Oct. 10, 2013
Notre Dame, Ind. -
A new year and a new era in Notre Dame hockey awaits the Irish hockey team as they look forward to the start of the 2013-14 season.
Just like any other year, there is the excitement and anticipation of what a new season will bring, but for the Irish this season is a little bit different.
The main difference is that for the first time since 1992, Notre Dame will be playing in a conference other than the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA). The Irish begin play this season in Hockey East due to conference changes that have occurred over the last two years.
Instead of Michigan, Michigan State, Miami and Bowling Green, Notre Dame will now face the likes of Boston College, Boston University, Maine and New Hampshire in conference play. No more trips to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for the CCHA Championship; instead it will be TD Garden in Boston for the Hockey East championships.
The Irish closed out its CCHA history last spring by finishing second in the regular season before capturing the final Mason Cup at "The Joe" with 3-1 wins over Ohio State in the semifinal game and Michigan in the championship contest.
Notre Dame finished the 2012-13 season with a 25-12-3 overall record and was the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional in Toledo, Ohio where the Irish were downed by a strong St. Cloud State team in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament, 5-1.
Notre Dame returns an experience-laden roster with 10 seniors who have been to the Frozen Four (2011) and a total of 15 upperclassmen who were part of the Mason Cup championship.
"We are excited about the start of a new season," says Irish head coach Jeff Jackson.
"Ever since the finish of last year, we've all been motivated to get back to starting over again, especially this year with moving into a new conference. It will be an exciting year for us, due to the fact that we will be playing so many new teams and in a much different environment in the East. It's going to be fun."
Senior goaltender Steven Summerhays is Notre Dame's top goaltender. He won 21 games as a junior with a 2.01 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.
Before the Irish get down to actually playing games, Jackson and his coaching staff will have to replace five players from the 2012-13 squad - a group that includes four seniors and one junior - All-American Anders Lee - who signed with the New York Islanders following the season.
Joining Lee and lost to graduation were seniors Sam Calabrese, Mike Johnson, Nick Larson and Kevin Nugent.
Lee was Notre Dame's leader both on and off the ice in 2012-13. The Edina, Minn., native led the team in scoring with 20 goals and 18 assists for 38 points. He was a first team all-CCHA selection and a finalist for the league's player of the year and defensive forward of the year award. He was a CCM second team West All-American and turned pro with the Islanders following the NCAA Tournament. Lee finished his career with 61 goals and 55 assists for 116 points in 125 career games to rank 35th on the Notre Dame all-time scoring list.
Calabrese was a three-time monogram winner who was second in scoring among Irish defensemen in `12-'13 as he had one goal and 19 assists for 20 points. A quick, mobile defenseman, the talented blue liner was the lone senior on the Irish defense last year.
Johnson was Notre Dame's top starter in goal in his first three seasons and became the back up last year with the emergence of Steven Summerhays (Sr., Anchorage, Alaska) between the pipes.
The Verona, Wis., native was 4-1-1 with a 2.39 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage for the Irish in his senior year. The talented goaltender finished his Notre Dame career with a 43-34-13 record to go with a 2.62 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. The hero of Notre Dame's run to the 2011 Frozen Four, Johnson is one of just seven goaltenders all-time at Notre Dame to win 40 or more games in their career.
Larson and Nugent were key role players for the Irish during their careers. They provided grit and toughness to the lineup and were valuable members of the team on and off the ice.
One key to any Notre Dame success in 2013-14 will be the play of the Irish goaltenders. Leading the way will be Summerhays who will be backed up by fellow senior Joe Rogers (Marysville, Mich.) and freshman Chad Katunar (Victoria, B.C.).
Summerhays will handle the bulk of the goaltending duties much like he did in his junior year.
The 6-0, 188-pound goaltender was among the best goaltenders in the CCHA a year ago as he led the conference with 21 wins on his way to a 21-12-2 season with a 2.01 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage plus four shutouts. He really stood out in the CCHA Tournament as he went 4-0 with a 1.25 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage to lead the Irish to the Mason Cup title.
