The first of the top 16 for the new site. Welcome everyone. Over the past couple months we here at TCHB have been counting down our top 16 teams in America (because 16 teams make the NCAA Tournament) and over the course of the next month or so our top 5 will be revealed. Today’s team is #5 Notre Dame
Two years ago the Irish made it all the way to the national championship game, and backed it up with a phenomenal 2008-09 season, winning the CCHA and becoming the overall #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, a loss to lowly Bemidji State ended their season prematurely. A couple of key losses could derail the 2009-10 season for Notre Dame, but some key returnees and recruits could have them sniffing another CCHA Title.
Let’s get the bad out of the way right away: The 5th best goalie (by save percentage) is gone. So are the first (Erik Condra, 38 pts), and third (Christian Hanson, 31) leading scorers, plus glue guy Garrett Regan. How on Earth can a team losing that much talent be ranked in the top 5?
Because Notre Dame is loaded.
Ryan Thang had a down year last year – and struggled a bit with injuries, including one suffered in February vs. Ohio State, but when healthy Thang can be a difference maker. As a Sophomore he led the Irish with 18 goals and was 2nd in points. Thang can do it all on the ice and is a potential Hobey candidate.
Also returning is defenseman Ian Cole. The former 1st round pick of St. Louis was a first team All-American this year, and is perhaps the best defenseman in college hockey this year. Cole has a good shot and moves the puck well, but he is definitely known more for his defensive abilities. He’s a fairly sizeable kid, and plays very physically and aggressively. He’s definitely not afraid to take the body and while Cole profiles as a stay at home defenseman, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get into the scoring action this year in South Bend.
Last year Calle Ridderwall was 2nd on the team in scoring with 32 points, and led the team with 17 goals. Ridderwall is just 5’10” and 170 lbs or so, but he is a very good skater with a good shot, and plays smart hockey, which we should expect from someone at Notre Dame.
The big recruit coming in is Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri probably will be on the power play from day 1, and has the talent to be a first line player for the Irish. Defensively he is not great, which may not mesh with Coach Jackson, but his playmaking is amazing and he will have a ton of talent around him to enhance his playmaking even more.