March 3, 2015
Peter Schneider skated out to the blue line at the Compton Family Ice Arena Saturday night, bracing for the flood of emotions that would come with hearing the national anthem prior to his senior night game for the University of Notre Dame hockey team.
What he didn't brace for was the tidal wave of emotions produced when he found out Notre Dame's senior night festivities would include not only the United States national anthem, but also the playing of the Austrian national anthem as a tribute to him.
Schneider is a native of Vienna, Austria. With his parents in the stands, seeing him in a Notre Dame uniform for the first time, the stirring tones of the Austrian anthem played by the Notre Dame pep band brought the ceremonies to a heart-swelling crescendo.
"I maybe had a little tear in my eyes," said Schneider, who helped the Irish stun ninth-rated Boston College 3-1 to make senior night a glowing success.
"I was definitely very emotional," Schneider said. "I didn't expect the anthem at all. They tricked me a little bit. I was really surprised. It was a great honor that they would play my national anthem at a game. It was awesome.
"It was really huge for me," Schneider said of the entire evening. "It's the first time my parents have been to the United States. It was really exciting for me to play in front of them. My dad hasn't seen me play in eight years. It was really, really exciting for me."
Schneider has been an Austrian hammer for the Irish, using a hard-hitting style to bring a special toughness to the ice. Schneider also has made an impact in the classroom, earning a brilliant 3.9 grade-point average.
"I love it here," Schneider said. "This place has truly become home for me, especially since I have had family here. Everybody here has become my family. This place has been very special to me."
Thanks to leadership by Schneider and the other Irish veterans, youthful Notre Dame is starting to blast off just in time for the playoffs.
Tickets for Hockey East playoff action at Notre Dame are available for purchase online at UND.com/BuyTickets, by phone by calling 574-631-7356, or in person at the Murnane Family Ticket Office in the front lobby of Purcell Pavilion during regular business hours (Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. EST).
Notre Dame has lost only two games in its last nine outings (5-2-2), and the Irish just wrapped up a tour de force against three top-10 teams. Notre Dame's last three series to finish the regular season came against a Hockey East murderer's row -10th-ranked Providence, second-rated Boston University, and ninth-ranked Boston College. The Irish scored a victory in each series, picking up a victory and a tie at Boston University.
Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said he appreciated the contributions of his seniors.
"This year's seniors are a little different than last year's because of the different personalities," Jackson said. "The one thing is that they all have different personalities, yet they also have different strengths, not just on the ice, but off the ice, too.
"A guy like Eric Johnson and his community service work. Peter Schneider and his academic work. Joey Aiken is the 'Rudy' of the group, a kid who you admire just for having that much confidence to try out, make the team eventually and work his butt off every day. And then Robbie (Russo) and Austin (Wuthrich), I probably have a little closer relationship with those two guys just because I've spent a lot of time with them in my office for whatever reasons. They're all quality kids. Russo is having a career year. Woody is gutting it out. He's playing hurt. I'd be proud to call any of them my son, they're all that quality of kid."
Schneider and fellow seniors Wuthrich, Russo, Aiken and Johnson now will be putting aside the emotion of senior night to help a freshman-dominated team grow up in the playoffs.
"From the seniors' standpoint, we just try to help the younger guys step up in the leadership positions," Schneider said. "In the end, all of us have to do the job on the ice. I think we've been doing a better job."
Vinny Hinostroza, a sophomore center, credited the seniors with playing a key role in Notre Dame's late-season surge.
"These seniors are big character guys," Hinostroza said. "They're great guys. They really helped me grow into who I am the past two years. They're all definitely leaders. It will be huge having all of them in the playoffs."
Wuthrich loves the way the Irish have progressed. Early in the season Notre Dame saw a two-goal lead disappear four times, resulting in two losses and two ties.
On Saturday the Irish fought hard to make a two-goal lead stand in the victory against Boston College.
"At the beginning of the season, a two-goal lead meant nothing for us," Wuthrich said. "It's good to see us capitalize and not panic after they scored that goal to make it 2-1. We came back and scored another goal.
"We definitely see ourselves making progress. We know we have to keep it up in the playoffs. We've beaten (three) top-10 teams in the past three weeks. I think it's a great momentum-builder for us in the playoffs. Hopefully we can make a run. If we do end up playing those guys again, we know we can beat those guys. That's good going into the playoffs, knowing that."
-- by Curt Rallo, special correspondent