The athletic, butterfly-style goaltender has all the tools to be one of the top netminders in the nation. For his career, Summerhays comes into his final season having played in 68 career games. He is 36-24-3 all-time with a 2.28 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage to go with six career shutouts.
Rogers, one of 10 seniors on the team, has seen limited action in his career, but is one of the team leaders because of his tremendous work ethic and dedication to the game. An outstanding student, he was the winner of the CCHA's final Terry Flanagan Award for dedication, perseverance and courage as he has overcome a birth defect to become a Division I collegiate goaltender. He did not see any action during his junior year.
Katunar figures to be Notre Dame's goaltender of the future as he joins the Irish after playing two seasons with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League. The 6-5, 232-pound puck stopper was 25-15-0 with a 2.36 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage as he led the Vees to the Interior Division championship before losing to Surrey in the BCHL finals. In his first year with Pentciton, he helped the team to a 54-4-0 record, including a 42-game winning streak. The big goaltender started the year as the team's back up but took over as the main man following an injury to lead the team to the RBC Cup championship as the top junior hockey team in Canada.
Jackson likes what he has in goal for the coming season.
"Steven (Summerhays) had an outstanding year for us last season and as he continues to develop his confidence and focus, I think he can be one of the best goaltenders in college hockey. He was outstanding at the end of last season and his play in the CCHA Championship is what led us to the Mason Cup."
"Joe Rogers is our loyal soldier. His attitude and commitment to the program is second to none on the team. He pushes the others to do well and he has the respect of his teammates. He's a valuable member of this team with the way he handles his role with a tremendous attitude," says Jackson.
"Chad (Katunar) has improved greatly in the short time he has been here. He has the tools to be a really good goaltender. He's a big man that we need to get to relax in goal and let the shots come to him. When he's confident and in control he can be tough to beat," states the Irish head coach.
The Notre Dame blue line is a veteran unit led by three seniors - Stephen Johns (Wampum, Pa.), Kevin Lind (Homer Glen, Ill.) and Shayne Taker (Surrey, B.C. - and two juniors Eric Johnson (Verona, Wis.) and Robbie Russo (Westmont, Ill.). The sixth spot in the regular rotation will be decided between sophomore Andy Ryan (Brighton, Mich.) and freshmen Ben Ostlie (Edina, Minn.) and Justin Wade (Aurora, Ill.)
Johns will serve as one of the team's alternate captains as a senior and is the physical force on the Irish blue line. At 6-4, 233-pounds, the big, physical defenseman has a certain presence when he's on the ice. Known for his physical style,
Johns makes the Irish a different team defensively when he steps over the boards. Opposing forwards like to know where he is at all times as he does not shy away from the big, open-ice hits or the tough, gritty play in the corners and in front of the goal. Strong on his skates, he handles the puck well and owns a big, booming shot from the point that he continues to improve. As a junior, he became a playmaker as he finished third among defensemen in scoring with a goal and 13 assists for 14 points to finish behind Russo and Calabrese.
Lind checks in this season at 6-3, 222 pounds and saw his game take off as a junior as he moved into a top-four role, often matched up against opponent's top lines in a shutdown role. Strong in his defensive zone, he will look to use his size and strength to become more physical around the goal and in the corners. Lind played in 40 games in `12-'13, scoring two goals with three assists for five points. More importantly, he led all Notre Dame defensemen with a +21 and was far and away the team leader in blocked shots with 75.
Taker (pronounced Tacker) joins Johns and Lind in the size department as he is 6-4, 208 pounds and continues to add strength to his frame. A strong skater, he saw his offensive numbers improve a year ago as he had a goal and 12 assists for a career-high 13 points and was +4 on the season. An offensive-minded defender with good speed and quickness, Taker saw action on the power play and is sound defensively. He will look to become more physical in his own zone to keep opposing forwards from setting up in front of his goal or controlling play in the corners.
