Exhibitions kick off Notre Dame’s season
Brian Plamondon | Thursday, January 30, 2014
No. 5 Notre Dame kicks off its 2014 season with a pair of exhibitions this weekend when it hosts Bellarmine and Detroit. The Irish are coming off a season in which they went 11-5 and lost in the NCAA Quarterfinals to Duke, the eventual national champion. Notre Dame, which returns four of its five leading scorers from last season, will look to again field a competitive team in its first year in the ACC.
“This year, we’ve got maybe the most challenging schedule that I’ve ever seen a team have,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “No part of that scares us — it’s very exciting.”
Notre Dame will first battle Bellarmine, a team that went 7-7 in 2013 but had five of their seven losses come by two goals or less. The Knights ranked eighth in the country in scoring defense last year, but lost their first ever All-American, goaltender Dillon Ward, to graduation.
Following the matchup with Bellarmine will be a tilt with Detroit, an opponent Notre Dame struggled with during the first round of the NCAA tournament last year. The Titans struggled most of the year, compiling a 5-10 record, before earning an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament by winning the MAAC Championship. Detroit may sport the strongest attack in the MAAC in 2014, returning its top nine goal and points scorers.
“I can’t wait [for the exhibitions],” Corrigan said. “You get to a point in the preseason where you’re not sure what kind of progress you’re making. In order to make the decisions about your team, you need to play against somebody else.”
Corrigan will be looking to replace three-year starting goaltender John Kemp, an All-American and a vocal leader on defense. Junior Conor Kelly will get the nod at goalie, with freshman Shane Doss pushing for early playing time. Corrigan, however, was quick to dismiss comparisons.
“We try not to talk about anybody replacing anybody — every year is new, every team is different,” Corrigan said. “We’re not looking to replace John Kemp, were looking to have Conor Kelly come in and do his job.”
Whether it is Kelly or Doss who seizes the starting job, they will have an experienced and high-powered offense in front of them. The Irish will bring back a trio of proven scorers, led by sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh. Kavanagh (who had 32 goals and 48 points in 2013) will get help from junior attackman Conor Doyle (20 goals, 30 points) and senior midfielder Jim Marlatt (20 goals, 32 points), among others. Despite perennially being a middle of the pack offensive team — Notre Dame has had an adjusted offensive efficiency ranking of just 27th since 2010 — Corrigan said he has no plans to revamp his offense to become more explosive.
“If we win, our offense and our defense were successful,” Corrigan said. “If we lose, they weren’t as successful as they needed to be. We need to play smart, efficient offense [this year] that allows us to be up by one when the game ends.”
The Irish will look to finish the preseason on a high note when they battle Bellarmine on Saturday at 2 p.m., and Detroit on Sunday at 12 p.m.