Hockey preview: Tyler Carpenter’s work ethic producing results for Notre Dame

South Bend Tribune
Notre Dame forward Tyler Carpenter (28) looks for the puck during the Michigan State-Notre Dame NCAA hockey game on Saturday, October 29, 2022, at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Indiana.

SOUTH BEND — The 19th-ranked Notre Dame hockey team doesn’t have to look far to find an example how hard work can produce results.

Tyler Carpenter will be sitting on the bench this Friday and Saturday nights at the Compton Family Ice Arena, waiting to get on the Lefty Smith Rink ice when coach Jeff Jackson’s Fighting Irish play the No. 5 Penn State Nittany Lions in the final Big Ten series of the first semester.

The 7-7-2 Irish, tied for fifth place in the league with Michigan with nine points, have not played since the day after Thanksgiving when they captured a 5-2 victory at Boston College. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Carpenter, a sophomore center from Palatine, Ill., and the godson of Blackhawks Hall of Famer Denis Savard, had a pair of goals sandwiched around an assist on the game-winning tally by Jesse Lansdell.

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“It’s the best game I’ve played at Notre Dame, and it’s probably coming off the worst game I’ve ever played,” said Carpenter, who had company in Notre Dame’s 5-2 loss at No. 7 Boston University on Thanksgiving Eve. “I felt personally I had to find a way to make a statement because I know I’m in a spot where nothing is guaranteed.”

Jackson, who has seen Notre Dame make four Frozen Four appearances in his previous 17 seasons as the winningest coach in school history, can assure Carpenter that he has secured a spot in Notre Dame’s lineup going forward. 

“He’s solidified himself in the lineup,” Jackson said of the 22-year-old Carpenter, who has three goals and three assists in 15 games. “I think we always knew Tyler had good hockey sense. He knows what to do and when to do it — that’s his real gift. He has some grit to him — he can play physical when necessary. He has a good shot and some intangibles that make him more of a factor than just being a role player.”

Those intangibles caught the eye of Irish associate head coach Andy Slaggert while Carpenter was playing with Slaggert’s sons Graham and Landon in the Chicago Mission youth program. Carpenter then spent parts of five seasons playing in the United States Hockey League with the Omaha Lancers. 

But during his freshman season at Notre Dame in 2021-22, Carpenter saw action in just six games, scoring his only goal Feb. 5 — the game-winner in an eventual 3-0 home victory over Penn State.

“I didn’t learn until noon that day I would be playing,” recalled Carpenter, who replaced an injured Solag Bakich for the teams’ last meeting.

Early in the first period after Graham Slaggert won a draw in the Irish zone, he returned to the Irish bench and Carpenter jumped onto the ice. Ryder Rolston carried the puck deep before sending a backhand pass into the slot to the breaking Carpenter, who beat Penn State goalie Oskar Autio between his pads.

“A surreal feeling,” Carpenter added. The goal came in what turned out to be Carpenter’s last outing in the 28-12 campaign for the Irish who eventually lost the NCAA Albany (N.Y.) regional championship 1-0 to NCAA runner-up Minnesota State. He didn’t waste time getting ready for this season.

“I knew we were going to lose a few key forwards, but I also knew we were bringing in a few good transfers and some freshmen who were pretty good,” Carpenter said. “I treated every practice as if it was a game, every day as if it was game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.”

The work has continued for Carpenter and the Irish, who have spent most of the last two weeks working on their offensive game. Notre Dame has just 38 goals in 16 games (2.38 per game). The Irish also have only seven power-play goals in 56 attempts and none in their last 16 chances in five games going back to their 3-2 overtime victory over Michigan Nov. 12.

By contrast, the Nittany Lions (14-4-0 overall, 6-4-0 Big Ten for 19 points) enter the series with the nation’s ninth-best offense (3.61 goals per game) and the league’s best defense (2.39 goals against per game) led by junior goaltender Liam Souliere (2.12 average).

 “We’re still trying to figure out what works for us,” Carpenter said, “finding chemistry while also finding a way to play consistently for 60 minutes.”

Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

  • When: Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 6 p.m.
  • Where: Lefty Smith Rink (4,850) at Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend
  • Radio: WZOC-FM (94.3) and
  • TV/Streaming: Peacock
  • Tickets: Available through Tickets or at Compton box office. … The annual “Teddy Bear Toss” of stuffed animals to benefit local charities for the holidays will take place after Friday’s game. … Saturday’s game is “Ugly Christmas Sweater Night” and fans will be able to skate post-game with Santa Claus and Irish players.
  • Coaches: Penn State, Guy Gadowsky (186-156-24 in 11th season at Penn State, 359-354-61 in 23rd season overall). … Notre Dame, Jeff Jackson (383-238-68 in 18th season at Notre Dame, 565-290-93 in 24th season overall).