Sept. 23, 2005
Notre Dame, Ind. – The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey program enters a new era with the dawning of the 2005-06 season. The Jeff Jackson era officially begins on Saturday, Oct. 1 when the new head coach can take the ice with his team for the first official practice of the new season. Jackson becomes just the fourth head coach in the modern era (since 1968) as he takes over for Dave Poulin who has moved into a development position within the athletic department.
The veteran head coach returns to the collegiate ranks as the winningest active coach (.751 winning percentage) for the first time since 1996 when he finished his sixth season behind the Lake Superior State bench. In his six seasons guiding the Lakers, Jackson’s teams were 182-52-25 (.751), won two CCHA regular-season titles, four playoff titles and a pair of NCAA titles (1992 and 1994) while finishing second in 1993.
Since leaving the Lakers, Jackson has spent four years (1996-2000) as the national coach and director of the U.S. National Team Developmental Program, three years (2000-03) as head coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm and two years (2003-05) as an assistant coach with the New York Islanders.
He takes over a Notre Dame team that will look to rebound from the worst season in the program’s 38-year history.
The Irish were 5-27-6 overall in 2004-05 and finished last in the CCHA with a 3-20-5 record. All of this came just one year after the Irish advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 2003-04.
The biggest problem the Irish had in `04-’05 came in the goal-scoring department as they scored just 60 goals in 38 games for a 1.58 goals-per-game average.
Jackson’s new team lost just three seniors from a year ago and returns 14 players who played key roles on Notre Dame’s NCAA tournament team that was 20-15-4 overall and finished tied for fourth in the CCHA.
Lost to graduation were three players who played key roles in their four seasons with the Irish.
Team captain and right wing Cory McLean led the Irish in scoring with five goals and a career-high 17 assists for 22 points and finished a solid season and all-around career at Notre Dame by being named the CCHA’s first-ever scholar-athlete award winner. McLean played in 151 career games and had 26 goals and 42 assists for 68 career points.
Goaltender Morgan Cey, who signed a free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning in August, closed his career as Notre Dame’s all-time leader in goals-against average (2.79), save percentage (.913 and shutouts (6) while being ranked in the top 10 of every major goaltending category in the Irish record books.
Cey was the team MVP in 2004-05, as he went 3-17-5 as a senior with a 2.99 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage. He appeared in 27 games and kept his team in virtually every game he played. His season highlights included a career-best 50-save performance in a 3-2 win over No. 1 ranked Boston College on Oct. 22 and a 43-save, 1-0 overtime loss in the CCHA playoffs at Michigan in the final game of his collegiate career.
Defenseman Joe Zurenko gave the Irish four solid years on defense and a physical presence in the lineup. He had four assists for his career, playing in 101 games with 171 minutes in penalties.
Jackson and his new staff, which includes former Providence College head coach Paul Pooley, 13-year Irish assistant Andy Slaggert and volunteer assistant coach Jim Montgomery, will look to put 2004-05 in the rearview mirror and start a new era with the Irish.
Junior goaltender David Brown is Notre Dame’s top returning goaltender. He owns a 16-17-4 career record in his first two seasons with the Irish.
Brown has proven that he can be an outstanding collegiate goaltender as he was one of the keys to Notre Dame’s NCAA tournament run in 2003-04.
Last season, the 5-11, 199-pound puck stopper split time with Cey in goal, turning in a 2-10-1 mark with a 4.30 goals-against average and a .870 save percentage. His two wins came in CCHA games – at Alaska Fairbanks and in overtime at home versus Michigan State.
An outstanding technical goaltender with great reflexes and a quick glove hand, Brown figures to be the go-to-guy in the coming year and will look to return to the success he achieved as a freshman. In `03-’04, Brown was 14-7-3 and set Irish single-season marks for lowest goals-against average (2.32), save percentage (.925) and shutouts (4).
A finalist for CCHA rookie of the year honors, Brown capped his first season at Notre Dame by being selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2004 Entry Draft.
Walsh has proven to be a solid backup in his first three seasons at Notre Dame.
As the team’s third goaltender in “04-’05, Walsh battled back from a severed Achilles’ tendon that occurred at the end of his sophomore year to play three games in relief of Brown and Cey. He was 0-0-0 with a 3.41 goals against average and a .850 save percentage.
