Aug. 30, 2002
Notre Dame, Ind. -
When Notre Dame's 2001-02 season came to an end at the CCHA's Super Six last March, the Irish hockey team immediately set its sights on October of 2002 looking to start the new season right where they left off that evening in Detroit.
That feeling remains as Dave Poulin and his coaching staff get ready for the 2002-03 campaign.
"It's important that we start at the same level of play that we ended last year," says head coach Dave Poulin.
"The way we played at Nebraska-Omaha has to be the level that we start this season and just keep getting better from there. A great start early in the year can provide momentum for the entire season."
"This is the deepest and most experienced team that we've had in my eight years at Notre Dame. We just need to be more consistent, especially early in the season," added the Irish head coach.
The Irish experienced a rollercoaster ride during 2001-02 as they started the year with an 0-4-2 mark and then went 7-3-2 over the next 12 to head into the second half of the year with a 7-7-4 record. A mid-season swoon slowed the team's progress as the Irish went 2-8-1 from Jan. 1 through Feb. 8 to go into the stretch run with a 9-15-5 record.
Following a 2-0 loss at third-ranked Michigan State on Feb. 8, the Irish started their late-season run with a huge 3-2 upset win over the third-ranked Spartans at Munn Arena, snapping a 33-game (30-0-3) unbeaten string for MSU.
That win began a new commitment to defense, that would lead the Irish to a 7-2 mark down the stretch. Included in the late season run was a first round playoff upset at Nebraska-Omaha and the team's second trip in three years to the CCHA's Super Six at Joe Louis Arena.
Notre Dame returns 19 monogram winners from that team including 12 of its 13 top scorers, defensive corps and the team's top two goaltenders from 2001-02.
The Irish lost three forwards and a goaltender to graduation.
The top loss will be leading goal scorer David Inman who scored 19 goals with 18 assists and 37 points. His seven power play goals were tops on the team and all his offensive numbers were career-bests for the New York Rangers' draft choice.
Inman was an honorable mention all-CCHA selection as a senior and was a member of the league's nine-man Academic all-star squad. He finished his career with 54 goals and 41 assists for 95 points in 145 career games while adding 21 career power play goals.
Jon Maruk (3g, 3a) and Sam Cornelius (1g, 1a) round out the list of departed forwards.
Jeremiah Kimento was 0-2-0 in a pair of relief performances in goal with a 4.56 goals against average and a .846 save percentage. For his four years at Notre Dame, Kimento was 8-17-4 with a 3.30 goals against and a .884 save percentage.
During the 2001-02 season, the Irish cut nearly a goal per game from their goals against average in 2000-01 (150 goals against, 3.85 per game '00-'01 to 113 goals against, 2.90 per game in '01-'02).
Much of the credit for the goals against reduction goes to a veteran defense and a top-notch goaltender in Morgan Cey (So., Wilkie, Sask.).
Cey will again be Notre Dame's go-to-guy in goal. As a freshman, the acrobatic goaltender started 35 of the team's 38 games and will go into the 2002-03 campaign with 24 consecutive starts.
The big goaltender (6-3, 174-pounds) was 15-14-3 on the year with a 2.72 goals against average and set a Notre Dame single-season mark with a .910 save percentage.
An honorable mention CCHA all-rookie team selection, Cey was 11-9-3 in CCHA games with a 2.87 goals against average and a .907 save percentage in league games.
Over the final nine games of the season, the Wilkie, Sask., native was among the best goaltenders in the nation as he went 7-2 with a 1.77 goals against and a .942 save percentage. He was instrumental in Notre Dame's upset of Nebraska-Omaha in the first round of the CCHA playoffs when he stopped 99 of 104 shots for a 1.49 goals against and a .951 save percentage during the three-game series.
Senior Tony Zasowski (Darien, Ill.) gives the Irish a solid 1-2 punch in goal. He was 1-1-2 in four games during 2001-02 with a 2.49 goals against and a .901 save percentage. As a freshman, Zasowski recorded the lowest goals against average (2.56) in Notre Dame hockey history. His career record stands at 19-21-11 with a 3.08 average and a .891 save percentage.
