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Lords of the rink

Justin Schuver | Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The date was Oct. 7, 2000. Notre Dame was playing its opening game against the University of Minnesota, in the Hall of Fame Classic at the brand-new Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.Aaron Gill and Rob Globke were two young freshman forwards on that team, whose first experience of Notre Dame hockey was to see their team fall to the Golden Gophers by a score of 7-3.Fast forward four years, where Gill and Globke are senior leaders on this year’s Irish and have a chance to do something that no Notre Dame has ever done – win an NCAA tournament game. It just so happens that opponent is the very same Minnesota Golden Gophers.”I think it will be pretty neat to go up against Minnesota,” Globke said. “It would be good to end their season after they gave us that loss the first time.”The No. 4 seed Irish travel to Grand Rapids, Mich., Saturday to face the No. 1 seed Golden Gophers in the first round of the NCAA Midwest Regional. Minnesota is the two-time defending national champion and currently has a 15-game postseason winning streak.It’s unlikely those numbers scare either Globke or Gill, who have no desire to end their Irish hockey careers in the same way they started.

The captainThe captain is supposed to be the team’s leader, both on and off the ice. He’s supposed to help the team through the hard times, and to be the guy everyone looks at to inspire the team when they’re down.Nowhere was that more obvious for Gill than in the CCHA Super Six game against Ohio State March 18. Although Notre Dame lost that game, 6-5 in overtime, it certainly wasn’t because of any lack of hustle from Gill.Gill scored a hat trick, just the second of his career, and also notched an assist on a four-point night for the Irish. “You definitely have to be playing well at this time of the year,” Gill said. “Going into the tournament, you’re not going to see much scoring. This time of the year you go into every game thinking that it could be your last game and I think that’s the approach we want to have.”You just want to go out there and give everything you have anytime you get that chance.”It’s not very often that the Rochester, Minn., native doesn’t give everything he has on the ice. Irish coach Dave Poulin uses Gill in nearly all situations, even-strength, shorthanded and on the power play. Poulin doesn’t worry about playing Gill too often, because the forward is ranked second on the team in plus-minus with a plus-14.”Our team’s strength is defense, and that’s including the forwards as well,” Poulin said. “We need everyone on the ice to do their part if we’re going to be successful.”Gill has been doing his part on the ice for a long time. He began playing hockey with the Rochester Youth Hockey Program when he was just five years old, and went on to become a star with the United State Hockey League’s Rochester Mustangs for three seasons before coming to Notre Dame.”Part of me wanting to come here was the school and the great traditions at Notre Dame,” he said. “The other part was wanting to come to a younger hockey club and really help to build a program.”One of my goals has always been to try and help the team achieve something that they hadn’t done before and we finally did this year, which is great especially me and the other seniors.”As a freshman, Gill stepped in and was able to contribute to the Irish offense instantly. He ended up tied for third on that team in scoring along with Globke and current senior defenseman Brett Lebda.Both Gill and Globke earned honorable-mention CCHA honors as a result of their performance in the 1999-2000 season.Gill continued to be a model of consistency in his sophomore through junior years, providing a scoring punch while also being a responsible player both on and off the ice. Those qualities impressed Poulin, who named Gill the team’s captain for this season.”I just try to help the guys achieve what we want to achieve,” Gill said of his captain’s duties. “Sometimes we get tired mentally and hopefully I can help push some of those guys through those hard times.”We’ve always said that whatever we have to give, it’s worth it in the end, and I think this is the proof here – going to the NCAA’s.”

The superstarWhereas Gill is asked to help the team in all aspects of the game, Globke’s role is less broad. That’s not to say Globke is allowed to just shirk his defensive responsibilities, but at the same time he’s not asked to be the team’s best all-around player.”I think pretty much offense, in any shape or form, is my main role with the team,” Globke said matter-of-factly.Every team needs a player like Globke, especially a championship-caliber team. He is the kind of offensive presence that can take over a game and really provide a spark when the team needs one.Globke is the kind of player who can score goals like the one he scored against Western Michigan on March 14, to send the Irish to the CCHA’s second round against Ohio State. With the score 4-3 in favor of Notre Dame, Globke picked up a free puck and skated down the left side toward Western Michigan goalie Eric Marvin.With one defender to beat, Globke made just a simple little hesitation move, that allowed him to quickly slide the puck over to the right side with his stick and whip it past both Marvin and the Bronco defender who was covering him. It was a simple move, yet a remarkable offensive play.Globke has made a living of making the remarkable plays, and he has done so numerous times this season as well, leading the team in both scoring with 39 points and in goals with 19. He has seemed to especially rise to the occasion at clutch times this season, scoring a team-high five game-winning goals.Those skills allowed Globke to achieve a piece of Irish history, becoming Notre Dame’s highest-ever draft pick when he was selected by the Florida Panthers in the second round of the 2002 NHL Entry League Draft.”It was awesome being able to go up there and get that [Florida] jersey on the podium,” Globke said of his draft-day experience. “Of all the great players that have come from here, to be the highest drafted player ever is really just a great honor.”Globke’s trip to Notre Dame followed a familiar course, as the West Bloomfield, Mich., native made a name for himself on the U.S. Under-18 National Team. The Irish have used the U.S. National Team as a pipeline in recent years, and Globke is one of eight players currently on the Notre Dame roster who came through the U.S. National Team program.”There’s more to life than just hockey, and this place has so much to offer besides athletics, so that was one big draw,” said Globke of his decision to attend Notre Dame. “I also knew the coaches before I actually came here so I felt really comfortable around them and felt that it was a real good fit for me here.”