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Small stature helps Hinostroza

| Tuesday, January 20, 2015

At 5-foot-9, sophomore center Vince Hinostroza often finds himself dwarfed by players much taller than him on the ice.

But it is precisely this perceived disadvantage that Hinostroza has been able to use to his advantage throughout his career.

Notre Dame sophomore center Vince Hinostroza handles the puck in a 3-3 tie with Connecticut on Jan. 16.Michael Yu | The Observer
Notre Dame sophomore center Vince Hinostroza handles the puck in a 3-3 tie with Connecticut on Jan. 16.

“All the time I heard stuff growing up like, ‘You’re too small,’ or, ‘You’ll never make it in the next level,’” Hinostroza said. “I’ve always used that as motivation.”

Hinostroza said that he has been able to develop a strong set of offensive skills during his career crafted around this seeming disadvantage.

“I like to think of it as a positive thing,” Hinostroza said. “Being a smaller guy can definitely help you because you have a lower center of gravity and bigger guys can’t really get under you.”

This has allowed the center to zigzag and finesse his way through the offensive zone as the sophomore has been a catalyst for the Irish during his two seasons at Notre Dame.

Although a three-sport athlete in high school (hockey, lacrosse and football), the Bartlett, Illinois, native said he always knew hockey was his favorite sport.

The other sports merely served as “something to pass the time during the hockey off-season,” he said.

During his time in high school, Hinostroza played for the USHL Waterloo Black Hawks, racking up 128 points over the course of three seasons with the squad.

In 2012, he was drafted in the sixth round by the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, following his success at the USHL level.

Hinostroza had to decide whether to enter into the Blackhawks minor league system or continue to develop his game at the college level before trying to enter into the NHL.

“College was the best route for me, so I could keep getting bigger and stronger,” he said.

Hinostroza said he was drawn to Notre Dame due to a combination of the program’s new hockey facilities, coach Jeff Jackson’s proven system and the slew of fellow “Chicago-landers” on the Irish squad, including senior defenseman Robbie Russo, junior center Thomas DiPauli and sophomore defenseman Justin Wade.

“It was just the right fit for me,” Hinostroza said.

In his freshman campaign, Hinostroza compiled 32 points for the Irish, good enough to rank third on the veteran 2013-14 squad.

Then-seniors T.J. Tynan and Bryan Rust, both NHL draft picks, were the only two Irish players who scored more than Hinostroza.

Of the 51 points Hinostroza has scored in an Irish uniform, 40 of them have been assists. He has always strived for this kind of unselfishness, he said.

“I enjoy getting assists more than goals,” Hinostroza said. “Growing up, I always have made that a focus of my game, and it’s something I’ve been able to develop the past couple years.

The Irish earned a bid to last year’s NCAA tournament in Hinostroza’s freshman year, but this season they are currently 10-11-3. Part of that, Hinostroza said, is due to the team’s youthfulness.

“We’ve had some struggles this year,” Hinostroza said. “But after each weekend, we continue to come to the rink ready to work even harder than the last week.”

Despite these struggles and the young team’s growing pains, Hinstroza said he remains positive and has assumed a leadership role for the team, something he said last year’s upperclassmen did to help him mature.

“Even though I’m only a sophomore, I think I would be considered an upperclassman, just because of how young the team is,” he said. “I’m just trying to take what I learned from our seniors last year and help out our younger guys this year.”

Despite Notre Dame’s struggle to maintain consistency, the Irish still sit in fifth place in the Hockey East, with a conference record of 5-2-3 and 13 points, within striking distance of conference-leading Boston University (18 points).

“We’re still in good shape in the Hockey East, and we only have conference games remaining on the schedule, so that has to be our focus for the remainder of the year,” Hinostroza said.

The Irish travel to Boston on Friday for a two-game series against conference-foe Northeastern.


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