Jan. 14, 2002
By Tim Connor
A college hockey team is made up of a large cast of characters. There are the acrobatic goaltenders, the hard-hitting defensemen and the slick-skating forwards. There are also the grinders – those players who forecheck, backcheck and make life miserable for the opposition.
Notre Dame senior Jon Maruk fits into the latter category and it’s a role he cherishes. In fact, when asked to describe his style of play, he says with a smile, “I like to think I’m a pest out there.”
At 5-10, 187-pounds Maruk usually centers Notre Dame’s fourth line. He and his linemates jobs are simple – disrupt the opposition.
“When I’m on the ice, I try to play strong in my own end. I think I’m energetic and I get under the other team’s skin to throw them off their game,” says Maruk.
“I realize that I’m not going to score 40 goals, but at the same time I’m going to play strong defense and chip in offensively when I can.”
While his statistics this season (a goal and an assist for two points) don’t rank him high on the Irish scoring charts, Maruk’s points this season have been big ones.
His first goal at Notre Dame came on Oct. 27 at Northeastern, tying that game 2-2, midway through the second period.
“Connor (Dunlop) found me alone in front and I just fired it in. I thought to myself ‘finally’. It’s always nice to score, but I know that my first job is to play strong in my own end and be tough on the forecheck. The goals will come later.”
Maruk’s assist came on Sam Cornelius’ game-winning goal in Notre Dame’s 4-2 win at Princeton.
“I just won a face-off and took the puck to the net. The goalie made a nice stop but the puck was loose in the crease. Sam (Cornelius) made a nice play to kick it up to his stick and put it in. We only led 2-1 so it was a big goal at the time. It was good to see Sam get a chance to score,” says Maruk.
Maruk’s path to Notre Dame has been different than his teammates. While a senior, he is just in his second year with the Irish after transferring from the University of Alaska-Anchorage. He is the only transfer player to play for Dave Poulin in his seven years as the coach of the Irish.
In 53 games over two seasons in Alaska, Maruk had two goals and four assists for six points. Following his sophomore year, he returned to Minnesota to play junior hockey before getting the opportunity to attend Notre Dame.
“I had played for the Twin City Vulcans in the USHL during my senior year of high school. Alaska-Anchorage was my first scholarship offer. Other schools were recruiting me but wanted me to play a year of juniors. I wanted to start playing college hockey, so I went to Alaska,” explains the 22-year old Maruk.
“The experience there didn’t work out for me. It wasn’t what I wanted, so I came home and played a year with the Vulcans before I got the chance to come to Notre Dame. Once I got here, I realized that this is what I was looking for.”
According to Poulin, his first experience with a transfer player has been a success.
“When we added Jon to the team last season we knew we were getting a veteran player who we thought could help us,” explains Poulin.
“Jon fit in right away and has done everything that we have asked him to do on and off the ice. He’s a hard worker and always has a positive attitude.”
Prior to college, the former Minnesota high school standout was known for his offense. With the Vulcans during the 1999-2000 season, he scored 32 goals with 42 assists while helping Twin Cities to the national junior A title.
At Breck High School, Maruk closed his career as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 74 goals and 137 assists for 211 points. He helped Breck to three conference championships while also being named team MVP and all-state as a senior.
Scoring is something that has always gone with the Maruk name. Jon’s father, Dennis, played 14 seasons in the National Hockey League where he scored 356 goals and 522 assists for 878 points in 888 games. He now is the coach of the Baton Rouge Kingfish in the East Coast Hockey League.
Being the son of a former NHL player can bring expectations, but the younger Maruk hasn’t let that bother him.
“I heard it a lot – that my dad played in the NHL, but I never put pressure on myself. I knew when I was younger that this is what I wanted to do. People make comparisons, but no one ever put any pressure on me,” says Maruk.
He was quick to add, “At the same time, you always want to play hard to represent yourself and to represent the family name.”
As one of four seniors on this year’s team, Maruk has seen his teammates play some of their best hockey over the last two months as the Irish are 7-4-3 in their last 14 games.
“Our start was tough, especially since last year was a rough season. I’ve been around enough teams and I thought from the very first day this year that we had a much better team and that we were going to be good,” says Maruk.
The pesky Irish center looks forward to this weekend’s series with Northern Michigan.
“It’s always great to play against the top teams. We know that we can play with anyone in the league. We have been playing well lately and its great to have a homestand that gives us a chance establish ourselves as a force at home and move up in the standings.”
While his Notre Dame career is slowly winding down, the Economics major knows he made the right choice when he decided to come to South Bend.
“Coming to Notre Dame has been the experience of my life so far. From going to school every day to coming to the rink, it’s been a blast. It’s everything I could have ever dreamed of,” says Maruk.
“I would like to play more hockey once I’m done with school, but we’ll see what happens. I really haven’t thought too much about next year. I’m just focusing on this year.”