Nov. 19, 1999

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame hockey team has signed two of the nation’s top-ranked defensemen-Neil Komadoski (Chesterfield, Mo.) and Brett Lebda (Buffalo Grove, Ill.)-to national letters of intent during the fall signing period, head coach Dave Poulin announced today.

Komadoski and Lebda are members of the United States Hockey Developmental Program, which also has produced five members of the current Notre Dame squad. The developmental program is based in Ann Arbor, Mich., with the USA Under-18 National Team competing in the United States Hockey League (USHL), in addition to playing various international tournaments.

The 6-1, 205-pound Komadoski-who made a verbal commitment to the Irish in April of 1999-is rated by national scouting services as high as second among United States defensemen for his age group (1982 birthdays), while the 5-10, 185-pound Lebda has been rated as high as sixth on the national recruiting charts.

“Neil and Brett will be tremendous additions to our program and together they will form the cornerstone of our defense for the next four years,” says Poulin, who will look to his new signees for major contributions in the 2000-2001 season, due to impending graduation of four senior defensemen. “They both have the benefits of playing with the USA program and are used to the pressure of big-time games, after playing in international events all over the world during their career.

“Neil is a great team leader who will be an enforcer on the blue line due to his toughness and aggressiveness. He has strong all-around skills and will be a top penalty killer,” adds Poulin. “Brett is a very dynamic player and a great leader who likes to start the offense from the blue line. He also is an explosive skater and will be a key member of our power play.”

Komadoski’s two-year totals with the USA Developmental Program include five goals, 13 assists and 278 penalty minutes in 64 games. He captained the USA Under-17 team during the 1998-99 season while totaling three goals, 11 assists and 187 penalty minutes in games within the North American Hockey League and international play. His current totals with the Under-18 Team include two goals, two assists and a USHL-leading 91 penalty minutes in 17 games, with his four points ranking second behind Lebda among the USA’s corps of defensemen.

Lebda’s two-year totals as the USA’s top-scoring defenseman include 13 goals, 21 assists and 52 penalty minutes in 65 games. He led the USA Under-17 defensemen in 1998-99 with 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists), plus 34 penalty minutes, three power-play goals and one shorthanded goal while earning a spot in the NAHL all-star game. He continues to lead the Under-18 defensemen in scoring this season, with three goals, five assists and 18 penalty minutes in 15 games played. Lebda’s eight points rank fifth among all defensemen in the USHL this season and he directs a USA power-play unit that is operating at an 18 percent efficiency this season.

The Under-18 team recently returned from the Three Nations Tournament in Sweden, with Komodoski serving as an alternate captain during that event (the team’s players with 1981 birthdays don’t participate in the international games). The Under-18 team will compete at the Five Nations Tournament in February of 2000, with the challenging field including Finland, Sweden, Russia and the Czech Republic. The team then will complete its season in April at the Under-18 World Championship, in Zurich, Switzerland.

Lebda will join a Notre Dame program that currently includes six players from Illinois, with the others including senior defenseman Sean Molina (Skokie), junior right wing Matt Van Arkel (Richton Park), sophomore goaltender Jeremiah Kimento (Palos Hills) and three members of the highly-touted freshman class: goaltender Tony Zasowski (Darien), defenseman Evan Nielsen (Evanston) and right wing Michael Chin (Urbana).

Komadoski follows in the footsteps of longtime friend and former youth hockey teammate Connor Dunlop (St. Louis, Mo.), a current freshman center at Notre Dame who shares the team scoring lead with seven points through the first 12 games. Dunlop’s father Blake Dunlop and Komadoski’s father, Neil Komadoski, Sr., were teammates with the NHL’s St. Louis Blues during the 1979-80 season.

The current Irish roster includes five players who are products of the USA Developmental Program. Chin and sophomore center Brett Henning were members of the USA program during the 1997-98 season while Dunlop, freshman forward John Wroblewski and freshman defenseman Paul Harris spent the past two seasons in the USA Developmental Program (Nielsen was invited to join the USA program but elected to return for his senior season at The Taft School in Watertown, Conn.).

