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Hockey: Gryphons visit for lone ND exhibition

Isaac Lorton | Friday, October 4, 2013

Hockey gets underway Sunday at Compton Family Ice Arena, as the Irish host Guelph in an exhibition matchup in their first game since a 5-1 loss to St. Cloud State in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament.

“We are excited about the start of a new season,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “Ever since the finish of last year, I think we have all been motivated to get back to starting over again, especially moving into a new conference. … It’s going to be a great schedule, especially for our fans and students at home, and that’s always a great thing. We are looking forward to a new challenge.”

The tough schedule and new challenges begin for the Irish as they face off against the Gryphons from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. The Gryphons are coming off a 4-2 exhibition loss to Western Ontario.

The last time the Irish played Guelph was an exhibition game Notre Dame won 5-3 to start the 2010-11 season – the same season the Irish went to the Frozen Four. A year ago, Notre Dame tied the U.S. Under-18 team in its only exhibition game.

Irish senior goaltender Steven Summerhays said Guelph will prepare the Irish well for the start of their season.

“This year, we are starting [the regular season on Oct. 11] with Western Michigan, who is going to be a tough opponent to start off with,” Summerhays said. “I think Guelph will be a physical team and Western is more of a physical team, compared to playing a [United States] developmental team, which is a lot of skilled guys. Hopefully we can start to get some lines and gaining chemistry and clicking a little bit.”

Summerhays said the exhibition game with Guelph is important because it will solve some of the unknown variables of college hockey. 

“It’s so tough in college [to establish lines], because guys leave here and there every year and the freshmen [are] coming in.” Summerhays said. “We have some really talented freshmen that could potentially play first or second lines.

“I think [the game with Guelph] is going to help, the faster we can get chemistry between our lines, and with [former Irish captain and center] Anders [Lee] out of the lineup and someone needing to step into his first or second line role, guys are going to be moving around and won’t be playing with the people they have been playing with for the past few years.”  

Jackson said the lines are not set yet, and the game will create an opportunity to take a look at the players competing for the open spots. For the blueliners, sophomore Andy Ryan will compete with freshmen Ben Ostlie and Justin Wade for the last defensive spot.  

“Our top five [on defense] is pretty solid, so it will be three guys competing for one spot to play,” Jackson said. “We will see how it goes.”

The Irish will also look to freshman Vinnie Hinostroza to be an offensive force. 

“I think primarily, Vinnie Hinostroza will have an immediate impact up front for us,” Jackson said. 

Notre Dame will rely on its 10 returning seniors to lead the team against Guelph and into its first season in the Hockey East conference, Jackson said.

“They have all had a pretty big impact on the team for the last three years,” Jackson said. “As freshmen, they had a big impact on getting us to the Frozen Four. They also saw the downs of their sophomore year – a lot of them had off seasons, maybe with a sophomore jinx.

“But they rebounded extremely well as juniors. They were the dominant players on our roster, for the most part, and this year it is their time to shine. We need them to elevate a little bit more to have a better year and that will come from their leadership on and off the ice.”   

The Irish begin their season with an exhibition game against Guelph at 5:05 p.m. Sunday at Compton Family Ice Arena.

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu