Sept. 12, 2003
Notre Dame, Ind. – While it may still feel like summer on the Notre Dame campus, the Irish hockey team is looking forward to September, 26th, their first official day of practice at the Joyce Center.
The Irish icers go into the 2003-04 season looking to build on their late season success of a year ago. For those who may have forgotten, the 2002-03 season ended the same way the previous year did – a strong stretch run, followed by a first-round playoff upset and then a tough, one-goal loss in the opening game of the CCHA’s Super Six.
The Irish finished the 2002-03 season in a three-way tie for fifth-place in the CCHA with a 13-12-3 mark, their first winning season in the CCHA since the 1999-2000 season. Overall the Notre Dame finished the year with a 17-17-6 record highlighted by winning six of their final eight regular-season games.
The Irish visited Oxford, Ohio for the first round of the CCHA playoffs versus the Miami RedHawks.
Following a 4-2 loss in game one of the best-of-three series, Irish goaltender Morgan Cey took over, recording back-to-back shutouts (1-0 and 5-0), a first in Notre Dame hockey history.
Cey’s heroics sent the Irish to Joe Louis Arena for the third time in four seasons, a feat surpassed only by Michigan and Michigan State, as both those schools have been their in all four seasons. At the Super Six, Notre Dame’s season came to an end in a 3-2 loss to Ohio State.
In 2003-04, the Irish will strive to become more consistent as a team all season long and look to build on the strong finish to the 2002-03 campaign.
After a fast start in ’02-’03 (3-0-1 and a national ranking for the first time since 1998-99), the Irish went into the Christmas holiday with an 8-8-3 record. After winning on Jan. 3 at Nebraska-Omaha, the Irish proceeded to go 0-6-3 over the next nine games before finding their game again in February.
Head coach Dave Poulin, who begins his ninth season behind the Irish bench, thinks his program can go further this year.
Dave Poulin enters his ninth season as head coach of the Irish.
“We want to take our play to the next level this season,” says Poulin.
“We’ve made strides the last two years, especially late in the year with strong finishes and playoff upsets. We’ve been to Joe Louis Arena in three of the last four years, but that’s not enough anymore. We have to take the next step and that’s making it to the NCAA tournament. That’s the next step,” adds Poulin.
In all, the Irish return 15 monogram winners from last season, including five of their top 10 scorers, six veteran defensemen and their top goaltender.
Notre Dame’s losses include six forwards who accounted for 47 goals (38.5% of team’s goals) and 67 assists, its top defenseman and the back-up goaltender.
Leading the list of departed forwards are left wing John Wroblewski and center Connor Dunlop.
Wroblewski turned in the best year of his career and was the team’s most valuable player as he set career highs in goals (17), assists (16), points (33), power-play goals (8) and short-handed goals (2). His 33 points ranked second on the team and he was the team leader in CCHA scoring with 28 points (15g-13a).
Dunlop finished third in scoring with 31 points on six goals and a team-leading 25 assists. He became the 39th player in Notre Dame history to score over 100 points in his career as he finished with 25 goals and 86 assists for 111 points. The 86 assists rank Dunlop 18th on the all-time Irish assist list.
Also moving on among the forwards are Kyle Dolder, Yan Stastny, Jake Wiegand and Michael Chin.
Dolder decided not to play his senior season after earning monograms as a sophomore and junior. He walked on to the team as a freshman.
Primarily a defensive forward, Dolder had become a key member of the Irish checking line the last two seasons. He had two goals and four assists in 29 games last season. Two of his five career goals have been game-winning markers.
Stastny left Notre Dame following his sophomore season to play professional hockey. The hard-working center scored 14 goals and added nine assists for 23 points to finish sixth in scoring. An eighth-round pick of the Boston Bruins in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Stastny could end up either playing in Europe or in the Bruins’ system.