Walsh’s upbeat, positive attitude is great in the Notre Dame locker room and his ability to push the goaltenders in front of him in practice has benefited the team. As a sophomore in `03-’04, with Cey out of the lineup due to a knee injury, Walsh won the starting job and won his first-ever start, a 5-2 decision at Ohio State.
Joining the goaltending trio this season will be highly touted freshman Jordan Pearce who is an alum of the U.S National Team Developmental Program and played last season in the USHL for the Lincoln Stars.
The 6-1, 201-pound puck stopper is big and athletic and benefited playing against top competition in the USHL. With Lincoln, Pearce was 22-10-4 with a 3.07 goals-against average and a .897 save percentage in helping the Stars to a tie for second in the USHL’s Western Division. He was selected to play in the USHL’s Top Prospects game and was ranked 22nd among North American goaltenders in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings.
The Irish defense struggled at times in 2004-05 due to the fact that they played four freshmen and two sophomores much of the time. That experience can only help a blue line that will remain young this season.
Jackson and his staff will go into the opening practice with 10 defensemen on the roster. Of the 10, only one, Chris Trick (Troy, N.Y.) is a senior.
A smart and steady defenseman, the 6-3, 216-pound defender’s game blossomed during his junior year. A regular on defense, Trick contributed at both ends of the ice. He set career highs in goals (3), assists (6), points (9) and shots on goal (53) while having the lowest plus-minus (-10) among the regular defense.
Trick has the ability to make a good first pass and has confidence in his own zone. He will be a steadying influence with a young defense this season.
Noah Babin (Jr., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) and Wes O’Neill (Jr., Essex, Ont.) each had break out seasons on the Irish defense a year ago and will be joined by junior transfer Tom Sawatske (Duluth, Minn.).
Babin was voted the team’s most improved player after his sophomore year and finished fifth in scoring with career highs in goals (5), assists (6) and points (11).
The smooth-skating defender blended speed, excellent puck-handling skills and a strong, accurate shot to become one of Notre Dame’s top defensemen in `04-’05.
While Babin made big strides in his game, O’Neill took a giant leap, as he became the true leader of the Irish defense. The 6-4, 226-pounder played more minutes than anyone else on the Irish blue line, seeing action in every situation.
Junior defenseman Wes O’Neill is the team’s top returning scorer. He led all Irish blueliners with career highs in goals (6), assists (14), points (20) and power-play goals (5) in 2004-05.
A fourth-round pick of the New York Islanders during the summer of 2004, O’Neill was an offensive force from the point as he finished second in scoring with six goals and 14 assists for 20 points, all career highs. The team’s power-play specialist with five power-play markers, O’Neill also had eight assists with the man advantage to have a hand in 13 of Notre Dame’s 23 power-play goals on the year.
The Irish will look for O’Neill to continue his improvement on the ice. Don’t forget, born March 3, 1985, he will play most of his junior year as a 19-year old.
The third junior on defense this season will be Sawatske who played two seasons at Wisconsin. Last year, the 5-11, 190-pound right-shot defenseman played in the USHL with the Lincoln Stars. In 34 games, he had a goal and nine assists for 10 points and was selected to play in the Top Prospects game.
A strong, skater, Sawatske is a defensive-minded defenseman who handles the puck well. In his two seasons at Wisconsin, he had three goals and 11 assists in 54 games.
Notre Dame’s defensive depth comes in the sophomore class as five players who saw various amounts of action in `04-’05 return with a year of Division I experience under their belts.
Luke Lucyk (Fox Point, Wis.), Brock Sheahan (Lethbridge, Alb.) and Dan VeNard (Vernon Hills, Ill.) saw the most playing time while Brian D’Arcy (Western Springs, Ill.) and Andrew Eggert (Livonia, Mich.) provided depth.
Lucyk played in 33 of Notre Dame’s 38 games and gave the Irish a physical presence on defense. At 6-0, 192-pounds, Lucyk’s game improved as the season went on and he adjusted to the speed of the collegiate game. The rugged blueliner had a goal (a game-tying goal in a 1-1 tie with Nebraska-Omaha) and an assist for two points on the year.
Sheahan was a regular on the Irish defense, playing in 36 of the team’s 38 games on the season. The 5-11, 176-pound defender is strong on his skates and moves the puck well with excellent play-making skills.
