After a 4-2 exhibition victory last Sunday against the USNTDP, the No. 8/9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish return home to drop the puck on the 2019-20 regular season. Waiting for them will be the Air Force Falcons, who finished last season with a record of 16-15-5. Prior to last season, the Falcons had made two straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
Where, When, and How to Watch
Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
When: Friday, Oct. 11, 7:05 PM ET, Sunday, Oct. 13, 3:05 PM ET
How to Watch: NBCSN (Game 1), NHL Network, NBC Sports Chicago/Philadelphia+, SNY (Game 2), NBCSports.com, NBCSports App
Looking for their first win against a ranked opponent since the 2017-18 season, the Falcons will be in unfamiliar territory this weekend, as they have never played at Compton Family Ice Arena. In fact, this series will be the first time these teams have played one another since 2006, when Notre Dame defeated Air Force for the prestigious Lightning College Hockey Classic championship by a score of 2-0.
Head coach Jeff Jackson turned 64 in the offseason and is entering his fifteenth season behind the bench for the Irish. Opposing him for the Falcons will be Frank Serratore, who is in his twenty-third season behind the bench for the Falcons. During his long tenure, Serratore has never had a freshman class bigger than this year’s crop of twelve.
The Falcons lost their top four scorers from last season, but still return two dangerous forwards in senior Brady Tomlak and sophomore Kieran Durgan. Tomlak has registered double digit assists every season as a Falcon, and Durgan tied for the team lead in goals last season. A key to an Irish victory will be keeping these two off the scoresheet.
Friday’s game will be special for senior forward Cal Burke. The native of Boxboro, MA will be playing in his first regular season game as captain and will be looking to validate his role. Previous captains Jake Evans and Andrew Peeke each led their respective teams to a conference tournament title and victories in the NCAA Tournament, you can bet this is a run that Burke would love to continue. The captain made his feelings known this week on how he believes in this year’s squad.
Getting off to a hot start will be important for this Notre Dame team that’s expected to compete for another Big Ten championship. The outstanding Cale Morris should have little to no trouble against an Air Force team that lost a tremendous amount of offense in the offseason. I see the Irish starting the 2019-20 season off on the right foot, and sweeping the Falcons at home.