Wiegand turned in his best year at Notre Dame during his senior campaign. He scored six goals and added eight assists for 14 points, all career highs, and came up with some big goals for the Irish in their stretch drive.
Chin lit the lamp four times and added nine assists for 13 points on the year. The talented forward got off to a fast start in 2002-03 and finished his career with 24 goals and 26 assists for 50 points.
The defense lost just one skater, but he was a four-year regular on the blue line. A two-time team captain, Evan Nielsen, played in all but two games during his career and finished as the program’s all-time “Iron Man” by playing in 114 consecutive games to end his career.
Nielsen had three goals and a career-high 18 assists for 21 points to tie Brett Lebda for second among Irish defenders in scoring. For his career, Nielsen had 16 goals and 51 assists for 67 points in 156 career games.
In goal, the Irish lost Tony Zasowski, who served as Morgan Cey’s back up in his final two seasons. As a senior, Zasowski was 2-2-0 with a 3.43 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage.
In four seasons, two as a starter at Notre Dame, Zasowski owned a 21-23-11 record with a 3.11 goals-against average and a .892 save percentage and two shutouts.
One of the big keys to Notre Dame’s success in 2003-04 will be their senior-led defense and the play of junior goaltender Morgan Cey (Jr., Wilkie, Sask.).
Morgan Cey has handled the bulk of the workload in his first two seasons, playing in 71 of the team’s 79 games in that span. He is already tied for sixth on Notre Dame’s all-time win list with 30 career victories.
Cey has handled the bulk of the workload in his first two seasons, playing in 71 of the team’s 79 games in that span. He is already tied for sixth on Notre Dame’s all-time win list with 30 career victories.
As a sophomore, Cey was 15-15-6 with a 2.87 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage (a single-season Notre Dame record). His back-to-back shutouts in the first round of the CCHA playoffs versus Miami sent the Irish to the CCHA Super Six for the second consecutive season.
The junior puckstopper’s 147:19 shutout streak during the playoffs set a Notre Dame record and he also stopped three penalty shots along the way.
In CCHA play, Cey was 12-11-3 with a 2.99 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage.
Some of the burden on Cey could be absorbed by incoming freshman David Brown (Fr., Stoney Creek, Ont.), who joins the Irish after two strong seasons of junior hockey in Canada.
Brown played in the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League for the Hamilton Kilty Bees where he had a 3.11 goals-against average and a .881 save percentage. He played in 35 of Hamilton’s 49 games leading the Bees to a 38-8-3 record in the Western Division.
In 2001-02, he had the lowest goals-against average (3.24) in his division and helped Hamilton to the Western Division finals. He also played on the Team Ontario Under-17 team that captured the bronze medal at the 2002 World Under-17 tournament.
Sophomore goaltender Rory Walsh (Milton, Mass.) gives the Irish depth in goal. He didn’t see any action as a freshman but gained experience and improved his overall game during the year in practice. He gives the Irish a solid, reliable third goaltender for the coming year.
Providing protection for Cey, Brown and Walsh is a veteran defensive corps led by four seniors and a pair of juniors.
The senior class of defensemen is a talented group, not only in the defensive zone, but on offense as well.
Over the past three seasons, Neil Komadoski (Sr., Chesterfield, Mo.), Brett Lebda (Sr., Buffalo Grove, Ill.) and Tom Galvin (Sr., Miller Place, N.Y.) have taken their turns leading the defense in scoring.
In 2002-03, Komadoski, known more for his physical presence on the ice (6-2, 211), blossomed as a playmaker. He led the Irish with one goal and 23 assists for 24 points.
More importantly, the bruising blueliner became a stabilizing force on defense as he turned in a +5 for the season and cut his penalty minutes (from 100 in ’01-’02 to 46 in ’02-’03).
A third-round draft choice of the Ottawa Senators in 2001, Komadoski will be counted on to be one of the team’s leaders this season. His physical style and his strong defensive game will be a key to Irish success in 2003-04.
