Jan. 5, 2009
By Amanda BremerNotre Dame Sports Information
The Irish hockey team has an incredible chemistry on the ice. Passes fall exactly on the tape, goals tuck under the crossbar perfectly, defenseman work together seamlessly, and most nights that leads to a hard-fought win.
Seniors Jordan Pearce and Erik Condra have chemistry off the ice as well: organic chemistry homework that is. Pearce and Condra are both pre-med double majors, which leave them with a rigorous schedule comprised of practices, games, travel, and an endless supply of homework.
Pearce, an anthropology and pre-med major, came to Notre Dame looking to major in science, but wasn't sure what direction to head in. He discovered a love of anthropology in an introductory class with Professor James McKenna.
"I took an intro to anthropology class with James McKenna. I really liked the class and loved all the topics covered in it. I became really interested in it and took another anthropology class, then declared it as my major," he said.
McKenna, Notre Dame's Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. chair in anthropology, won Notre Dame's Charles J. Sheedy Teaching Award for 2008.
"He's a phenomenal guy and a phenomenal teacher. He has such passion and love for anthropology, it's kind of addictive. You just want to be a part of it," Pearce added.
Condra went a slightly different route, instead choosing to major in pre-med and psychology.
"I wanted to study how people interact with one another and how the mind works. I've always had an interest in being a doctor or going into medicine or sports medicine. Psychology and pre-med was a good program to get both of those things accomplished," Condra said.
This dynamic duo has had astounding success on and off the ice. Academically, they are among the top student-athletes in the nation.
Pearce, a member of Notre Dame's academic honors program, has earned an impressive 3.816 grade point average, and has been selected to the Dean's List four times. He was selected as an ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Second Team Academic All-American, and received the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley's Rockne Scholar-Athlete Award as a junior. Condra was selected to the ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic all-District V At-Large Team for the 07-08 academic year.
On the ice, Condra and Pearce are an integral piece of the puzzle. Condra, a fierce offensive talent, has led the Irish in scoring for three consecutive seasons, recording 35 goals and 85 assists for 120 points in 119 games. He was also selected team captain for the 2008-2009 season.
"It's an honor to be a captain at a prestigious university like Notre Dame. I've learned from great captains before me. It's something special to see the whole team come together as one," Condra said.
Condra was also drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 2006 NHL entry draft.
He described the experience, saying "It's what you always dream when you grow up as a kid, being drafted and playing in the NHL. When you're drafted, you see that opportunity being opened more."
Pearce took on the role of starting goaltender last season, and rose to the challenge. Pearce played in a single-season record 43 games, starting in 42 of them. He recorded a 23-15-4 overall record with a 2.04 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. He led all goaltenders in the CCHA with a 1.80 goals-against average with a .922 save percentage, which earned him the CCHA's top goaltender award.
It takes determination and a great deal of talent to perform at their level. Assistant coach Andy Slaggert recognized their hard work off the ice.
"They work really hard. I think sometimes they make it look easy. The other guys don't really realize the effort they put in and how hard they really do work. They do a great job, quietly putting in extra work on their own, using their time when we travel, just maximizing time," he said.
Performing well is a matter of priorities for Pearce.
"Hockey and academics are my top priorities. When those things are done, then I can go out and watch movies. It takes a lot of effort to know that you have all these things do, and when you get home you have to go straight to academics. You can't sit around and watch Family Guy or go on Facebook," he said.
Condra recalled a comment a coach made to him, saying "My coach called me a freak one time because he doesn't know how I could come to practice, play at that level, do well in school and also have a social life. He hasn't seen many guys who have been able to balance all three."
He pointed to dedication as a means of success and achieving his goals.
"I would say you have to be dedicated to what you want to do. With us it's getting up at six in the morning to work out for three hours. Sometimes you don't like it, but you know you have to do that to get where you want to go. The same goes for organic chemistry. You just have to do it. You know that's what it takes to get you to what you want to do," he added.
Both players acknowledged the difficulties of pursuing such a heavy academic workload, especially when traveling for a road series.
"Road series are tough. If we are on a long bus trip or on a plane ride you have some time to study. Being an athlete you know you are going to be gone Thursday through Saturday night. I just need to really bear down on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and get my homework done," Pearce said.
The road isn't as conducive to studying for Condra, however. "I actually get car sick if I study, so I do it before I leave for a road series or Sunday. Sunday is my study day, and it's pretty much devoted to studying for the rest of the week."
As seniors, both players will face tough career choices going forward. Both players are sound academically, but also could choose to pursue a career in hockey. Pearce is undecided about what his future holds, waiting to see how he fares this season.
"Right now both avenues are open for me. I think it's going to depend. I filled out my medical school applications and I'm waiting for interviews. Hopefully I'll get offers. If I have a strong year then some hockey offers might open up," he said.
Condra was much more decisive, looking forward to continuing his playing days.
"I want to play hockey as long as I can. I have something to fall back on if I decide to go to medical school or something else. I want options open. You never know what's going to happen with injuries," he said.
While the future is near, their time at Notre Dame is not yet finished. Classes still need to be taken, and games need to be played. Condra and Pearce have a strong team behind them, and will look to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
When asked what it would take for this year to be considered a success, Condra emphatically replied, "winning the national championship. I'm a senior; it's all I have left.