Erik Condra '09 is one of several former Irish hockey standouts to sign contracts either in North America or Europe this summer.

Summer Hockey News And Notes

Aug 24, 2013

Notre Dame, Ind. – Here it is late August with school getting ready to start at Notre Dame. Before we let the summer get away, here’s what’s been going on with members of the Notre Dame hockey team past and present. Summer is usually a quiet time on the hockey front, but several current players and alums have been making news. Let’s take a look:

SUMMER SIGNINGS: Several former Irish players have signed new contracts this summer, locking up their destinations for the coming season.

Forward Erik Condra, who spent four seasons at Notre Dame (2005-09), was resigned by the Ottawa Senators for two more seasons through the 2014-15 campaign. He was a restricted free agent following the season and the two sides agreed to a contract to avoid arbitration. The former Irish captain had a strong season in his second full year in the NHL with the Senators. One of the team’s top penalty killers, the Livonia, Mich., native had four goals and eight assists for 12 points in 48 games and was +3 on the year. In the playoffs, he finished fourth on the team in scoring with a goal and six assists for seven points in 10 games.

“I’m excited about being back in Ottawa,” Condra told

“I hoped that it would come and I think it’s a place that I fit in well and I am excited to be back. I am comfortable here and I think the coaching staff and I have a good relationship. We have a lot of young guys that are around my age and its good for me and my family.”

Defenseman Ian Cole who patrolled the Notre Dame blue line from 2007-10 was resigned by the St. Louis Blues to a two-year, one-way contract in late May. Cole, who is spending his summer at Notre Dame finishing up his degree, spent most of the season in St. Louis, playing in 15 games with one assist and 10 minutes in penalties. Prior to the end of the lockout, the 6-1, 219-pound blue liner played in 34 games with the Blues’ AHL affiliate in Peoria. With the Rivermen, he had three goals and 11 assists for 14 points.

Kyle Palmieri, who played at Notre Dame in the 2009-10 season, inked a three-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks on July 7, through the 2015-16 season. Palmieri started the 2012-13 season with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals where he had 13 goals and 12 assists for 25 points in 33 games. He moved up to Anaheim when the lockout ended and played in 42 games with 10 goals and 11 assists for 21 points. His six game-winning goals tied for the team lead in the regular season. In seven Stanley Cup playoff games, he added three goals and two assists for five points.

Center Christian Hanson (2005-09) signed a one-year, two-way deal with the St. Louis Blues earlier this week after spending the entire 2012-13 season with Boston’s AHL-affiliate in Providence, R.I. With the Baby Bruins, the 6-4, 228-pounder played in 67 games, scoring 12 goals with 17 assists for 29 points. He picked up 53 penalty minutes on the year. If not in St. Louis this season, expect to see Hanson skating for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, the Blues’ top minor league affiliate.

Calle Ridderwall ’11 will play this season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Prague, The Czech Republic for HC Lev Praha.

Forward Calle Ridderwall (2007-11) will spend the 2013-14 season playing in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for the Czech team HC Lev Praha in Prague, The Czech Republic. The high scoring left wing was signed in late April after finishing his season with Duesseldorf EG in the German Elite League (DEL). In 51 games, Ridderwall led Dusseldorf in scoring with 22 goals and 36 assists for 58 points and 105 penalty minutes.

Ridderwall told the LevPraha website that, “I’m very happy to be in the KHL. If someone had told me last year when I was playing in Germany that next year I’ll play in the KHL, I would be very happy. It was definitely my top priority and I’m happy to be here. The KHL is a good league and is definitely better than the German league I was in last year. I know it’s going to be a little faster; all the players will be a little bit better. I expect it to be tough. There are some of the best players in the world, so I am really excited.”

Also taking his game to Europe this fall is right wing Tim Wallace (2002-06) who signed a one-year contract with Orebro of the Swedish Hockey League in early August. Wallace split time between the Carolina Hurricanes and their top farm team the Charlotte Checkers during the 2012-13 season. In 28 games with Carolina, the Anchorage, Alaska native had a goal and one assist for two points with 17 penalty minutes. In 47 games with Charlotte, he had nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points and added 44 penalty minutes.

Former Irish captain Ryan Thang (2006-10) signed a one-year contract to play for Mora IK, a second-division club in Sweden. This will be his second season playing in Europe as he spent 2012-13 with the Augsburg Panthers of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) in Germany. With Augsburg, Thang had 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points in 50 games.

Defenseman Joe Lavin (2009-11) will play closer to home this season as he signed a one-year American Hockey League contract with the Springfield (Mass.) Falcons, the AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The native of Shrewsbury, Mass., who was captain at Notre Dame during the 2010-11 campaign, spent the past two seasons with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, Chicago’s top affiliate. Last year, he had a goal and eight assists in 39 games. In 112 career games, the 6-3 defenseman had four goals and 23 assists for 27 points. He was Rockford’s rookie of the year in 2011-12.

Forward Christiaan Minella (2006-10) has signed with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League for the 2013-14 campaign. The hard-working forward split time last season between the Wheeling Nailers of the East Coast League and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. With the Nailers, he played in 42 games, scoring eight goals with four assists for 12 points while picking up 33 penalty minutes. On Feb. 22, he signed a pro tryout with the Baby Penguins and finished the regular season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, playing in eight games with no points. He scored his first AHL goal in the playoffs, a game winner in the Eastern Conference finals against Syracuse.

