Notre Dame hockey sets sights on another Frozen Four
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - It's been a long wait for Notre Dame hockey to get back on the ice after falling in the National Championship game back in April.
Though the 2018 run fell one win short of the ultimate goal, it's been an unprecedented run of success for the program.
The Irish captured both the regular season and conference tournament titles in their inaugural Big Ten season en route to a second Frozen Four appearance in as many years. However neither resulted in the ultimate accomplishment of a national title, meaning this year's group returns with plenty of motivation.
"I think everybody knows it's going to take even more to get back there for a third straight year and get over the hump and win the whole thing," said senior forward Joe Wegwerth.
That challenge was shown in Notre Dame's first weekend of regular season action at the Ice Breaker Tournament in Erie, PA. The Irish struggled to salvage a 6-6 tie against Mercyhurst in the season opener. Then a matchup with fourth-ranked Providence, a former Hockey East rival, sparked a return to form with a 3-0 championship win.
Though he would've preferred to see immediate success, head coach Jeff Jackson said these early games are important to set the tone for what could be another impressive season.
"I'm sure we've still got some bumps ahead of us," he said, "but Saturday was exciting for me to see potentially what we could have. We've got a tough schedule coming up here and I just want to make sure we're holding our own and getting better. We just got to focus every day on trying to improve."
"Every start to every season, you're going to face some adversity," said junior goaltender Cale Morris. "I think the teams that can handle that adversity the best and quickest, and learn from their mistakes are the teams that find success early on."
Despite losing a bit of veteran presence from last year's team, the Irish once again return as one of the top title contenders, ranked top-three nationally in both major polls.
The talent Morris offers in goal is one of the biggest reasons for optimism. He returns after a stellar '17-'18 season in which he was named the Big Ten Player and Goaltender of the Year and winning the Richter Award for the nation's top netminder.
The Irish will play their first home game at Compton Family Ice Arena in a weekend series against Minnesota Duluth on October 26-27 before starting Big Ten play the weekend after.