Preseason Top 16: #3 Notre Dame
The Irish struggled mightily last season, collapsing in the second half of the season en route to a 12-13-3 finish in the CCHA and an 8th place finish in the league.
It was the best of times….
Notre Dame started out hot, winning 7 of their first 11 CCHA games and going 7-1-3 in that stretch. They also had a nonconference win over Boston College during that stretch.
It was the worst of times…
Notre Dame suffered through a 5 game losing streak at the end of the regular season, getting swept by Ferris State and Miami and also losing one to Bowling Green.
The Coach - Jeff Jackson (Michigan State '78)
Jackson is one of the most legendary coaches in college hockey history. He won NCAA titles with Lake Superior State in 1992 and 1994, and also advanced to the title game in 1993. With Notre Dame he has won two CCHA regular season and two CCHA tournament titles and advanced to the Frozen Four twice, most recently in 2011.
Notable Current NHL Alumni
Players to watch
Although the Irish struggled last year, their two best players are back in 2012. TJ Tynan and Anders Lee form perhaps the best 1-2 punch in the nation, with Lee leading the team with 17 goals and Tynan leading the team in points with 41. Tynan shared the league lead in points per game last year with Michigan State defenseman Torey Krug and Northern Michigan's Tyler Gron. Lee meanwhile did the bulk of his goal scoring in nonconference games, scoring just 8 goals in 28 CCHA games, but there's no doubt he has the talent to score more, potting 24 as a Freshman.
Where Notre Dame really struggled was in net. Steve Summerhays and Mike Johnson shared time, mostly because neither was good: Summerhays had a .910 save percentage and Johnson was at an .883 mark. In any league that is worrisome but in the defense heavy CCHA that is a backbreaker. Only Johnson played enough conference minutes to qualify for the leaderboard, and he was dead last in save percentage in CCHA conference play at .886.
Robbie Russo, a 4th rounder of the Islanders in 2011, had 4 goals in his Freshman season. He has a good hockey sense and I like his skating ability and passing skills. Once he adds some muscle on his frame he should have a bright future.
Mario Lucia suffered a broken leg and will miss half the season or so, but he will be a big boost to the Irish when he comes back. The son of Minnesota coach Don Lucia had an incredible 42 goals and 93 points in 56 games for Penticton (BCHL) last year.
Andy Ryan was a teammate of fellow Irish defenseman Robbie Russo at the NTDP, and follows his brother Ben to Notre Dame. He didn't score many points with the NTDP and is more of a defensive minded defenseman who makes the smart play with the puck and once he adds some muscle should be one of the better shutdown guys in the league.
Sam Herr won a Clark Cup with Green Bay, and scored 30 goals for the Gamblers last year. He improved his goal scoring mark by 20 from the 2010-11 season and whereas he once was thought to be a nice depth signing by the Irish, he may have to provide some offense until Lucia returns healthy.
Non conference series to watch:
Notre Dame hosts North Dakota the week before Thanksgiving in what could be a matchup of a pair of top 5 teams.
Again, it depends on the play in net. If either Summerhays or Johnson provides adequate goaltending the Irish should be a national title contender. But if not, and it would be tough to blame someone for thinking this, they could be in for another long season.