The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Hockey: Irish open with familiar foe in Ohio State

Justin Schuver | Friday, October 10, 2003

It might seem like déjà vu for the Irish as they take the ice for their first game of the regular season this weekend on the road against the No. 15 Ohio State Buckeyes.

Ohio State ended Notre Dame’s 2002-03 season with a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Irish in the first round of the CCHA Super Six in Detroit last year. It’s a game that has still left a sour taste in the mouth of the Irish, according to head coach Dave Poulin.

“Believe me, [revenge] has been mentioned,” he said. “Any time a team knocks you out and you’re as close and we played as well as we played in that game, you certainly want to come right back and get right at them.

“We would have preferred to have played them the next night rather than after six months, but it definitely has been mentioned this week.”

The Buckeyes (1-1-0) participated in the Lefty McFadden Invitational last weekend, losing to Denver 5-2 and defeating Miami (Ohio) 5-3. Ohio State returns 14 of 22 letterwinners from last year’s team that finished third in the CCHA.

The Buckeyes will have to replace two talented forwards in R.J. Umberger and Ryan Kesler, who signed with professional teams over the summer. Kesler scored one of the goals in that 3-2 win over the Irish at Joe Louis Arena last year.

Goalie Mike Betz will almost certainly be looked at to lead the Buckeyes this year. The senior goaltender led the CCHA in goals-against-average last year.

Despite the loss of Umberger and Kesler, the Buckeyes still feature a veteran team with nine seniors who are used to playing for one of the top teams in the league.

“I think [losing Umberger and Kesler] changes them a lot,” Poulin said. “I think it does change their team dramatically, and I really think they’ll be looking at Betz in net a lot more.”

The Irish will have to go against Betz with their backup, however. Junior Morgan Cey, who was slated to be the number one goalie, is still recovering from off-season knee surgery and will be unavailable for the Ohio State series.

Sophomore Rory Walsh, who was the MVP of the Blue-Gold scrimmage game, and freshman David Brown, who picked up the victory in Notre Dame’s preseason win over Western Ontario, will compete for the chance to start in net against the Buckeyes.

“Somebody’s going to have to be ready, but I don’t know who that is yet,” Poulin said. “They’re very close right now. … They both played well last weekend and they both played well in the Blue-Gold game.

“Certainly you don’t replace Morgan Cey at this point, but someone will step up.”

As with any new season, the Irish will also look to replace its departed seniors. Among those who graduated last year were captain and number-one defenseman Evan Nielsen, backup goaltender Tony Zasowski, Michael Chin, Connor Dunlop, Jake Weigand and John Wroblewski.

Also, junior Kyle Dolder and Yan Stastny left the team to play major junior hockey in Canada.

“I think you look at your team and see who will step up. Certainly our senior class, particularly on defense, is full of veterans,” Poulin said.

Seniors Tom Galvin, Neil Komadowski and Brett Lebda will serve as a trio of talented offensive defensemen on the Irish back line. The three combined for 11 goals and 46 assists last season.

On offense, the Irish feature one of the best senior forwards in the country. Despite being drafted as a sophomore by the Florida Panthers, Rob Globke has remained with Notre Dame his entire career and has stayed among the CCHA’s top scoring leaders each season as well.

Last year Globke led the team in scoring with 21 goals and 15 assists for 36 points. His classmate Aaron Gill, a talented center, will serve as the 2003-04 captain. Gill was an alternate captain last season and scored 25 points with 13 goals and 12 assists.

Notre Dame was voted seventh in the 12-team CCHA preseason poll, another fact that Poulin has noticed.

“It’s great to start against a team as good as Ohio State is,” he said. “Because it’s a chance to maybe go out and show the pollsters that maybe they’ve underestimated you.”

The Irish face the Buckeyes at the Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio, tonight at 8:05 p.m. and Saturday night at 7:05 p.m.