Notre Dame’s players are no strangers to 3M Arena at Mariucci. Or Minnesota in general, for that matter.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s roster lists six players as being from Minnesota, with half of them hailing from Eden Prairie. The Eden Prairie contingency accounted for three points in Notre Dame’s 5-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday.
“We’ve all played here growing up, and we’ve all wanted to play here, whether it was with the Gophers or against them,” Notre Dame defenseman Nick Leivermann said. “Everyone from Minnesota has got family, friends [here,] and everybody is looking and cheering us on, so it’s awesome.”
Leivermann was the backbone to Notre Dame’s offense tonight. Before college, he played three seasons at Eden Prairie high school from 2014 to 2017. He served as a captain in his final season in 2016-17. Since then, he has played in the British Columbia Hockey League for the Penticton Vees and now is in his second season playing for Notre Dame.
Besides Leivermann, Alex and Matt Steeves count Eden Prairie as home. Forward Trevor Janicke is from Maple Grove and defenseman Matt Hellickson is from Rogers, while backup goaltender Ryan Bischel is from Medina.
Leivermann deposited two goals past Minnesota goaltender Jared Moe on Saturday, the second being a game-tying goal late in the second period to make the score 3-3 into the final intermission.
“It’s a team effort and both of the goals I had were off of plays made by other players,” Leivermann said. “It’s really fun to play here and I know that the boys get going, especially all the Minnesotans.”
While Leivermann scored two goals in Saturday’s contest, he hasn’t been a goal-scoring machine at the college level so far. Fans watching the game in Minnesota, though, might think otherwise, since his three career goals have all been scored against the Gophers.
He scored one goal last season in a loss to the Gophers but came back and got on the board twice Saturday to put his team in a position to rebound from their 2-2 tie/3-2 overtime loss on Friday.
“I thought he was better [on Saturday,]” Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson said. “He’s learning how to defend. He’s always had the offensive skill, we’re trying to be patient with him, trying to get him some playing time to build some confidence.”
With parents and family in the audience, Leivermann said it was good to play in front of those people, but especially against some players that he grew up playing with.
“Against the Gophers, we’ve been playing against these kids since we were 4 or 5, so we know a lot of them,” Leivermann said. “We hope for their success, but also at the same time, we want to come in here and beat them in their own building.”
Overall, aside from Leivermann, four of the Fighting Irish’s five goals came from defensemen, with the sole forward goal coming as the empty-net goal with 11 seconds left in the game.
Notre Dame defensemen Spencer Stastney and Charlie Raith each scored goals, with Raith’s being the game-winner and the first collegiate point of his career.
“We’ve got four sophomores back there [on defense,]” Jackson said. “It makes it a little interesting sometimes.”