Oct. 7, 2011
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in an ongoing series on UND.com, spotlighting the 2011-12 Notre Dame winter sports season with both written and video previews. Today, we take a look at the Fighting Irish ice hockey team, which is coming off its second NCAA Frozen Four appearance in four years and eagerly anticipates the opening of its new home, the Compton Family Ice Arena.
Excitement and anticipation surround the Notre Dame hockey team as the Irish prepare to start the 2011-12 season.
First, Notre Dame returns 17 letter winners from a team that was 25-14-5 overall and 18-7-3-2 in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. The Irish were in first place in the CCHA until the final day of the season when Michigan snuck past them to take the top spot by a mere two points.
The Notre Dame icers turned in a bounce-back season from the previous year when they were 13-17-8 and lost in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. And, head coach Jeff Jackson and his staff did it with 12 freshmen on the roster, playing as many as 11 on given nights.
With a young lineup, Notre Dame came together as a team due, in part, to outstanding leadership from its upperclassmen. The Irish put it all together at the right time and advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four for just the second time in the program’s history where they fell in the semifinals to eventual champion, Minnesota-Duluth.
How far can this year’s team go is the new big question? Early season prognosticators think highly of the Irish and one thing for sure is that they won’t be able to sneak up and surprise anyone this year.
The second thing on the list that players and fans alike anticipate is the move to the state-of-the-art, 5,000-seat Compton Family Ice Arena. The new home of the Irish hockey program is set to open on Oct. 18 and promises to give the Notre Dame hockey program a first-class facility for its players to add new banners to the rafters in coming years.
While anticipation and expectations are nice to have, they can also become a burden and a weight on a team’s shoulders, especially when that team has never had to deal with it in the past.
That’s where Jackson comes in. The veteran coach will have his team prepared to start the season where they left off last April.
During the early weeks of September, he summed up how the Irish can look at their 2010-11 success.
“As a team we can be happy that we made it to the Frozen Four,” explains Jackson, now in his seventh season behind the Notre Dame bench.
“Or we can look back and realize that we lost our last game of the season. That’s the mindset that I want our players to have, that we still have some goals to accomplish.”
After having to replace 13 players a year ago, Notre Dame lost only five players to graduation and none to pro hockey. Of those five, four were everyday players and key leaders who contributed both on and off the ice.
Lost to graduation were defenseman and team captain Joe Lavin, forwards Ryan Guentzel, Calle Ridderwall and Ben Ryan, plus fourth goaltender Brian Brooke.
Lavin and Guentzel get a great deal of credit for the way they indoctrinated the freshman class into the Notre Dame hockey program starting with the day the rookies arrived for summer school in June The duo helped make the transition to college go smoothly while mixing them with the returning players.
On the ice, both had career seasons. Lavin, who joined the Irish in Jan. of 2010 after transferring from Providence College, had six goals and 11 assists for 17 points and proved to be a capable leader in a very short time as his teammates chose him as team captain after half a season in South Bend.
Guentzel, Ridderwall and Ryan were all that remained from an outstanding recruiting class that began their careers in 2007. During their four seasons in an Irish jersey, that trio turned in a mark of 95-53-20 (.625), won one CCHA regular-season and tournament title (2008-09) and are the only players in school history to play in two Frozen Fours.
Guentzel, an alternate captain, saved his best for last as a senior. He turned in career highs in ’10-’11, with six goals and 33 assists for 39 points in 44 games. His assist totals led the team in that category. In his first 100 career games, the Minnesota native had four goals and 17 assists for 21 points.
Ridderwall, who joined Guentzel and Ryan as alternate captains, closed out his brilliant career, scoring 16 goals with nine assists for 25 points. He finished in the top 10 in the program’s history with 27 career power-play goals among his 57 lamplighters.
Ryan was one of the team’s top playmakers during his career and chipped in six goals and 19 assists for 25 points. One of the CCHA’s top face-off men, the Brighton, Mich., native finished his career tied for fifth on the all-time games played list with 159 and just missed the 100-point mark in his career with 35 goals and 62 points for 97 points.
