The Notre Dame men’s hockey team improved this season.
So did goaltender David Brown.
Brown, the Penguins’ 2004 eighth-round pick (228th overall), enjoyed a successful junior year with the Irish.
“It’s been a real good year,” he said. “We’ve been able to turn things around from the beginning of the year.”
Brown – and Notre Dame – only got better as the season progressed. Brown, who was named the Central Collegiate Hockey Association’s goaltender of the week in mid-February, watched his personal statistics steadily climb up the NCAA Division-I rankings. His 2.47 goals-against average is 26th in the nation, while his .915 save percentage ranks 30th.
“It’s been real good. I have been very fortunate to have some success in the last few games and help my team win,” he said. “I just do everything I can to keep the puck out of the net. I’ve been fortunate along the way to have a good defense support me. I feel grateful to have had some success in some games. I just want to give my team the best chance to win.”
The 6-foot, 199-pound native of Stoney Creek, Ontario, considers himself a butterfly-style goalie, but won’t hesitate to alter his style in certain situations.
“I am butterfly style, for the most part. I do whatever I have to do to stop the puck,” he said. “I was trained in the butterfly technique, but I am not afraid to stand up if that’s what [a play] calls for. I guess you could call me a butterfly goalie who will do anything out there to stop the puck as well.”
This season has been important in Brown’s development as well as Notre Dame’s. As a freshman in 2003-04, Brown finished with a 14-7-3 record and established program records with a 2.32 GAA and .925 save percentage. In addition, Brown backstopped the Irish to its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.
However, Notre Dame experienced tremendous growing pains last season with a total of 16 freshmen and sophomores on the roster. The Irish closed the 2004-05 winless in its last 19 games (0-17-2) and finished with a 5-27-6 record. Brown played in 15 games and posted a 2-10-1 record with a 4.30 GAA and .870 save percentage.
“Coming in freshman year was a great experience. To help lead the team to its first NCAA berth was a very exciting time,” he said. “I had the chance to help the team win and achieve greater feats than it ever had before. I finished off the year by getting drafted by Pittsburgh. It was great. Last year was a little bit of a transition year.”
With Brown leading the way, Notre Dame rebounded this season. Brown finished with a 9-15-4 record, while the team posted a 13-19-4 mark and fell to Alaska Fairbanks in the CCHA playoffs. In addition, Brown picked up two more shutouts to push his career total to six, which ties him for first in the program’s history.
“This year, we started to move back up the ranks,” he said. “It’s been a learning experience, but we’re able to progress each game. We’ve learned new things and continue to get stronger on and off the ice.”
Brown is one of many talented goaltenders in the Penguins organization, including fellow junior Bobby Goepfert at St. Cloud State.
“Pittsburgh definitely has a lot of goalies throughout the ranks,” Brown said. “It’s good to have that competition to be able to push yourself to the highest degree and play at the top of your game to be able to compete.”
In addition to goaltenders, the Penguins have many young prospects in all positions who are getting the chance to prove themselves.
“That’s a huge plus, especially with all the young guys excelling at their current levels,” Brown said. “Pittsburgh has done a good job with draft picks through years and assembled a pretty good rank of young players who will make Pittsburgh a good, contending team for many years in the NHL.
“That’s a positive to see the young guys are getting a chance to play,” he continued. “They have shown some confidence in young guys like [Marc-Andre] Fleury and [Andy] Chiodo and others. I want to continue to play at the top of my game so they can see I am working hard and, hopefully, one day, I will get a chance as well.”