So. | D | Westmont, Ill.
Key Statistics: A member of the CCHA All-Rookie Team, Russo showed his offensive ability, finishing last year with a 4-11—15 line. All four of his goals came on the power play, and he notched a game-winning goal Nov. 25 against Lake Superior State.
What He Does: Russo offers a solid offensive game, demonstrating great poise with the puck, solid hockey sense, and a nice shot that made him a key member of Notre Dame’s power play last year. Improving defensively as the year went on, Russo—a right-handed shot—also demonstrated the ability to play on his off side. That versatility will be an asset for the Irish defensive corps; five of the eight blueliners on the roster shoot right-handed.
The Bigger Picture: The Irish stormed out of the gate last year, going 10-3-3 through Thanksgiving. After that point, however, the young team sputtered, struggling in December and throughout the second half to finish 19-18-3. Since Notre Dame made the Frozen Four in 2008 and again in 2011, the standards for success have risen and the expectation is the Irish will again fight their way to the top of the CCHA standings and reach the NCAA Tournament after last year’s absence. Russo will play a key role on a team whose major players have another year of experience under their belts.
Notre Dame Coach Jeff Jackson on Russo: “He came in as a freshman last year and certainly made an immediate impact on our team. I think the best part about his game is just his poise with the puck, and he has good instincts and a good shot that gave us depth on the power play at the point. As the season progressed, he got a lot better without the puck and defensively. The biggest thing he needs to work on is consistency—like any young player, he needs to learn to play the same every shift of every game.”