While replacing the leadership group will be a key task for Jackson, goaltending shouldn’t be a problem as the former goaltender has three quality puckstoppers to call on this season.
In his first two seasons, Johnson has carried the load for Notre Dame in goal, having already played in 65 career games, making 62 starts. In those games, the steady junior is 30-23-9 with a 2.61 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.
During the 2010-11 season, Johnson became just the sixth Notre Dame goaltender to win 20 games in a season as he was 20-10-4 on the year with a 2.62 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage.
He played a key role in the Irish advancing to the Frozen Four as he was the most valuable player of the NCAA Northeast Regional and the all-tournament goalkeeper as he gave up just four goals on 73 shots in a 4-3 overtime win against Merrimack and a 2-1 win over New Hampshire in the regional final.
Summerhays was eased into the Notre Dame lineup early in the season then alternated with Johnson in goal during the second half of the season.
The athletic, butterfly-style goaltender played in 12 games, making 10 starts. He had a 3.04 goals-against average and a .863 save percentage. He had the opportunity to play in several big games during the season, including making his first career start against Boston University in the Warrior IceBreaker championship game on the first weekend of the season.
Rogers saw action in one game, playing the final 20 minutes in a win over Canisius. He gave up one goal for a 3.00 goals against and has a .889 save percentage.
“I have confidence in our three goaltenders who continue to work hard to improve their overall games,” says Jackson. “It takes time to develop at this level. If you look at David Brown, he really came on in his third season. Jordan Pearce was a back up for two years and then really stepped up as a junior and senior.”
A look at the Notre Dame defensive roster shows a young group of players headed by lone senior, captain Sean Lorenz (Littleton, Colo.). After that it’s a junior – Sam Calabrese (Park Ridge, Ill.) – who has really only played one full season, four sophomores and two freshman that round out the eight-man unit.
Despite the youth, this group has experience as the returnees all played at least 25 games a year ago.
Lorenz returns for his final season and will be the anchor of the blue line. As a junior, the 6-1, 207-pounder had a breakout campaign. A steady, stay-at-home defender, Lorenz added offense to his game, scoring four goals with 11 assists for 15 points, while not missing a game. His strong defensive play helped him lead the CCHA with an amazing +33 for the year. It also earned him the CCHA defensive defenseman of the year award and Notre Dame’s William Donald Nyrop Award as the team’s top defender.
Calabrese went from playing three games as a freshmen due to injuries to being an honorable mention all-CCHA player in ’10-’11. He led all Irish defensemen in scoring with six goals and 12 assists and was second to Lorenz with an excellent +23 for the year. An outstanding skater, he has all the tools to be an top college defenseman. He will be counted on in all roles this season by Jackson and his staff.
Four sophomores will battle for playing time after getting a baptism under fire as rookies. All four sophs – Jared Beers (Mishawaka, Ind.), Stephen Johns (Wampum, Pa.), Kevin Lind (Homer Glen, Ill.) and Shayne Taker (Surrey, B.C.) – had solid freshmen years and contributed at both ends of the ice.
The foursome has excellent size and, with a year under strength and conditioning coach Tony Rolinski, has added muscle to their frames. All are strong skaters and bring excellent hockey skills to the lineup.
Beers, the local product, showed that he could compete at the Division I level, playing in 25 games with a goal and six assists while being +4 in the plus-minus department. A smart, player, Beers moves the puck well and has a knack for finding the open man. He will look to contribute even more to the Irish defense in his second year.
The rookie defenseman who had the biggest impact not only on the defense but the entire team would be Johns. At 6-4, 230 pounds, the big, physical defenseman really made the Irish a different team because of his penchant for the physical game and dishing out big hits all over the ice. Opponents must keep an eye on where Johns is at all time or risk getting hammered into the boards or at the blue line coming into the Notre Dame zone. Along the way, the Chicago Black Hawks’ draft choice, showedgood hands and an ability to move the puck.