Johnson joins Lind as one of the team's shutdown defenders as the junior was a pleasant surprise on the Irish defense last season. While not playing as a freshman, Johnson worked hard in his first year getting physically stronger while working on his game during practice. A strong skater who makes good decisions, he worked his way into the lineup before Christmas in `12-'13 and never came out of the lineup. At 6-0, 197, he does not shy away from the physical nature of the game and showed that he could contribute offensively. In 28 games, Johnson had two goals and two assists while being +6 for the year while finishing fourth in blocked shots with 33. He has the qualities to be a team leader and if he continues to improve his overall game could become and excellent two-way defender.
Russo is the offensive leader of the Notre Dame defense and the quarterback of the Irish power play. He led the defensive corps in scoring with career highs in goals (5), assists (18) and points (23) and was +6 for the season. Russo has the unique ability to either slow the game down or speed it up when he is in possession of the puck. Of his nine career goals, eight have come on the power play as he has scored four times in each of his first two seasons when Notre Dame has the man advantage. He teamed with Johnson to give the Irish a strong two-way unit in the second half last season. Russo continues to work on his consistency in the defensive zone. Look for him to have a break out year for the Irish this season.
Ryan played six games early last season, recording a pair of assists in limited action. The brother of 2011 grad, Ben Ryan, Andy played for both the U.S. National Team Developmental Program and in the USHL with Green Bay and Sioux City. He had a strong summer working to improve his strength and speed. A 6-0, 202-pound defender, Ryan has good stick skills and makes good decisions with the puck.
Ostlie joins the roster after spending the last two seasons in the USHL with the Omaha Lancers. A reliable, steady defensive defenseman, Ostlie has impressed the coaching staff with his skating ability in the summer and preseason. At 6-1, 195 pounds, he has shown good instincts with the puck and his decision-making. A native of Edina, Minn., Ostlie played in 59 games last season with the Lancers, scoring one goal while adding 13 assists for 14 points.
Wade rounds out the eight-man unit and has been a defensive, defenseman throughout his career. Big and strong at 6-1, 212 pounds, he plays a physical and aggressive game in the defensive zone. Like all freshman making the jump to the Division I game, Wade will look to adapt to the speed of the game while learning to make good decisions under pressure. He has the potential to be a solid defenseman for the Irish in the future. In his final year in the USHL, he split time between Fargo and Cedar Rapids, notching three goals and six assists for nine points in 60 games.
"Defense will definitely be one of the strengths of our team this season," says Jackson.
"This is a veteran unit that has played a lot of games together the last 2-3 seasons. The group has strong leadership and we are in the position where we don't have to rush people into the lineup before they are ready. I would like to see us play more physical in front and in our zone and be more consistent with the puck when moving it to the attack. We definitely have size and mobility with our defense and that should help us moving into our first year in Hockey East."
While the Irish have three seniors on defense, five return to the offensive side of the puck this season and all have played significant roles throughout their Notre Dame careers. As a team, the Irish scored 119 goals in 41 games, averaging 2.90 goals per game, a marked improvement (2.53) over the previous year.
Notre Dame returns four of its five top goal scorers and point getters this season with the lone departed forward being Lee, who led the team with 38 points. The next four players - seniors Bryan Rust (Novi, Mich.), Jeff Costello (Milwaukee, Wis.) and T.J. Tynan (Orland Park, Ill.) along with sophomore Mario Lucia (Plymouth, Minn.) accounted for 48 goals and 67 assists for 115 points. They were also responsible for 15 power-play goals, two short-handed goals and 11 game-winning goals in the championship season.
Joining the above three seniors are classmates David Gerths (Ankeny, Iowa) and Mike Voran (Livonia, Mich.).