Notre Dame is set to lose eight seniors from the current squad, including several regular starters. Those players include team captain and center Ben Simon (33 goals, 70 assists in 115 career games), right wing Joe Dusbabek (20G-35A, 102 games), left wing Andy Jurkowski (6G-6A, 82 games) and center Troy Bagne (4G-8A, 104 games) plus four defensemen: Tyson Fraser (6G-41A, 101 games), 6-2, 225-pound Nathan Borega (3G-10A, 109 games), Molina (0G-17A, 118 games) and Sean Seyferth (4G-3A, 37 games).

KOMADOSKI NOTES: Komadoski’s hockey background includes playing with the Creve Coeur Comets and the St. Louis Junior Blues. He started playing as a forward before shifting to defense full-time as an 11-year-old and later spent his 10th-grade year playing for the Toronto Young Nationals in the Metro Toronto Hockey League. He is the son of Neil and Lauren Komodoski. The elder Komadoski played eight seasons in the NHL, as a defenseman with the Los Angeles Kings (1972-78) and St. Louis Blues (1977-80). He totaled 501 career games, with 16 goals, 76 assists and 632 penalty minutes.

KOMADOSKI ON HIS DECISION: “When I came on my unofficial visit last April, I fell in love with everything about Notre Dame-the campus, the coaches, the education. A lot of older players have told me that when you go on a campus visit, you will feel if it’s the right place for you. I could tell it was the right place for me. It’s such a prestigious school and a great environment and will provide me with the best education I can have. The hockey program is building for success and I want to be a big part of that. … On the ice, I’m an aggressive and tough player with a take-no-prisoners attitude. I want to get in there and get things done, but also want to have fun. I definitely have the mentality for being a defensive defenseman. … Playing with the USA program is an unbelievable experience, because you get to play for your country. It’s really an honor and an obligation, to both your country and your self. And you end up playing against the best competition in the country and the world. One of the great things about playing with the USA program is the individual attention and great coaching. You also get faster, bigger and stronger off the ice. And the whole experience, with the 80-game schedule and international games, makes you mentally tough. … I don’t think a lot of people consider St. Louis to be a hockey hot spot but the quality of the teams and players have picked up a lot in recent years. A lot of that has to do with former St. Louis Blues players getting involved with coaching the kids and helping them develop. … I have goals and aspirations to play in the NHL and Notre Dame will be a steppingstone to that. It will prepare me both on and off the ice.”

LEBDA NOTES: Lebda, a lifelong native of Buffalo Grove, is the first member of his family to play competitive hockey. He began playing hockey as a two-year old and spent his first five seasons as a member of the Chamburg Kings, followed by two seasons with the Glenview Stars. Lebda then played six seasons of AAA hockey with the Chicago Young Americans and one with Team Illinois before accepting an invitation to join the USA Developmental Program as a 16-year old. He was coached by Sylvain Turcotte with the Stars and Young Americans before playing for Tom “Chico” Adrahtas with Team Illinois. Lebda played against current Irish freshman defenseman Evan Nielsen during their youth hockey days. He made his official visit to Notre Dame during the hockey series versus Michigan (Oct. 7-8). He is the son of Steve and Nanci Lebda.

LEBDA ON HIS DECISION: “I considered a lot of factors before making my choice and Notre Dame was the best choice for me in a lot of ways. I’m looking forward to having the chance to step in and contribute right away and I was attracted to the style of play in the CCHA. I also liked the location of Notre Dame, being close to home, and will be able to take advantage of the quality education available at Notre Dame. I sat down and talked with Connor (Dunlop) and John (Wroblewski) when I came to Notre Dame on my official visit and they told me what a great choice Notre Dame has been for them. … I’ve loved being part of the USA Hockey Development Program. It makes you work hard and makes you better. The experience from playing in international games is unbelievable because of the high level of competition and playing in the USHL also is a great challenge, because you are skating against guys several years older than you. … Hockey is getting so big everywhere, but the Illinois youth hockey programs are doing a good job in recognizing players at a young age and following up with developing that talent.”

Player         Pos. Birthdate  Ht.   Wt. Shoots  Hometown/1999-2000 team  
Neil Komadoski D 2/10/82 6-1 205 L Chesterfield, MO/USA Under-18 National TeamBrett Lebda D 1/15/82 5-10 185 L Buffalo Grove, IL/USA Under-18 National Team