November 15, 2006
Speak Softly and Stop Lots of Pucks

By James Jahnke

Notre Dame goalie David Brown talks more like a coach than most coaches in the CCHA. He’s got down pat the coachspeak staples of taking things one game at a time, crediting teammates for his success and not comparing one team with another.

CCHA Notebook

Senior goalie David Brown has been the key to Notre Dame's surprising 8-1-1 start.

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But while Brown doesn’t say much in regard to what he truly thinks – at least not during a conversation with INCH this week – his play on the ice has spoken volumes thus far. The senior ranks first nationally with a 1.20 goals-against average and .953 save percentage, and he has led the Fighting Irish to a surprising 8-1-1 start.

“We’ve been playing real good defense, team defense,” Brown said, “and it’s been working out so far. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.”

What Brown is doing is playing with confidence that was MIA for a couple of seasons. After bursting onto the national scene as a freshman on Notre Dame’s 2004 NCAA tournament team, Brown saw his numbers slip from 2.32 and .925 as a rookie to 4.30 and .870 as a sophomore. He started out his junior season in the same funk, and his negative body language was apparent to everyone at the rink.

But at some point in the second half of last season, Brown snapped out of it and hasn’t been the same since – in a good way. Asked about his sophomore and junior travails, Brown said he didn’t want to talk about the past.

He’s having too nice of a time in the present.

“There are a lot of good things happening around here,” said the native of Stoney Creek, Ont. “It’s a real good environment. The team is very committed to what Coach (Jeff Jackson) has to say. It’s a professional atmosphere around here, and the outcomes speak for themselves.”

Brown said the program is “completely different” since Jackson took over from Dave Poulin before the start of last season. After experiencing unprecedented heights – the program’s first trip to the Big Dance – in 2003-04, the ship slipped to 5-27-6 the following season. Poulin stepped down and moved into an administrative role, and Jackson brought the Fighting Irish back to 13-19-4 last season. Now they’re playing like one of the top 10 teams in the country.

And Brown and his senior classmates have been around for all of it.

“It’s great to bring that to the program,” Brown said. “We want to establish Notre Dame as a national team. We want to cement that this year, so that future teams have that standard to live up to.”


Hang on, Sloopy: INCH will have a representative in Section 32B at the big football game in Columbus this weekend, but the Buckeye icers won’t be so lucky. If coach John Markell had his druthers, his team would have the night off. Instead, it will be finishing a series at Bowling Green – and missing the second half at Ohio Stadium.

“I’m going to be an emotional wreck,” Markell said. “It’s an emotional day for our athletes, too. We’re very proud of the football team, and we have a lot invested in them. We’re not going to have our guys avoid it, because they’ll just be walking around the hotel wondering what the frick is the score. We’ll watch it until it’s time to go to the rink.”

Markell likens this weekend’s situation to when Ohio State played Princeton in Pittsburgh on the night of the football team’s national-title game in January 2003.

“I pity the poor people who watched the hockey game that night,” Markell said. “It was a big game, R.J. Umberger’s return to Pittsburgh, and we won, 4-1, but we were terrible. You’ve never seen a team get out of a rink quicker than that. We actually rented a room in town afterward to watch the end of the football game.”

Battlin’ Bulldogs: Ferris State is 0-4-1 in its last five games, but coach Bob Daniels is quite upbeat. While acknowledging that the mounting losses are becoming a problem, he can tick off an lengthy list of things about which he’s pleased. The team is practicing hard. The players are responding to coaching. There’s no finger-pointing. The injury situation is improving. The overall atmosphere is positive.

“It’s still a joy to come to the rink,” Daniels said. “We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

One tangible bit of good news in Big Rapids is that senior defenseman Jeremy Scherlinck (knee) is expected to make his season debut this weekend. He will strengthen a defensive corps that already is living up to Daniels’ standards. The bigger problem, he says, are the special teams, which were hurt most by FSU’s early spate of injuries.

“Five-on-five, we’re fine,” Daniels said. “But we’re still integrating players into our power play and penalty kill, so we’re not set there. We’re constantly tweaking it because there’s a constant rotation of players in and out. Once we get an opportunity to jell, we’ll be OK.”


