Oct. 3, 2014 Notre Dame, Ind. – Don’t look now, but here comes the 2014-15 hockey season.
Coach Jeff Jackson and his University of Notre Dame hockey team will take the ice at 9 a.m. on Oct. 5, as they begin their first official practices on the NCAAs common start date. The Irish skaters will take the ice twice on Saturday with their coaches, as they begin preparations for the start of the new season.
The team will hit the ice at the Compton Family Ice Arena for its first session at 9 a.m., and will last for one hour. After a break for lunch and meetings, the Irish return to the ice at 5 p.m., for another one-hour practice. Both sessions are open to the public. Please remember that there is a home football game and football-parking regulations will be in effect.
“Even though we have had limited practice time so far, it will be great to get back to practice on a regular basis,” says Jackson.
“Playing on Sunday, doesn’t give us much time to prepare, but we are looking forward to getting the new season started.”
It won’t take long before Jackson’s icers will go from practice to game action, as Notre Dame faces off at 5:05 p.m., on Oct. 5 when the Irish play host to the University of Waterloo in the lone preseason game before the start of the regular campaign.
Located in southern Ontario, 63 miles southwest of Toronto, Ont., Waterloo competes in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) where the Warriors were 12-12-4 in 2013-14 and finished ninth in the Western Division, missing the final playoff spot due to a tiebreaker.
Coach Brian Bourque’s team has already played three exhibition games and opened the regular season on Thursday night with a 7-2 home win versus Brock University. The Warriors were 1-2-0 during their preseason schedule with a 5-4 overtime loss to Laurier, a 5-3 loss at Concordia and then a 3-2 overtime win versus Queens. Notre Dame is the lone NCAA Division I game on the docket for Waterloo this season.
Facing the Warriors will be a good test for Jackson’s team, as the veteran coach will be looking to replace 11 graduating seniors from last year’s 23-15-2 team with a 10 newcomers.
“We have a few true freshmen, but we also have kids who played two or three years of junior hockey, so they’re not all 18-year-old freshmen,” says Jackson.
“That was beneficial to us last time we had a big freshman class. We tried to ensure that some guys played an extra year of junior hockey. It’ gives them a little bit more physical development, a little bit more physical maturity, and emotionally, it’s better, too. They come in a little bit better prepared to step into the college game.”
Waterloo is a highly skilled offensive team that returns its top three scorers from last season – Justin Larson (20g, 23a), Colin Behenna (8g, 28a) and Chris Chappell (17g, 14a). The trio combined for 110 points in only 76 games a year ago, with all three scoring 30 or more points. They also have added former American Hockey League player and Carolina Hurricanes’ draft pick Matt Kennedy to the roster. He had two goals and an assist in Thursday’s season-opening win against Brock.
On the defensive end, the Warriors are led by captain and OUA West second-team all-star Joe Underwood who added 22 points in 28 games last season. He is joined by former Colorado Avalanche draft pick Stephen Silas, who was an OUA West all-rookie team selection in his first year.
The goaltending is handled by second-year netminder Mike Morrison who was 7-7-0 last season with a 3.08 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage. Rookie Matt Hurry will push Morrison for playing time.
Jackson, now in his 10th season with the Irish, returns a strong nucleus to build around. Sophomore Vince Hinostroza (8g, 24a) along with juniors Mario Lucia (16g, 15a) and Sam Herr (14g, 13a) are the team’s top returning scorers. Seniors Peter Schneider (8g, 8a) and Austin Wuthrich (6g, 7a) along with juniors Steven Fogarty (3g, 8a) and Thomas DiPauli (3g, 2a) round out the top returnees.
Five freshmen will be looking to show Jackson what they can do in the early season. Look for Connor Hurley (Edina, Minn.), Anders Bjork (Mequon, Wis.), Jake Evans (Toronto, Ont.), Dawson Cook (Cadillac, Mich.) and Bo Brauer (Edina, Minn.) to see plenty of playing time versus the Warriors.
On defense, four freshmen will look to break into the regular rotation. Seniors Robbie Russo (4g, 11a) and Eric Johnson (0g, 5a) along with junior Andy Ryan (2g, 5a) are the three regular returnees from 2013-14. Sophomore Justin Wade will join freshmen Nathan Billitier (Spencerport, N.Y.), Tony Bretzman (Mendota Heights, Minn.), Jordan Gross (Maple Grove, Minn.) and Luke Ripley (Kitamit, B.C.) in the battle for the other three spots on the blue line.
In goal, Irish fans will see new faces as Steven Summerhays has graduated. Sophomore Chad Katunar (Victoria, B.C.) played in five games last season, making three starts. He was 2-1-0 on the year with a 2.36 goals-against average and a .881 save percentage. Highly touted freshman Cal Petersen (Waterloo, Iowa) will team with Katunar to form the team’s goaltending tandem.
“We brought Chad (Katunar) in specifically a year in advance of Cal,” says Jackson.
“I think that it’s going to be an interesting competition at every position, not just in goal. I think Chad has the experience of having been here. But he’s going to have to perform. It’s up to him now to show the confidence that he can step in and play and he’ll get an opportunity early on, but so will Cal (Petersen).
“I expect that early both of them will play. It’s just a matter of if one steps up. If they both step up, great, I’ll play two guys. Some schools have had success with that. I think we have two qualified guys.”
Notre Dame has faced Waterloo three times in the all-time series with the last meeting coming on Oct. 5, 2005, a 4-0 Irish win. The previous meetings came in 1994 and 1995. The first contest was played on Oct. 16, 1994 with the Irish taking a 4-3 decision. The teams met again on Oct. 21, 1995 with Notre Dame taking an 8-4 victory.
Things won’t get easier for the Irish after facing Waterloo as they will play host to the Ice Breaker Tournament on Oct. 10 and 12 at the Compton Family Ice Arena with Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth and Rensselaer in the tournament field.
The action starts at 2:05 p.m., on Oct. 10 when Minnesota faces Minnesota Duluth. Notre Dame and Rensselaer face off in the nightcap at 7:35 pm. Following a day off for the Notre Dame – North Carolina football game, the teams return to play on Sunday. Rensselaer will face either Minnesota or Minnesota Duluth at 12:05 with the Irish playing host to Minnesota or Minnesota Duluth at 3:35 p.m.
Single game tickets for the Friday afternoon game (2:05 p.m. start) are $10 general admission and on sale now. The Notre Dame game has no reserved seats available with a limited number of general admission tickets remaining at the Murnane Family Ticket Office only or by calling 574-631-7356. Sunday’s doubleheader, with game times at 12:05 p.m. and 3:05 p.m., will have just one ticket for both games and tickets remain for the contest.