VeNard played in 25 games with a goal and assist and was sidelined twice with injuries. When healthy, the former Green Bay Gambler showed excellent defensive instincts and a strong ability to move the puck in his zone. A sound defensive defenseman, VeNard had the best plus/minus on the team (-4) among players who played 25 games or more.
D’Arcy got into 10 games during the season while Eggert saw action in four. D’Arcy has size (6-2, 191) while Eggert (5-9, 164) is a smooth-skating defender.
The lone freshman on the Notre Dame blue line this season is Jamie Silverson (Thunder Bay, Ont.)
At 6-4, 222-pounds, Silverson is a physical defenseman who enjoys throwing his weight around. Strong in the corners and in front of the net, Silverson played last year in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
In 49 games, Silverson had six assists to go along with 117 minutes in penalties.
While the Irish defense remains young in numbers, there is experience at the top of the group. O’Neill is the leader of the defense and Trick and Babin figure to play key roles. Sawatske has two years of Division I experience, giving the Irish four veterans among the junior and senior classes.
Offense is where the Irish will look to improve. After scoring just 60 goals last year and having a power play that converted at just a 9.8% success rate, the forwards have to step up their games.
Notre Dame returns 12 forwards from last year’s team and has added four forwards to the roster, including several who had outstanding junior careers.
Senior center Matt Amado will look to provide a spark to the Notre Dame offense in 2005-06.
Leading the senior forwards are Tim Wallace (Anchorage, Alaska) and Matt Amado (Surrey, B.C.) who finished second and third on the squad in scoring. They are joined by Mike Walsh (Northville, Mich.) and Tony Gill (Rochester, Minn.) among the fourth-year returnees.
Wallace had five goals and career highs in assists (9) and points (14) during `04-’05. The 6-1, 207-pound right wing is a solid, two-way player who has never missed a game in his career. His consecutive games played streak of 117 is a Notre Dame record. Wallace has the size and skill to be a top power forward and will look to add to the Irish scoring attack.
Senior right wing Tim Wallace enters his senior season having played in 117 consecutive games during his Notre Dame career.
Amado is a strong skater with excellent playmaking skills. He can create his own shot or set up a teammate. As a junior, he had five goals and seven assists for 12 points in 31 games. He’s shown flashes of his skills over the past three seasons and will look to play at a more consistent level in the upcoming campaign.
Mike Walsh will look to find his sophomore-year goal-scoring touch again. Last year as a junior, Walsh had just two goals and eight assists for 10 points after turning in a 12-goal, 13-assist campaign the previous year.
At 6-2, 221 pounds, Walsh has all the tools to be the big, prototypical power forward that teams covet. He’s got size, speed and great hands. A New York Ranger draft choice in 2002, Walsh has a nose for the net and has scored his share of big goals for the Irish.
Gill gives Notre Dame non-stop hustle and energy. One of the team’s hardest working players, the Rochester, Minn., native is a strong skater who is an outstanding forechecker who makes life difficult for opposing forwards. He scored the first two goals of his collegiate career as a junior and will look to contribute more in his final season with the Irish.
The Notre Dame roster features five juniors, all of whom have seen their share of action in their first two seasons at Notre Dame.
Josh Sciba (Westland, Mich.) is the top-returning goal scorer among the junior forwards. His six goals (three on the power play) tied O’Neill for the team lead in that department and his four assists gave him 10 points on the year. Sciba gives the Irish outstanding speed and great hands and has a nice touch around the net. He could be ready to have a break out season from his left wing spot.
In Michael Bartlett (Morton Grove, Ill.), Jason Paige (Saginaw, Mich.) and T. J. Jindra (Faribault, Minn.) the Irish have three of the top defensive forwards in the CCHA. Over the last two seasons they’ve been Notre Dame’s top penalty-killing forwards.
Bartlett is a 6-0, 196-pound forward who can play on the right or left side. Strong on his skates, he had two goals and six assists for eight points on the year. His strong stickhandling skills have earned him time on the Irish power play from time to time in his first two seasons.
Paige was held to four goals and three assists in `04-’05 after scoring 10 goals as a freshman. The hard-nosed center scored all of his goals on special teams as he notched three power-play tallies and one short-handed goal on the year. One of the team’s top face-off men, Paige is a tough, tenacious physical player who has a driving will to win.
Jindra plays on the right wing and had four goals and five assists last season. Scoring in the clutch became a habit for Jindra as a sophomore as two of his four goals were game winners and one came short-handed. A shot-blocking machine, Jindra usually plays against the opposition’s top forwards due to his outstanding defensive skills.