Joining the Irish goaltending roster in 2002-03 will be freshman Rory Walsh (Milton, Mass.).
A standout New England prep school goaltender, Walsh was 18-13-3 in two seasons at Noble and Greenough School with a 2.37 goals against average. The 5-9, 175-pound goaltender has excellent quickness and gives Notre Dame a deep and talented trio of puck stoppers.
Walsh is also the son of Irish hockey all-American Brian Walsh (1973-77) who is still Notre Dame's all-time leading scorer with 234 career points (89g, 145a).
Two years ago, the Irish graduated a veteran group of defensemen and have lived with the growing pains of a young and talented defense.
That unit returns this season and will look to make its mark among the top groups in the CCHA.
The elder statesman of the Irish blue line is second-year team captain Evan Nielsen (Sr., Evanston, Ill.). An all-CCHA and all-American candidate in his final season, Nielsen ranks among the top two-way defensemen in the nation.
The 6-3, 212-pound blueliner had the best season of his career in 2001-02 when he scored seven goals and added 13 assists for 20 points. He was second among Irish defensemen with a +5 rating and two of his goals were game-winners. As his offensive skills have improved his defensive talents have remained strong.
Nielsen is the team leader both on and off the ice. An eighth round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2000 NHL Draft, he'll see action in just about every situation for the Irish.
At the core of the Notre Dame defense are four juniors who compliment each others skills forming a talented unit.
Brett Lebda (Jr., Buffalo Grove, Ill.) and Tom Galvin (Jr., Miller Place, N.Y.) are the offensive leaders of the group.
Both are talented skaters with outstanding puckhandling skills. Lebda is a dynamic offensive-defenseman who is a threat to score any time he touches the puck.
A key member of the Irish power play, the 5-10, 195-pound defender scored six goals and added eight assists for 14 points with two power play goals and two game winners. His 151 shots led the team in that category.
Galvin finished the year third on the squad in scoring with four goals and 19 assists for 23 points and was second on the team with a +11 rating.
One of the quarterbacks of the power play, Galvin sees the ice well and always seems to find the open man.
At 5-9, 185-pounds, Galvin is a gritty, hard-nosed defender with good hockey instincts.
Neil Komadoski (Jr., Chesterfield, Mo.) and T.J. Mathieson (Jr., Clarksville, Md.) bring the physical presence to the Notre Dame defense.
Komadoski continues to develop his entire game and is becoming a well-rounded defender. At 6-2, 215-pounds, Komadoski likes to hit and throws his body around with reckless abondon.
A third round pick of the Ottawa Senators in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Komadoski had a solid second season with two goals and nine assists for 11 points and a +7 rating. He also racked up 100 minutes in penalties while keeping the opposition honest in the Irish zone.
Mathieson continues to be the classic overachiever. A walk-on, he continues to improve his game to the point where its tough to keep him out of the lineup.
As a sophomore, the 6-2, 198-pound played in 18 games with a goal and an assist and was +2 on the year.
Two sophomores broke into the lineup last season. Derek Smith (So., Marysville, Mich.) and Joe Zurenko (So., Arlington Heights, Ill.) each saw plenty of playing time in their rookie years.
Smith played in 37 games scoring a goal and four assists while racking up 46 minutes in penalties. The 6-1, 198-pounder was steady and consistent and continued to get better as the season progressed.
Strong on his skates, Smith has the tools to be a solid, offensive-defenseman as his confidence develops in the years to come.
Zurenko (6-2, 208) is another physical player who is not afraid to throw his weight around. A classic, stay-at-home defender, Zurenko worked his way into the regular rotation by Christmas and was there the rest of the season.
He recorded one assist in 21 games while picking up 41 minutes in penalties.
