Sept. 30, 2010
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a six-part series on UND.com, spotlighting the 2010-11 Notre Dame winter sports season with both written and video previews. Today, we take a look at the Fighting Irish hockey team, which has posted one of the nation’s best records during the past four seasons with 103 victories and a .671 winning percentage, not to mention two CCHA titles and a trip to the 2008 NCAA Frozen Four.
Look for program sales to be brisk at the Joyce Center Rink early in the 2010-11 season. For fans of Notre Dame hockey, it will be tough to “tell the players without a scorecard.”
For Jeff Jackson and his Irish coaching staff youth will be served as the Notre Dame hockey roster features 12 freshmen on the 27-man squad, meaning most of them are going to see plenty of playing time during the `10-’11 campaign.
Gone are 13 players from last season’s 13-17-8 squad that finished in ninth place in the CCHA race with a 9-12-7-2 league mark. The Irish postseason was short-lived as the team fell in the opening round of the CCHA playoffs at Ohio State.
Notre Dame battled a lack of scoring and a ton of injuries during the 2009-10 campaign, so for the returning team members, putting last season behind them shouldn’t be too tough.
Despite the losing record, the Irish aren’t that far removed from a 31-win campaign in 2008-09 and still rank among the top teams in the nation over the last four years. Since the 2006-07 season, Notre Dame is 103-46-18 for a .671 winning percentage. Over those four seasons, only Michigan and Miami have won more games and have better winning percentages.
Jackson and his assistants have plenty of work in the short preseason to get ready for the start of the new year. The biggest thing they will be looking to do is fill the holes in the lineup left due to graduation and players signing contracts to play in the National Hockey League.
The Irish lost seven players to graduation, players who were members of two CCHA league and tournament championships (2007 and 2009) and three trips to the NCAAÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã‹â€ Tournament, including a Frozen Four appearance in 2008. This group was on the ground floor of building the Irish program to what it is today.
Lost to graduation were goaltender Tom O’Brien, defensemen Brett Blatchford and Kyle Lawson and forwards Kevin Deeth, Dan Kissel, Christiaan Minella and Ryan Thang. That group fashioned a 103-46-18 record during their careers and was the second group to play four years under Jackson. They tied the graduating class of 2009 in wins and had a little better winning percentage (.671) to the `09 group’s .667 mark.
Add to those seven, three players who decided to turn pro following the `09-’10 season – defensemen Ian Cole (St. Louis) and Teddy Ruth (Columbus) – who would have been seniors this season, along with forward Kyle Palmieri (Anaheim) who would have been a sophomore with this year’s team.
Phillips is playing in the Central Hockey League for the Rio Grande Killer Bees while Murphy returned to junior hockey for more playing time and is with the Vernon Vipers in the British Columbia Hockey League.
Ringel saw his career ended by a concussion and the recurring symptoms that forced him to retire from the game. He will serve as an undergraduate student assistant coach with the Irish.
Those 13 players accounted for 33 goals and 104 assists for 137 points plus 10 starts in goal for a 3-4-3 record to go with a 2.58 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage.
Despite being young in goal, Jackson does have some experience to call on between the pipes. That would be the elder statesman of the group, sophomore Mike Johnson (Verona, Wis.).
As a freshman, Johnson was able to start slow, mixing starts with Phillips and O’Brien in the early going before taking over at Thanksgiving and starting 22 of the team’s final 24 games of the year.
Johnson saw action in 29 games, making 28 starts on the way to a 10-13-5 record to go with a 2.60 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage while adding a pair of shutouts.
He garnered CCHA all-rookie team honors and was named Notre Dame’s rookie of the year.
After Johnson, the team’s three remaining goaltenders have played a grand total of zero college hockey games.
Rogers joins the Irish after playing last season with the Albert Lea Thunder of the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
Sophomore goaltender Mike Johnson returns between the pipes for Notre Dame, after logging a 10-13-5 record and 2.60 GAA in 29 games (28 starts) last season on the way to CCHA All-Rookie Team honors.
With the expansion team, Rogers was 19-34-5 with a 3.97 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage. Those totals got the Thunder into the postseason in their first season in existence.
Rogers catches with his right hand, which gives shooters a different look. He has overcome a disability to reach the Division I level. Born without a right hand, he has developed his own style to compensate, learning to control the puck by cradling it against his chest or covering it on the ice.
Summerhays brings an impressive resume to Notre Dame. In `09-’10, he was the top goaltender in the United States Hockey League (USHL), helping lead the Green Bay Gamblers to the Anderson Cup regular-season title and the Clark Cup playoff championship.
The USHL goaltender of the year and a first team all-star, Summerhays was 31-2-3 overall with a 2.17 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage during the regular season. In 12 playoff games, he was 9-3 with a 2.22 goals against and a .909 save percentage. During the season, he set a USHL record by winning 20 consecutive games.
An athletic, butterfly-type goaltender, Summerhays covers a lot of the net and is quick on his skates. Look for he and Rogers to push Johnson for playing time in the early going.
Brooke will again serve as Notre Dame’s fourth goaltender who has been a valuable addition to the team since joining the squad during the `08-’09 season. One of the hardest working players on the team, he will add depth to the Irish goaltending roster and be there in practice to continue to push the other three puck stoppers.
“We will definitely be young in goal, but I think we have tremendous potential in that part of the lineup,” says Jackson.
“Mike (Johnson) got a great deal of experience last season and proved he can play at this level. I think our lack of scoring last season put a great deal of pressure on him. He handled it well, but towards the end of the season it wore him down a bit,” adds the Irish bench boss.
Jackson continues, “Steven (Summerhays) is a very athletic goaltender and a fiery competitor. He covers a lot of the net and moves well in the crease. He’s improved his rebound control and has that ability to fight through traffic in front of the goal. I really think he has the right stuff to be an exceptional goaltender at this level.”
“Joe (Rogers) is a kid with great character who has responded to challenges throughout his career,” says Jackson.
“He plays a controlled, positional game and one of his strengths is that he knows how to get into a good position. He competes hard and tracks the puck very well. Joe is the first goalie that we’ve had here who catches with his right hand. That can be an advantage for a goaltender. I’ve always liked having a lefty in goal,” comments Jackson.
“Brian (Brooke) has done a great job in helping us in practice since he started here,” says Jackson. “He’s a good fit in our locker room and he continues to work hard to improve.”
Notre Dame gave up 2.63 goals-per game last season and will look to reduce that number as they were spoiled by the play of Jordan Pearce `09 the previous two seasons. That 2.63 mark was almost a goal-a-game higher than the 1.68 average set in `08-’09. The goaltenders will have to come up big early in the season as Jackson’s defensive group is even younger and less experienced than his goaltenders.
A year ago, the Irish defense had the luxury of starting a group of six players that included five NHL draftees.
This season, four of them are gone – two to graduation (Brett Blatchford and Kyle Lawson) and two left early (Ian Cole and Teddy Ruth) to begin their pro careers. This season, the Notre Dame defense is a group that includes one senior, two juniors, one sophomore and four freshmen.
The leader of the Notre Dame defense will be senior Joe Lavin (Shrewsbury, Mass.). And that comes after playing just 18 games last season as he joined the team following the first semester as a transfer from Providence College.
The 6-2, 198-pound defenseman got thrown right into the lineup at the Shillelagh Tournament and didn’t look at all like someone who hadn’t played a Division I game in a year.
In those 18 games, Lavin scored three goals and added seven assists while playing a steady all-around game on the blue line. He is a strong skater and has shown excellent leadership skills.
After seeing limited playing time as a freshman, Condon played in 20 games for Notre Dame in `09-’10. A great skater and an offensive-minded defenseman, he saw his game improve as a sophomore. At 5-9, 170-pounds, Condon has worked on using his speed and skating ability to contain forwards in his own zone.
Lorenz has been a regular in the lineup in each of his first two seasons and will be counted on to have a break out season. At 6-1, 201 pounds, the Colorado native is a strong, physical defenseman who plays a solid defensive game. He will look to take a role as a top four defenseman this season and become a leader on the blue line.
The former U.S. National Team product played in 34 games in `09-’10, scoring two goals with one assist for three points. In his first two seasons, he has played in 74 of 78 games. The stay-at-home defenseman will look to be more consistent while becoming one of the defensive leaders.
