By Dan Colleran
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- After a record-setting year for former Notre Dame players in the National Hockey League, the pursuit for the 2017 Stanley Cup Championship begins on Wednesday night.
Ian Cole, Bryan Rust and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins will play Columbus in a first round series that begins on Wednesday, April 12. The Penguins finished second in the Eastern Conference's Metropolitan Division, while Columbus was third.
Vinnie Hinostroza and the Chicago Blackhawks will play Nashville in a first round series that begins on Thursday, April 13. Chicago won the Western Conference's Central Division and enter the series as the top seed. The Blackhawks are also led by Senior Vice President/General Manager and Notre Dame graduate Stan Bowman.
Rust and Cole
- Last season with the Penguins, Cole and Rust became the fifth and sixth former Notre Dame hockey players to lift the Stanley Cup and the first to do so since Mark Eaton (2009 with Pittsburgh).
- Cole skated in 81 regular-season games in 2016-17 and notched a career-high 26 points on five goals and 21 assists. His five goals and 21 assists were also career-high totals.
- A 2009 All-American defenseman with the Irish, Cole turned pro after his junior season but came back to the University and finished his degree in 2013.
- In Pittsburgh's 3-1, game four win in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, Cole opened the scoring with his first career NHL postseason goal.
- Rust battled a few injuries during the 2016-17 season but skated in 57 games and also hit career-high offensive totals with 15 goals, 13 assists and 28 points.
- A 2014 graduate, Rust had a breakout playoff performance for the Penguins in 2016. He was the game seven hero in the Eastern Conference Final against Tampa Bay (May 26), scoring both goals in game seven on as the Penguins clinched a place in the Stanley Cup Final with a 2-1 win over the Lightning.
- Rust notched his first career hat trick in Pittsburgh's 8-5 win over Ottawa (Dec. 5), including a penalty shot goal (Ian Cole also had two assists in that victory).
- Rust became the third former Irish player to record an NHL hat trick, joining Palmieri (1) and Dave Poulin (5).
- In his second full season at the professional ranks, Hinostroza skated in 49 games for the Blackhawks, scoring six goals and adding eight assists for 14 points.
- Hinostroza scored his first career goal and added his first two career assists in Chicago's 4-3 overtime win against Vancouver (Nov. 19).
Former Notre Dame Players to Lift the Stanley Cup
- Ian Cole - Pittsburgh (2016)
- Bryan Rust - Pittsburgh (2016)
- Mark Eaton - Pittsburgh (2009)
- Brett Lebda - Detroit (2008)
- Don Jackson - Edmonton (1983 and 1984)
- Bill Nyrop - Montreal (1976, 1977 and 1978)
- In addition, as the Senior Vice President/General Manager of the Chicago Blackhawks, Notre Dame alum Stan Bowman was part of Stanley Cup Championships in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
2016-17 Regular-Season NHL Notes
- Ten former Notre Dame hockey players played in the NHL during the 2016-17 regular-season, setting a program record for former players in the NHL (nine was the previous high in 2011-12).
- In addition to Cole, Rust and Hinostroza, the list of 10 includes: Eric Condra (Tampa Bay), Stephen Johns (Dallas), Anders Lee (New York Islanders), Kyle Palmieri (New Jersey), Riley Sheahan (Detroit), Robbie Russo (Detroit) and T.J. Tynan (Columbus).
- The 10 alums in the NHL ranks eighth among all colleges this season and second among teams that advanced to the 2017 Frozen Four (Denver has had 11).
- On March 7, Russo (Detroit) and Tynan (Columbus) made their NHL debuts, becoming the 15th and 16th former Irish players under Jeff Jackson to play in the NHL.
- Russo and Tynan also became the 29th and 30th players in program history to reach the NHL.
- Anders Lee (New York Islanders) finished with 34 goals and 18 assists for a career-high 52 points. His 34 goals are the most by a former Notre Dame player in the NHL, besting Dave Poulin (31 in 1984 with Philadelphia) and Kyle Palmieri (30 in 2015-16 with New Jersey).
Dan Colleran, associate athletics communications director at the University of Notre Dame, has been a part of Fighting Irish Media since August 2015 and coordinates all media and publicity efforts surrounding the Notre Dame hockey and golf programs. A native of Walpole, Massachusetts, Colleran spent the previous three years working with the men's hockey and soccer programs at Providence College. Colleran also spent two years as an Assistant Executive Director of Communications & Championships at the Ivy League and is a graduate of Providence College ('06 & '08G).