Blessed with a big shot from the point, Johns will look to step up the offensive end of his game to become an even bigger force on the Irish defense. He chipped in a pair of goals with 11 assists for 13 points while leading the team with 98 penalty minutes, with many of those coming early in the year as he adapted to the college game.
Lind teams up with Johns and Taker to bring size and to add the size to the defense. At 6-3, 217 pounds the 19-year old sophomore is still a growing boy. He joined the Irish a year ahead of schedule last season when Jarred Tinordi defected to the OHL and despite joining the team late never seemed to have any problems adapting to the collegiate game.
Lind played in 32 games, scoring a goal with 10 assists and was +7 for the year. Not quite as physical as his counterpart, Johns, the Illinois native will look to add that mean streak to his game in 2011-12. Strong on his skates, he moves the puck well and after a strong summer will look to take another step this season. Selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2010 NHL Draft, Lind has all the tools to be an outstanding collegiate defenseman and could see himself playing in a top four role this year.
Rounding out the sophomore class is Taker who checks in at 6-4, 197 pounds after adding 13 pounds to his frame since last September. More of an offensive-minded defender, Taker (pronounced Tacker) has excellent quickness and strong puck-handling skills that make him a threat offensively.
As a freshman, he may have had the best start of the defensive group, getting off quickly with points in his first three games to open the year. He finished with a goal and eight assists for nine points in 31 games and was a solid +9 for the year.
Taker will look to be more consistent every night this season and add some “growl” to his game. The experience that he gained a year ago will go a long way in helping him become a more complete player in his second year.
Johnson is the brother of Irish goaltender Mike Johnson and is a strong defensive, defenseman. He split the 2010-11 season with the Wenatchee Wild of the North American Hockey League and the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League.
In 19 games with Wenatchee as the team captain, Johnson had two assists and 18 minutes in penalties in his role as a defensive defenseman. His rights were traded to Dubuque midway through the year where he had a goal and two assists with 24 penalty minutes in 33 games playing for former Irish volunteer assistant coach Jim Montgomery.
At 6-1, 206 pounds, Johnson will look to become more physical, using his size and frame to his advantage. He has the tools to become a solid defenseman but needs to become more confident and consistent in his all-around game.
Russo joins the Notre Dame roster after spending the past two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. A talented, offensive-minded defender, the 6-0, 189-pound defenseman is strong on his skates and makes good decisions with the puck, playing with poise and confidence.
A 2011 draft choice of the New York Islanders, Russo figures to be in the running to quarterback the Irish power play this season. A team captain with the U.S. Under-18 team a year ago, he was sixth in team scoring with four goals and 26 assists for 30 points. During his final season with the U.S. team, he helped them to gold medals at the Four Nations, Five Nations and Under-18 World Championships. At the World Championships, he was selected as one of the USA’s top three players.
On the offensive side of the puck, the Irish return the nucleus of a team that tied for third in the nation with 151 goals, the most for a Notre Dame team since the 1989-90 season. The Irish were 10th in goals-per-game with 3.43, their highest mark since averaging 4.06 in 1990-91.
Notre Dame returns nine of its top 12 scorers from last season led by the dynamic sophomore duo of T.J. Tynan (Orland Park, Ill.) and Anders Lee (Edina, Minn.). Those two accounted for 47 goals and 51 assists for 98 points. They are joined by senior Billy Maday (Burr Ridge, Ill.) and juniors Riley Sheahan (St. Catharine’s, Ont.) and Nick Larson (Apple Valley, Minn.) for the top five returning scorers.
Maday will serve as a team captain along with Sean Lorenz and is coming off a season that saw him score 10 goals with 17 assists for 27 points while being +2 for the year. He will be moved from right wing back to center, his original positon he played in juniors. A strong skater, this gives him the opportunity to carry the puck up the middle of the ice and look to set his wingers up for scoring chances. A natural leader, Maday will look to pick up where he ended the 2010-11 season when he was one of the team’s top scorers down the stretch.
