Dec. 4, 2002
Notre Dame, Ind. – By Tim Connor
He’s the last line of defense for Notre Dame’s hockey team. His job is simple – keep the puck out of the net.
For Irish goaltender Morgan Cey that means using his pads, his stick, his blocker, his glove, his skates and sometimes his facemask to stop a shot. It isn’t always pretty, but it gets the job done.
“I don’t know if I have what you could call a style,” says Cey with a grin.
“More than anything, I just try to throw my body in front of the puck. I may look silly at times, but whatever means necessary to stop the puck, I’ll do. I really just try to rely on my instincts.”
In just his second season with the Irish, the 6-3, 175-pound goaltender’s instincts have proven to be pretty good. In Cey, the Irish know they have a good one.
Through 13 games, Cey is 4-5-2 with a 3.07 goals-against average. His .902 save percentage puts him among the CCHA’s leaders.
November was a big month for the talented goalkeeper. On Nov. 8-9 vs. 14th-ranked Miami (OH), a team averaging 5.1 goals per game, Cey led the Irish to a split versus the explosive RedHawks. In the two-game series, he surrendered just four goals, while stopping 63 of 67 shots. He put on a goaltending clinic in a 2-1 win on Nov. 9 with a career-high 44-save performance.
Two weeks later, Cey helped the Irish to a split with fifth-ranked Michigan. After falling 4-2 on Nov. 22, in a game where he stopped a Michigan penalty shot, the 21-year old puckstopper kicked out 25 shots to lead Notre Dame to a 4-3 win over the Wolverines at Yost Arena. The win was the first-regular season victory for the Irish at Yost since the 1982-83 season and snapped a 15-game (0-14-1) winless streak in Ann Arbor.
The tighter the game, the better Cey seems to play.
Cey is especially tough in the clutch. He lives for the big games, the tight games where his team’s success means him coming up with the big save.
“Every goalie likes being in the spotlight. The close games do that because every goal can be the difference between a win and a loss. Big saves give your team a lift,” says Cey.
In his short time wearing the Notre Dame blue and gold, Cey has been everything that the Irish coaching staff thought he would be.
“Two years ago when were recruiting a goaltender, we did a lot of homework to find the best one available and we thought that was Morgan. It came down to a recruiting battle between Notre Dame and Michigan State,” says Irish head coach Dave Poulin.
“When Morgan visited Notre Dame, he found it was a good situation for him. He’s everything we expected him to be as both a player and a person.”
In his first year with the Irish, Cey played in 35 of the team’s 38 games, turning in a 15-14-3 record with a 2.72 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. Over the final nine games, the Wilkie, Sask., native was 7-2-0 with 1.77 goals against and a .942 save percentage. Included in that late season run was a first-round playoff upset of the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks.
“Beating UNO in Omaha is my fondest memory so far,” said Cey.
“No one expected us to do it except the guys in our locker room. Going into their building in front of those big crowds and doing what we did was really special.”
Cey came to Notre Dame after a standout junior career with the Flin Flon Bombers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL). In his final season, he led the Flin Flon to the Royal Bank Cup finals for the Canadian junior hockey championship.
Morgan Cey came to Notre Dame after a brilliant junior career with the Flin Flon Bombers. In his final season, he led Flin Flon to the Royal Bank Cup championship game.
A first team SJHL all-star, Cey was 35-16-3 while leading all Canadian junior goaltenders with 3,139 minutes played. His 2.62 goals-against average and .916 save percentage earned him the league’s MVP award and he was a finalist for Canadian Junior A player-of-the-year honors.
With those kinds of credentials, it’s hard to believe that the acrobatic goaltender has only been strapping on the pads since he was 14. He almost gave up hockey before his father, Lester, suggested he try playing in goal.
“I was 13 and was going to quit playing hockey,” explained Cey.
“I always played goal in street hockey so my dad suggested that I try playing goal on ice. That year I played forward part of the time and in goal others. When I was 14, I started playing in goal full-time. I tried out for the AA bantam team near my hometown and made it. I guess the rest is history.”
Cey moved from bantam hockey to the AAA midget team in North Battleford in his final year of high school. A strong playoff performance gave the talented goaltender a chance to move to the next level.
“Flin Flon saw me in the playoffs in my last year at North Battleford. I played pretty well and they picked up my rights. I went to their rookie camp and they signed me. I had two pretty solid years and really enjoyed my time there,” explained Cey.
Confidence, focus and lightning-like reflexes are the key to Cey’s game. He’s a leader on the ice and his confidence rubs off on his teammates.
“Morgan brings a great deal of confidence with his game,” says Poulin.
“He has a football cornerback’s mentality. He knows he is going to get beat from time-to-time, but it’s how he responds after giving up a goal. Morgan is very good at putting it behind him and getting ready for the next shot. That confidence transfers to the team, no question about it.”
Poulin points to a game early in Cey’s rookie season when he realized how confident his players were playing in front of him.
“We were at Bowling Green in December. The referee had awarded a penalty shot against us. Before I could even argue the call, guys on the bench were saying, ‘Morgan will stop it,’ and sure enough he did. That shows that they believe in him.”
The sociology major expects big things from his team this season.
“This team can go as far as it wants to. We’ve been up and down so far. The key for us is to be consistent. Once we reach that point, we should be one of the best teams in the country. I’m really looking forward to when we get there,” says Cey.