DETROIT — Riley Sheahan’s shot from the slot on a five-on-three power play early in the second period of Notre Dame’s CCHA playoff semifinal against Miami on Friday led to the first Fighting Irish goal in the contest, a 6-2 loss to the RedHawks.
Notre Dame, his current team, and the Detroit Red Wings, who play on the same Joe Louis Arena ice and hold his NHL rights, are both hoping assist is a harbinger of much bigger things to come on the offensive end for Sheahan.
“I think we came out in the game a little bit nervous,” Sheahan said of the semifinal game. “We sort of shot ourselves in the foot early.”
Sheahan is anything but typical.
When the 6-foot-2, 205-pound St. Catharines, Ontario, native took the ice in the CCHA playoff championships, it marked the second straight year the atypical center represented his NCAA Division I choice of school, Notre Dame.
A kid growing up in Ontario usually dreams of making it big in the Ontario Hockey League as a steppingstone to an NHL career.
Sheahan let it be known that he was Notre Dame-bound with such advance notice that he went from a surefire first-round pick in the OHL draft to a fourth-round choice of the OHL Erie Otters.
But his path through the hockey landscape isn’t the only thing that sets him apart from other pivots that earned selection.
Rather than being a prototypical, highly offensive center that posts gaudy point totals, Sheahan toils as a kind of power center renowned for his tenacity and penchant for hard work.
In his inaugural season with the Fighting Irish, he scored six goals among his 17 total points, not the kind of offensive output that inspires an NHL team to spend a valuable first-round draft pick.
But the Detroit Red Wings did exactly that in last June’s NHL entry draft, selecting Sheahan with the 21st choice of the first round, gambling that Sheahan would find the scoring touch he displayed in junior hockey in St. Catharines before making the move to South Bend.
In two years for the St. Catharines Junior B Falcons before graduating to the NCAA Division I level, Sheahan totaled 49 goals among his 134 points. That means the offense that the Red Wings gambled on should be there to be tapped into, but simply hasn’t surfaced yet, as Sheahan’s four goals and 14 assists in 2010-11 for Notre Dame would attest.
“I’m just taking one step at a time,” Sheahan said of his current goals. “Just trying to improve my game and get a little bit stronger off the ice.
“They’re just small steps right now. I’m not looking too far ahead into the future.”
Sheahan has filled his power forward role sufficiently, though, to earn him the honor of being only one of four U.S. college hockey players selected to Canada’s World Junior Championship camp.
“Obviously, it would be nice to play here [Joe Louis Arena] one day. But, I’m not even looking at that right now,” Sheahan said.