Great Weekend Getaway
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Michigan State at Notre Dame (Fri.)
Notre Dame at Michigan State (Sat.)

Notre Dame is one of the feel-good stories of college hockey after one month, but starting this weekend, the Fighting Irish’s schedule gets much harder heading into Christmas. This series should be pretty physical and will provide a good, where-we-stand-in-the-league barometer for both teams.

While you’re there: Friday brings about the fairly interesting dynamic of the Joyce Center holding a football pep rally in one half of the building at 6:15 p.m., then the hockey game in the other half at 8 p.m. Wonder whether Chuck Weis will step through the curtain and sign a few pucks.

Stick Salute

Northern Michigan defenseman Blake Cosgrove has become a regular on Walt Kyle’s lineup card after missing all of last season with a wrist injury and scoring no points in just 14 games as a freshman in 2004-05. This season, he has played in 12 of 13 games and has a goal and two assists. “He’s done a very nice job,” Kyle said.

Bench Minor

Power-play success tends to go in cycles, so we’ve learned to ignore the temptation to rip a unit that has a bad night, bad weekend, etc. But Bowling Green has passed the grace period. The Falcons are scoreless in their last 38 man-advantage opportunities, dating to Oct. 15 against Alabama-Huntsville.

• Nebraska-Omaha senior forward Nenad Gajic, who played two years at Michigan State before transferring, decided to forgo the rest of the season and sign with the Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League. He had two goals and five assists in six games for the Mavericks this season.

The situation presents a perfect opportunity to resurrect this quote I gleaned from Gajic back in August 2002: “I’m a fairly good lacrosse player, but I don’t want to pump my own tires, you know?” Gajic said. “I definitely like hockey a lot more.” Ah, pumping one’s tires. One of INCH’s favorite pastimes.

• Western Michigan goalie Daniel Bellissimo didn’t make last week’s trip to Columbus, and a team source said the Bronco coaching staff wanted to send a message to the junior. Freshman Riley Gill has started the last three games (and is 3-0-1 overall), and the WMU staff wants Bellissimo to put up a fight to keep the job he held the last two seasons.

• There are a few nonconference morsels for CCHA fans to chew on this week. Northern Michigan lost a home game, 6-4, to Minnesota Duluth on Wednesday, but will get a rematch on the other side of Lake Superior on Jan. 24. Still to come this weekend, Lake Superior State hosts GLIAC rival Wayne State for a pair in the Soo. And next Tuesday, Nebraska-Omaha travels to Minnesota State Mankato for the first volley of the Maverick War. Round 2 is Jan. 16 at the Qwest Center.

• Lake Superior State will see a familiar face on the other bench this weekend. Wayne State defenseman John Nogatch skated for the Lakers in 2004-05.

• Notre Dame freshman Christiaan Minella played for the first time Saturday, and scored a goal against Bowling Green. Wondering about the spelling of his name? Michel Christiaan Minella is named after Dr. Christiaan Barnard, who performed the first successful heart transplant in 1967.

• Nobody asked, but here’s a nickname suggestion for Notre Dame forward Erik Condra (who happens to be the INCH Player of the Week): Erik “Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, select, start” Condra. It rolls off the tongue, no?

• If Nebraska-Omaha coach Mike Kemp can’t get comfortable at the team’s hotel during this weekend’s trip to Miami, there’s a floor he can crash on if he wants. His daughter Emily is a sophomore at MU.

• Alaska freshman forward Dion Knelson this week became the first Nanook ever to be labeled an “A” – or “must-see” – prospect by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service. “This is the biggest thing that has ever happened to our program,” coach Tavis MacMillan said.

• Western Michigan defenseman Chris Frank, quoted in the Kalamazoo Gazette: “I have the hands of a stone wall.”

• Notes from the box scores: In its 12th game of the season, Northern Michigan finally outshot an opponent, topping Alaska by a 25-14 margin on Saturday. ... Bowling Green sophomore defenseman Kevin Schmidt scored in his first career game, on Oct. 14, 2005. He got No. 2 in last weekend’s series opener against Notre Dame, a span of 392 days.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report