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The No. 8/9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s ice hockey team dropped its lone preseason scrimmage to USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (NTDP) under-18 team by a 5-3 score Sunday night. In a high-paced, back-and-forth contest, the NTDP capitalized twice on five power play opportunities to earn an edge against the Irish.

Coming off of a 4-3 win on the road at Michigan State on Saturday night, the NTDP squad found themselves on their heels early. Less than a minute into the opening frame, Irish senior forward Trevor Janicke began an offensive cycle in the right corner, circling and leaving the puck for new teammate Jackson Pierson, a graduate student transfer from the University of New Hampshire. Pierson then circled in the corner himself and zipped a pass back to the right point for sophomore defenseman and Edina, Minnesota, native Jake Boltmann. Boltmann expertly walked the blue line and fired a shot off of the stars-and-stripes decorated pads of NTDP goaltender Carsen Mussen. The rebound came off the right pad quickly and right onto the stick of junior Ryder Rolston, who snapped the puck just between the right arm of the goalie and the post to give the Irish an early 1-0 lead.

Notre Dame’s lead, though, was short-lived. After Irish defenseman Charlie Blackmun was given a 5-major penalty for a hit from behind, Notre Dame was forced to their first of 5 penalty kills this evening. In what would be a theme of the game for Notre Dame, the Irish penalty kill was stout until the very final moments of Blackmun’s penalty but could not finish the kill. As the penalty was winding down, the NTDP’s Alex Weiermair made an errant zone entry pass that teammate Oliver Moore picked up off the half wall. The Minnesota-committed Moore swooped in behind the goal and made a centering pass that was tipped onto the stick of Austin Burnevik in the slot, who snapped it past Irish senior goaltender Ryan Bischel to tie the game.

The first-period scoring was not done yet, though. Both teams traded line rushes until Notre Dame struck gold on one of theirs. In a beautiful sequence, graduate student captain Nick Leivermann picked up the puck on his own blue line and spearheaded the attack. Backing up the NTDP defense, he hit the offensive blue line and dished to sophomore forward Tyler Carpenter on the left flank, who rifled the puck again between the post and the right arm of Mussen to put Notre Dame up 2-1.

But with Leivermann in the box for an unwise and unnecessary interference penalty, NTDP was able to turn the tide late in the first. Just after the penalty to Leivermann expired, Boston College commit Ryan Leonard rushed the puck in behind the Notre Dame net. He absorbed a hard hit that sent him sailing into the corner boards, but was nonetheless able to find Gabe Perreault with a pass. Perreault rounded the cage and tucked a wraparound inside the right post, sneaking it just barely past the outstretched pad of Bischel. With thirty seconds remaining in the first, the NTDP had tied the game again.

The score remained tied after two periods as well, with each team adding goals in the second. Once more, it was Notre Dame skating well to start the period. Early on in the frame, the NTDP turned the puck over in the Irish zone, and Notre Dame’s Hunter Strand and Jack Adams found themselves on a two-on-one from their own blue line. Strand carried the puck on the left, fed a flat pass to Adams on the right, who attempted the one-timer, but fanned on the puck.

That was not the end of the story, however, for Adams. As Notre Dame continued to carry the play, Adams found himself in another two-on-one, this time with sophomore Justin Janicke carrying the puck on his left. Adams, a 6’6 graduate student forward from Boxford, Massachusetts, did not miss the mark on his second opportunity. He took the crisp pass from Janicke on his forehand, switched to his backhand, cut to the far post and shoveled the puck past the outstretched leg of Mussen to score.

With Notre Dame in the lead 3-2, the NTDP would again level the game late in the period. After a Notre Dame powerplay during which the Irish could not manage a shot, and struggled at times to gain the offensive blue line, the NTDP’s Leonard helped set up fellow BC commit Will Vote to level the score. Leonard had just stepped out of the penalty box when he made a pass to the onrushing Oliver Moore, who left a drop pass at the left face-off circle for Vote. Vote snapped a shot that seemed to allude Bischel, beating him five-hole to bring the score to 3-3.

