Nov. 5, 2013
Notre Dame, Ind. –
Senior goaltender Joe Rogers will chronicle Notre Dame’s travels in Hockey East this season as the Irish travel to face several new opponents. His first installment comes from Notre Dame’s first-ever visit to Burlington, Vt., to face the University of Vermont Catamounts on November 1-2.
The Trip to Vermont
Thursday, Oct. 31
Notre Dame’s first-ever trip to Vermont to begin our Hockey East schedule started with a flight from South Bend to Burlington, Vt.
It rained the entire trip but once we got above the clouds it wasn’t too bad. It was an uneventful trip until we were ready to land. We came through the clouds over Lake Champlain and we could see the airport out the window.
All of a sudden, we went from our approach to the airport to climbing back above the clouds. The pilot came on the intercom and told us that the plane landing in front of us had lost air speed and that we were going to circle around and try again. That unnerved some of the guys. The second time around there were no problems and we landed.
We headed into Burlington, which was a cool little town. It had a lot of steep hills coming through, but even though it was overcast and a little gloomy, we could see the mountains that surrounded the area.
We checked into the hotel and had a quick snack and it was back on the bus as we headed to the rink for practice.
For most of us, we were walking into Vermont’s rink – Gutterson Fieldhouse for the first time. It really made you feel like you were in an old-time hockey barn. All the yellow and green stood out to me. The roof was half-barrel shaped and was all wood. It was definitely a throwback. It will be interesting to see how loud it gets when it is packed with people for the game. I figured that it would have a great college hockey atmosphere.
We skated for an hour and that was followed by a shootout that we always do the day before a game. That’s a fun time. I know the guys get up for it every week. It was a big day for the goalies as we won the shootout.
After that we went to dinner at the Icehouse and came back and shut it down for the evening. Even though it was Halloween, we missed out on the chance to go trick or treating. Good thing because I left my costume at home.
Friday, Nov. 1
Game day was finally here and we got up around 9:00 a.m. and headed down to the meeting room for breakfast that was followed by a team meeting to get the scouting report on what to expect from Vermont. From there, we headed over to the rink for our morning skate.
Game day skates are basically a 30-minute skate for everyone to get the blood flowing and loosen up for the game that night. More than anything it’s a lot of shots to let the goalies feel the puck, to let the skaters get a lot of shots. We did a quick run through on some of our systems and then at the end guys work on different skills like face offs, playing the puck off the boards, to get ready for the game.
Speaking for most of the players, we are very excited to finally get started playing in Hockey East. For the older guys, we’ve been hearing about it for two years, and now it is finally here.
While there is a certain excitement for being in the new conference, we have tried to keep the same mindset for every game. That is to be consistent and get up for every game, no matter whom we are playing. We will be seeing a lot of teams for the first time, so it is a new experience for all of us.
After the morning skate, we returned to the hotel. We could see Burlington Bay out the front window so Stephen Johns and I decided to go for a little adventure. We crossed the road and found a path that winded down to the water. You could see the mountains across the bay with the water rolling in, as it was pretty windy. The sun finally broke through for the first time since we arrived and you could see all the way across the bay and the lake. The air was nice and crisp and with all the color from the trees it really was a beautiful place on a perfect fall day.
After team meal, everyone began preparing for the game in various ways. For most guys, that means taking a nap before going to the rink. We left for Gutterson Fieldhouse at 4:45 p.m. as everyone’s focus was now on the game tonight.
We were welcomed to Vermont and Hockey East with a nice ceremony to start the game. It was a cool gesture by the University of Vermont as the Catamounts captain presented our captain, Jeff Costello, with a plaque welcoming us to Hockey East. They had a ceremonial puck drop with Tom Nevala (Notre Dame senior associate athletics director), Vermont’s athletics director Robert Corran and Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna dropping the puck between the two captains.
I thought it was pretty neat that before the game started the public address announcer said, “Let’s give a UVM welcome to Notre Dame as they join Hockey East,” and the crowd stood and went crazy. It was great to be on the ice and feel the excitement. That was probably the first and only applause that we were going to hear in Vermont’s building.
The first period was a pretty up-and-down period, lots of puck movement and plenty of physical play. It was a close period until they scored off a face off with just under two minutes to play in the first period.
It was really loud on the ice. Their student section really caused a lot of commotion that really made it loud. It really got loud after they scored that first goal. We knew we had to get back in the game to take their crowd out of it.
We went to the locker room with the mentality that it was early and we had lots of game left to get back in it.
In the second, we battled both Vermont and the crowd as they were really fired up and the Catamounts were playing well. We finally got one when Rusty (Bryan Rust) made a great play with a nice move at the end for us to score short-handed to tie the game at 1-1 early in the second period.
The score stayed that way until near the end. After playing hard for 58 minutes we got called for a penalty that gave Vermont the power play. They scored with less than two minutes left to take the lead 2-1 and that’s the way the game ended.
We knew going in that it was going to be a battle to the end. We were disappointed in the outcome and knew the things we had to do to turn it around for Saturday.
Saturday, Nov. 2
With Saturday’s game time set for 4:30 p.m., instead of 7:00 or later, it changed our pregame routine. Instead of going to the rink for a morning skate, we walked around Burlington. We took the trail down to Burlington Bay and did some of our stretching there. Guys played Kicks, a soccer game with the soccer ball and we threw a football around just to get loosened up.
We went back to the hotel and had a meeting and then the pregame meal at 10:30 with a mix of breakfast food and the usual pregame meal of chicken and pasta. For me, that’s something you have to acquire a taste for that early in the morning. I stayed with breakfast with eggs and waffles, but many guys went with the pasta and chicken.
After pregame, guys went to their rooms and took their naps. It was tougher to come back with the three-hour time difference. Guys were a little bit tired with less rest. But they bounced back and were ready to go.
Game time came and we were ready to play. We knew it would be tough environment and gave it all we had.
Things didn’t start out the way we wanted as we fell behind 2-0. Nowhere in the game plan do I remember the coaches talking about giving up the first two goals. We had a tough start even though we came out hard; they scored less than three minutes into the game and then got one in the final minute of the period to go up 2-0. That can really deflate you but we didn’t let us get us down. We had to refocus and realize what we had to do in the game and play to our ability.
Johnsie (Stephen Johns) came up with a really big goal that turned things around. I looked up and he was blowing by the bench in front of me and I thought `Holy Cow’ and he went through their defense and put a nice little move on the goaltender. It was great to see him step up like that and it gave us some momentum. I’m not sure where that move came from but it was a good one. Stephen’s goal really got the bench going.
We were getting some good chances the rest of the way but couldn’t seem to put one by their goaltender. We had some openings that either got tipped wide or just missed the net and their goaltender made some good stops. It was frustrating because we were controlling the play.
Then Sammy Herr came up with the big play coming up the left wing and firing it over their goalie to tie the game. The next thing you know, the bench was on fire and another shift later here comes Sammy again and again it was bing off the net. I don’t think anyone on the nice knew the puck was in the goal but it was and we had a 3-2 lead.
From there, the boys held on and we got out of there with our first Hockey East win.
Looking back, I think we now know how tough Hockey East can be. It’s good to get that first win under our belt. Moving forward, we know that each series in the league will be that competitive and we know how tough each weekend in Hockey East will be.