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'Battle of the best N.D. brothers' as Notre Dame's Jake Boltmann opens the NCAA tournament against UND

A third-round NHL draft pick of the Calgary Flames, Jake Boltmann putting together strong second season for the Fighting Irish. He'll open the NCAA tournament against UND, where his brother Brock was an electric offensive talent.

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Reed Boltmann, Brock Boltmann, Jake Boltmann and Trish Boltmann pose in support of Jake's college hockey career at Notre Dame.
Submitted photo.
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ALBANY, N.Y. — When the NCAA men’s hockey tournament bracket was revealed last Sunday, Notre Dame defenseman Jake Boltmann quickly received a text message from his brother Brock Boltmann, a former UND football player.

“I love North Dakota, but I’m rooting for you this time,” Brock told Jake.

The UND men’s hockey team will face Notre Dame on Thursday at 5 p.m. Central on ESPNU at MVP Arena in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“It’s a battle of the best N.D. brothers,” said Jake, who said he has a Boltmann North Dakota football jersey.

Jake, who’s three-and-a-half-years younger than Brock, was only able to see one of Brock’s college football games — in Moscow, Idaho — due to Jake’s busy fall hockey schedule, whether it was at the Elite League in the Twin Cities during high school or in college in South Bend, Ind.

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“I was always locking in and watching his games as best I could,” Jake said. “You wish you could’ve been there but my parents were there, and I was watching online.”

At UND, Brock was a quarterback-turned-wide receiver from 2017-2021 whose versatile, electric talent was utilized in a package of plays termed the Brockstar Formation.

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UND wildcat quarterback Brock Boltmann sprints down the field to score a touchdown against Sam Houston State in 2019.
Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

In his final season, Boltmann caught 38 passes for 377 yards and four touchdowns for the Fighting Hawks. He also ran for 30 yards and threw two touchdown passes.

Meanwhile, Jake was a budding hockey star. Originally committed to Minnesota, Boltmann, a 2020 third-round NHL Draft pick of the Calgary Flames who started last year in the United States Hockey League with the Lincoln Stars, changed his commitment to Notre Dame and joined the Fighting Irish midseason a year ago.

“With the COVID year, I didn’t lose eligibility so it was a no-brainer,” Boltmann said of joining Notre Dame last year. “I love it so far. I’ve loved my time so far here, and I’m excited for this weekend.”

Boltmann skated in 19 games last season through the second semester and finished with no points.

This year, Boltmann has a goal and 12 assists in 37 games.

“I feel more comfortable,” Boltmann said. “Last year, it was one of those things where I was learning a lot, and I still am learning. I feel more comfortable with my game. I’m more comfortable now with our strength coach and all that. College hockey, in the Big Ten and the NCHC like we’ll see tomorrow, is a physical game. You have to be a man out there, you can’t be a little boy.”

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Jake Boltmann looks to defend during game action between University of Notre Dame and University of Minnesota at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Indiana on Feb. 13, 2021.
Mike Miller/Fighting Irish Media

Jake is 20 years old and Brock 23 now.

The two played hockey and football together when Jake was a freshman and Brock was a senior at Edina High School in Minnesota, where their dad Reed was the head football coach.

“Brock threw the body around,” Jake said of his brother’s hockey ability. “He was a football player, so he liked to hit. That was the only time I was able to play with him. There were a few times where he’d have my number growing up. I tried to get him back on the rink, because I couldn’t do much on the turf or grass of the football field.”

Jake played football with Brock as a freshman, then took his sophomore year off as his mom didn’t want him to get hurt for hockey.

“I missed it so much, so I begged my parents to join back for the last six games of my junior year to play football,” Jake said. “I got a little sniff there, a cup of coffee, to play football with my buddies again. I miss those days of playing a bunch of sports. I love hockey, but it’s always nice to play with your buddies in different sports.”

In true Boltmann family fashion, Jake played football at Edina as a wide receiver and wildcat quarterback.

Notre Dame's Nick Leivermann, a senior defenseman from Eden Prairie, Minn., flashed a big smile at Wednesday’s post-practice press conference in Albany when asked of Boltmann’s impact with the Irish.

“His progression has been substantial and probably more so than what we would’ve thought from what we saw freshman year,” Leivermann said. “He made a profound impact on our team this season, especially on the penalty kill.

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“As a person, he’s somebody that you’ll probably never meet again … in the best way possible. He brings a lot of light-heartedness to our locker room, and he’s a pretty funny kid, so it’s really awesome to have him on our team.”

NCAA Albany Regional

Who: UND vs. Notre Dame
When: 5 p.m. Central, Thursday.
Where: MVP Arena, Albany, N.Y.
TV: ESPNU.
Stream: ESPN3.com.
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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