Sam Calabrese is the lone sophomore on the Notre Dame defense and was limited to just three games as a freshman due to injuries.
One of four former U.S. National Team Developmental Program players on the Irish defense, Calabrese will look to take a big step this season. At 5-11, 183 pounds, he is an excellent skater who plays well in the transition game. His biggest challenge will be learning how to handle the big, physical forwards in his own zone. In his rookie season, he was able to play in just three games before suffering a broken leg in December that knocked him out of the lineup the remainder of the year.
That brings us to the four freshmen defenders who will look to break into the regular rotation on defense.
Senior defenseman Joe Lavin will wear the captain’s “C” this year after registering three goals and seven assists in only 18 games last season following his mid-season transfer from Providence.
Beers was a late addition to the freshman class as he joined the Irish after Ruth decided to go pro. A late bloomer, he is a local product who has traveled all over to improve his game to the level he needed to play at Notre Dame.
A 5-11, 190-pound defender, Beers plays a solid, all-round defensive game and like most freshmen needs to add some strength to his game to battle the bigger, quicker forwards in college hockey.
Last season, while playing for the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders in the USHL, Beers played in 46 games with four goals and 11 assists for 15 points.
Johns is a big, rangy defender who can be physically dominant on the ice. At 6-4, 221 pounds, he skates well with good hands and the ability to be a dominant defenseman.
The big blue liner joins the Irish after playing two seasons with the U.S. National Team Developmental Program. In `09-’10, he had three goals and 16 assists for 19 points in 62 games while getting whistled for 67 minutes in penalties. A member of the 2010 gold-medal winning Under-18 world championship team, Johns should play a key role for the Irish this season.
While Beers was added in the summer, Lind joined the team just two weeks before the start of school after Jarred Tinordi defected to the OHL. A talented defender, he signed a national letter-of-intent in November 2009, but was going to defer until next year until the call went out to the 6-3, 218-pound defenseman.
Lind is a strong skater and a solid one-on-one player who has seen his game grow rapidly over the last few seasons. A big, strong defensive defenseman, he has all the tools to be a top collegiate defenseman. Last season he played for the USHL’s Chicago Steel where he had six goals and 10 assists for 16 points in 55 games and 76 minutes in penalties.
Taker (pronounced Tacker) brings size and exceptional skating ability to the Notre Dame defense. At 6-4, 184 pounds, Taker is a tall, lanky defenseman who can make plays with the puck.
A sound player in the transition game, he has the ability to carry the puck and jump into the play. As a freshman this season, Taker will look to play a solid, all-around game while gaining confidence in his offensive abilities. He will also need to add physical strength to become a more dominant force in his own zone.
A product of the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the BCHL, Taker had six goals and 31 assists for 37 points in 59 games last season.
“We are going to be young back there and that can be good if you have a senior goalie, but we’re young in net too,” says Jackson.
“It should be entertaining in the early stages of the season until we get our feet underneath us. I’m excited about this group.”
“We will have good leadership back there with Joe Lavin and Sean Lorenz. Both are veteran players that know what we need to do both on the ice and in the locker room.” “We’ll be looking for Sam (Calabrese) to take a step this year. Nick (Condon) is a returning player who saw playing time last year. We’re going to find out which of the returning guys can play and compete right away,” says Jackson.
“Our four freshmen all have a chance to make an impact and will be counted on to adjust quickly to the college game. Stephen Johns, Shayne Taker, Jared Beers and Kevin Lind all have legitimate chances to play. They can all skate and they’ve all looked good in the early going. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.”
While the Irish will be very young on defense, the offense has a solid core of veterans that have played well throughout their Notre Dame careers.
The Irish return three of their top five scorers in seniors Calle Ridderwall (Stockholm, Sweden) and Ben Ryan (Brighton, Mich) along with junior Billy Maday (Burr Ridge, Ill.). Add to that sophomores Riley Sheahan (St. Catharine’s, Ont.) and Nick Larson (Apple Valley, Minn.) and you have a fivesome that accounted for 45 goals last season.
