It seems like a “here we go again” type of season for Notre Dame in 2011-12, but with a few big events thrown in at the same time. The Fighting Irish look primed for a repeat of last year’s 2nd place CCHA regular season finish and NCAA Frozen Four trip with 5 Seniors coming back and 9 of their top 12 scorers also back. Let’s take a deeper look at the Irish.
First of all, this is what BIG TIME scheduling is all about. The Irish started with an exhibition, but just returned from a trip to visit the defending National Champions Minnesota-Duluth, where they lost the opener and came back from 2 goals down to win the second game of the series. Up next, they open CCHA play against Ohio State, but later host RPI, Boston College (11/18), Northeastern (12/2-3), Boston University (12/31), and also make a 1-game trip to play Minnesota (1/7/12). This is all BEFORE any CCHA matchups, in which they play Western Michigan (2 Home/Home series), host Michigan for 2, take the 3,500 mile journey to Alaska (who wants to drive it with me??) AND will have a late-season trip to Oxford to look forward to as well. Maybe Ohio State will learn something from this kind of scheduling? (yeah right)
In addition to this schedule, possibly one of the marquee events of the entire NCAA Hockey Season will be the opening of the Compton Family Ice Center. Saturday’s game against Ohio State will be the last hockey contest the Irish will play in the Joyce Center since moving in back in 1969. The Students are on Fall Break at Notre Dame this weekend, so tickets are available if you’re really itching to sit in an old, crusty cavern of a hockey “arena” and experience the last game that will be played there.
On the other side of this weekend is the opening of the
Goggin on steroids “Comp”. “CIA”? “The compton”? Gonna need a nickname for the new palace in South Bend. ND opens the Compton Family Ice Arena with a game against RPI on the 21st – a one game series, likely due to the ND vs USC football game on Saturday night in South Bend. (I’m working the angles to get tickets for the opener, but our paychecks are limited here at Redskin Warriors.)
Taking a look at the on-ice product, the Irish return 9 of the top 12 scorers from last year (although those 3 departures are in the top 6 overall). Head Coach Jeff Jackson is in his 7th year in South Bend, and holds a 141-79-27 record for the Irish (324-132-52 overal with 2 National Championships for Lake Superior State), and Jackson will rely on 20-game winner Mike Johnson in net. Although Johnson came through with 20 wins last year, Johnson posted less than stellar 2.62 goals against average and a .904 save percentage on the season – numbers he will have to improve on this year if the Irish want to make it back to the Frozen Four.
Returning on the ice for the Irish are 2010-11 CCHA Rookie of the Year T.J. Tynan – a preseason All-CCHA unanimous pick along with Miami’s Reilly Smith. Tynan is joined by fellow 2010-11 1st team all CCHA selection Anders Lee (Alternate Captain) in ND’s stellar Sophomore Class. Seniors Sean Lorenz (Captain – D) and Billy Mayday (Alternate Captain – F) also return to lead this team into what would be the second consecutive and 3rd overall Frozen Four for the Irish under Jeff Jackson.
Anything less than 3rd place is a hugely disappointing season for the Irish. Look for the Irish to show up in Tampa for the Frozen Four if their goaltending keeps improving as well.