All you need to know about Notre Dame hockey vs. Denver and Air Force this weekend

John Fineran
Correspondent
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.

Who: Notre Dame Fighting Irish of Big Ten Hockey Conference, Denver Pioneers of National Collegiate Hockey Conference, Maine Black Bears of Hockey East Association and Air Force Falcons of Atlantic Hockey Association in 26th tournament which begins the college hockey season.

When: Friday and Saturday.

Where: The University of Denver’s Magness Arena (6,026) and the United States Air Force Academy’s Cadet Ice Arena (2,470).

Schedule: Friday games (9 p.m. Eastern time) are Notre Dame at Denver and Maine at Air Force. … Saturday games (8 p.m. Eastern) are Notre Dame at Air Force and Maine at Denver.

Notre Dame radio: WZOC-FM (94.3) and UND.com.

Notre Dame TV/streaming: Denver (NCHC.tv) and Air Force (FloHockey.tv).

Coaches: Notre Dame, Jeff Jackson (558-283-91 in 23 seasons, two national championships). … Denver, David Carle (86-43-13 in four seasons, one national championship). … Air Force, Frank Serratore (475-487-105 in 29 seasons). … Maine, Ben Barr (7-22-4 in one season).

More:Notre Dame hockey feels underrated heading into exhibition with USA Under-18 team

Last season: Denver 31-9-1 after 5-1 victory over Minnesota State in NCAA Frozen Four at Boston for Pioneers’ ninth national title. … Notre Dame 28-12-0 after 1-0 loss to Minnesota State in NCAA Albany Regional championship game. … Air Force 16-17-3 after 7-0 loss to American International in Atlantic Hockey Tournament championship. … Maine 7-22-4 after 6-2 loss at Merrimack in Hockey East Tournament first-round game.

Exhibitions: All four teams were hosts last weekend. … Notre Dame lost 5-3 to United States National Under-18 team Sunday. … Denver beat UNLV club hockey team 10-0 Saturday. … Air Force lost 5-1 to Colorado College Saturday. … Maine beat University of Prince Edward Island (Canada) 1-0 Saturday.

Rankings: Denver is No. 1, Notre Dame is No. 11 and Air Force is receiving votes in Oct. 3 USCHO.com poll (media). … Denver is No. 1, Notre Dame No. 9 in Oct. 3 USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll (coaches).

Rivalries: Notre Dame is 10-36-6 versus Denver and 28-12-2 versus Air Force. 

Scoring reports: Fighting Irish return 12 of 17 players who scored 10 or more points, led by junior forwards Ryder Rolston (10-17-27) and Landon Slaggert (12-14-26) and grad student defenseman Nick Leivermann (6-21-27), plus senior goaltender Ryan Bischel (2.08 goals-against average, .924 saves percentage, 10-4-0 record, two shutouts). … Pioneers return junior defenseman Mike Benning (15-23-38), sophomore forwards Carter Mazur (14-24-38) and Massimo Rizzo (12-24-36) and 6-foot-5 senior goaltender Magnus Chrona (2.11 average, .911 saves percentage, 28-8-1 record and two shutouts). … Cadets return 100 percent of its scoring led by junior forward Will Gavin (16-13-29), senior forward Willie Reim (11-14-25) and senior defenseman Brandon Koch (3-22-25), and they feature sophomore Guy Blessing (3.02 average, .889 saves percentage, 2-1-0 record and one shutout) and freshman Aaron Randazzo in goal.

Quoting Jeff Jackson: (Ice Breaker) “Any time you can play two different teams I think it’s beneficial because it prepares you for later in the season when you play two different opponents in the NCAA tournament”

… (Denver) “We’re basing (scouting report) on how they played last year. Their goaltending and defense have not changed very much. They lost a number of good forwards, but they also return a lot of good forwards and brought in some good forwards. They are going to be one of the Top 10 teams in the country.” 

... (Air Force) “They had a good second half last year and they didn’t lose anybody. Air Force is always a tricky team to play because they are well coached and play hard. It’s always a challenging game because of the nature of players who make that commitment to be in the military.” 

... (Exhibition loss) “The biggest things to clean up are penalties and turnovers. But I saw some good things from forward lines. We scored some nice transition goals.” 

John Fineran, Correspondent