Joining the Irish defense in 2002-03 is freshman Chris Trick (Troy, Mich.). At 6-4, 214-pounds, Trick brings size and skill to the Notre Dame blue line. A strong skater, he will give the Irish outstanding depth at defense in the coming season.
"I think that our defense is where we thought they would be when we recruited them three years ago. They played right away and had to develop under the gun. The core of the group has now played together for two seasons. They should be among the top defenses in the conference this year," says Poulin.
Offensively, the Irish will look to improve a balanced scoring attack that saw eight players record 20 or more points.
For the year, Notre Dame scored 117 goals (13 more than in 2000-01) in 38 games for a 3.08 goals per game average and improved from eighth to second in CCHA scoring.
Leading the way for the Irish will be all-CCHA and all-American candidate Connor Dunlop (Sr., St. Louis, Mo.). Dunlop had a breakthrough year as a junior as he became one of the CCHA's premier playmakers.
The slick center turned in career highs in goals (9), assists (36) and points (45) - the most assists and points by a Notre Dame player since 1991-92. His 45 points ranked him fourth in the CCHA overall. In 28 league games, Dunlop finished second in scoring with nine goals and 27 assists and was an honorable mention all-CCHA selection.
Three other members of the Irish senior class will be counted on to play key roles in the coming season.
Right wing Michael Chin (Sr., Urbana, Ill.) found the scoring touch as a junior as he scored 13 goals with eight assists before an ankle injury in late January slowed him.
A prototype power forward, Chin has great hands around the net and will be counted on to provide goal scoring to the Irish offense in the season ahead.
Right wing John Wroblewski (Sr., Neenah, Wis.) had the best season of his career playing on a line with Dunlop and Inman.
Always known as one of the league's top defensive forwards, Wroblewski saw his offensive numbers improve as he finished sixth in scoring with 10 goals and 11 assists for 21 points.
The unsung hero of the senior class was center Jake Wiegand (Northville, Mich.) who moved from left wing to center late in the season and became a key performer in the team's late season run.
At 6-3, 218-pounds, Wiegand had a goal and five assists for six points, but gave the Irish size and strength at center ice. A tough, gritty, hard worker, he took over as the team's third line center and was a force in stopping the opposition's top line.
Poulin and his staff expect big things from their three junior forwards.
Aaron Gill (Jr., Rochester, Minn.) will serve as one of the team's alternate captains in 2002-03. Gill brings non-stop hustle and energy to the Notre Dame lineup. One of the team's quickest players, Gill is strong on faceoffs and will see time on both the power play and penalty killing units.
A model of consistency, Gill scored eight goals and added 14 points for 22 points after a 26-point rookie season.
Right wing Rob Globke (Jr., West Bloomfield, Mich.) has scored 28 goals in his first two seasons and has all the skills to be one of the top forwards in the country.
In June, Globke became the highest Notre Dame player ever picked in the National Hockey League Entry Draft as he was selected 40th overall by the Florida Panthers.
At 6-3, 214-pounds, Globke brings size and speed to the Notre Dame lineup. As a sophomore, he scored 11 goals with 11 assists for 22 points, including three power play goals, one shorthanded tally and a pair of game-winning goals.
Kyle Dolder (Jr., Hutchinson, Minn.) continued his development after walking on to the team as a freshman.
A strong defensive forward, Dolder worked his way into the lineup playing in 28 games with his gritty, tenacious checking. He also came through in the clutch, scoring three goals (two game-winners) with two assists for five points. He should challenge for more playing time in the coming year.
Four sophomore forwards saw plenty of action as rookies and will look to make their mark on the Irish offense this season.
Left wing Yan Stastny (So., St. Louis, Mo.) led all Notre Dame freshmen in scoring with six goals and 11 assists for 17 points while seeing duty at left wing and center.
After a slow start, Stastny came on strong late in the year as his confidence grew. Strong in the two-man game, Stastny is tenacious on the puck and in the offensive zone. He also came up with several clutch goals late in the season during Notre Dame's 7-2 run through the final nine games.
Stastny capped his rookie year by being selected in the eighth round, 259th overall, by the Boston Bruins.
