For Jeff Jackson, the team occupying the opposing bench across the ice at Compton Family Ice Arena this weekend is sure to bring up some memories.
Notre Dame will host Lake Superior State, the school that Jackson coached at for 10 years, for two games this weekend.
“It was such a significant part of my career, being hired there in the first place by Frank Anzalone and the influence he had on me,” Jackson said. “That was my start in college hockey as a coach.”
Jackson was an assistant coach under Anzalone for four seasons before getting the head coach position in 1990. He won the 1988 NCAA title as an assistant coach and in 1992 and 1994 as a head coach. The Lakers also advanced to the championship game in 1993.
“Frankly, it’s the relationships, being such a small school, you develop relationships with the community, and you develop relationships with the other coaches and the staff there,” Jackson said about his time in Sault Ste. Marie. “It’s just such a family-type environment.”
Jackson, who hails from Roseville, Mich., said he spent a lot of time in the state’s Upper Peninsula camping and fishing growing up.
“Being a Yooper for 10 years was a fun thing for me because I liked it up there,” he said. “I liked the smallness of it, hockey was big, but the smallness of community and the campus.”
During the conversation about his time with the Lakers Jackson talked about more than a dozen people that came to mind, including players, fellow coaches, trainers, administration and the radio guys.
“I still am in constant contact with guys that played for me back then,” Jackson said. “There’s a lot to be said that when you win a championship you walk together forever.
“That’s just a sign of what the program was all about back then. It was such close-knit group and close family group. It was quite a thing to be a part of.”
Jackson left LSSU after the 1995-96 season to become the coach and senior director of the U.S. National Team Development program. After that he had a stint in the Ontario Hockey League and NHL before being hired at Notre Dame in 2005.
He was inducted into the Lake Superior State athletics hall of fame in 2009.
The Irish and Lakers haven’t faced off since Notre Dame swept a home series early in the 2014-15 season. With the Lake Superior State, Bowling Green and Western Michigan on the schedule, Jackson said there was an emphasis to rejuvenate some old CCHA rivalries this season, adding that he hoped to be able to make the return trip to the Upper Peninsula next season to face to Lakers.
Lake Superior State started this season by sweeping Merrimack at home but have dropped the previous two series to Denver and Michigan. Jackson said that he still keeps tabs on the Lakers, even though it’s been a few seasons since the two teams have faced.
“I want to see them have success and get back to the tournament and be more of a factor nationally and in their conference,” he said. “Last year was a real positive year for them, getting over 20 wins and being right on the cusp of the tournament. I was glad to see them take a big step.
“I expect them to have another good year this year, they’ve had a tough four games here against pretty good teams,” the coach added. “I know we’ll have our hands full this weekend.”
Morris nearing return to Irish net
After he missed the opening series with an upper-body injury, Jackson said that star goaltender Cale Morris could possibly return to the ice this weekend depending on how practices this week went.
“He’s getting close,” Jackson said. “There’s a chance he plays this weekend. This time of the year we’re trying to be a little more precautionary with him. It’s not a major injury, it’s just one of those nagging-type of injuries. I expect him to practice as this week progresses.”
Freshman Ryan Bischel started both games for the Irish against Air Force two weekends ago, picking up two wins. He had 33 saves on Friday and 22 on Sunday while allowing four goals across both games.
“He handled himself very well,” Jackson said of Bishel. “We recruited him for a reason, he’s a really solid goaltender that’s real similar to Cale in a lot of ways. He’s very calm in net. He didn’t get flustered, he gave up a goal in each game that he’d probably like to have back but I thought he settled down both games and played very well.”
Wisconsin revels in sweep of Minnesota Duluth, Clarkson on tap
After an impressive sweep of Minnesota Duluth at home, Wisconsin will have another tough test this weekend when No. 13 Clarkson comes to Madison.
“It is a tough test,” Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato said at his Monday press conference. “Clarkson’s a little more unknown for us, obviously with Duluth winning two championships it’s easy getting ready for those guys.”
Granato said it was the responsibility of the coaching staff to make sure the young team moves on from last weekend.
“It’s important to refocus,” he said. “Obviously, it was a nice way to kick off the home season, everyone’s feeling good about themselves. The most important thing for a young team is that as soon as it’s done with, you start focusing on the next challenge because this one will be just as challenging as the Duluth series was for us.”
The sweep of the Bulldogs got a lot of attention nationally, the Badgers jumped to No. 6 in the USCHO Division I Men’s Poll, up 11 spots from last week.
“After four games, does it make our guys feel good to feel that what we’ve done has been recognized? Sure, it does,” Granato said. “Ultimately it’s about facing your next challenge and not getting too wound up.”
Gophers get their own crack at the Bulldogs
If there was a team that might not have been thrilled to see Wisconsin sweep Minnesota Duluth, it would be Minnesota.
The Gophers opponent this weekend, that was already an in-state rival and the defending national champion, will now be motivated to put said sweep in the rear-view mirror.
“We’re going to have a very ornery team coming in here next week,” Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko quipped after the Gophers completed their sweep of Niagara last Saturday.
The Gophers defeated Niagara 3-2 in overtime last Friday and 4-2 on Saturday. This weekend, Minnesota will host Friday’s game and travel to Duluth’s Amsoil Arena for Saturday’s contest.
“For me especially, with them being a northland team and me being a northland kid, I take this one a little more to heart than other games,” sophomore forward Blake McLaughlin, a Grand Rapids, Minn., native said on Tuesday of facing the Bulldogs. “Even though I know I shouldn’t. I’m pretty excited for this weekend.”
Another revenge factor, one of the few blips in Duluth’s season last year was when the two teams tied 1-1 to open the season and Minnesota followed up with a 7-4 victory the next night.
By the time you reach your senior year, you’ve played these guys a couple times and you get really excited for it,” senior Ryan Zuhlsdorf said Tuesday. “That first shift when you’re out there, you try extra hard to hit them.”