Lebda and Galvin are talented skaters who were Notre Dame’s offensive leaders from the blue line the two previous seasons.
Brett Lebda finished second to Komadoski among Irish defensemen in scoring with seven goals and 14 assists for 21 points.
Both are talented skaters who handle the puck well and have the ability to move it out of harm’s way in their defensive zone.
Lebda finished second to Komadoski among Irish defensemen in scoring with seven goals and 14 assists for 21 points. For the second year in a row, he also led the Irish in shots on goal (139).
The offensive-minded defender plays bigger than his 5-11, 194-pound frame as he’s not afraid to mix things up along the boards or in front of his net. He has led the Irish in penalty minutes in two of his three seasons and quarterbacks the power play.
As a freshman, Lebda was an all-CCHA rookie selection as he led Irish defensemen in scoring with seven goals and 19 assists for 26 points.
Galvin rounds out the offensive trio on the Notre Dame defense. At 5-10, 190 pounds, the New York native uses his quickness and hockey smarts to control play in his own zone. A strong passer, Galvin recorded three goals and nine assists for 12 points last season. He led Notre Dame’s defense in scoring as a sophomore with four goals and 19 assists and turned in a team-best +11 for the season.
Galvin will again be counted on to log his share of minutes on defense in all situations from even-strength to the power play to penalty killing chances.
Rounding out the senior class on defense is T.J. Mathieson (Sr., Clarksville, Md.).
Mathieson gives the Irish another physical presence on defense. One of the hardest working players on the Notre Dame roster, Mathieson will again battle for playing time in the regular defensive rotation. He played in eight games as a junior recording one assist.
The junior class features a pair of players who have seen regular action over the past two seasons.
Derek Smith (Jr., Marysville, Mich.) and Joe Zurenko (Jr., Arlington Heights, Ill.) broke into the lineup as freshmen and have been regulars since, although Smith’s 2002-03 season was cut short due to injuries.
Both Smith and Zurenko are physical defensemen who play a defensive game.
Smith played in the first 18 games before suffering a concussion that sidelined him the remainder of last season.
In his limited playing time, Smith continued improving his all-around game and was leading the team with a +5 rating.
Strong on his skates, Smith has solid offensive skills and knows when to carry the puck and when to stay back. His return to the lineup will be important for the Irish this season.
Zurenko is a classic stay-at-home defenseman who loves to throw his weight around. At 6-1, 205 pounds, he gives the Irish a strong, physical presence in his own zone.
His style of play keeps opponents honest in the defensive zone. He recorded two assists in 29 games while racking up 42 minutes in penalties.
Due to the injury to Smith, sophomore defender Chris Trick (Troy, Mich.) saw plenty of playing time in his rookie year.
The 6-4, 209-pounder kept his game simple and learned a great while paired with senior captain Evan Nielsen. As his confidence grew, Trick proved to be a valuable contributor to the Irish defense. In 26 games, he picked up two assists and was +2 for the season.
His strong skating style and outstanding size should give him an excellent shot to be a regular again in 2003-04.
The Irish also added a pair of defensemen among the eight members of their incoming recruiting class.
Babin committed to Notre Dame in 2001 while playing for the U.S. National Developmental Program, but opted for another season of junior hockey to develop his game.
Babin played in 57 games with Green Bay, recording three goals and 11 assists for 14 points last season, while also seeing playing time at forward.
With the Under-18 team, Babin (6-0, 188 pounds) was part of Team USA’s gold medal winning effort at the 2002 Under-18 World Championships. He also was a member of the Under-17 World Championship gold medal team as he scored the game-winning goal in that tournament.
He gives the Irish another strong skating defenseman with the skill and talent to make things happen at the offensive end of the ice.
O’Neill comes to Notre Dame as one of the most highly touted recruits in recent years.
