EDINA, Minn. — Some kids just cannot wait to begin their college hockey careers. Having committed to a college before he turned 15, Edina defenseman Jake Boltmann recently decided he had waited long enough.
Boltmann, who turned 19 in October, not long after he was picked by the Calgary Flames in the NHL Draft, announced on Monday, Dec. 21, that he is headed to Notre Dame and will play for the Fighting Irish in phase 2 of their Big Ten hockey schedule,
A finalist for the Mr. Hockey Award last season as a senior at Edina, Boltmann had originally committed to the Minnesota Gophers under former coach Don Lucia, but recently opted to shop around some more.
“I decided about a month ago to officially decommit and see what other options were out there for me,” said Boltmann, who has been skating with the USHL’s Lincoln Stars for the past few months. “Even before I committed to Minnesota, Notre Dame was the other school that I was really interested in, so it’s kind of funny how things kind of come full circle.”
Things are happening quickly for Boltmann now. He moved out of Lincoln over the weekend and after spending Christmas with family, will be on campus at Notre Dame before New Year’s and plans to be on the ice for the Irish on Jan. 9 when they open phase 2 at home versus Arizona State. Notre Dame is 3-4-1 after the first phase of the Big Ten schedule, and will travel to Minneapolis to face the Gophers on Jan. 15-16.
It is a unique opportunity for Boltmann to get 20-plus college hockey games under his belt and get a head start on school at Notre Dame’s renowned Mendoza College of Business without burning a year of his college eligibility. Thanks to temporary rules the NCAA has put in place due to the pandemic, this season will not count toward a student-athlete’s four years of eligibility, meaning Boltman — whose older brother Brock is a wide receiver for the North Dakota Fighting Hawks football team — can still play four full seasons of college hockey after this winter.
“I thought it was just one of those opportunities I couldn’t say no to,” Boltmann said.
The loss of Boltmann may actually help alleviate a potential roster logjam next season for the Gophers. They currently have eight defensemen on the roster, and only one — the little-used Sam Rossini — is a senior. Sophomores Ryan Johnson and Jackson LaCombe and freshman Brock Faber are all early-round draft picks but unless the Gophers lose players early to pro hockey, any defenders joining the team next fall would need to fight hard for a roster spot.
Irish coach Jeff Jackson is renowned as one of the defensive masterminds in college hockey, and Boltmann said he is excited to play in Notre Dame’s defense-first system.
“I really like him as a coach. He’s very honest and he gets the best out of his players,” Boltmann said. “I’m super excited to play for a guy like that. I think I’m more of a defensive defenseman, but there is a little two-way to my game. It’s a perfect fit, scheme-wise.”
He admitted it was still a tough decision to give up a chance to play for the “hometown” team Boltmann watched growing up in the Twin Cities, especially with the Gophers currently undefeated and ranked atop the national polls.
“I still have a bunch of buddies at Minnesota that I stay in touch with and I wish them the best,” Boltmann said. “But hopefully the Irish can get the best of the Gophers here pretty soon.”