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Hockey: Losing record marks disappointing season

Douglas Farmer | Thursday, May 13, 2010

A year removed from a No. 1 ranking and a disappointing loss in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, expectations were high for Notre Dame in 2010.

An inept offense and a struggling defense led to a 13-17-8 record for the Irish, the program’s worst since coach Jeff Jackson’s first season in 2006. One of the most accomplished senior classes in school history left on a rare low point.

“As seniors and four-year players, I think they were probably most disappointed in our season,” Jackson said. “I think that they did everything in their power. … For the most part, they stood by the convictions that we built in the program in their first three years here.”

The senior leadership, specifically captain Ryan Thang, center Kevin Deeth and defensemen Brett Blatchford and Kyle Lawson, contributed to a three-year run in which Notre Dame won two CCHA championships, reached another CCHA tournament final, and, in 2008, made it to the NCAA Championship game. Jackson said their mentality on the ice was the deciding factor in most of these accomplishments.

“Kevin Deeth did a lot to make sure that we never backed down from a situation,” Jackson said. “They had a lot to do with that [success]. They contributed a lot.”

Those four stayed healthy for most of the season, but for large portions of the year Jackson employed a defensive line consisting of one or more wings and centers. The lack of manpower put many of the underclassmen on the ice in unique situations, something Jackson said he hopes will lead to positive results in the future.

“I have to hope that between those freshmen and sophomores, there is some growth because they showed signs of a lot of positive attributes and hopefully the year’s experience is going to help them move forward,” he said. “We have to hope that all those younger players are going to come back with that experience under their belt and make a positive contribution next year.”

In many cases, the underclassmen made positive contributions this past season. Junior wing Calle Riderwall led the team in scoring with 19 goals and eight assists, while sophomore wing Billy Maday added seven goals and 14 assists and freshman wing Kyle Palmieri finished tied for second on the team in goals scored with nine.

“In many cases, with youth comes enthusiasm,” Jackson said. “Those guys will be the guys leading the way offensively.”

In goal for the Irish for most of the season was freshman Mike Johnson. Johnson showed great promise early in the season, stopping 27 of 28 shots in the CCHA opener against Ohio State, a 3-1 victory. But in Notre Dame’s last game, an 8-2 loss to that same Buckeyes team in the first round of the CCHA tournament, Johnson gave up four goals in the first period.

“He showed signs of brilliance early on, but his lack of consistency hurt him and caught up to him,” Jackson said. “Our team wasn’t scoring as anticipated, and that put more pressure on him. I think that finally wore on him.”