Hockey set to host NCAAs

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Four years after its opening, the Compton Family Ice Arena will become a focal point for postseason college hockey.
The NCAA announced last week the sites of its men’s hockey regionals for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. Notre Dame will be a regional host the weekend of March 27-29, 2015, a first for the new building.
“We have such a tremendous building here,” head coach Jeff Jackson said in a statement. “It’s a great opportunity for our fans and for the community to see an NCAA hockey regional. This is a big deal. It’s important for our fans, our alumni and the community (to) back this tournament. There is no guarantee that we will be in it. It will be great hockey, some of the best ever played in this building and hopefully we will be a part of it.
“This is a great thing for the Michiana area to see NCAA regional hockey. Sometimes it’s the best hockey of the year as teams try to advance to the Frozen Four.”
It will be the second time the Irish have been a regional host. They also did so in for the 2010 Midwest Regional, which was held at Allen County War memorial Coliseum in Ft. Wayne, Ind., which is about 90 miles from campus.
Notre Dame missed the NCAA tournament that season.
Other regional hosts for the 2015 NCAA tournament are the Dunkin Donuts Center (Providence, R.I.), Scheels Arena (Fargo, N.D.) and the Verizon Center (Manchester, N.H.).
Notre Dame will also be the designated host team as it pairs with the Chicago Sports Commission in 2017 to hold the Frozen Four at the United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks.
“We are incredibly proud to welcome the Frozen Four to the United Center in 2017,” Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said. “Along with our partner, the University of Notre Dame, we cannot think of a better hockey community to host this national championship and know what a powerful economic impact it will have on the City of Chicago.”
‘Practice on the Pond’ set
Fans looking to spend some time with the Notre Dame hockey team can do so at 4 p.m. on New Year’s Eve as the annual outdoor practice gets underway.
Merrifield Park in Mishawaka is again the location as the Irish play pickup games on the adjacent rink. Fans are encouraged to attend this free event for an opportunity to meet players, get autographs and take photos.
WSBT’s Cat Country 99.9 FM and Sunny 101.5 FM will be on hand for the event from 3-5 p.m. to broadcast and give away prizes to fans in attendance.
Jackson signs five more
Earlier this month Notre Dame inked five players to national letters-of-intent as part of the early signing period.
There are three forwards - Jake Evans (Toronto), Connor Hurley (Edina, Minn.) and Joe Wegwerth (Brewster, N.Y.) - to go along with two defensemen. Nathan Billitier (Spencerport, N.Y.) and Bobby Nardella (Melrose Park, Ill.) will patrol the blue line.
This group will join another crew of five signed previously that deferred their enrollment until next year. Combined, they will fill the void left next season by a 10-man senior class.
“We have high expectations for this group both on the front end and on the back end and in goal,” Jackson said. “This is a very talented group of players. We will rely on the fact that some of them are older but we will have a few true freshmen that will have to make the early adjustment to college hockey.”
Evans is currently with the St. Michael’s Buzzers in the Ontario Junior Hockey League. Hurley and Nardella play in the United States Hockey League with the Muskegon Lumberjacks and Sioux City Musketeers, respectively. Wegwerth and Billitier are members of the United States National Team Development Program.
Wegwerth, Billitier and Evans have been ranked by the NHL’s Central Scouting in its preliminary rankings ahead of the June draft.
Hurley was a second round selection, 38th overall, of the Buffalo Sabres last summer.
“Connor Hurley is a dynamic player with great instincts and great puck skills,” Jackson said. “He skates really well and has tremendous potential to be a great payer. His biggest adjustment will be to get physically stronger to play at this level. He will be a true freshman, just one year out of high school hockey. He has the potential to be an impact player for us next year.”
The previous group of signees expected to enroll next year include forwards Dawson Cook (Cadillac, Mich.) and Andrew Oglevie (Fullerton, Calif.). There are two defensemen: Jordan Gross (Maple Grove, Minn.) and Luke Ripley (Kitamit B.C.).
Goaltender Cal Peterson (Waterloo, Iowa) rounds out the class. Peterson is 13-2-1 this season with Waterloo in the USHL. He ranks top 10 league-wide in goals against (2.60) and save percentage (.918).