From his earliest days in youth hockey, a then truly tiny T.J. Tynan loved to pass the puck.
“I always liked to pass first,” said the Notre Dame sophomore center. “I don’t know the rhyme or reason to that, but that always came to me more than scoring.”
And whether it’s doing a spin-o-rama en route to shooting a shot or feeding the puck to Billy Maday for the winning goal Saturday night in overtime against Alaska, Tynan often has had a hand in Irish scoring.
In fact, the 5-foot-9, 167-pounder with the fiery red hair leads the nation in assists (16) and scoring (19) so far this season.
“He’s just kind of taken off from where he finished last year,” said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson. “I think it’s more than just about points.
“He’s doing a pretty good job on penalty killing.
“He’s doing a better job without the puck. And I think that bodes well for him because it gives him an opportunity to have the puck more often.
“He’s doing the right things defensively.”
But even Jackson says Tynan has something extra when it comes to passing the puck.
“He’s got that third eye sometimes that most players don’t have,” Jackson said. “That’s what makes him tough to defend because he can find open people
“I think his instincts for the game make him more difficult to play against.”
Tynan says the totals might be greater so far this year -- he has a 1.73 points per game average that also leads the nation -- because line mate Anders Lee is doing so well.
Lee’s 12 goals leads the country, too. And he’s third nationally in power-play goals.
“Obviously, Anders is scoring at a rapid pace right now, which is really going to help my assist totals a little,” said Tynan, who was named CCHA Offensive Player of the Week. “It has a lot to do with my line.
“I’ve just got to keep doing what I’ve been doing and make sure (I) get the pucks to my linemen because they’re doing a great job.”
Right wing Bryan Rust (one goal, two assists) is normally the third member of that line. All are sophomores.
“I’ve been playing with them so long, you kind of know their tendencies, which really helps,” he said of last year’s experience. “And I think that has a lot to do with where I put the puck and where I pass.”
Tynan says playing a Tuesday night game will be different but should not affect the Irish.
He has plenty of respect for No. 10 Western Michigan which has lost three straight to fall to 6-3-3 overall. The Broncos trail the first-place Irish (who are tied with Ohio State and Lake Superior with 17 points) by three points.
“They always play tough,” Tynan said. “They are very physical. They’re a really tough team to play against.
“They’re a big challenge for us.”
Staff writer Jim Meenan: