Jordan Gross gives Irish behind-the-scenes leadership
Hunter McDaniel | Thursday, February 11, 2016
As the Irish currently sit in a first-place tie with No. 3 Boston College in the Hockey East standings, they have players all over the ice to thank for their strong season up to this point. Sophomore goaltender Cal Petersen has posted a .946 save percentage in the team’s last 15 games and sophomore left winger Anders Bjork has posted 16 points over the same stretch for No. 8 Notre Dame (16-5-7, 12-2-2 Hockey East) while also playing for Team USA in the World Junior Championships. Seniors Mario Lucia and Thomas DiPauli have provided consistent leadership as well, while sophomore center Jake Evans leads the team with 21 assists this season.
One name that might slip under the radar with so much success around him is that of sophomore defenseman Jordan Gross, who posted four points during Notre Dame’s weekend sweep of Vermont. His goal and three assists were the difference in a pair of tight victories over the Catamounts (11-16-2, 5-9-2) on the road.
For his strong performance against Vermont, Hockey East named Gross its Defensive Player of the Week on Monday, the first such honor of his young career.
For the past few weeks, Gross has been paired with freshman Bobby Nardella on defense, something Gross said lifts his game.
“I think me and Bobby have a really good relationship off the ice,” Gross said. “He’s a pretty similar player to me, and we compliment each other very well. He sees the ice extremely well, and he’ll always be passing the puck to me. He’s really good at finding open guys.
“We both are offensive defensemen. We both are competitive. We both want to help our team out the best we can, and that’s done by both of us doing our role and producing goals for the team.”
Irish head coach Jeff Jackson also said the relationship between Gross and Nardella is a contributing factor to the team’s success so far this season.
“In today’s game when you have three men back, four men back all the time, if you don’t have your defensemen as part of the offense than you’re in trouble.” Gross said. “If you don’t have defensemen who can make plays, it’s really hard to score in today’s game. And you need guys that have good instincts offensively. Those two guys certainly do. They’re different types of players, but they’re both gifted offensively.”
Gross attributes much of his own playing style to his experience playing alongside former Irish defenseman Robbie Russo, who is currently in the Detroit Red Wings organization.
“I think it’s just how I’ve always played,” Gross said. “It helped last year, I came in and played with Robbie, who helped me mature a lot both offensively and defensively. And I think I’m kind of trying to take that leadership role with [Nardella] and help him out. I learned a lot of stuff from Robbie, just watching him play every single day in practice and games. He’s always making the right decision with the puck. He shoots a lot. He’s always making good passes, and his attitude just toward everything he does.”
His weekend performance against Vermont gives him a total of eight goals and 18 assists for 26 total points so far on the season, pushing him past the 50-point mark for his career in an Irish uniform. His 26 points this season put him in a tie for second place among defensemen in all of college hockey, just three points behind first place.
“[Being named Defensive Player of the Week] is a little bit of recognition from other people,” Gross said. “It’s recognition for all my hard work. “
Gross and the rest of the Irish will be back in action Friday when they welcome Maine (7-17-6, 4-10-2) to Compton Family Ice Arena for the first of two weekend games.