Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

Irish hockey goes young, again

Notre Dame lost a lot of firepower off last year’s NCAA tournament team. It might find a few replacements in the freshman class with an exhibition coming this weekend and the regular season a week away.

Jeff Jackson needs goals. And he needs them from new names.

Forwards Thomas DiPauli, Mario Lucia, Steven Fogarty and Sam Herr all moved on to the professional ranks after last season. They scored 46 combined goals last season with DiPauli accounting for a team high 14.

On the bright side, Notre Dame returns three of its top four points scorers. Juniors Anders Bjork (12 goals, 23 assists), Jake Evans (eight goals, 25 assists) and defenseman Jordan Gross (nine goals, 22 assists) are all back. Bjork and sophomore Dylan Malmquist are the only returning players to hit double-digit goals last season. Malmquist scored 11.

Needless to say, Jackson is looking for more production with the season opener against Arizona State a week away. Freshmen Cameron Morrison and Cal Burke might grab the veteran head coach’s attention. At least that’s Jackson’s hope.

“That’s probably a little bit less clear for me right now,” Jackson said. “Big Cameron Morrison today in the scrimmage is a perfect example. You don’t notice him a lot then all the sudden, boom, he’s going to the net and scores a goal. He’s got a little Anders Lee to him but he might not totally understand how to play without the puck yet. He gets a little lost sometimes defensively. Once he improves that, he’s probably gonna have the puck more and that’s a positive thing.

“Cal Burke, he’s got speed. He’s a competitor, he competes hard. He’s a pretty smart player. I think he’s got some offensive potential for us.”

Team speed is an area where Jackson sees his club as improved coming off a 19-11-7 season that ended with an overtime loss to Michigan in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

And that’s not just up front. Freshmen Andrew Peeke and Tory Dello join an otherwise veteran group of Irish defensemen. Justin Wade and Andy Ryan, two stay-at-home defensemen, are gone.

“As good as Justin Wade and Andy were in a defensive role last year, Andrew Peeke and Tory Dello elevate our instinctive game,” Jackson said. “Andrew Peeke has got potential to be a great defender and also a great instinctive player, a guy that can make a play. Not like Bobby Nardella or Jordan Gross but as a freshman, he’s gonna be similar to Dennis Gilbert last year. He may have a little bit more poise in his game.”

Gross and Bobby Nardella remain the primary backend playmakers. And, of course, the whole program operates with junior goaltender Cal Petersen as its backbone.

Petersen will serve as captain this season while shouldering the burden of starting every game. He was one of the best goaltenders in the country last season with a 2.20 goals-against average and .927 save percentage. That goals-against averaged ranked No. 22 nationally and his save percentage ranked No. 12.

Petersen has started 50 straight games, dating back to the 2014-15 season.

“I think that he’s primed to have another great year,” Jackson said. “He’s gotta be a top five guy in the country this year. He’s gotta be a potential All-American. That’s how he’s gonna have to play.”

Jackson gets a first look at what he might have Sunday when Notre Dame hosts the U.S. National Team Development Program under-18 team, which features current Irish commitments Graham Slaggert and Adam Scheel.

The regular season gets underway Oct. 7 with a two-game series against Arizona State. Three of the first four series are at the Compton Family Ice Arena, not a bad thing for a youthful team.

“We said it last year and I’ll say it again,” Jackson said. “We’ve got a young group. Big freshman class again. Obviously, the junior class is basically our upper class. We’ve got nine of them. But it’s a lot of young guys.”


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