All three saw limited action last season and will look to get into the regular rotation at their respective spots. Gaul is a strong center iceman who is good on face offs and on the penalty kill. Ryan is a hard-working left wing who is a strong skater with a good shot. Condon moves back to forward, a position he played in juniors. He has lined up on defense in his first three seasons at Notre Dame. A speedy skater with good puck-handling skills, he gives the coaching staff some versatility as he can move back and forth between offense and defense if needed in a game.
Leading the juniors are center Riley Sheahan and left wing Nick Larson with both players coming off strong seasons. Sheahan, a first-round draft choice of the Detroit Red Wings in 2010, continued to be an outstanding player at both ends of the ice as he scored five goals and added 17 assists for 22 points in 40 games. The talented center played some of the best hockey of his career in the final two months of the season and was a force in the NCAA Tournament. Strong on face offs and in the defensive end, Sheahan will look to have a break out season on the offensive end in ’11-’12. He has all the tools – size and strength (6-2, 212 pounds), speed and quickness, great hands and a mind for the game. He is definitely a player that his teammates look to on the ice.
Larson continued to see his game improve as a sophomore as he turned in career highs in goals (10), assists (9) and points (19) with two power-play goals and two game winners. A hard-working player, the Irish will be counting on bigger and better things from the 6-2, 207-pound portsider who has the ability to be a top power forward. Larson plays a physical style that makes him a force in front of the net and in the corners. Look for him to see time on the power play in front of the net, making things difficult for opposing defenders and goaltenders.
Rounding out the forward ranks among the junior class is right wing Kevin Nugent (New Canaan, Conn.). The 6-3, 198-pound forward is a competitive player who brings energy and a positive attitude to the Notre Dame roster. As a sophomore, Nugent saw limited playing time, getting into six games, picking up an assist. He will look to see more playing time this season by using his size to play a more physical style especially in the offensive end of the ice.
The sophomore class brings six forwards to the lineup, all who played key roles in their rookie years in ’10-’11. The group produced 77 goals and 88 assists for 165 points with 17 power-play goals, four short-handed tallies and 12 game winners in their first season.
Leading the group is speedy center T.J. Tynan who had a brilliant rookie season with 23 goals and 31 assists for 54 points to lead the CCHA and the nation’s freshmen in scoring. The Hockey Commissioner’s Association (HCA) national rookie of the year, the CCHA rookie of the year and one of Notre Dame’s two rookies of the year, Tynan can do it all. At 5-8, 167, he is the ultimate competitor with incredible hockey instincts and the ability to play at both ends of the ice. Tynan brings speed and a tenacity to the ice that opens the ice for his linemates. A magician with the puck, he has an incredible knack for finding the open man while also having the ability to score from anywhere on the ice. A third-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2011, the biggest obstacle Tynan faces in his second year is the fact that his opponents know who he is this year and will make it a priority to stop the top returning scorer on the Irish roster.
While they are keeping an eye out for Tynan, the opposition can’t forget left wing Anders Lee who teamed with Tynan to form a dynamic offensive freshman duo for the Irish in ’10-’11. Lee scored a team-high 24 goals and added 20 assists for 44 points. He tied for the team lead in power-play goals (6), added a short-handed goal and tied a Notre Dame single-season mark with seven game-winning goals. A dynamic player, Lee is a prototypical power forward with a blazing shot and a non-stop drive on the ice. At 6-3, 227 pounds he is a force to be reckoned with at both ends of the ice. A talented all-around athlete, he leads by example and will serve as an alternate captain in his second year. Like Tynan, Lee will have a bullseye on his back this year from opposing defenses but that won’t stop a player who has the drive to be one of the top players in the nation.
Overshadowed by the success of Tynan and Lee are the four remaining sophomore forwards – right wings Bryan Rust (Novi, Mich.) and Mike Voran (Livonia, Mich.), left wing Jeff Costello (Milwaukee, Wis.) and center David Gerths (Ankeny, Iowa).
Rust had a strong rookie season on the right side, picking up six goals and 13 assists for 19 points while seeing action in all situations. A proven scorer and playmaker, Rust brings speed to the lineup and has shown the ability to play in all situations and should be a factor on Irish special teams this year. At 5-11, 202, he will look to add a physical dimension to his game, making plays in the corners and along the boards while chipping in goals from the “dirty” areas around the crease.
Voran also had a nice freshman year, notching 19 points on four goals and 15 assists while having the versatility to play anywhere in the lineup from a spot on the top line to a role on a checking line. Blessed with excellent hockey smarts, Voran can score goals or set them up and has the ability to make those around him better. He will look to take the next step in his game this season and become a key factor in the offense. The Irish will look for him to play a more physical style and develop a presence around the goal.
Playing on the left side is Jeff Costello who scored 12 goals and chipped in six assists for 18 points last season. He tied for the team lead with six power-play goals and had three game winners. The Milwaukee native plays a tough, hard-nosed physical game and doesn’t shy away from contact. Many of his goals come from around the front of the net. His style of play makes him an excellent candidate for time on the Notre Dame power play.
The last member of the six-man sophomore class is Gerths who had a strong freshman year at center. He plays the game with an edge and doesn’t stray from the physical play. He gave the Irish a scoring threat on the fourth line as a rookie, notching eight goals with three assists for 11 points. Gerths works hard and wants to get better. He will look to play with more poise to avoid getting frustrated during games, taking him out of his style of play. He showed good hands around the net and is definitely a player who makes himself at home in front of opposing goaltenders.
After having six rookie forwards a year ago, just three dot the roster this season. Garrett Peterson (Manhattan, Ill.), Peter Schneider (Vienna, Austria) and Austin Wuthrich (Anchorage, Alaska) will look to break into the lineup as freshmen and all three are right wings.
Peterson is a high-energy player who plays a physical, nasty game. A strong skater with excellent speed, he’s a player who has the ability to get under the opposition’s skin. A product of the Lincoln Stars in the USHL, Peterson had 21 goals with 17 assists for 38 points while racking up 130 penalty minutes in 43 games. He plays an effective style with big hits that disrupt the opposition. Look for him to play a role on the Irish penalty killing unit.
Schneider, a native of Austria, becomes the third European to play for Notre Dame, joining Swedes Calle Ridderwall and Robin Bergman. He’s a gifted-goal scorer with great wheels and an excellent shot. Schneider played last season for the Indiana Ice in the USHL where he had 30 goals and 24 assists for 54 points in 55 games. Like all goal scorers, he has great instincts and knows how to make plays. He can be a factor in 2011-12 if he can adapt quickly to the college game and learn to play at both ends of the ice.
Wuthrich rounds out the Notre Dame roster. He’s a young player who came through the U.S. National program but missed most of last season with a broken leg suffered early in the season. He finished with three goals and five assists in 18 games, splitting time between the Under-17 and Under-18 teams. The Alaska native will look to work his way into the lineup this season and continue to develop all aspects of his game. He caught the eye of the Irish coaching staff while playing for Team Illinois two years ago. Wuthrich is a strong skater with good instincts on the ice and the ability to make plays. He will just need to be patient but be ready to go when his time comes.
As usual, the Irish play an ambitious schedule that includes 28 CCHA contests with non-league tilts versus Minnesota-Duluth, Boston College, Northeastern, Boston University and Minnesota on the docket.
Jackson and his staff are ready to get the season started.
“We will need to be more consistent this year and learn to deal with adversity better than we did last season,” says Jackson.
“Playing with poise when things aren’t going our way is something that we need to work on. We learned that the hard way last year when penalties hurt us in key situations.”
“Our youth and enthusiasm made this a special team a year ago. I want to keep that feeling around the team and use our experiences to make us a better team. I really liked the way we played last year and believe we can be an even better team this season.”
— ND —