Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson is a fierce competitor, to be sure, but it’s probably a good thing that his experience has taught him a little perspective.
The Fighting Irish finished the 2010-11 season in ninth place, far below expectations. Notre Dame just couldn’t seem to catch a break where injuries were concerned — no pun intended — and then turned over nearly half the team, losing 10 veterans to graduation and early departure in the offseason.
Then in July, nine players were arrested in South Bend for underage drinking at a house party. Eight were incoming freshmen. The party was at Joe Lavin’s house. Lavin, a transfer from Providence, is this year’s captain.
And so it was with some purpose that Jackson said that the team’s four senior captains have “already had their hands full in trying to deal with these young kids.”
The alternate captains are Ryan Guentzel, Calle Ridderwall and Ben Ryan.
“The four seniors will all have very important roles for us,” Jackson said. “Joe Lavin’s only been here for six months and he was named captain, so you can tell what kind of kid that he is and what kind of character he brings to the table. I’m expecting all four seniors to be instrumental in the locker room and on the ice helping us become a more experienced team quicker.”
There are 12 rookies on the Irish squad this season, but some are less green than others.
“We only have a few freshmen that are actually true freshmen right out of high school,” Jackson said. “I think there was an intention for us initially to be able to bring in freshmen that were a little bit older. Guys like Anders Lee, Jeff Costello, Mike Voran and David Gerths all have played a couple years of junior hockey and that gives them a little bit of an advantage because they are a little older, a little bit more mature mentally and physically.
“The same thing on the blue line. The only true freshman is Stephen Johns.”
The Irish do return the experienced Mike Johnson in goal. “We brought Steven Summerhays in specifically to create a more balanced situation in goal,” Jackson said. “He’s a proven winner.
“I don’t think we expected Mike to be the No. 1 goalie here, but in the first half of the year his numbers were in the top five in the country and I think as a freshman that’s pretty impressive. In the second half, he struggled. A lot of that probably had to do with the conditioning aspect of things. I think that had to do with … having to play with only three and four defensemen [because of injury] a number of nights.”
Sophomore forward Riley Sheahan had surgery to repair a hernia in the offseason, but he’s expected to play and play well, Jackson said.
One carrot for this young squad is Notre Dame’s new ice arena, which now has a name. “The Compton Center — actually the Compton Family Center,” Jackson said, “because the major donor for the project is the Compton family, who also owns the San Jose Sharks.”
Their son graduated from Notre Dame last year.
The arena, which will replace the Joyce Center, is expected to be finished late next year. “There’s a lot of steel up now,” Jackson said. “They’re hoping to have the trusses up before the snow hits so they can work underneath it.”