Gold In Net
Notre Dame Goaltender Jordan Pearce Has Been Quietly Dominant
by Nick Lowman/CHN Reporter
The underdog. It's a term used to describe a team that is expected to lose. While many teams in the NCAA tournament field will be considered just that, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame no longer abides by such lingo.
In fact, it was just last year that the Irish squeezed into the tournament as a No. 4 seed. After an eye opening 7-3 thrashing of top-seeded New Hampshire, it was game on for the underdog. A stellar run came up just short in the title game, but since then, Notre Dame hasn't looked back.
The common denominator during their current uprise has been the lights-out goaltending of senior standout Jordan Pearce. As the only netminder in the country to hit the 30-win plateau this season, his play has been nothing short of excellent heading into the big dance.
“We learned from last year's experience and we've been playing with more confidence this year,” said Pearce. “We were the underdog last year and we know what it takes to win this year.”
Any hockey fan knows the importance of the men behind the mask and the role they play come postseason. It's unarguable. The biggest factor for any team competing for a championship is the play between the pipes (see Minnesota-Duluth).
Pearce was recently named the CCHA tournament MVP after posting a 4-0 record that included two shutouts. Looking to repeat another 4-0 record, the native of Anchorage, Alaska is looking to take it one game at a time.
“The playoffs are by far the most fun and it's nice to be playing well right now,” said the Scholar-Athlete of the Year. “For us, we need to focus on one game at a time and go from there.”
While last season's Cinderella run provided excitement and disappointment, the Irish bounced back this season and hope to improve upon last year's experience.
“To be honest, I don't think about it too much,” Pearce said, referring to last season's title game loss to Boston College. “You have to learn from your experience and move on. We enjoyed the moment and had fun playing hockey. Life goes on.”
Since taking over in goal after serving as the backup in his first two years, Pearce has delivered for the Irish. His body of work last season earned him the CCHA's top goaltender award and he has not disappointed this season. He led the nation with eight shutouts and a goals against average of 1.61. One of the classiest kids in the locker room, Pearce credits his teammates for his success.
“We have a very strong defensive corp. that does a great job of letting me see the puck,” Pearce said. “Last year we were young and having a year of experience under our belt has really helped this season.”
Fact is, the senior netminder is a difference maker and rises above the pressure. Like many of the great goalies, Pearce has not only shown he has the ability to make the big save when his team needs it, but he can simply take games over. To his credit, Pearce gave up only 11 goals in the third period throughout the season, the fewest in the CCHA.
“There's always pressure,” said Pearce. “I always approach every game the same whether it be a regular season game or exhibition game. I've learned a lot last year and you have to go out there and have fun and not worry about everything.”
The most impressive thing about this Irish team is how well they have played all season after falling just short of a national title a year ago. While the reigning champs of Boston College didn't even qualify for this year's tournament, it just goes to show how difficult it is to have a repeat performance. As in most cases, goaltending has been the biggest difference. This year's tournament showcases 13 of the top 20 goalies in the nation with Pearce leading the way.
“I think to be an elite goalie, you have to be able to play well every night,” Pearce said. “With so many great teams in the league, you can't take any nights off.”
As Pearce prepares for a national title run, there will be no special rituals and nothing abnormal. Instead, just a simple routine.
“I know a lot of goalies have rituals and are superstitious, but I try to have a routine,” Pearce said. “For me, I like to have a banana with peanut butter and tape my stick. But if there's not a banana, then I just move on and prepare for the game.”
In the end, winning four more games will be a tough assignment. But as it seems to happen every year come spring time, the stars shine the brightest.