Senior Ryan Guentzel (Woodbury, Minn.), juniors Patrick Gaul (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Rich Ryan (Toronto, Ont.) and sophomore Kevin Nugent (New Canaan, Conn.) join those five to round out the returnees. Six freshmen will join the group on the front line.
Ridderwall is the team’s top returning scorer after getting 19 goals with eight assists for 27 points. The team most valuable player and offensive player of the year, Ridderwall led the CCHA with 11 power-play goals on the season. Over the last two years, the high-scoring Swede has scored 36 goals with 22 of them coming via the power play.
Ryan is a strong, two-way center who will look to bounce back from a season-ending shoulder injury in `09-’10. He tied for fifth on the team in scoring in just 29 games, scoring seven goals with 12 assists for 19 points. He’s one of Notre Dame’s top face-off men and has proven to be a clutch scorer during his career with seven game-winning goals in his first three seasons.
Guentzel rounds out the senior contingent of forwards. The hard-working role player has great instincts and will look to contribute more this season. A year ago, he played in 36 games and had six assists for six points. He has played in all situations during his career, including power play and penalty-killing time. A vocal team leader, the right wing will look to contribute to the offense this year.
Three juniors return to the lineup with that group led on the right side by Maday. The talented forward will look to bounce back from an off year in `09-’10 that saw him miss eight games due to a shoulder injury suffered in January.
Despite the injury, Maday still managed to finish fourth in scoring with seven goals and 14 assists for 21 points with a pair of power-play goals and one game winner. Jackson will be counting on big things from Maday, as he is a proven scorer who can also set up his linemates.
Gaul also will look to add to his game this season. One of the team’s key centermen on face offs, he has been a strong defensive forward in his first two seasons. As a sophomore he played in 31 games and scored one goal with no assists. A character player, he is best when he plays with an “edge” to his game, especially on the forecheck where his speed and quickness can disrupt teams looking to go on the attack.
Rich Ryan had a breakout season in `09-’10 and even though he scored just one goal, his confidence grew with each game in the second half. Selected as the team’s most improved player, Ryan has speed and good offensive skills. He will look to pick up where he left off last season.
A trio of sophomores will also look to make a mark on the Notre Dame offense this season.
Senior left wing Calle Ridderwall is Notre Dame’s top returning scorer after netting 19 goals (including a CCHA-best 11 power-play goals) last season.
The leader of the group is Sheahan. A talented center, he was the youngest player in the nation last season as he played until Dec. 7 as a 17-year old. A smart, skilled, two-way player, he tied for the rookie lead in scoring with six goals and 11 assists for 17 points. He has improved his game on face offs and will look to become more of an offensive force for the Irish this season.
Larson is a prototypical power forward and showed flashes of what he can do as a freshman in `09-’10 when he had six goals and five assists for 11 points. He uses his size (6-2, 197) to make life miserable in front of the net and in the corners for opposing defensemen. He will look to step up his game this season and become a more consistent threat in the offensive zone.
Nugent is the third member of the sophomore class of forwards and played in 17 games last season with one assist. He will look to use his size (6-3, 197) and skating ability to become more of a threat on offense.
That brings us to the six freshmen that are expected to add a high level of skill, size and a physical presence to the attack.
This talented group features goal scorers, playmakers, strong two-way players and tough defensive-minded forwards who will push the upperclassmen for playing time this season.
The lone left wing in the group is Jeff Costello (Milwaukee, Wis.). A tough, gritty goal scorer, Costello will add his physical style of play to the forwards. Strong on his skates, he’s got great hands and knows what to do with the puck around the net.
Last season with the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders, Costello had 29 goals with 19 assists for 48 points. Eleven of his goals came on the power play with three game winners while racking up 149 penalty minutes.
David Gerths (Ankeny, Iowa) is a strong two-way player who plays a tough, gritty style at his spot on the right wing. Smart with the puck, he continues to improve his offensive game while also taking care of the defensive end. In `09-’10, he split the season between the Lincoln Stars and the Green Bay Gamblers, getting five goals and 16 assists for 21 points while helping Green Bay to the USHL regular season and playoff championships.