Rounding out the junior class is Matt Williams-Kovacs (Calgary, Alb.). The 5-10, 190-pound right wing will look to put the `04-’05 season behind him as he missed 32 of the team’s 38 games due to a broken ankle suffered in the fourth game of the season and a major wrist fracture in his second game after coming back from the broken ankle.
A top scorer in junior hockey, Williams-Kovacs may provide some of the goal scoring the Irish have needed if he can stay healthy. Three sophomores saw plenty of action in their freshman year and will look to have more of an impact in the 2005-06 campaign.
Sophomore Evan Rankin lead Notre Dame’s freshmen class in scoring with five goals and five assists for 10 points last season.
Evan Rankin (Portage, Mich.) was the team’s top freshman scorer last season as he had five goals and five assists for 10 points on the year. Rankin, a 6-1, 182-pound right wing showed a willingness to hang out around the net looking for rebounds and showed signs of an excellent scoring touch. A skilled puckhandler, Rankin knows how to make plays and doesn’t shy away from the physical play in the CCHA.
Mark Van Guilder (Roseville, Minn.) joined the Irish and immediately took over a key role on the power play. At 6-2, 194 pounds, Van Guilder, one of four Tri-City Storm alums on the team, gave Notre Dame a big, strong forward who could handle the puck down low along the boards. He finished second on the team with 70 shots on goal and had three goals and five assists on the year.
The third member of the group is Victor Oreskovich (Oakville, Ont.). The highly touted forward had his struggles offensively during his rookie year, but it wasn’t due to lack of effort. The 6-3, 199-pound right wing led the team with 83 shots on goal, but only scored once with two assists for three points.
Blessed with size and speed, the second-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche in the 2004 NHL Draft will move to center this year to take advantage of his size and skill. A strong year from the former Green Bay Gambler could go a long way to remedy some of the offensive issues that face the Irish.
Joining the squad this season are four freshmen who have had their share of success in junior hockey and hope to have it continue this season in South Bend. The group includes Erik Condra (Livonia, Mich.), Christian Hanson (Venetia, Pa.), Garrett Regan (Hastings, Minn.) and Justin White (Traverse City, Mich.).
Condra brings his share of offensive skills to Notre Dame as he is coming off a 30-goal, 30-assist campaign with the USHL’s Lincoln Stars in `04-’05. Eleven of those goals came on the power play, with four short-handed tallies and six game-winning goals. The nephew of Irish All-American Kirt Bjork (`83), Condra is 5-11, 184 pounds and can play either center or right wing. A strong two-way player, he is a solid playmaker with a nose for the net.
Hanson brings plenty of offensive tools to Notre Dame after playing two seasons with the USHL’s Tri-City Storm. A 6-4, 202-pound right-handed center, Hanson led the Storm in scoring with 19 goals and 33 assists for 52 points. A skilled playmaker with great hands, Hanson was the winner of the USHL’s Curt Hammer Award that goes to the league’s “most gentlemanly player on and off the ice.” He was ranked 66th in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings going into the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
Regan joins the Irish after playing three seasons with the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks where he helped that team to the USHL title in `03-’04. Last season, the 5-11, 178-pound left wing finished third on the team in scoring with 21 goals and 24 assists for 45 points. He comes to the Irish with an outstanding reputation for his lightning-quick speed, versatility and tremendous work ethic.
White is the final member of the freshman class and comes to Notre Dame after playing last season for the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede where he had 14 goals and 14 assists for 28 points to finish seventh in team scoring. A strong skater with excellent playmaking skills and great hands, the 6-0, 178 pound forward will see action at center or left wing in his rookie year.
Jackson and his staff will have the annual Blue/Gold game (Oct. 8) and an exhibition game against Waterlook (Oct.14) to get ready for a season that opens with four games versus some of college hockey’s top teams among the first six contests. The Irish open the year at Colorado College (Oct. 21), an NCAA semifinalist, and then face NCAA champion, Denver, the following night. After a home series with Princeton (Oct. 28 and 29), the Irish have a home-and-home series with Michigan to open the CCHA schedule on Nov. 4-5.
The 2005-06 season figures to be one of transition for the Irish as they move into a new era for the program. Coach Jeff Jackson will have the job of molding the old with the new as Notre Dame hockey looks to achieve success in the college hockey world.