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HOCKEY: Young Irish struggle from start to finish

Bobby Griffin | Friday, May 13, 2005

Coming off an NCAA tournament berth, the Irish knew it would be difficult to repeat their success with a young team that graduated a good amount of their talent.

However, a five-win season was not exactly what the Irish players, coaches and fans were expecting.

On February 12, the Irish were tied with Ferris State at three goals each when the puck got loose in the near corner.

With the Irish pressing, trying to score a go-ahead goal, a 3-on-2 break ensued on the other end, leading to a game-winning short-handed goal with 53 seconds remaining.

It was this type of head-shaking play that defined Notre Dame’s hockey season.

Rising senior Mike Walsh spoke about the frustration that began to build as the struggles continued with each game.

“Everybody is looking at one another wondering when that next bounce is going to go our way,” Walsh said.

Unfortunately, the Irish never got those lucky bounces.

Following a 2-1 win over Rensselaer on January 2, the Irish proceeded to go winless in their last 19 games of the season – including two losses to Michigan in the CCHA playoffs.

The 5-27-6-finish was enough to force head coach Dave Poulin to step down from his position and take a development job in the front office.

“Obviously for every individual and in terms of their goals, it was a disappointment,” Walsh said. “As well as a disappointment for the team collectively.”

Walsh credited his old coach for preparing the team each game, placing responsibility on the shoulders of himself and the rest of his teammates.

“They gave us the game plan, and it’s our job to go out and execute it,” Walsh said. “We were never ill-prepared for anything.

“It comes from the leadership on down. As an assistant [captain], it was my job to better prepare everyone.”

The season was not a complete loss for the Irish, as goalie Morgan Cey kept the team in every game in which they played.

Cey was outstanding all season, and Poulin praised him all year for his excellence and his leadership, even when the team was struggling.

In the squad’s final game against Michigan, Cey held the Wolverines to just one goal – saving 43 shots in the overtime loss.

Next season, Jeff Jackson will be the Irish head coach – and he brings with him an impressive reputation.

Jackson coached Lake Superior State to three straight national title games, winning in 1992 and 1994. Jackson has been an assistant coach with the New York Islanders for the last two seasons.

While being careful not to show any disrespect for his former coach, Walsh expressed that having a new coach in charge has already provided a spark for next season.

“Everybody’s excited. Its a breath of fresh air within the program,” Walsh said.

“Everyone is eager to show [Jackson] that last year was not who we are as a team or as players.”