Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct 08, 2022

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 48 of 55 OCT. 8, 2022 49 BY TODD D. BURLAGE T his time of the year, every year, vet- eran Notre Dame hockey coach Jeff Jackson provides much optimism but few solid answers when he's asked what to expect from his team. Because, frankly, even after 18 years on the Irish bench, Jackson himself is never exactly sure what to expect. "It's really difficult to tell what it's going to look like until you start play- ing," Jackson explained. "But I really like our intensity, our competitiveness. And I like our depth, especially up front." What Jackson does know, is that he returns four of his top seven point scor- ers and three of his top five goal scorers from last season off a remarkably bal- anced 2021-22 team that enjoyed great success. Jackson and Notre Dame fea- tured seven different players last season that scored between 24 and 28 points. Leading goal scorer (16) and point gatherer (28) Max Ellis is gone. But back and ready to build on terrific 2021-22 campaigns are four returnees who tal- lied at least 24 points last season. That 2021-22 team fell just one win short of a third Frozen Four appearance in the last five seasons after winning its opening- round game of the 16-team NCAA Cham- pionship, 2-1 over North Dakota. Two days later with a fifth all time Frozen Four appearance for the Irish program on the line, Notre Dame lost 1-0 to Minnesota State in the quarter- finals. Graduate student Nick Leivermann explained how getting so close to the Frozen Four last year became the rally- ing cry to start this season, all the way back in June when the team gathered for the first time during the summer semester. "It's Frozen Four or bust for us this year," said Leivermann, who is back for a fifth season after serving as an alternate captain and the team's top defender in 2021-22. "Coming off of last year, when we were one or two goals away from making the Frozen Four Tournament, the guys got a taste of it." Leivermann explained how even back in the spring, while this year's team was still being constructed and not yet fully familiar with the four new incoming freshman and the four incoming gradu- ate students, this season's goal of reach- ing the 2023 Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla., already was being openly discussed. "We understand it's a long season, but everybody is really excited," Leiver- mann said. "Right away we were saying, 'We're going to Tampa.' We had posters and banners this summer of the Frozen Four in the locker room. So, that's all we're looking forward to." IN THE MORE IMMEDIATE The Irish return plenty of firepower and leadership this season from a strong 2021-22 team that went 28-12 overall, 17-6 in the Big Ten (third), and 17-8 at home inside Compton Family Ice Arena. Sophomore forward Ryder Rolston statistically highlights the four-pack of top returning Irish scorers. Rolston scored 27 points last season — which tied for second on the team — with 10 goals and 17 assists. When asked about key returning players, Jackson first mentioned reliable junior forward and strong veteran leader Landon Slaggert. A 2021 U.S. National Junior Team member and a native of South Bend, Slaggert finished tied for third on the team last season in goals (12) and was fifth in points (26). The 2022-23 first-team All-Big Ten pre- season selection also recorded a career- high 14 assists. In 40 games, Slaggert fired off 93 shots and recorded a plus-9 on-ice rating. Slaggert will be asked to wear many hats while leading this team, both on and off the ice. Trevor Janicke was the next man Irish Hockey Poised For A Frozen Four Run Graduate student defenseman Nick Lievermann declared that it is "Frozen Four or bust" for the Fighting Irish this season after they fell a game short of their third trip to the national semifinals in five years in 2021-22. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS ND SPORTS

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