No matter how bad it looked, Bryan Rust planned to see his mustache through.
It was a simple choice for the son of a survivor to support awareness for prostate cancer, testicular cancer and other men’s health initiatives by growing out some facial hair as part of the annual “Movember” event that encourages men to do so as a way to raise awareness.
Rust and 21 teammates on the Notre Dame hockey team have done so and registered for a fundraising effort started by defenseman Stephen Johns that runs through the end of the month.
“My dad suffered through prostate cancer,” Rust said. “When coach gave the okay for us to do it I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m for sure doing it,’ because it’s a way for me to show respect for my dad and what he fought through.”
Johns has spearheaded the effort by setting up a website to accept donations, something that had to run through the compliance office and other hoops before getting off the ground. Since then Johns has rallied teammates to the cause and next weekend it will go a step farther.
There is a plan in the works to spread the word via the video boards at the Compton Family Ice Arena during the series against North Dakota.
“It’s just realizing that hockey isn’t the only thing in life,” Johns said, “and showing people we mean that. Trying to support those that suffer from this terrible disease and trying to raise awareness across the country.”
Turns out some of the guys involved aren’t so good at growing mustaches, although any effort counts.
Hockey tradition dictates toward the end of each season that players grow a playoff beard, however, so most had an idea of what they would be getting into. Rust drew on that experience to enter the land of the mustache with confidence.
Others don’t have quite the same luck.
“There’s definitely a few guys that have got the blond hairs,” Johns laughed. “Maybe not even a few hairs. It’s funny to pick on them but they’re still trying.”
Moving on to Michigan
Seventh-ranked Notre Dame will take its mustaches to Ann Arbor tonight for a two-game Central Collegiate Hockey Association series with Michigan.
The Irish (6-3-0, 3-1-0-0 CCHA) are coming off a non-conference loss to No. 1 Boston College last Friday while No. 13 Michigan sits at 4-4-1 overall and 1-3-1 in its last five games, which includes a 7-2 loss to Michigan State last weekend.
Michigan is second in scoring nationally at 4.22 goals per game but is allowing 3.56.
“They’ve got a real talented corps of defensemen and they’re breaking in young goalies,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “We know how that is sometimes. But I still expect them to be as scary offensively as any team we’ve faced.”
Awaiting Notre Dame after the three-hour bus ride is not only the daunting Michigan offense but Yost Arena, one of the most difficult road venues in college hockey.
Notre Dame is 23-42-3 all-time at Yost. Jackson has accumulated a 3-7-0 record there since taking over in South Bend. Last season ended with the Wolverines taking a two-game sweep in the league playoffs.
“You walk in there and you look up in the rafters and that tells you everything right there,” Johns said. “How many national championships they have, how many tournament appearances, the legacy they have there. Just the atmosphere during the games, it’s one of the best places to play in college hockey. It’s fun. We’ve got to relish that and try to play within ourselves.”
Braving a brutal stretch
Facing Michigan this weekend puts Notre Dame toward the tail end of what has been a rigorous stretch of schedule.
It started with the home series against Western Michigan, continued last week against Boston College, includes Michigan the next couple days and ends with a two-game non-conference series with North Dakota next week. All but No. 13 Michigan rank in the top 10.
“They’ll all end up being top 10 teams,” Jackson said. “Every one of them. We just have to hold our own on the road and take care of business at home. That’s the biggest thing. We go into this weekend with the idea that we need to come out with points.”