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College Hockey:
What makes Jeff Jackson so good?

This is Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson’s sixth trip to the Frozen Four. The first four came with Lake Superior State, three of which resulted in national championships. (The other would have resulted in a fourth title if not for some guy named Paul Kariya.)  The most recent trip came with the Fighting Irish in 2008.

By any measure, Jackson ranks as one of the top coaches in the business. So it hardly amounted to putting his players on the spot when they were asked why he’s been so successful.

“His preparation is second to none,” Ryan Guentzel said. “He prepares his team from day one each week and makes sure we’re focused and ready to play.”

“He’s really good at building great teams,” Calle Ridderwall said. “He takes the individual talent and puts it together as a great team, building one unit that plays one game and not having a bunch of guys who are on their own page.”

Which is not to say it’s a “my way or the highway” approach at Notre Dame.  Jackson has adapted to the talent he’s recruited.

“In college hockey, there’s a lot of turnover,” Ben Ryan said.  “You have to be able to adapt to the players that you have.  This year we had a lot of good freshmen come in who are fast and really offense [oriented].

“We changed our systems in favor of that. It’s probably hard for a coach to do that and go out on a limb and try new things, but we’ve done that and it’s been really successful.”

Guentzel echoed that theme, applying it to Jackson’s approach away from the X’s and O’s.

“I know my first year he was strict, but now he has kind of loosened up and joked around with the freshmen,” Guentzel said. “The freshmen brought that attitude, and he has even been joking around lately, which is different. It’s been a lot of fun to see that.”

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