Rust had a break out season in `12-'13 when he more than doubled his career point output (34 in 41 games compared to 30 points in his first 80 games). He is the top returning scorer for the Irish as he scored 15 goals with 19 assists for 34 points in 41 games. He led the team with a +25 and tied for the team lead in power-play goals (5) and game winners (4) and was an honorable mention all-CCHA selection.
The hard-working forward improved his speed and worked hard in the offseason on all aspects of his game and became an offensive force for the Irish as he ranked seventh among all CCHA point producers. He will serve as one of the team's alternate captains this season.
Joining Rust as a player who had a break out season was Costello who was selected by his coaches and teammates to be Notre Dame's team captain as a senior. In 33 games, he had 11 goals and 19 assists for 30 points and was +18 on the year. A tough, hard-nosed forward, the 6-0, 212-pound portsider plays the game with an edge that his team responds to. It is safe to say that the Irish are a different team when Costello is in the lineup as his style of play gets respect from the opposition.
A prototypical power forward, Costello is at his best when he is driving to the net as he has good hands and knows how to make plays. Injuries have affected his career as he missed nine games last season and 12 his sophomore year. If he stays healthy this season he could follow in Lee's footsteps as an All-American candidate.
Rounding out the high-scoring seniors is "the straw that stirs the drink" for Notre Dame, T.J. Tynan. The speedy center had 10 goals and 18 assists last season for 28 points, the fewest points he has scored in his first three years. A two-time all-CCHA selection, Tynan was the national rookie of the year as a freshman in 2010-11 and has averaged a point a game for his career (46 goals and 77 assists - 123 points in 124 games). A highly skilled playmaker, Tynan will look to add to his goal-scoring totals in his final year.
Tynan, also an alternate captain, leads by the example on the ice and will play in all situations - at even strength, on the power play and short-handed while also being the team's top face-off man. There is no question that Tynan can be a dominant player and is the catalyst on the Irish attack.
Rounding out the senior class are two more proven forwards in Gerths and Voran.
Gerths has seen action both at center and right wing during his career and as a junior rediscovered his goal-scoring touch as he had nine goals and one assist for 10 points on the year. The 6-0, 210-pound forward is intense and plays the game with an edge. He wins battles along the boards and in front of the goal and has become a solid contributor in the face-off circle. Gerths thrives on playing a physical game and could find himself in front of the goal on the power play this season.
The 5-11, 190-pound Voran gives the Irish versatility up front as he has seen action on scoring lines, checking lines and has excelled in whatever role he plays. One of the team's "energy" players, he plays a relentless style that can wreak havoc in opponents' defensive zones with his strong forechecking game. He played in 32 games as a junior with five goals and seven assists for 12 points. He had one power-play goal, led the team with two short-handed goals and scored two game winners.
Notre Dame will look for three juniors to step up and add to the scoring numbers from the right side. Garrett Peterson (Manhattan, Ill.), Peter Schneider (Vienna, Austria) and Austin Wuthrich (Anchorage, Alaska) have shown flashes of scoring skills in their first two seasons and will be looking to score on a more consistent basis.
Peterson sat out the first half of the `12-'13 season and saw limited playing time in the second half, playing in just three games. As a freshman, Peterson had two goals and two assists for four points in 20 games. He provides energy to the lineup as he plays a physical style due to his quickness and speed. Peterson has worked hard to get back in the lineup and has the ability to play a regular role for the Irish.
Schneider had five goals and four assists for nine points in 35 games as a sophomore. Blessed with a great shot, he made improvements last season in his play away from the puck and actually became one of the team's top penalty killers in the second half of the season. At 5-11, 195 pounds, Schneider is strong on his skates and tough to move off the puck. A talented skater with excellent hockey skills, he will look to put all aspects of his game together and become a complete player this season.
Wuthrich has good size (6-1, 195) and has the tools to be a power forward as he is strong on his skates and knows how to create his own shot. He had five goals and four assists in 33 games last season after a 17-point rookie year when he played with a physical edge.
