Over the first couple years of his college career T.J. Tynan built a two-fold reputation.
Reputation 1: Elite playmaker. Tynan accounted for 95 points in 83 games as a freshman and sophomore with the Notre Dame hockey team. That’s 36 goals and 59 assists. Both seasons he led the Irish in scoring, the first of which came while fostering a run to the Frozen Four.
Reputation 2: Prone to agitation. With great success comes more attention from defenders intent on slowing the points parade. Tynan has often been the subject of rough hits, grabs and slashes. Dealing with that attention has often led him to the penalty box.
“It’s kinda weird that he’s that way because off the ice he’s probably the most non-confrontational person you’re ever gonna meet,” said winger and line mate Mike Voran. “That’s just the way he is. He’s really competitive in anything athletically. He’s gonna want to win. Even if it’s after practice in the shootout or whatever he always wants to win.
“I think that’s the reason he gets so mad. When people are clutching and grabbing him he feels like he can’t be playing the game the way he wants it to be played.”
When Tynan is playing the game at a pace he dictates, there are few players in the country more capable of carrying a team offensively.
But whether it is more attention from the opposing game plan or a simple slump, No. 6 Notre Dame is off to an 11-4-0 start with less-than-typical contributions from one of its brightest stars. Tynan has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) heading into a two-game series with Michigan State that starts tonight.
Four players sit in front of Tynan in terms of scoring, headlined by winger Anders Lee with 15 points. Tynan scored a goal last weekend in the Lake Superior State series finale, his first since Oct. 19 against Minnesota-Duluth. It was a 10-game goalless streak.
“I never saw him sulk or bad body language,” said head coach Jeff Jackson. “I give him a lot of credit because I know he’s a guy that wants to be a productive player. He never took short cuts. The best example is when he had that empty net a few weeks ago and he missed the net. I said something to him. It was to get that 100th point and he said he would rather it be legit.”
Even with one of his best players struggling to score, Jackson remained heartened with Tynan’s play in other areas of the game. Face offs and defensive responsibility are areas upon which Tynan has focused in the offseason and fall camp.
Contributing in those ways helped Tynan stay keyed in on team results instead of individual success.
“Everyone gets in a slump once in awhile,” Tynan said. “It’s just a great thing that we kept winning. That’s what I was focused on. Just working hard and helping the team any way I could even though I wasn’t scoring. We kept winning.”
The Irish went 7-3-0 during Tynan’s goal drought.
Now that he is back on the score sheet Tynan can expect more of the same when it comes to defenses aimed at slowing him down. That would be a welcome sight for Notre Dame that one of its stars had realigned.
And now more than ever Tynan is prepared to handle both sides of the coin, success or an uncharacteristic drought.
“Everyone gets frustrated once in awhile I think,” Tynan said. “Especially when you’re in a big slump like I was. But like I said, we kept winning, which is the biggest thing I think for all of us. As long as me and everyone else does the little things I think that success will keep going here.”