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Outstanding Male Senior Athlete: Lorenz assumes captaincy as Irish open Compton

Chris Allen | Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The temptation is strong for the defenseman to move forward and get some glory. Screaming slap shots from the opposing blue line. The thrilling point position on the power play. Rising points and assists totals. Irish senior defenseman and captain Sean Lorenz will have none of it. He is a defenseman, first and foremost.

The imposing blue-liner from Littleton, Colo., found success at Notre Dame embracing the concept of defending, shunning the roles of flashier defensemen to do what his position is most fundamentally about: keeping the opposing team out of the net and off the scoreboard. The role was not initially a fit, Lorenz said.

“It’s been a challenging transition. Before I came over to this program I was put into a role of defensive defenseman, and I was told if I wanted to succeed in hockey, this was the role I was going to have to take on,” he said. “The coaches really, really pushed me in that direction. It’s been a great experience and I’ve definitely learned a lot. It’s tough at times because you don’t always get the recognition of the point and all that, but I think the coaches recognize that.”

The journey to the position as Notre Dame’s anchor on defense was not an easy one for Lorenz. He entered the program in the fall of 2008 out of the U.S. National Development Program and initially found himself on the fringes of Notre Dame’s top-six defensive rotation. He leaves in the spring of 2012 having served as Notre Dame’s unquestioned leader. Along the way he collected a CCHA Defensive Defenseman of the Year award for the 2010-11 season, scored nine goals and notched a plus/minus rating of plus-25 in his career. Irish coach Jeff Jackson said Lorenz was a success in the Notre Dame program.

“He really persevered because in his first year, he had to play a role of a fifth or sixth defenseman,” Jackson said. “We had such great defensemen ahead of him that he had to take a secondary role. If he hadn’t handled that as well as he did, I’m not sure if he would have been able to move into a top four [defensemen] position. He’s one of our top defensemen over the past few years and certainly winning the CCHA Defenseman of the Year last year gave him a lot of confidence.

“He was always a good citizen. He did a good job as a captain for us. He did things the right way. He was a great student. He was the total package. I’m very proud of Sean and what he accomplished here.”

Part of the reason Lorenz had to pay his dues behind older players was the quality depth at the blue line early in his career. Lorenz said players like former Irish defensemen Kyle Lawson and All-American Ian Cole developed him on and off the ice.

“Kyle was a big part of my development as a player here. He was my roommate on the road for two seasons, and he really kind of took me under his wing and that was definitely the biggest influence I had,” he said. “Ian Cole is another big guy in terms of that stuff, I kind of knew him before I got to Notre Dame and he was big in terms of teaching me.”

In his junior year, Lorenz finally moved into a top defense position in the Joyce Center’s final season. He took the opportunity and positioned himself among the country’s elite defensive defensemen, teaming with then-captain Joe Lavin and then-freshman defenseman Stephen Johns to form intimidating blue-line tandems on an Irish team that competed for the CCHA title until the season’s final day. The Irish enjoyed an unexpected run to the Frozen Four as a No. 3 seed in the Northeast Regional before falling to Minnesota-Duluth in the national semifinal in Saint Paul, Minn. Lorenz said playing on the national stage was a top highlight of his career.

“It was kind of all a big blur, but a great experience overall,” he said. “To have the opportunity to go up to Minnesota and skate on the rink I was drafted to with the Minnesota Wild, to play on that kind of stage, was an incredible experience. I think the coolest part is that only four teams get to do that, knowing not that many people get to experience it, was great. That group of guys was one of the closest group of guys I’ve been a part of.”

Coming off the unexpected run to the Frozen Four and moving into Compton Family Ice Arena, Lorenz was named co-captain of a 2011-12 Notre Dame team heading into the season as a preseason No. 1 selection. The Irish disappointed with a 19-18-3 record and a 12-13-3-0 CCHA mark, but Lorenz said the opportunity to serve as captain in Compton’s first season was a personal honor.

“To know that the likes of [former captains] Ryan Thang, Mark van Guilder and Erik Condra, people like Joe Lavin, guys who are just great players and great people, and then to have a guy like [Irish co-captain and senior forward] Billy Maday next to me, it was a great honor,” he said. “Working with Billy was a great experience because he always knew what he was doing and he was very confident with handling certain situations, and I learned a lot from him. It was a great experience for me and for Billy too.”

Though he was scarcely found on the stat sheet, Lorenz’s career was one defined by defense. He carried that mentality after leaving the program and joined the Houston Aeros of the AHL, hoping one day to skate the blue line in the same arena where he once led Notre Dame onto the ice for the Frozen Four at college hockey’s pinnacle. Even in graduation, Lorenz defends his future alma mater’s position as a major player in the future of college hockey.

“It’s definitely an exciting time for Notre Dame hockey. Moving into Hockey East brings on a whole different style of hockey, and having a new building that brings with it a new level of expectations,” he said. “Especially playing against Boston College and some of the teams that people know, it will be a little bit different than playing someone like Bowling Green or Ferris State, who the average hockey fan maybe doesn’t know quite as much about.

“Then to have the new building to bring people in, it will be great for the future. Notre Dame hockey has definitely grown since I’ve been here. I think in the future you’ll hear about Notre Dame being one of the powerhouses of college hockey.”

Contact Chris Allen at [email protected]