Forward Patrick Gaul (2008-12) resigned with the South Carolina Stingrays of the East Coast Hockey League. He played 33 games with South Carolina a year ago, scoring four goals with six assists for 10 points. He started his pro career with the Mississippi River Kings of the Southern Hockey League, playing in 31 games where he had 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points. On returning to South Carolina, Gaul said, “I’m really excited to be coming back. It was a long and strenuous season last year moving around, getting cut a couple times and moving from league to league. It will be nice to head back to a place where I like the coach, the coach likes my playing style, the fans appreciated the way I play and I understand what is asked of me.”

Senior Bryan Rust was one of seven current Irish players to get a taste of the NHL this summer as he spent time at Pittsburgh’s prospect camp in July.

GETTING A TASTE: Seven members of the current Notre Dame hockey team spent time with the National Hockey League teams that drafted them this summer at various prospect developmental camps held during the summer. These camps give NHL teams a chance to see how their prospects are developing at the collegiate or junior hockey level. Players from NCAA teams have to pay their own way to these camps in accordance with NCAA rules. Leading the Irish contingent this year were – Stephen Johns (Chicago Blackhawks), Vince Hinostroza (Chicago Blackhawks) Jeff Costello (Ottawa Senators), Bryan Rust (Pittsburgh Penguins), T.J. Tynan (Columbus Blue Jackets), Steven Fogarty (New York Rangers) and Kevin Lind (Anaheim Ducks). Former Irish captain Anders Lee, who has spent the summer at Notre Dame working towards his degree, also attended the New York Islanders prospect camp.

FIRST-TIME HEAD COACH: The Cincinnati Cyclones of the East Coast League announced on July 25th that they had selected Ben Simon `00 as the seventh head coach in the team’s history. Cincinnati is an affiliate of the Florida Panthers and the Nashville Predators.

Simon, who played at Notre Dame from 1996-2000, spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Rockford Icehogs of the American Hockey League. He got his start in coaching when he served as the player coach for the Sheffield Steelers of the United Kingdom’s Elite Ice Hockey League, leading that team to the 2011 EIHL title while also scoring 27 goals and 39 assists for 66 points in 62 games.

“We are thrilled to have Ben join us in Cincinnati,” said Cyclones President Ray Harris.

“He has demonstrated throughout his playing and coaching career that he can motivate and improve the players around him. I’m confident he’ll continue to guide and develop our group while maintaining our tradition of success.”

At his introductory news conference, Simon said, “I am very excited and grateful for the opportunity to coach the Cincinnati Cyclones. I am thrilled to be joining an organization that is not only committed to winning hockey games, but one that is also committed to the Cincinnati community. It is an honor to become a part of this organization and I look forward to working with the great staff that is already in place. I would like to thank Ray Harris and Kristin Ropp for this opportunity and I cannot wait for the season to start!”

Following graduation from Notre Dame in May of 2000, Simon, a 1997 fifth-round pick (110th overall) of the Chicago Blackhawks, went on to play 11 seasons of professional hockey, playing 770 pro games in the International Hockey League (IHL), the ECHL, the AHL, the NHL and in Europe. He played in 81 career NHL games, spending time with the Atlanta Thrashers (2001-04) and the Columbus Blue Jackets (2004-05), scoring three goals with one assists and 47 penalty minutes. During his pro career, he had 125 goals and 181 assists for 306 points in regular-season play and added 14 goals and 14 assists for 28 points in postseason play. During his career, he was a member of three championship teams, helping the Orlando Solar Bears (IHL) to the Turner Cup championship in 2001, the Chicago Wolves to a Calder Cup championship in 2002 and Sheffield to the EIHL title in 2011.

COACH ON THE MOVE: After spending two seasons as the head coach of the East Coast Hockey League’s Gwinnett Gladiators, former Irish forward John Wroblewski `03 has moved up to the American Hockey League as an assistant coach with the Rochester Americans. He joins head coach Chadd Cassidy and fellow assistants Chris Taylor and Bob Janosz as part of the Amerks coaching staff.

Wroblewski turned in a record of 84-46-9-5 in his two seasons in Gwinnett where he led the Gladiators to a pair of South Division titles. In his first season, 2011-12, the Neenah, Wis., native was the co-recipient of the John Brophy Award as the ECHL’s coach of the year. In his first season in the East Coast League (2010-11), “Wrobo” served as an assistant coach with the Wheeling Nailers.

The hard-working forward (during his Irish playing days) got his start in coaching with USA Hockey, as he was an assistant with the Under-18 National Team Developmental Program from 2007-10. Prior to that he spent four seasons in the ECHL with the Fresno Falcons where he had 65 goals and 60 assists in 273 career games.

OLYMPIC HOPEFUL: Former Irish forward Kyle Palmieri is one of 48 players to be invited to attend the U.S. Men’s National Team Orientation Camp that will be held on August 26-27 at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. The camp is designed to assist in the preparation of the selection of the U.S. team that will participate in the 2014 Olympic games that will be held Feb. 7-23 in Sochi, Russia. Palmieri is one of 24 forwards invited to the camp and is coming of a strong season for the Anaheim Ducks in 2012-13. The 5-11, 197-pound right wing is no stranger to international play with U.S. National Teams as he has tabulated seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points in 27 games on the world stage, while collecting three medals along the way. In 2008, while with the U.S. Under-18 team, he helped the team to a bronze medal while getting two goals and two assists for four points in seven games. In 2010, while playing for the U.S. Junior National Team, the Smithtown, N.Y., native helped the United States to the gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championships. There, he had a goal and eight assists for nine points in seven games. He then made his second appearance in the World Junior Championships in 2011, helping the U.S. to a bronze medal with two goals and four assists for six points in six games. Palmieri then made his fourth appearance for a U.S. team in 2012 when he played in the World Championships with that team finishing in seventh place. There he had two goals and two assists for four points in seven contests.