May 8, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The fourth-leading goal scorer in Hockey East this past season will take another shot at climbing still higher on that ledger as Notre Dame left winger Mario Lucia (Plymouth, Minnesota) announced on Friday morning that he will return to the Irish for his senior season.
A second round pick of his hometown Minnesota Wild in the 2011 NHL Draft, Lucia led the Irish with 21 goals in 2014-15. He also contributed 11 assists for 32 points, ranking third on the squad. The 21 goals were the most scored by a Notre Dame skater since the 2010-11 season when Anders Lee scored 24 and T.J. Tynan netted 23.
“I still have an opportunity here to improve things in my game and get better before I go professional,” Lucia said. “We have a good group coming back with good leadership and a great goalie in Cal (Petersen). We have an opportunity to be very successful this year and I look forward to helping lead us back to the NCAAs.”
His perspective on this decision is more informed than most. Lucia had the benefit of growing up around college hockey as his father, Don (Notre Dame ’81), is the winningest coach in Minnesota’s history and has also served as a collegiate head coach at Colorado College and Alaska dating back to before Mario’s birth.
“I’ve seen players leave Minnesota early and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t,” Mario said. “The best opportunity for me is right here. There is no wrong choice but Notre Dame is where my heart is at. The minor leagues will still be waiting for me after this season but you only have four years in college. I’m looking forward to my senior year and, after that, focusing on my professional career.”
Lucia’s offense was crucial to Notre Dame’s overall team success in 2014-15. The Irish went 15-6-4 in games where Lucia recorded at least one point and were just 3-13-1 when Lucia was held off of the scoring ledger.
“I am thrilled to have Mario back,” Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson said. “He made a good decision not just for us but for his own future. He is certainly one of the best goal scorers in the country. Mario is going to be a leader that the guys will look to from offensive perspective and also a character perspective. He is certainly somebody that we welcome back in the locker room.”