April 19, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 2014-15 Notre Dame hockey team reassembled on Sunday afternoon to celebrate its season with its annual awards banquet at the Morris Inn.
Robbie Russo received both the team’s Monogram Club Most Valuable Player Award and also the squad’s William Donald Nyrop Defensive Player of the Year prize.
Voted upon by his teammates, Russo made immeasurable differences this year in all three zones, helping him earn this pair of honors. On offense, he tied for the national lead among defensemen with 15 goals this year while his 41 points fell just one shy of the national pace for defensemen. On Jan. 18, he scored a hat trick during a 6-1 win over UConn. It would be the only hat trick by a defenseman in the nation this year and the first by a Notre Dame defenseman since Frank O’Brien scored three times against Lake Forest on Feb. 20, 1988.
His 41 points this year are the most by a Hockey East defenseman since at least the 2000-01 season. A first-team All-Hockey East pick, he led the elite conference in points and goals by a defenseman this year while his 41 points stood seventh among all skaters regardless of position.
On the defensive end, Russo led the team this year with a +13 rating and earned that +13 rating on a team which was just +10 in scoring margin. It is the first time a Notre Dame player’s personal plus-minus rating was better than the team’s since the 2011-12 season. He did this while mentoring a defensive unit that regularly dressed three freshmen out of its six members and while routinely paired with a freshman in Jordan Gross. That added maturity and mentoring led coach Jackson to confer the title of “captain” upon Russo in February.
Russo was named both an All-American and a first-team All-Hockey East defenseman following the season.
The Offensive Player of the Year trophy went to Vince Hinostroza. The sophomore finished the season tied for sixth in the nation with his 33 assists and 17th with his 44 points. He was one of eight players nationally with both 10 goals and 30 assists this year and one of three from Hockey East along with BU’s Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues. One of the catalysts of Notre Dame’s second half surge, over the span from Jan. 18 to March 8, he led the nation with 18 assists, was second with 26 points, and tied for the national lead with 12 power play points. He was named first-team All-Hockey East during the season for his play.
The 2014-15 freshman-heavy team’s Rookie of the Year went to goaltender Cal Petersen who blossomed into one of the top young goaltenders the nation this season. Catching fire during the month of February, Petersen led the nation for that crucial month of conference play with a .962 save percentage, claiming wins over three top 10 teams in Providence, Boston University and Boston College. His four shutouts tied the school record by a freshman and was one shy of the national freshman lead this season. There were big save numbers down the stretch – 38 saves in a shutout of Providence, 44 saves in a road win at BU, and 55 saves in the win over BC – but nothing like what happened on March 6 when Petersen set an NCAA record by making 87 saves in Notre Dame’s five-overtime playoff game against UMass. He was named to the Hockey East all-rookie team after the year.
The Most Improved Player was perhaps the squad’s hardest hitter, defenseman Justin Wade. The sophomore continued to get better for the Irish this year and see his ice time increase. The rugged defenseman played in 41 of the team’s 42 games this year, including each of the final 40. He scored once and added six assists, one of them coming on the overtime game-winning goal against No. 6 Miami on Dec. 28. His first collegiate goal came on Jan. 18 at UConn. Wade was one of the team’s leaders in plus-minus for much of the year, finishing fifth on the squad at +7 and also showed his gritty defensive work by finishing third on the team with 49 blocked shots.
For the third consecutive year, the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete Award went to Peter Schneider. A double major in finance and economics at the Mendoza College of Business, with a minor in actuary, Schneider is the fourth three-time winner of this award. He was a nominee for the Senior CLASS Award and made the CoSIDA Academic All-District at-large team. Schneider has made all-academic teams for both Hockey East and the CCHA for the Irish. He served as an alternate captain this year and played in 41 games, seven goals and nine assists for 16 points on the season.
Senior defenseman Eric Johnson won both the Charles “Lefty” Smith Coaches Award and the Compton Family Leadership in Service Award.
A broken bone in his foot during preseason may have slowed the stead stay-at-home defenseman but it didn’t stop Johnson from helping with the young defensemen off the ice, or reclaiming a spot on it in the second half of the year. He would play in 18 games on the year helping the team keep opponents away from the goal. Johnson also can boast a 3.2 grade point average as a double major in sociology and computer applications.
Johnson has been involved in all aspects of Notre Dame hockey’s community service efforts since arriving on campus four years ago. He was a nominee for the College Hockey Humanitarian Award in 2015. Johnson has served on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for two years and is also a two-year Rosenthal Leadership Academy participant. He has annually worked the SAAC’s Pediatric Christmas Party, Relay For Life and Habitat for Humanity events. Johnson is the team’s spokesman for the Compton Family Ice Arena’s “Experience the Ice” program for local elementary and middle school kids and given himself to many other noble activities.
The Irish also annually present two awards to non-players who have made great contributions to the team.
The Distinguished Alumni Award went to T.J. Mathieson. A three-time hockey monogram winner and a three-time winner of the Rockne Scholar-Athlete Award, Mathieson graduated with a degree in aerospace engineering in 2004. He earned a master’s degree in astronautical engineering from USC in 2008. Currently employed by Northstrat Incorporated, Mathieson previously worked at Northrup Grumman as a chief engineer and deputy project manager. In 2013, he received Northrup Grumman’s Innovation of the Year award for technical achievements on complex space systems. While working as an engineer, Mathieson joined the U.S. National Track Cycling program in 2010 and has competed in numerous U.S. national championships, the Pan-Am championships and on the UCI World Cup circuit. He was selected for the 2012 U.S. Cycling Olympic Long Team. But, Mathieson has kept Our Lady’s University close to him and was recently selected for a position on the Monogram Club’s Board of Directors.
The Honorary Alumni Award went to one of the people most responsible for generating the in-arena atmosphere that has helped make the Compton Family Ice Arena one of the top spectator sport experiences in the nation – hockey band director Matt Merten. Along with Merten, the senior members of the hockey band received special recognition.
2014-15 Notre Dame Hockey Awards:
Compton Family Leadership in Service: Eric Johnson
Distinguished Alumni: T.J. Mathieson
Honorary Alumni: Matt Merten, Notre Dame Hockey Band Director
Nyrop Defensive Player of the Year: Robbie Russo
Offensive Player of the Year: Vince Hinostroza
Lefty Smith Coaches Award: Eric Johnson
Rockne Student-Athlete: Peter Schneider
Most Improved Player: Justin Wade
Rookie of the Year: Cal Petersen
Monogram Club MVP: Robbie Russo