Seniors lead as one, usher in new era for Notre Dame
Zach Klonsinski | Wednesday, March 30, 2016
CINCINNATI — Steven Fogarty fought a lump in his throat. Sam Herr’s eyes were red as he softly answered questions from the media gathered in front of him.
Even Irish head coach Jeff Jackson had a waver in his voice when asked about what this senior class has meant to him and to the Notre Dame program.
The finality of it all had clearly hit the two seniors and their coach, just minutes after Michigan junior forward Tyler Motte ended their careers just shy of the midway point of the first overtime period Friday night at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati.
“Our guys played their hearts out, and I am just extremely proud of them,” Jackson said. “Our senior class has probably done a better job in leading than I have ever had, so I am very proud of them.”
It was a hard way for the end to come, especially after what will go down as one of the best college hockey games of the year between two rivals.
“I thought for the most part we played well,” Fogarty, who signed an entry level contract with the New York Rangers on Tuesday, said following the game. “We wanted to get a good start, and I think we did that. We were sticking to our game plan, which is when we were having success. There were a few lapses there, but we stuck by it. Overall, I’m really proud of the guys and how they worked all game.”
Fogarty, Herr, left wing Mario Lucia — who signed an entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild on Sunday — center Thomas DiPauli, defenseman Andy Ryan and goaltender Nick Stasack — who made the team as a walk-on before last season — impressed their coach with their leadership from the very beginning of last season, Jackson said. This year, Fogarty was named the team captain for the second year in a row, while Jackson designated each of the other senior skaters as assistant captains.
As a class, they were a part of three NCAA tournament appearances in their four years and compiled an 85-58-17 record overall, including a 17-8-3 conference record in a 2012-2013 campaign that was the team’s final season of CCHA play and included a CCHA tournament title. In their three years in Hockey East, the class is a respectable 34-21-9 overall in conference play and never finished below .500 in conference play.
But for all the success the class has found on the ice — Stasack, for example, finishes his collegiate career with an immaculate 1.000 save percentage — Jackson has said all season that this class has been one of his best in terms of two important qualities: leadership and character.
“It’s really hard,” Jackson said when asked how it was to watch Fogarty and Herr walk off the podium in Cincinnati. “Leadership is a funny thing. I have had great leaders in my time at Notre Dame and before, but this was different. For the first time, I have had a group of guys that collectively led. They cared about each other. They did a great job this year. You know we’ve got a young group — we have two thirds of our roster that is underclassmen.”
After graduating 11 seniors following the 2013-14 season, Jackson said it was this senior class that weathered the storm of youth in the program and brought the Irish back to the NCAA tournament after missing out in 2014-15.
“They did a tremendous job,” Jackson said. “They got our culture back on track. They are passionate, and they are great kids.
“I mean character: unbelievable.”