Then early in the third, the NTDP struck with the decisive game-winner. Once more, it was Perreault who scored for the NTDP, and once more the goal came on the power play. With junior defender Zach Plucinski in the box for indirect contact to the head of an NTDP player, another Boston College commit, Will Smith, stepped in across the Notre Dame blue line on the right side of the zone. Smith fired a laser-beam cross-ice pass to Perreault at the face-off circle, who beat Bischel high and to the glove side with an impressive snapshot. Perreault’s second goal gave the NTDP their first and only lead of the hockey game, in the game’s 41st minute.

That lead was all the NTDP would need to beat Notre Dame on this night at Compton Family Ice Arena. There were times afterwards when it seemed like the Irish were going to throw everything and the kitchen sink at NTDP goaltender Carsen Mussen in order to tie the game. Indeed, the Irish attempted thirty shots in the third period. Twelve of those made it to goal, but most were blocked by NTDP skaters. The NTDP defense stood strong late in the game and did well to keep the Irish on the peripheries of their zone, away from rebounds and loose pucks in front of the net.

Ryan Leonard, who played well for the NTDP and had already garnered two assists for his efforts, sealed the win for his team by scoring an empty net goal with just one second remaining in the game. When the final siren sounded at Compton, the scoreboard showed 5-3 in favor of the visitors.

Notre Dame netminder Ryan Bischel, who had a strong .916 save percentage in 16  games played last year for the Irish, finished tonight with 26 saves on 30 shots. On the other end of the sheet, uncommitted goalie Carsen Mussen made 25 saves. The game’s leader in the stat column was certainly Gabriel Perreault, who displayed a good finish on his second goal and also led his team in shots on net. Perreault, whose father is former NHL veteran Yanic Perreault, is also uncommitted.

The win continues the NTDP’s strong start to their season, as they are 6-0. The team will continue with their Kroger College Series at home next weekend as they host #20 Michigan Tech on Friday and Lake Superior State on Saturday. Notre Dame, meanwhile, heads to Colorado next weekend to get their regular season officially underway at the IceBreaker tournament. The Irish take on the defending national champion and #1/1 Denver Pioneers in the opener on Friday at 9pm EST.

Future Prospects

On a USNTDP team littered with prospects, three Irish commits laced up the skates tonight for the national team. Carter Slaggert, son of Notre Dame assistant coach Andy Slaggert and brother to current Irish forward Graham and former Irish forward Landon, roused a nice ovation from the crowd tonight when he was introduced with the NTDP starting lineup. Meanwhile, Maple Grove, Minnesota, native Danny Nelson centered the second line with Minnesota commit Oliver Moore and St. Cloud State commit Austin Burnevik. Nelson is one of the tallest and heaviest skaters on the NTDP roster, weighing in at 6’3, 203lb. River Forest, Illinois, native Paul Fischer, a third Notre Dame pledge, blocked two shots while playing top pair minutes on defense for the NTDP.

Discipline the Key

Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson was quick to point out in his post-game press conference that Notre Dame struggled tonight to stay out of the penalty box. On a night where the Irish were penalized 5 times, Jackson noted that the Irish are “not going to win games taking that many penalties.” Twice NTDP victimized the Notre Dame penalty kill, and they scored shortly after another powerplay ended.

Denver Looms

The Irish begin their regular season Friday with not just any game, but a game against the defending national champions. Denver scrimmaged against the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) club hockey team on Saturday night and won big, 10-0. The Pioneers got goals from seven different scorers and a hat trick from sophomore Carter King. Although Denver will be without seven players who signed professional hockey contracts at the end of last season, they return 237 points, good for 5th in the nation in that department. The Pioneers will also be bolstered by Harvard transfer Casey Dornbach and Minnesota transfer Tristan Broz.

When asked about the impending contest immediately after Sunday night’s game, coach Jackson said that he will be looking for his team to have better puck management, especially near the offensive blue line.

“When we started playing down lower in the offensive zone, we had a lot more success, and for me, that’s going to be the biggest key against Denver is that we do a good job managing the puck, and not put ourselves in positions where we are giving up transition opportunities,” he said.

The puck drops on the game and the 2022-23 regular season Friday at 9 p.m. EST. Notre Dame will then take on Air Force in the second half of the IceBreaker tournament on Saturday at 8 p.m. EST.

Contact Ryan Murphy at rmurph22@nd.edu




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