All you need to know about Notre Dame hockey's home opener this weekend vs. Northern Mich.

John Fineran
Air Force defenseman Sam Brennan, left, loses his stick as Notre Dame forward Landon Slaggert (19) checks him into the boards during the second period of an NCAA college hockey game Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in Air Force Academy, Colo. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP)
  • Who: Northern Michigan Wildcats (3-1-0) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-1-1)
  • When: Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m.
  • Where: Lefty Smith Rink (4,850) at Compton Family Ice Arena
  • Tickets: Available through Tickets and at Compton Family Ice Arena box office. 
  • Radio: WZOC-FM (94.3) and
  • TV/Streaming: Peacock
  • Coaches: Northern Michigan, Grant Potulny (98-81-11 in sixth season at Northern Michigan). … Notre Dame, Jeff Jackson (376-232-67 in 18th season at Notre Dame with NCAA Frozen Four appearances in 2008, 2011, 2017 and 2018; 558-284-92 in 24th season overall with national championships in 1992 and 1994 at Lake Superior State). 
  • Recap: Northern Michigan swept non-conference series at Colgate, winning 3-2 last Friday and 4-1 last Saturday. … Notre Dame opened the season in the Ice Breaker Tournament with 5-2 loss at Denver last Friday and 5-5 tie at Air Force (2-1 shootout loss) last Saturday. Rivalry: Notre Dame is on a four-game winning streak after 5-2 victory last Oct. 16, 2021 at Marquette, Mich., and leads series 25-21-8. … It’s the first time teams have played in South Bend since 2010 season when they split a two-game CCHA: Northern Michigan winning 3-2 on Dec. 11 and Notre Dame winning Dec. 12 by 5-2 score. … Irish are 6-0-2 since that loss with the last seven games being played in Marquette.
  • Rankings: Northern Michigan is No. 20 in USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine coaches’ poll and receiving votes in DCU/ media poll. … Notre Dame is No. 13 in USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine coaches’ poll and No. 14 in DCU/ media poll.

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Scouting Northern Michigan Wildcats

With 13 new players (four transfers, nine freshmen) on the roster, including Michigan’s Mr. Hockey Joey Larson,Northern Michigan is coming off 20-16-1 season with 3-1 start. … The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Larson, who had 32 goals and 66 points in 61 games with Muskegon of the USHL, already has one goal and three assists for four points. … Senior forwards AJ Vanderbeck (4 goals, 2 assists, 6 points) and Andre Ghantous (1-5-6) lead Wildcats in scoring. … Senior David Keefer has three goals and juniors Mikey Colella and Artem Schlaine (a transfer from Connecticut who hails from Russia) have two each. … Senior defensemen Simon Kjellberg (an RPI transfer from Sweden) and Michael Van Unen provide offense. … Goaltending has been split between sophomore Charlie Glockner (2-1 record, 3.28 goals-against average, .884 saves percentage) and freshman Beni Halasz of Hungary (1-0, 1.00 average, .964 saves percentage).

Scouting Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Scouting Fighting Irish: Despite returning 19 lettermen, 10 of them seniors or grad-student transfers, the Irish used six of their eight newcomers in last week’s Ice Breaker Tournament games. … Junior defenseman Drew Bavaro, a transfer from Bentley, had three assists last weekend and shares scoring lead with two returning right wings – junior Ryder Rolston (2-1-3) and senior Trevor Janicke (1-2-3). … Bavaro is one of four transfers – the others are graduate centers Jackson Pierson (New Hampshire) and Chayse Primeau (Omaha) and grad defenseman Ben Brinkman (Minnesota). … With grad defenseman and captain Nick Leivermann day-to-day because of injury, Bavaro, junior Zach Plucinski (1-0-1) and sophomore Jake Boltmann (1-0-1) led the defensemen in scoring. … Thirteen players scored points last weekend, but Notre Dame had eight minor penalties and surrendered five power-play goals. … Senior Ryan Bischel (0-1-0 record, 4.68 average, .833 saves percentage) started both games but was relieved at Air Force by freshman Jack Williams (0-0-1, 3.50 average, .846 saves percentage).

Quoting Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson 

On newcomers: “We’ve had guys who played in different systems come in here and it showed up a little last weekend where we tried to get the new guys acclimated to how we play. Overall, it’s been healthy for our culture. It’s going to be a work in progress for the first three weeks as we play non-conference games.”

Notre Dame had coach Jeff Jackson during the Notre Dame vs. Ohio State NCAA hockey game Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend.

On Ryder Rolston: “He’s made gains in the weight room and got stronger physically – maybe one of our best conditioned athletes. Nobody works harder than he does. We’re continuing to work with him in trying to improve his game without the puck. He’s made gains there.”

On goaltending: “I don’t think Ryan is quite where we want him to be just yet, and I’m sure he’d say the same thing. I expect him to be the guy for the majority of the season, but we’ve got a couple of young guys (freshman Jack Williams and junior Joshua Graziano) if necessary.”

On penalty kill: “Right now our biggest area we’re trying to improve is our penalty kill. Last weekend it showed some breakdowns. We’re trying to break in new guys learning how to penalty kill. Some of the mistakes that have been made had an impact on our goalie play.”

On Northern Michigan: “They’ve got some talented offensive players and some defensemen who are very creative and active offensively as well. It will be a challenging series for us. We’re going to have to find ways to clean up our game defensively when we’re playing teams like this.”

John Fineran, Correspondent