Tuesday, July 13, 2010
July by the Numbers makes a trip to northern Indiana for jersey #13.
College hockey at the University of Notre Dame dates as far back as 1912 and was active during the 1920's as well, but the school's modern program did not begin until 1968 after a 42 year absence.
The Fighting Irish played three seasons as an independent school prior to joining the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in 1971. Their best seasons in the WCHA were 1972-73 when they finished second with a 19-9-0 record and 1976-77, when they again came in second with a 19-10-3 mark.
As part of a major shift in college hockey conference alignment, Notre Dame, along with Michigan, Michigan State and Michigan Tech, left the WCHA and joined the Central Collegiate Hockey Association for the 1981-82 season. After finishing fourth in their first season in the CCHA, they dropped to eighth in 1982-83 before they dropped out of the CCHA when the program was downgraded to a club level sport in 1983-84.
Notre Dame elevated the hockey program back to Division I status for 1984-85, but this time as an independent program for eight seasons, which included their remarkable 27-4-2 record in 1987-88.
The Fighting Irish once again rejoined the CCHA in time for the 1992-93 season, but found the going tough in the competitive conference, as it would be seven seasons before Notre Dame posted a winning record in the league. After a string of mid-pack finishes in the early 2000's and their first NCAA tournament appearance in 2004, the program hit bottom in 2004-05 when they finished dead last with a dismal 3-20-5 record in the conference and 5-27-6 overall. This led to a coaching change in which helped turned the program around.
After hiring former Lake Superior State University coach Jeff Jackson who had two national championships on his resume. After improving by eight wins in 2005-06, the Fighting Irish shocked the CCHA with their 21-4-3 conference record, which included their first ever #1 national ranking during the season, to win the CCHA regular season title in 2006-07 as well as winning the conference playoff championship to return to the NCAA playoffs once more where they advanced to their first Frozen Four in school history where they made it to the national championship final.
Proving their first conference championship was no fluke, Notre Dame made the NCAA tournament again in 2007-08 and repeated their regular season and playoff titles again in 2008-09 prior to advancing to the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive time and fourth overall.
The Irish will be looking to maintain this new found level of success long term and join the ranks of perennial CCHA powers Michigan and Michigan State as contenders every season. A sign of the improvement in the Notre Dame program is that four Fighting Irish players have now been selected in the first round of the NHL draft, with Ian Cole 18th overall by St. Louis in 2007, Kyle Palmeri 26th by Anaheim in 2009 and most recently Riley Sheahan 21st by Detroit followed by Jarred Tinordi 22nd by Montreal in the 2010 Entry Draft.
Today's featured jersey is a 1991-92 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Sterling Black jersey. Nortre Dame has a history of attractive and distinctive jerseys done in a classic style with some room for fun with their alternate jerseys, which have been done in both green and gold, often with a Celtic font for the logo and numbers. The jerseys are then paired with their traditional gold helmets, made famous by their history laden football program.
In our video section today, highlights of Notre Dame's 2007 semifinal victory in overtime versus conference rival Michigan to advance to their first national championship game in school history.
Here is a look at the Notre Dame hockey program and it's rise from the lower end of the CCHA.