April 6, 2008
Notre Dame, Ind. – The Notre Dame hockey program announced its individual awards for the 2007-07 season at its annual Awards Program held Sunday afternoon at the Mendoza College of Business Atrium and Auditorium. While the team still has games to play next week in its first-ever trip to the Frozen Four, the Irish took a time to honor its graduating senior class.
Leading the list of award winners was junior goaltender Jordan Pearce (Anchorage, Alaska) who was chosen as the Notre Dame Monogram Club’s team Most Valuable Player and the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley’s Rockne Scholar-Athlete Award winner. In his first year as a starter, Pearce is currently 22-14-4 with a 1.95 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage with two shutouts. His 22 wins make him the fourth goaltender in the program’s history to win 20 or more games. He won the CCHA’s top goaltender award this season with a 1.80 goals-against average in conference games. This season, he has set school records for games (41) and minutes played (2,433:31). His personal seven-game winning streak in November helped the Irish get off to a 16-4-0 start this season. Away from the rink, Pearce also is a top student. He owns a 3.80 grade-point average with a double major in Anthropology and Pre-Med. He has been on the Dean’s List in three of his first five semesters at Notre Dame. He was Notre Dame’s representative on the CCHA Scholar-Athlete team.
The Notre Dame rookie of the year award was presented to freshman defenseman Teddy Ruth (Naperville, Ill.) who was chosen in voting done by his teammates. The 6-0, 201-bound blueliner had a strong season for the Irish, playing in 40 games with two goals and three assists for five points. His +15 ranked second on the team to defensive partner Brock Sheahan. Ruth played a smart, defensive game all season and was tough in the corners and in front of the net. His third-period goal against Michigan State on March 29 was the insurance marker that sent Notre Dame to the Frozen Four.
Senior defenseman Brock Sheahan (Lethbridge, Alb.) was selected as the winner of the William Donald Nyrop defensive player of the year. The award is named after former Irish All-American defenseman Bill Nyrop `74, who played for the Irish from 1970-74. Recognized as one of the top defensemen ever to play at Notre Dame, Nyrop was an all-WCHA and All-American in 1973. He went on to play on three Stanley Cup championship teams with the Montreal Canadiens from 1976-78, before retiring to attend law school. He returned to the NHL for one season in 1981 with Minnesota. He returned to hockey in 1992 as general manager of the Knoxville Chiefs in the East Coast Hockey League and later founded a team in West Palm Beach, Fla., in the Sunshine Hockey League. Nyrop died from cancer on Dec. 31, 1995.
Sheahan is a stay-at-home, rugged defenseman who led the Irish with a +23 in 45 games this season. Often assigned the opposition’s top forward, Sheahan had one goal and 11 assists for 12 points and led the team in blocked shots. One of the top penalty killers on the Irish squad, the 6-0, 191-pound defenseman ranks second in games played in his career with 159, missing just two games in four seasons.
Senior defenseman Dan VeNard (Vernon Hills, Ill.) was selected by the coaching staff as the winner of the Charles “Lefty” Smith Coaches Award an award presented to the unsung hero of the hockey program, a player who is unheralded, has overcome adversity and shows loyalty and commitment to his teammates, Notre Dame hockey and the University of Notre Dame. The award is named after the first Irish hockey coach of the modern era – Charles “Lefty” Smith who served as head coach of the Irish for 19 seasons from 1968 to 1987, compiling a record of 307-320-30. During his 19 seasons, Smith produced six All-Americans and was the WCHA coach of the year following the 1972-73 season.
VeNard battled injuries throughout his career, but was health all season in 2007-08 and had career highs in goals (5), assists (7) and points (12). The winner of the CCHA’s Terry Flanagan Memorial Award for his commitment to community service, support of campus activities and his strength and resolve in accepting and meeting serious personal challenges. A team captain, VeNard oversaw the team’s community service efforts and was a team leader on and off the ice throughout his career.
Notre Dame’s offensive player of the year award went to junior right wing Erik Condra (Livonia, Mich.) who led the Irish in scoring for the third season in a row with a career-high 15 goals to go with 23 assists for 38 points. He had career highs in power-play goals (6), short-handed goals (3) and game winners (4). Earlier this season, he became the 43rd player in Notre Dame history to score over 100 points in his career. In 119 career games, he has 35 goals and 85 assists for 120 points. Condra was lost to the Irish in the second round of the CCHA playoffs when he went down with a knee injury that has put him out for the season.
The winner of the team’s Most Improved Player Award went to sophomore left wing Dan Kissel (Crestwood, Ill.). After scoring just nine points as a freshman, Kissel had a break out season for Notre Dame, scoring nine goals with 13 assists for 22 points. Kissel is tied for seventh in scoring and had one short-handed goal and two game winners on the season.
The Irish honored former standout forward Greg Meredith `80 with their Distinguished Alumni Award. Meredith joins past winners – Dave Bossy `77, Paul Regan `73, Brian Walsh `77 and Phil Wittliff ’71. A native of Toronto, Ont., Meredith is Notre Dame’s all-time leading goal scorer with 104 in his career and ranks seventh all-time in points with 192. He is the program’s all-time leader in power-play goals with 43. A two-time team captain, he led the Irish with 40 goals and 71 points in 1979-80, taking first team all-WCHA and first team All-American honors. A sixth round draft choice of the Atlanta Flames, he played in 38 games for Calgary before a knee injury ended his career. A finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship in 1980, he also received an NCAA post-graduate scholarship that he used to get his MBA from Harvard. In 2005, he became the 10th former Notre Dame student-athlete to receive the NCAA’s prestigious Silver Anniversary Award that honors former student-athletes who have distinguished themselves since completing their college athletic careers 25 years ago.
Receiving the Honorary Alumni Award was current associate athletics director Tom Nevala. A 1990 graduate of Notre Dame, Nevala has been involved with the hockey team in a variety of ways during his career at Notre Dame as first the business manager for the athletic department to his role today as associate athletics director. He is currently the day-to-day sports administrator for the hockey program and represents Notre Dame hockey on the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Council. A native of Maynard, Mass., Nevala earned his MBA from Notre Dame in 1992.
The awards program also recognized the various weekly award winners for the Irish and those players who received end-of-the-year honors from the CCHA. Also, the five members of the hockey class of 2008 – Brian D’Arcy (Western Springs, Ill.), Evan Rankin (Portage, Mich.), Brock Sheahan, Mark Van Guilder (Roseville, Minn.) and Dan VeNard – were honored and spoke to the crowd of over 300 in attendance.