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‘We know we belong’: Leivermann confident in team ahead of regular season

Graduate student defender Nick Leivermann is prepared to lead the eighth-ranked Irish this season starting this Friday against Denver.

Leivermann has been an integral part of the Irish defense over the course of the last few seasons, and last season he recorded a team-leading 21 assists. 

Although Leivermann and the Irish lost to the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) U18 team in Sunday’s exhibition, he is confident in his team ahead of the start to the regular season.

“We feel really good heading into the season. We obviously don’t want to pay too much attention to the preseason rankings, but we know we belong probably in the top-five based on our year last year, and what we brought in this year, so we are excited,” Leivermann said.

Leivermann felt that Sunday’s game was a good opportunity to improve as a team and get some real game experience.

“It’s always good to get this game in early.” Leivermann said, “I think that’s why our coaches want to do it so that we can work some stuff out early.”

Leivermann was disappointed with the loss on Sunday night, but he thought Sunday was a great opportunity to get younger players some much needed playing time.

“Obviously you want to win that game, and losing to that team two years in a row is never fun,” Leivermann said. “Winning is the number one goal, but it’s also about getting new guys in and getting a feeling for what our team is going to be this year.”

The Irish are typically a defensive oriented team, but Leivermann was encouraged by the team’s movement of the puck on the offensive end on Sunday night.

“We moved the puck really well in the offensive zone, which is good to see. We are a team that is always trying to better ourselves on that end of the ice because normally we are more of a defensive type team.” Leivermann said.

Despite the positives from Sunday, the Irish surrendered some costly penalties that ultimately lost them the game. 

Leivermann felt that the Irish gave the U18 team too much space and time during their power plays on Sunday. 

“We just really weren’t intense enough tonight, and giving some of those skilled players too much time and space, that’s going to come and bite you,” Leivermann said.

Leivermann stressed the importance of taking less penalties in the future, and he knows that his team will improve on the penalty kill as the year goes on.

“The number one goal is obviously not to take penalties at all, and that’s going to benefit us a lot,” Leivermann said. “[Head] coach [Jeff Jackson] has always been really dialed in on the penalty kill and that’s why we had the best PK in the country last year. So, it’s just taking some tidbits of what we did last year, but you also have to change things because we have new personnel on the backhand.”

Leivermann is the sole captain on the team this year, and he has enjoyed being a mentor to his younger teammates.

“Being a fifth year, you are a little bit older, and it has been fun taking in some of those younger guys like [freshman defenseman Michael] Mastrodomenico and [freshman forward] Fin Williams. They’re really good kids,” Leivermann said. “It’s obviously not just me; our leadership stems from our juniors, seniors and four or five grads, and everyone of those guys can be a leader and a captain on the team.”

Mastrodomenico and Williams are joined by two other freshmen in forward Niko Jovanovic and goaltender Jack Williams, and Leivermann feels like all four have made great strides so far.

“It’s obviously a little bit difficult being a freshman in college hockey, but they’re finding their way and I think all four have improved on a day-to-day basis,” Leivermann said.

Jackson is confident in Leivermann and the rest of the leaders on his team ahead of the season.

“I like our leadership group.” Jackson said, “There was some adversity coming into today’s game. For the most part, I thought we handled it pretty well. I have to rely on them in the locker room because I am not always in there.”

Leivermann believes the Irish have grown significantly as a team since the summer.

“We have grown quite a bit,” Leivermann said. “We have obviously been together now since early June. Just as a group, we are really tight knit and we have really good leadership.”

Contact Nate Moller at nmoller2@nd.edu.