The Quick and Dirty Notre Dame Hockey Preview

Last year was a good year that turned into a great one late for Notre Dame hockey, as they caught fire in the postseason and reached the Frozen Four in dramatic fashion before running into the Denver freight train in the semifinals.

That was their last year in Hockey East, as the Irish officially began an athletic alignment with the Big Ten Conference for the first time in school history on July 1. I’m already on record as hating the idea of that B1G logo on Notre Dame uniforms for any number of reasons, but since there’s nothing I can do about that now, we will cast that grievance aside for the time being as we preview the 2017-18 season, which starts tonight when the Irish face Alabama-Huntsville.

At first glance, the roster is crazy young for this team. Only 13 upperclassmen on the whole roster, easily less than half the players. That being said, the bulk of last year’s offensive contributors are back. Last year’s leading scorer Anders Bjork is off to the Boston Bruins (where expectations are high for him), but the next seven players on ND’s scoring leaderboard return, paced by 40-point men Jake Evans and Andrew Oglevie, who join Jordan Gross on the B1G preseason watch list. Defenseman Dennis Gilbert, who didn’t score a goal but had 22 assists and led the team in plus-minus with a whopping +27, is also back.

The real question comes in goal. There have been few better in school history than Cal Petersen. He posted a 2.21 career goals-against average, and his 2.22 was 18th in the country last year. More to the point, he played all but 19 minutes of last season between the pipes, more than any other Division I netminder but one. And he’s gone, off to play for the L.A. Kings. The ‘incumbent’ goalie, as it were, is Cale Morris, who played those other 19 minutes and allowed one goal in that time.

Morris, though, may not end up the starter as highly-sought freshman Dylan St. Cyr joined the program this year. (St. Cyr is the son of former goaltender Manon Rheaume, who made headlines in the early 1990s by playing in a couple of preseason games with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, the first woman to get an NHL look. She also won silver in women’s hockey for Canada in the 1998 Olympics.) Morris and St. Cyr split time in ND’s exhibition game against the USNTDP U18 team last week, which the Irish won 4-3. It seems unlikely either will come close to monopolizing the position like Petersen did.

I don’t know if this says more about ND’s strength among its skaters or the overall weakness of the B1G (after all, there is a reason they allowed the Irish to join as an affiliate member), but the league preseason poll betrayed less concern about the Irish’s goaltending than I have. ND ranked behind only league power Minnesota in the poll.

The schedule

Notre Dame will play the bulk of its schedule against foes in the Big Ten, as you’d expect. In fact, they only have five non-conference foes all year: Alabama-Huntsville, Denver, Sacred Heart, Nebraska-Omaha (those 4 are consecutive and all at home), and RPI on the road. By the wayside goes the Irish’s usual weekend home-and-home with Western Michigan, which for me was always a highlight. Unlike the larger Hockey East, the B1G, with only seven schools, can go double round-robin, so you’ll see a lot of conference games. There are even league games set for October, though ND doesn’t start conference play until facing Ohio State the first weekend of November.

I do find two particular facets of this slate interesting. One is that there is not a single member of Notre Dame’s former conference on it. We have no idea if one side was more excited than the other one was for ND to leave Hockey East, and we probably never will, but I find it interesting that ND plays several non-league teams farther away than the Easterners are, without playing anyone in their former league.

The second thing I found interesting about the schedule, and I concede I probably should have already known this, is that ND kept their TV agreement with NBC when they joined the Big Ten. BTN will air several ND hockey games this year, but they’re all road games for the Irish as the home games are still under NBC’s purview. Many of those home games will stream on the NBC Sports app and a handful will air on NBCSN. I confess that the fact that ND convinced the B1G to let them keep their NBC deal softens me a bit on joining the conference in hockey. It gives the Irish a slight but still noticeable advantage in national exposure over the rest of the league, which should be a good thing for recruiting and is certainly a good thing for fans.

While our attention will justifiably be on the football team the next couple of months, don’t forget to take a peek at the ice in that time and see how the Irish measure up with a veteran offense, a new goalie and a new conference.

By |2018-05-09T22:25:53+00:00October 6th, 2017|18S Reads, Hockey|8 Comments

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hooks orpikND-AtltlndmaClearwall Recent comment authors
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Clearwall
Clearwall

Im definitely concerned with the loss of Peterson and hope the loss of our best scoring threat doesnt set us back TOO much. I have a ton of faith in Jeff Jackson, so Im confident hell have us in position and ready for this slate of games. Just get through the B10, hopefully top Minny and f-Michigan in the standings and take our chances in the tournament.

tlndma
tlndma

“One is that there is not a single member of Notre Dame’s former conference on it. We have no idea if one side was more excited than the other one was for ND to leave Hockey East, and we probably never will, but I find it interesting that ND plays several non-league teams farther away than the Easterners are, without playing anyone in their former league.”
I’m not sure you have your geography correct. I do think that most teams in HE will not miss the trip to SB every other year. Us ND fans in the east will miss the chance to see ND more often. I think the move was ND’s call. Big Ten games are more attractive to players in ND’s recruiting base. A recruit in Minnesota would rather see the Gophers on the schedule than UVM.
ND 5-3 last night.

ND-Atl

I am no fan of the Big Ten, but in certain sports there has to be an acknowledgment of where the best teams reside and it makes sense for the Irish to be there to keep the sport developing. It made sense for Hoops and Lax with ACC, and it does for Hockey and the B1G. It will take a season or two to get used to the scheduling quirks like it did with the other sports, but it is a huge bonus in the end.

Clearwall
Clearwall

Yeah, no the B1G doesn’t really what I would consider a step up in competition. I mean, in the Hockey East, we had yearly challenges from multiple programs; Boston U, Umass Lowell, BC, etc. In the B1G, really only Minnesota will be a threat to us this year. The guys up above mention Penn State’s dedication but I see them as similar to where we were the year or two before we built Compton. They’re investing and getting solid, but they’re a long way behind us. Michigan has taken a major step back in past years so even theyre not what they once were.

*edit*
Just did a quick scan and it’s about what I thought. 5 teams in the Hockey east are in the top 20 rankings currently. ND would make that 6. The B1G has 3 teams(Minn, Wisc, PSU) and ND makes it 4. So ND gives the B1G legitimacy where it was kind of a second or third rate conference without us. We stepped in and gave them one of the best teams in the country and really only got a bit better travel arrangements out of it.

tlndma
tlndma

Penn St. was 1-0-1 vs. ND last year. Let’s hope they don’t get too much better.
Conference rankings go in cycles. Any conference with Minn., Mich.,MSU, and Wisc. isn’t going to be down for long. The Big 10 would probably like to add at least one more team. It wouldn’t surprise me if they make a run at Miami of Oh.

tlndma
tlndma

In hockey the best teams aren’t in the Big 10. Not since the conference was formed.. ND going to the Big 10 helps the conference more than it helps the ND program.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

It does, but especially with the resources that PSU (read: Terry Pegula) is dumping into hockey now is a good time to get in on the Big 10 for hockey. And as you said, for geographical reasons it’s a lot better and pivoting away from the Northeast and more towards Minnesota is also smart IMO.

tlndma
tlndma

I agree, it’s a good move. It should be a very competitive league.