Jackson and his staff have a strong group of sophomores who will have a major impact on the Notre Dame offense this season. The four are Thomas DiPauli (Woodridge, Ill.) Steven Fogarty (Edina, Minn.), Sam Herr (Hinsdale, Ill.) and Mario Lucia (Plymouth, Minn.) who bring size, quickness and plenty of offensive skills to the lineup.
DiPauli stepped right in last season and had a positive impact on the team's success. At 5-11, 185 pounds, DiPauli brought speed and intensity to the lineup and became one of the team's top penalty killers. A threat to make a big play or score a big goal at any time because of his tremendous speed, DiPauli had five goals and seven assists for 12 points in 41 games. The speedster does lots of things well and has excellent hockey skills. He brings versatility to the ice for the Irish.
Fogarty had a solid rookie season in 2012-13, playing a defensive role at center. He brings plenty of offensive skills to the ice along with good size (6-3, 207), strong skating ability and an excellent shot. This season, Fogarty will look to add to the offensive categories and become a strong, two-way center iceman. He's got good hands and is a proven scorer as he racked up 33 goals and 82 points two years ago while playing with Penticton in the BCHL.
Herr (pronounced Hair) plays on the left side and has good size (6-0, 206). He saw his playing time limited as a freshman but when he got in the lineup, he showed the ability to make things happen. Herr skates well and has good puck skills. He will look to use his body more along the boards and in front of the net. Becoming more consistent and being able to bring it every night will be a key to Herr having success this season.
One sophomore who had success as a freshman was Lucia who had 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points, tying for the team lead with five power-play goals, after missing the first nine games last season with a broken leg. Selected to the CCHA all-rookie team, Lucia has a goal scorer's mind set and has great instincts around the goal. He's got good size (6-3, 202) and continues to add to his strength. That will allow him to get more chances around the goal and prevent defenses from moving him out of prime scoring areas. While being a gifted scorer, Lucia has the skills to make players around him better with his outstanding passing skills.
Two freshmen join the ranks this season in Vince Hinostroza (Bartlett, Ill.) and Ali Thomas (New York, N.Y.). The duo bring different styles to the Notre Dame lineup.
Hinostroza is a dynamic, playmaking forward with outstanding speed. He makes players around him better as he finds the open man and also has the skill to score in close. The 5-9, 175-pound playmaker spent three seasons with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL and closed out his career with 25 goals and 35 assists for 60 points in 40 games. Hinostroza plays big for his size but like most freshman will have to learn to play away from the puck to become a high-level collegiate player.
Thomas brings size to the lineup at 6-1, 200 pounds and plays the game with a physical edge. He has the tools to be a legit, power forward. Strong on his skates, Thomas has a solid game along the boards and in front of the net. He joins the Irish after splitting time in the USHL between Chicago and Des Moines. In 50 games, the New York City native had seven goals and 10 assists while picking up 118 minutes in penalties.
"Offensively, I like our depth and the potential that we have throughout our lines," says Jackson.
"We have a good mix of players, guys who bring energy and a physical presence, guys who can make plays and score. We are still looking to develop chemistry but that will come with practice."
He adds, "There are opportunities for some of our younger players to step up their games and have an impact. We have to replace the numbers that Anders Lee gave us. I know we aren't going to replace him individually so we will have to look at replacing him as a group."
While the Irish have a veteran team, they go into the new season looking at playing in a new league. Jackson realizes that it will take time for both he and his team to adjust to the new conference. Instead of playing a 28-game league schedule, this year the conference will play everyone just twice for a 20-game schedule.
"We've played teams from Hockey East in the past and as a league they are strong from top to bottom. The big thing this year is that every league game will be important. There are only 20, so you can't take any nights off because it will cost you," says Jackson.
"Hockey is hockey. But, there will be new buildings, different atmospheres at each school, new officials and a new championship site. We have to adjust to them and they will have to adjust to us. The thing is that we have to prepare for 10 new teams while the other league schools will only have to prepare for one. It will be a challenge but its one that we are looking forward to as a team."