Hockey East Preview – University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish

By: Matt MacCormack

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Head Coach: Jeff Jackson (11th season)

Last Season: 18-19-5 (HE: 10-7-5), 5th place

Losses: D Robbie Russo (C), F Vince Hinostroza, F Peter Schneider, F Garret Peterson, F Joe Aiken, D Eric Johnson, F Austin Wuthrich

Newcomers: D Dennis Gilbert, F Jack Jenkins, D Bobby Nardella, F Dylan Malmquist, F Andrew Oglevie, F Joe Wegwerth

Despite their young roster, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish enjoyed a solid 2014-15 season under head coach Jeff Jackson. The South Bend puckheads finished 5th in Hockey East, and ultimately bowed out of the conference tournament in the quarterfinals at the hands of UMass-Lowell.

The Irish rode a potent offense to a fifth-place conference finish, tying for 3rd in Hockey East and 17th in the nation with a 3.00 goals per game clip. Sophomore F Vince Hinostroza led the way with 11 goals and 33 assists. Senior D Robbie Russo, who went on to achieve 2nd Team All-American honors, was an offensive force from behind the blue line, notching 15 goals and 26 assists. Standout freshman G Cal Petersen solidified himself as one of the best young net-minders in the country last season, allowing just 2.06 goals per contest, while boasting  a save percentage of 93.8%. Both marks were second in Hockey East.

The Irish bounced back from an awful November, in which they captured just one win in nine tries. In a six-game stretch from mid to late February, the blue and gold defeated eventual national champion Providence (then ranked 10th), 2nd ranked BU, and 9th ranked Boston College. The Irish slipped pass UMass Amherst in the opening round of the Hockey East playoffs (playing the longest game in college hockey history in the process), before UMass-Lowell bested ND in the quarterfinals.

The Irish will be forced to replace tons of their point production from last year, as Russo graduated and Hinostroza signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in the offseason.Incoming freshman F Christian Fischer, the crown jewel of this year’s recruiting class, was supposed to play a big role in replacing that production. However, Fischer has since decided to also sign a deal with the team that picked him up in the NHL Draft, the Arizona Coyotes.

A trio of senior forwards will look to take on some of this year’s goal-scoring responsibilities. LW Mario Lucia led the team with 21 goals last season, and should once again be a focal point of the high-flying Irish attack. C Thomas DiPauli finished fourth on the team in points with 29 last season, and captain C Steven Fogarty is both a great play-maker (9 goals, 12 assists) and leader. A potential breakout candidate is sophomore LW Anders Bjork, who tallied 7 goals and 15 assists last season and is primed for a bigger role.

Senior Andy Ryan and 6’5″ sophomore Luke Ripley will help anchor the defense behind Petersen, who has a chance to solidify himself as one the country’s top goaltenders. Junior D Jordan Gross looks to do his best Russo impersonation this year as the team’s best offensive defenseman.

Bottom Line: Losing Russo and Hinostroza will be huge, but the Irish have an experienced core that seems ready to step up. Barring a sophomore slump, Cal Peterson should be a beast between the pipes once again, providing great stability for the Irish defense. After some impressive performances down the stretch last year, Notre Dame is primed to climb towards the top of Hockey East if the momentum keeps rolling this season.

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