Brad Wanchulak (So., Edson, Alb.) also turned in a solid freshman year and become an offensive force in the CCHA playoffs.
The speedy Wanchulak was one of Notre Dame's top penalty killers and should benefit from the year's experience. He recorded five goals with eight assists for 13 points.
Alex Lalonde (So., Newmarket, Ont.) recorded four goals with two assists in 19 games in his freshman year.
A tenacious forechecker, Lalonde has goal scorer's instincts around the net and a nice touch around the net. Lalonde was +6 in the 19 games he played with a power play goal and a game-winner. He could assume a major role with the Irish in 2002-03.
Cory McLean (So., Fargo, N.D.) saw regular action in his freshman year getting a goal with four assists in 35 games.
A strong skater with excellent speed, McLean excelled as a penalty killer and showed the ability to create his own shot throughout the season.
Ryan Mundt (So., Edgartown, Mass.) gives the Irish valuable depth as he can play all three forward positions. Mundt made the team as a walk-on and saw action in one game during the year.
Notre Dame's freshman class features four talented newcomers who should challenge for spots in the regular lineup.
Speedy Matt Amado (Langley, B.C.), who signed a letter of intent in 2000, but deferred to this season brings speed and quickness at center ice to the Irish lineup.
Amado was the top scorer for the Coquitlam Express in the BCHL with 39 goals and 48 assists for 87 points. Known for his quickness and aggressive skating, Amado has outstanding hockey instincts and makes things happen on the ice.
Tony Gill (Rochester, Minn.) joins brother, Aaron, in the Irish lineup. The duo give Notre Dame its eighth brother combination in the program's history.
A hard-working tenacious center, Tony Gill played two seasons in the USHL with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. Last season he had six goals and 17 assists in 60 games.
Tim Wallace (Anchorage, Alaska) joins the Irish after playing for the U.S National Under-18 Team. A big, powerful skater (6-1, 180), Wallace has good hands around the goal and had the penchant for scoring big goals for Team USA.
He finished fourth on the team with 12 goals and 25 assists and picked up two goals and five assists in eight games at the Under-18 World Championships where the USA took the gold medal.
Mike Walsh (Northville, Mich.) rounds out the freshman foursome at forward. A 6-2, 205-pound left wing, Walsh was a key member of the Compuware Ambassadors team that won both the North Amercian Hockey League and the national junior title last spring.
Walsh had 25 goals and 24 assists for 49 points in the regular season with nine power play goals and three game-winners.
Selected to the NAHL all-star team, Walsh also played in the 2002 Viking Cup tournament. One of the NAHL's top players in 2001-02, he should make an impact on the Irish offense this season.
The big lefthander was selected in the fifth round of the NHL Draft, 143rd overall, by the New York Rangers.
The Irish will play 36 regular season games in 2002-03 with contests versus teams from the WCHA, Hockey East, the ECAC and College Hockey America.
In the CCHA, the Irish will play their usual 28-game schedule with four games each against Bowling Green, Ferris State and Western Michigan and two versus the remaining eight teams.
Notre Dame opens its season on Oct. 4 with a preseason game with the University of Toronto at the Joyce Center. One week later, the Irish open the regular season at Minnesota-Duluth.
The remainder of the non-league schedule includes a Nov. 1 home game with Boston College, a trip to Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 14 for a matinee game versus Wayne State, a trip to Hanover, N.H. for the Ledyard National Bank Tournament featuring Dartmouth, UMass-Lowell and Vermont. The Irish close out the non-league schedule, Jan. 17-18 when they play host to Yale at the Joyce Center.
"I'm really looking forward to the coming season," says Poulin.
"I think we have a pretty good team assembled. We need to be more consistent and get off to a strong start. The core of our returning players have played togther for two years now and we have talented depth with our freshman class."
"The CCHA continues to get more balanced, the gap from top to bottom continues to narrow. It's very competitive every night. I'm looking forward to an exciting college hockey season."