Hockey: Seniors experienced historic ups and downs
Chris Khorey | Thursday, February 23, 2006
The Notre Dame hockey class of 2006 has been around for the program’s best season (2003-04) and its worst season (2004-05).
The Irish earned their first-ever NCAA tournament bid and then, one year later, lost 18 straight games in a five-win campaign.
“Last year, we were pretty bad, and the year before, we were really good,” right wing Tim Wallace said. “I think we might go down in the record books as the best and the worst [class in school history].”
The six Irish seniors – goalie Rory Walsh, defenseman Chris Trick, center Matt Amado, center Tony Gill, left wing Mike Walsh and Wallace – will be honored Saturday following the team’s final regular season game against Alaska-Fairbanks at the Joyce Center.
“It’s had its share of ups and downs,” Mike Walsh said of his career at Notre Dame. “There’s probably no place I’d rather be, though. Just the experience of playing for Notre Dame and the people that I’ve played with, I’ll never forget it.”
Trick said the Irish need to focus on their two-game set with the Nanooks amidst the feeling of nostalgia in the minds of Notre Dame’s seniors. The series will be crucial for home ice advantage in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) playoffs.
“It will probably be an emotional weekend, but I hope not because we need to pick up some points and get a playoff series at home,” Trick said. “Then we can extend our ‘last games’ a couple weeks.”
The seniors have seen considerable change in their time under the Golden Dome. After their junior year, former coach Dave Poulin left the job to take a position in the athletic department and was replaced by current coach Jeff Jackson.
The class of 2006 sees itself as creating a foundation for a program that can compete nationally. University officials are reportedly considering much-needed upgrades to the Joyce Center with input from players and coaches.
“We’re laying some footsteps for people to come in and make this a place where hockey is a big thing,” Amado said.
Wallace has played in all of Notre Dame’s 149 games since he arrived in 2002. He is Notre Dame’s all-time leader in consecutive games played.
Wallace has 24 career goals at Notre Dame. He has scored 10 this season, the highest season total in his four-year career.
The Alaska native spent two years in the U.S. National Team developmental program, winning the U-18 World Championships in 2000 before coming to South Bend.
The New York Rangers drafted Walsh in 2002, making him the only senior signed to an NHL team.
He has 25 career goals and is tied with Wallace for the second highest goal total this season with 10.
The Detroit native’s career at Notre Dame got off to a slow start. He broke his jaw in an exhibition game before his freshmen season and missed six weeks with mononucleosis later in the year. His first career goal was a game winner against Lake Superior State three weeks after returning the lineup.
Trick is the lone graduating defenseman for Notre Dame. He has been effective in killing opponents’ scoring chances his entire career, but has earned other accomplishments off the ice.
The Novi, Mich. native was nominated for this year’s Ilitch CCHA Humanitarian Award, given annually for exceptional performance on and off the ice.
“It’s been a bumpy road at times but it’s been fun,” Trick said. “A few of us were talking the other day, we still remember the first time we played here. It doesn’t seem like that long ago.”
Amado, the senior class’s lone Canadian, has been prolific scorer for the Irish his entire career. The Langley, British Columbia native has scored 23 goals in his career, including a career-high eight this season.
The center was a multi-sport athlete coming out of high school when he was named MVP of both the basketball and volleyball teams.
“It’s gone pretty quickly,” Amado said of his career. “Four years, you don’t expect it to go by that quickly. I’m proud of what we’ve done.”
Walsh has been a reserve goaltender for most of his Notre Dame career, but he says he has no regrets about his role.
“I had some unbelievable goaltenders in front of me my four years here,” he said. “I appreciate the ability to be out here on a Division I level.”
Walsh has made six career appearances, including two starts during his sophomore year, when he went 1-1.
Gill, a 5-foot-10, 184-pound center has seen limited action during his Irish career, but he has managed to net two career goals and make some lasting memories.
“It’s been a lot of fun here,” Gill said. “We’ve got a great group of guys. I think my favorite memory is either my first assist against Michigan State my freshmen year or killing a penalty at the end of a game against Ohio State.”
The Irish will be in action Friday and Saturday against Alaska-Fairbanks at the Joyce Center. The seniors will be honored on the ice after Saturday’s contest.