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Hockey: Seniors aim to take Notre Dame back to Frozen Four

Sam Gans | Friday, August 19, 2011

After the program’s second trip to the Frozen Four capped last season, the Irish return with high expectations.

Three of the top four point scorers from last year’s Irish squad, sophomore centers T.J. Tynan and Anders Lee and senior right wing Billy Maday, return. The CCHA’s top defensive defenseman award winner in 2010-2011 — senior Sean Lorenz — is also back, along with junior goaltender Mike Johnson.

A class of five seniors is expected to lead the way, led by Maday and Lorenz. They are the only seniors who played in more than eight games last season.

Despite the lack of quantity, Irish coach Jeff Jackson sees Maday and Lorenz as capable leaders.

“I would expect both of them to be important in a leadership role,” Jackson said. “They’ve been around. They’ve seen the situation we had a couple of years ago (13-17-8 in 2009-2010) and how we responded and had good leadership last year. So they’ve seen the difference.”

Jackson is also looking for increased leadership from a large sophomore class. Tynan, a third round draft pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets in June, led all NCAA freshmen with 54 points last season, Lee finished second on the Notre Dame roster with 44 points.

“Obviously, for freshmen [last year], they had a real good season,” Jackson said. “I expect some of those guys to elevate their games — guys like [right wing] Mike Voran, [right wing] Bryan Rust, [defenseman] Shayne Taker, [defenseman] Kevin Lind and [goaltender] Steven Summerhays. I think that a lot of [handling expectations] is about making sure they stayed focused on being in the moment and getting better every day, because [if] they put personal pressure on themselves, that’s when sophomore jinxes fall into place.”

While this year’s freshman class does not have as many players as last year’s class, Jackson is hoping for another big year from his first-year contributors. Led by defenseman Robbie Russo, a fourth round New York Islanders draft pick, the five members will each have the opportunity to earn playing time.

“The freshmen are going to have to earn their roles, just like every other player,” Jackson said. “But I have high expectations for [players] like Robbie Russo and [right wing] Peter Schneider being able to contribute right away.”

The buzz of where the Irish will play may actually surpass all this buzz about the possibilities once on the ice. After 33 years in the Joyce Center, the brand new Compton Family Ice Arena is scheduled to open for Irish hockey in late October or early November.

“It’s certainly a long time coming,” Jackson said. “I know our players and entire staff are extremely excited about moving into the new building.

“We have to stay focused and make sure we respect our present facility while we’re waiting to move into the new building. [But] I think that our fans, our students and the university as a whole will be very proud of this building and the impact it will have on our hockey program and the campus community.

“We made sure our students are going to have the best seats in the house and hopefully come out in droves [and] the hockey will hopefully be extremely exciting.”

The Irish play their first exhibition game Oct. 2 against Western Ontario and open their regular season with a trip to defending NCAA champion Minnesota-Duluth Oct. 7-8. UMD ended Notre Dame’s postseason run in April.

The Irish home-opener takes place Oct. 14 against Ohio State in the Joyce Center.