March 22, 1998
Notre Dame Defenseman Mark Eaton Named CCHA Rookie of the Year
He Becomes First Irish To Do So in 24 Years
Notre Dame freshman defenseman Mark Eaton (Wilmington, Del.) has been named the 1998 Central Collegiate Hockey Association rookie of the year, as selected by the conference's coaches and announced Thursday night at the annual CCHA Tournament banquet.
Eaton is the second Notre Dame player to be named conference rookie of the year in the 30 years of the program's modern era, following in the footsteps of eventual All-American center Brian Walsh (Cambridge, Mass.), who was named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association rookie of the year in 1973-74. Notre Dame right wing Joe Dusbabek was runner-up to Western Michigan defenseman Darryl Andrews in voting for the 1997 CCHA rookie of the year.
Eaton edged out Ohio State goaltender Jeff Maund for the award, receiving 64 voting points to Maund's 62. Both players received five first-place votes, with Michigan State forward Rustyn Dolyny receiving the other first-place. Dolyny finished third in the balloting with 43 points, followed by Michigan center Mark Kosick (13) and Bowling Green goaltedner Shawn Timm (5). First-place votes received 10 points while second-place votes were worth five points and third-place worth two points.
Eaton joined Maund and Michigan defenseman Mike Van Ryn as the only freshmen to receive votes for the All-CCHA team. Eaton's 29 points tied with him with his linemate, junior Benoit Cotnoir, for third among all CCHA defensemen, behind Miami senior Dan Boyle (14G-26A) and Ferris State senior Brett Colborne (7G-30A). Eaton tied for fourth on the Irish scoring list, highlighted by a team-best 18 points on the road--including a pair of first goals in last week's playoff series at Michigan. He ranked second on the team in plus-minus (+13) and power-play goals (7) while totaling just 16 penalties in 41 games.
Eaton's 12 goals are the seventh-most ever by an Irish defenseman and most since 1986.He totaled 19 points in Notre Dame's final 16 games, highlighted by a four-point game at Alaska-Fairbanks (2G-2A) and four goals in six games vs. Michigan (including three at UM's Yost Ice Arena).
Eaton helped the Irish set school records for team goal-against average (2.74) and save pct. (.899) while playing a key role in the best Irish season penalty-killing pct. (.843) since 1975. He also ran a Notre Dame power play unit that converted on 39 of its 221 chances (.176), an improvement of nearly five percent from the previous season (.127). Eaton and the rest of the Irish defense allowed just 17 goals in the final eight games, with seven of those games coming vs. teams in this week's CCHA semi-finals (three vs. Northern Michigan, four vs. Michigan).
Eaton and Cotnoir skated together for the final 19 games of the 1998 season, combining for 33 points in those 19 games (Cotnoir 4G-10A, Eaton 11G-8A).
Notre Dame finished its season 18-19-4, after a hard-fought CCHA quarterfinal series at Michigan. The Irish won the first game, 4-2, before losing the second game (2-1) in a 79-minute overtime thriller. The Wolverines--who led for just 14 minutes during the series--then won the deciding third game, 4-3, after watching the Irish jump out to a 2-0 lead.
Other CCHA postseason award winners included: MSU senior goaltender Chad Alban (player of the year), OSU's John Markell (coach of the year), Lake Superior senior Terry Marchant (best defensive forward), Boyle (best offensive defenseman), MSU senior Tyler Harlton (best defensive defenseman) and MSU junior forward Bryan Adams (Terry Flanagan Award: overcoming adversity to succeed on and off the ice).
Notre Dame senior center Steve Noble received the eighth-most votes for best defensive forward (2) while Eaton received the third-most votes for best offensive defenseman (24), behind Boyle and Colborne (47). Notre Dame sophomore Nathan Borega received the fifth-most votes for best defensive defenseman (7), despite missing seven late-season games due to injury.
MARK EATON: "This award hasn't sunk it quite yet. Obviously, there were some great candidates who were equally as deserving. ... When I started the season, I wanted to earn a spot in the lineup and be an impact player. Then, I started worrying about other things. I never really was worried about scoring points, I just wanted to go out there and play. ... There was no was I thought I'd end up with 29 points. I always think defense first. Joining with the offense makes it a little more fun. But my number one priority is defense and taking care of my own end. ... Playing with Benoit (Cotnoir) helped me a lot. Once we got used to playing together, my style changed a lot. I began to jump into the offensive play a little bit more and we had a lot of success. There even was the game at Wisconsin, where Benoit and I were leading a 2-on-1 break--that's something you don't see very often. ... The hunger for next season is definitely there. I don't feel like waiting all those months until next season. We'll think about that Michigan series and how close we were to winning but I know we will be even better next season. ... This season was the most fun I've ever had in hockey and I'd always been told that having fun in hockey was the key but I never believed it--until this season. ... A big reason for me coming to Notre Dame was coach Poulin and he has meant a lot to my development as a player."
NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH DAVE POULIN: "This is a terrific honor for Mark Eaton and the Notre Dame program. There were some tremendous candidates, in the likes of Jeff Maund, Rustyn Dolyny and Mark Kosick. So for Mark to earn the award among such a quality group is even more impressive. ... This also was a great statement for the growth of hockey, as Wilmington, Delaware is not exactly a hockey hotbed. ... It's very difficult for a defenseman to step in and be an impact player in the a league like the CCHA. The game is very different and it requires quite an adjustment. I think the CCHA coaches have recognized that the past two seasons by selecting defensemen for rookie of the year. ... Mark played in all situations for us this season. He ran our power play and was a key part of the penalty killing and those were two areas where we showed great improvement. ... Mark's confidence certainly was important to his success because he always has had good skills. His skating ability is his most immediate strength. But then he brought all his other capabilities up to this level. ... We had been looking for a guy like Mark to run our power play. That's a role you recruit for but that's a difficult player to find. For a freshman to come in, run your power play and get 30 points is amazing. ... Benoit and Mark really began to key off one another. They fed off each other, offensively and defensively. There's no question that Benoit was a big part of Mark's success. ... We will be returning all nine defensemen and adding a talented player in Sam Cornelius. As the year went on, our defense became stronger and stronger. We expect the defense to again be our anchor next season--that's the starting point for winning."