One of Gerths’ teammates at Green Bay was center Anders Lee (Edina, Minn.) who should be one of the top freshmen players in the country. Last season with Green Bay, Lee scored 35 goals with 31 assists for 66 points with nine power-play goals and a USHL-best nine game-winning goals. A first team all-USHL pick and a member of the all-rookie team, Lee was the most valuable player of the USHL’s Clark Cup playoffs, getting 10 goals and 12 assists in 12 postseason games. His 35 goals tied for the league lead. A gifted scorer, Lee adds a physical presence to the Irish lineup.
Center Bryan Rust (Novi, Mich.) brings another dimension to the lineup – speed. The speedy center has great hands and can score goals as well as set them up. A product of the U.S. National Team Developmental Program, Rust had 26 goals and 26 assists for 52 points last season, adding five power-play goals, two short-handed tallies and a team-best seven game-winning goals. A deceptive playmaker with excellent hockey smarts; Rust has a strong accurate shot.
We’ve seen the power and the speed. Now comes the shifty playmaker T.J.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã‹â€ Tynan (Orland Park, Ill.). Like defenseman Kevin Lind, Tynan was all set to play another year of junior hockey in `10-’11 when he got the call to join the Irish after Kyle Palmieri signed with Anaheim. At 5-8, 156 pounds, Tynan is a talented player who makes up for his size with a ton of skill. A gifted passer with tremendous on-ice vision, he played for the Des Moines Buccaneers a season ago and led the USHL in assists with 55 and added 17 goals for 72 points to finish fifth in the league in scoring. A member of the USHL all-rookie team, Tina had seven power-play goals and 26 power-play assists.
Last, but not least in the freshman class, is right wing Mike Voran (Livonia, Mich.) who brings a nice mix as a goal scorer and a playmaker. A tough, completive player, Voran has good instincts on the ice and has the ability to make those around him better. In his lone season for the Sioux Falls Stampede in `09-’10, all he did was lead the team in scoring with 23 goals and 51 assists for 74 points. His 51 assists were second in the USHL to Tynan’s 55 and his 74 points ranked him fourth in the league in scoring. Not a flashy player, Voran has scored at every level he’s played and just has a knack for finding the net.
“We’ve got a solid core of players on offense to build around. I really like the skill level of our forwards,” says Jackson.
“We really need them to have good years and keep building on what they’ve done in the past. They’ve proven they can score and their roles will be increased this year.”
“Some of our younger forwards have a chance to make an impact because there are openings available if they earn them. Rich Ryan learned last year what it takes to compete at this level and made the most of his opportunities.”
“Our freshmen bring skill to our offense will help make us tougher with their physical style. I think people will be impressed with Anders Lee, a guy who can score goals. Jeff Costello is going to make us tougher and knows how to put the puck in the net.”
Jackson continues, “(Mike) Voran is an unheralded player who reminds me a lot of Erik Condra. He’s got a great mind for the game and that’s also true with (Bryan) Rust. He’s fast, has great hands and goes to the net to make plays. I think that T.J. Tynan will be a fan favorite. He’s a small guy but a dynamic player. He works hard and competes hard and just has a great mind for the game that makes everyone around him better.”
Jackson and his staff will get right to work with the first official day of practice on Oct. 2. The following day, the team will get its first taste of action when they face the University of Guelph from Ontario in a preseason game. Just five days later, they will travel to St. Louis to open the season at the Icebreaker Tournament against Holy Cross on Oct. 8.
This year’s non-league schedule includes the Icebreaker Tournament with Wisconsin, Boston University and Holy Cross. The Irish will again host the Shillelagh Tournament in Hoffman Estates, Ill., Jan. 1-2 with Boston University, Brown and Minnesota State participating. Notre Dame also will play a pair of games at North Dakota over Thanksgiving and will host Boston College (Oct. 23) and Canisius (Dec. 29) to round out the non-CCHA games.
In conference play, the Irish face Bowling Green, Miami, Northern Michigan and Western Michigan four times with two games at home and two on the road. Lake Superior, Michigan State and Alaska will each play twice at the Joyce Center while Notre Dame travels to Michigan, Ohio State and Ferris State for two road games each.
— ND —