Oct. 19, 1998
The undefeated Notre Dame hockey team (5-0-0) which is off to the best start in the 39-year history of varsity hockey at Notre Dame has cracked the national top 10 of two major polls released today.
The Irish check in at the No. 8 spot in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll and at No. 7 in the USA Today/American Hockey Magazine poll, after posting road wins over the weekend at Ferris State (5-3) and Lake Superior State (4-3), despite the absence of two veteran injured defensemen.
The USCHO poll consists of 30 voters, including 22 coaches from Division I teams and eight college hockey writers. The USA Today poll is conducted in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association, with the 10 votes including input from coaches and journalists representing the four major NCAA Division I hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the AHCA and AHM, the official publication of USA Hockey.
"People have different views about rankings. For our program, at this point, we're very excited and encouraged," said fourth-year Notre Dame head coach Dave Poulin. "Of course, you want to be high in the rankings when it comes around to NCAA tournament time, but it's a credit to the hard work that our players have put into their preseason and early season preparations. And our veteran players are doing an excellent job of leading, both in their production on the ice and just in the way they have carried themselves."
Upcoming Notre Dame opponent Ohio State is tied for No. 9 in the USCHO poll and was the 12th-highest team receiving votes in the USA Today poll. The Buckeyes, who face the Irish at the Joyce Center on Friday, Oct. 23 at 7:00 p.m., opened with losses to No. 1 Boston College and Minnesota before splitting last week at LSSU (4-1) and FSU (2-4).
Two Notre Dame 1998-99 opponents Boston College and North Dakotasit atop both polls while Maine, Colorado College, Michigan State and Michigan occupy the third through sixth spots, but in differing orders in the two polls. Clarkson, one of several teams that has yet to play this season, is ranked seventh in the USCHO poll but is behind the Irish in eighth place of the USA Today poll. New Hampshire is ninth in both polls while unbeaten CCHA team Northern Michigan is 10th in the USA Today poll.
Poulin cited the Irish power play as a leading reason for the early success. "So much of our great leadership has been seen on the power play," he said. "Success on the power play is all about confidence and those guys go out there expecting to score every time."
The Irish have converted on an impressive 39.3 percent of their power-play chances (11-of-28), with seven of those goals coming from the regulars on the first unit: senior left wing Aniket Dhadphale (2), junior center Ben Simon (1), senior right wing Brian Urick (3) and sophomore left wing Dan Carlson (1). Another goal scored by the first power-play unit came Saturday at LSSU, when junior right wing Joe Dusbabek scored while skating in the place of Simon (who was in the penalty box).
The Irish also have received offensive contributions have all four forwards lines and several defensemen, as 12 players have combined on the first 22 goals while 14 have assists and 16 have at least one goal or one assist. Sophomore defenseman Ryan Clark's first career goal tied the game at Ferris State (2-2) before freshman blueliner Sam Cornelius scored the game-winner later in that game. Junior defenseman Tyson Fraser stands fifth on the team with four points (all assists) and played a key role in last weekend's six power-play goals after replacing injured senior Benoit Cotnoir at the point.
"It's great to get contributions from a lot of different players," said Poulin. "All four forward lines and each of our defensemen have made their presence felt, both on normal shifts and during special teams."
Senior goaltender Forrest Karr, who backed up Matt Eisler during his first three seasons, has posted a 2.00 goals-against average and .914 save percentage through the first five games of 1998-99 while boosting his record to 11-3-1 over the past two seasons. "Forrest is off to an enormous start. He truly bided his time for the last three years and has worked very hard. He deserves all the success that comes his way," said Poulin.
The Irish defense last week was forced to play without Cotnoir and junior Nathan Borega, with Fraser and classmate Sean Molina providing the veteran leadership. "Our defense really stepped up over the weekend in the absence of two pretty important players," said Poulin. "Allowing just 11 shots at Lake Superior was a tremendous effort."
NATIONAL HOCKEY POLLS (10/19/98)
U.S. COLLEGE HOCKEY ONLINE POLL USA TODAY/AMERICAN HOCKEY MAGAZINE POLL Team (1st-Place) Record Points Lst Wk Team (1st-Place) Record Points Lst Wk 1. Boston College (24) 2-0-0 292 1 1. Boston College (8) 2-0-0 98 1 2. North Dakota (6) 0-0-0 269 3 2. North Dakota (2) 0-0-0 91 3 3. Maine 2-0-0 188 8 3. Colorado College 0-0-0 73 5 4. Colorado College 0-0-0 180 6 4. Maine 2-0-0 63 6 5. Michigan State 1-0-1 136 5 5. Michigan State 1-0-1 50 4 6. Michigan 2-1-0 123 2 6. Michigan 2-1-0 47 2 7. Clarkson 0-0-0 120 7 7. NOTRE DAME 5-0-0 40 - 8. NOTRE DAME 5-0-0 107 8. Clarkson 0-0-0 25 7 9. New Hampshire 1-0-0 51 9. New Hampshire 1-0-0 23 10 Ohio State 1-3-0 4 4 10. Northern Michigan 4-0-0 11 -