastings, Minn.). After scoring just seven points as a freshman, Regan had a break out season in 2006-07 as he finished fifth in scoring with 14 goals and 12 assists for 26 points. He had four two-goals games on the season and among his 14 goals were four power-play goals, one short-handed tally and four game winners. An outstanding skater, Regan was a key member of Notre Dame’s power play and penalty-killing units.
The Irish honored two former players as their Distinguished Alumni Award winners. Joining Dave Bossy `77 and Paul Regan `73, the first two award recipients were Brian Walsh `77 and Phil Wittliff ’71. Walsh is a native of Cambridge, Mass., who finished his Notre Dame career as the all-time leading scorer with 234 points on 89 goals and 145 assists. A 1977 All-American, he was the WCHA rookie of the year in 1974 and was the WCHA most valuable player in 1977. A successful businessman in the Boston area, Brian Walsh received his Gold Helmet Award from his son, Rory `06, who was a four-year member of the Notre Dame hockey team from 2002-06.
Wittliff came to Notre Dame to play football in 1966 and went on to become the hockey program’s first star. A two-time team captain, Wittliff was a member of both the club hockey program and the first varsity program at Notre Dame in 1968-69. In 85 career games, the Port Huron, Mich., native graduated as the program’s leading scorer with 72 goals and 52 assists for 124 points. He went on to become the first Notre Dame player to play professional hockey as he signed with the Milwaukee Admirals of the United States Hockey League and stayed 35 years as a player, coach and administrator with the Admirals in the USHL, the IHL and the AHL. In 2004, he oversaw the Admirals winning their first-ever AHL Calder Cup title. He received his Gold Helmet Award from former Irish assistant coach Tim McNeill.
Receiving the Honorary Alumni Award were former athletic trainer John Whitmer and team chaplain, Rev. Thomas Gaughan, C.S.C. Whitmer joined the Notre Dame hockey program in 1969 and spent 32 years overseeing the health and rehabilitation needs of Notre Dame’s hockey players. In 1991, he received an honorary monogram from the Notre Dame National Monogram Club for his years of service to Notre Dame athletics and in 2001; he was inducted into the Indiana Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame.
Fr. Gaughan has served as team chaplain for the hockey program for 15 years and has been a loyal and avid supporter of the program. A long-time rector in Stanford Hall, Gaughan performs team Masses prior to home weekends and on the road when traveling with the team. A native of Massachusetts, Fr. Gaughan is also an avid hockey player as he still plays in goal for various local teams.
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 eight members of the hockey class of 2007 – Noah Babin, Michael Bartlett (Morton Grove, Ill.), David Brown, T.J. Jindra, Wes O’Neill (Essex, Ont.), Jason Paige, Tom Sawatske (Duluth, Minn.) and Josh Sciba (Westland, Mich.) – were honored and spoke to the crowd of over 200 in attendance.