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Hockey: Freshman Tynan already shines after unexpected season

Sam Werner | Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Three months ago, T.J. Tynan wasn’t even supposed to be at Notre Dame. Now, he’s one of the most productive rookies in the CCHA.

At the beginning of August, the freshman center was in Des Moines, Iowa, readying for his second season with the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers. Even though Tynan signed his letter of intent to play for the Irish in November 2009, the plan was for him to join the team for the 2011 season.

But when rising sophomore Kyle Palmieri signed an entry-level contract with the Anaheim Ducks, a spot opened up on the Irish roster for this season. Irish coach Jeff Jackson said he let Tynan decide if he was ready for Division I college hockey.

“He made the decision to come and right now it’s looking like a great decision,” Jackson said.

“Great decision” may be an understatement. So far, Tynan leads all Irish freshmen with eight assists and 13 points, good enough for second on the team. Monday, he was named the CCHA’s rookie of the week for the second week in a row.

“Maybe we’re a little surprised with how productive he’s been,” senior left wing Calle Ridderwall said of Tynan. “But I’m not surprised at all with how well he’s playing.”

Tynan notched an assist in Notre Dame’s 3-1 win over Michigan Friday, and added a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 5-3 defeat. Tynan had four points the weekend before, with two goals and two assists in Notre Dame’s split with Bowling Green. Ridderwall said it was Tynan’s on-ice intelligence that allowed him to be so productive.

“He’s a playmaker that scores so that’s two great things in one,” Ridderwall said. “He sees guys very well. He knows where you’re going to be. It’s easy to know where he’s going to be because he’s usually in the right spot.”

One of the hallmarks for this Irish team has been its camaraderie, which many players have attributed to an intense summer of workouts. Ridderwall said even though Tynan didn’t join the team until two weeks before its first game, he wasted no time fitting right in.

Now that the season is underway, Jackson said his primary concern was making sure Tynan stayed fresh for later in the campaign.

“He’s done a great job for us thus far, but I want to make sure that he understands it’s about the whole season and consistency throughout the whole year,” Jackson said.

Jackson said that Tynan has been getting some rotations on the power play and penalty-killing units, in addition to his regular shifts. While the coaching staff likes his presence on special teams, keeping Tynan fresh for January and February is the priority.

Listed at 5-foot-8 and 156 pounds, Tynan will never be the biggest guy on the ice, but Jackson emphasized that his size wasn’t necessarily as important as his playing style.

“He doesn’t play small,” Jackon said. “He plays big and that’s the most important characteristic. I’ve had 6-foot-4 guys that played small, and I’d rather have a guy like him — [5-foot-8] and plays big.”