At 6-4, 207 pounds, O’Neill was the second pick in the Ontario Hockey League’s draft in 2002, but opted for the college hockey route. He played last season in Green Bay working to develop his all-around game. The slick skating defenseman scored a pair of goals with 15 assists in 50 games with the Gamblers and was selected to the USHL all-star game.
In August, O’Neill played in the World Under-18 Select Tournament for Team Canada. He recorded a goal and four assists in five games in helping Canada to fourth place in the same tournament that the United States won the gold medal.
Before going to the USHL, O’Neill played for the Chatham Maroons in 2001-02 where he scored nine goals and added 32 assists in helping Chatham to the Western Jr. B regular-season title.
Offensively, the Irish will look to replace six key members.
Speed, quickness and a creative, up-tempo style of play have always been trademarks of Notre Dame hockey and this season should be no different.
Senior Rob Globke (West Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) is the top returning scorer and will be Notre Dame’s go-to-guy on offense.
Senior Rob Globke (West Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) is the top returning scorer and will be Notre Dame’s go-to-guy on offense.
A talented, highly focused player, Globke led the Irish with 21 goals and 15 assists for 36 points, all career-highs. He also contributed three power-play goals and four game winners during the season.
A second-round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2002, Globke has tremendous hands and is a skilled player who uses his size (6-3, 202) and strength to his advantage. He has the potential to become one of the CCHA’s most dominant players.
His 21 goals in 2002-03 were the most by a Notre Dame player since the 1997-98 season and he has scored 49 goals with 35 assists in his first three years with the Irish.
Center Aaron Gill (Sr., Rochester, Minn.) finished fourth in scoring a year ago and will be counted on, like Globke, to spark the Notre Dame offense.
He recorded a career-high 13 goals as a junior and had 25 points for the year. The team captain this season, Gill brings non-stop hustle and energy to the lineup.
A gifted skater, he is also strong on faceoffs and will see duty on both the power-play and penalty-killing units.
Also expected to contribute in the goal-scoring department will be junior right wing Cory McLean (Fargo, N.D.).
McLean became a consistent scoring threat for the Irish as a sophomore netting 10 goals and seven assists from his spot at right wing. Four of his 10 goals came on the power play and he led Notre Dame with a +10 rating.
A strong, two-way player, McLean is also a key member of the Irish penalty-killing unit.
Brad Wanchulak (Jr., Edson, Alb.) joins McLean as the second junior on offense. The speedy left wing will look to pick up where he left off last season as he turned in a strong playoff performance for the Irish after struggling all season in the scoring department.
The hard-working forward had just two goals and two assists on the season, but was still a key member of the Irish penalty-killing squad.
Notre Dame’s four-member sophomore class saw plenty of playing time as rookies a year ago.
Right wing Tim Wallace (So., Anchorage, Alaska) played in all 40 games and scored six goals (two game winners) with five assists for 11 points while being +7 on the season.
Wallace proved to be a solid, two-way forward with a nose for the net and a strong shot. He will look to add to his point totals this year.
Sophomore center Matt Amado (Langley, B.C.) will see more action this season in key roles. The 6-0, 190-pound speedster was the team’s rookie of the year as a freshman. He played in 32 games and scored five goals with six assists for 11 points and was +1 on the season.
Amado’s game continued to improve throughout the season as Notre Dame’s third center. His speed and skills with the puck should make him an integral part of the Irish attack this season.
Left wing Mike Walsh (So., Northville, Mich.) had the kind of rookie season that he would just like to forget. The 6-2, 211-pound banger suffered a broken jaw in Notre Dame’s preseason opener versus the University of Toronto.
He missed the first 10 games of the season and returned to the lineup for one game before being diagnosed with mononucleosis that sidelined him into January.
Walsh returned to the lineup and played in 23 games with a goal and an assist but still made his presence known on the ice. More importantly, he was +4 in the games he played and will look to play a bigger role this season.
Tony Gill (So., Rochester, Minn.) returns to the Irish joining older brother, Aaron, in the Notre Dame lineup.
A hard-working center, Tony Gill saw action in 15 games and had one assist on the year.
Poulin and his coaching staff added five new forwards to the Irish roster for 2003-04. They are hoping to find a goal scorer or two from a group that brings speed, quickness and toughness to the ice.
Bartlett is a 6-0, 193-pound forward who usually had the job of shutting down the opposition’s top scorer. In 58 games for the Under-18 team, Bartlett had seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points. He was a member of the Under-18 team that finished fourth at the World Championships.
In 2001-02, he was a member of the U.S. Under-17 team that won the gold medal at the 2002 World Under-17 Challenge and for the year had 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points.
Sciba is a 5-11, 197-pound left wing who committed to the Irish in the fall of 2002. An explosive skater with an excellent scoring touch, Sciba finished fifth on the Under-18 team in scoring with 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points. He had four power-play goals and four game winners on the year.
He was also a member of the Under-17 team that won the gold medal at the 2002 Under-17 Challenge. He scored the game-winning goal in the semifinals as the U.S. beat Ontario with incoming freshman goaltender David Brown between the pipes.
In T.J. Jindra (Fr., Faribault, Minn.), the Irish add another speedster with tremendous leadership skills.
The captain of the River City Lancers of the USHL in 2002-03, Jindra led the Lancers into the USHL finals versus Lincoln where they fell in four games for the league title.
A solid, two-way player, Jindra (6-0, 185) was fourth in team scoring with 14 goals and 25 assists for 39 points and added three goals and four assists in 11 playoff games.
Jason Paige (Fr., Saginaw, Mich.) gives the Irish a tough, gritty centerman who makes things happen on the ice.
At 6-0, 194, he has good size and presence on the ice. He played his junior hockey with the Compuware Ambassadors of the North American Hockey League where he was a teammate of Irish sophomore Mike Walsh.
Last season, Paige’s third with Compuware, he scored nine goals with 18 assists for 27 points in 52 games. Seven of his nine goals came on the power play and he had four game-winning goals while racking up 206 minutes in penalties.
The previous season, he helped Compuware to the NAHL championship and the U.S. Junior A title while scoring 12 goals with 10 assists and 193 penalty minutes.
Rounding out the class of forwards is Matthew Williams-Kovacs (Fr., Calgary, Alb.) who was a top scorer for the Calgary Royals of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL).
In his final year in Calgary, Williams-Kovacs finished second in scoring with 31 goals and 28 assists for 59 points while leading the team in power-play and game-winning goals.
A tough and versatile player, Williams-Kovacs played in the 2003 AJHL all-star game and has proven to be a strong finisher throughout his junior career.
The 2003-04 Irish will get a taste of all the college hockey from all around the country as they face teams from each conference for the second consecutive year.
In the CCHA, the Irish will play their usual 28-game schedule with four games each against Bowling Green, Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan and two each versus the remaining eight teams.
Notre Dame will open the season on Oct. 3 with a preseason game versus the University of Western Ontario at the Joyce Center. One week later, the Irish travel to Columbus, Ohio to open the regular season versus the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The remainder of the non-league schedule includes an Oct. 24 meeting at Hockey East member Boston College.
The Irish will then play an exhibition contest on Nov. 14 versus the U.S. Under-18 team.
Over the Christmas holidays, the Irish will travel to Florida to play in the Everblades Collegiate Hockey Classic in Estero, Fla. They will face Cornell (ECAC) in the opening game with Maine (Hockey East) and Ohio State as the possible opponents for the the championship or third-place game.
After returning from Florida, Notre Dame plays host to College Hockey America foe, the University of Findlay, on Jan. 3 in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
The Irish then close out the non-conference schedule on Jan. 17-18 when they travel to Madison, Wis., to face the WCHA’s Wisconsin Badgers in a pair of games.