Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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78 MARCH 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED ND SPORTS BY TODD D. BURLAGE T he hockey and academic careers of Notre Dame senior Nick Sanford didn't always follow the preferred script. In fact, neither really followed any script, at least early on. In a classic case of Murphy's Law, Sanford arrived at Notre Dame as a freshman in the summer of 2017 and greeted with a series of chronic respira- tory illnesses. A diagnosis of mononucleosis kept Sanford off the ice as an Irish goalie and out of the classroom as an eco- nomics major for about three weeks to start his freshman fall semester and first hockey season, which immedi- ately put him behind in both pursuits. "Freshman fall, I had my worst GPA ever, including high school," Sanford recalled. "Your freshman fall you think you're supposed to have your best GPA, but obviously it didn't go that way so I had a lot of making up to do." Finally back in the Notre Dame classroom and back in the Irish locker room, Sanford's mononucleosis was replaced by a long and annoying battle with bronchitis. "It was a difficult situation, no one could really figure out what's wrong," said Sanford, estimating his bronchitis symptoms and brutal cough lingered for about five months. "It was always there, nothing could be done to fix it; it was very frustrating." As a self-described "scrawny 170-pound freshman," Sanford — now 6-1 and about 195 pounds — explained that the lost time with Irish hockey strength coach, Tony Rolinski, hin- dered his early player development. With standout Irish goaltender Cal Peterson off to the NHL after the previ- ous season, the starting job was open, and Sanford expected to compete with sophomore Cale Morris and freshman classmate Dylan St. Cyr for the spot. "None of us had any playing experi- ence, so I wasn't really sure what was going to happen," Sanford recalled. "It was a little bit of a toss-up on who would start to play well." What happened was Morris emerged as the starter, enjoyed a breakout year, led Notre Dame to the 2018 national championship game and two Big Ten titles as a three-year starter, and became one of the best Irish net-minders of all time. Dethroning Morris as the starter in 2017-18 wasn't going to be easy for Sanford or St. Cyr, and the extended illness didn't boost Sanford's chances. Sanford explained he didn't neces- sarily lose any weight during his down time, but he didn't add any much- needed muscle mass either. "I couldn't work as hard as needed," Sanford said. "But I had to just keep going and grind through it." A native of Morristown, N.J., and groomed as a goalie at Westminster Preparatory High School in Simsbury, Conn., Sanford's recruitment heated up during a fine 2016-17 season with the Boston Jr. Bruins of the USPHL. After choosing Notre Dame, Sanford spent the first three years playing be- hind Morris, and this season, Sanford is situated behind St. Cyr and sopho- more Ryan Bischel on the depth chart. "But when you're not playing you have to find other ways to contribute, staying engaged, staying positive, de- veloping relationships," said Sanford, who remains committed despite not making his first game appearance until an 8-1 rout of Ohio State on Feb. 6. With a political science degree to pick up this spring, an investment banking job in New York City already lined up post-graduation and a cata- log of memories built more on lifelong friendships than personal highlights, Sanford will leave Notre Dame as a team leader, a Big Ten All-Academic selection and with no regrets. "It has been quite a journey, but I wouldn't change it for the world," Sanford said. ✦ Persistence, Commitment Guided Nick Sanford's Career Sanford, last year as a junior, earned the squad's Charles "Lefty" Smith Coaches' Award that hon- ors an individual's work ethic and willingness to help teammates, including extra help on the ice rink. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS Irish Roundup CROSS COUNTRY The No. 4 Fighting Irish men opened their spring slate by finishing fourth in a race that featured six ranked teams at the Silver State Collegiate Challenge Feb. 1 in Las Vegas … The women returned to competition with an eighth- place-showing (among 18 teams) at the FSU Winter XC Classic Feb. 5 in Tallahassee, Fla. … Notre Dame will compete in the NCAA Champi- onships March 15 in Stillwater, Okla. FENCING Almost 11 full months since its last competi- tion, Notre Dame returned to action with the Ohio State Duals Feb. 6-7 in Columbus, Ohio … The men posted a 5-0 record and the women went 6-0. GOLF The Fighting Irish men returned to action in January, finishing sixth out of 10 squads at the Camp Creek Seminole Invitational Jan. 17-19 in Watersound, Fla., and eighth out of 11 teams in the Timuquana Collegiate Jan. 25-26 in Jack- sonville, Fla. … The women's team opened its spring slate with the Purdue Invitational Feb. 7-9 in Sarasota, Fla. HOCKEY (10-9-1 OVERALL, 8-7-1 BIG TEN) Notre Dame dropped a pair of home games (5-1 and 3-1) versus Michigan Jan. 21-22 … The Irish then split a pair of overtime contests (a 2-1 loss and 3-2 victory) with Penn State Jan. 28-29 … Notre Dame then swept a pair of matchups at Ohio State (6-1 and 8-1) Feb. 5-6. SWIMMING & DIVING The Fighting Irish hosted the Shamrock In- vitational Jan. 21-23, with the No. 18-ranked men crushing Missouri State 268-86 and the No. 18-rated women roughing up Akron 260-109 on their respective Senior Days … Notre Dame competed at West Virginia Jan. 29-30, with the men topping the Mountaineers 271-82 and the women besting WVU 244-127 … Next up is the Women's and Men's ACC Championships in Greensboro, N.C., which are scheduled for Feb. 17-20 and Feb. 24-27, respectively. — Steve Downey

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