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Hockey: Jackson calls Sheahan a warrior on the ice

Sam Werner | Wednesday, February 6, 2008

As the old saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. When he met Irish coach Jeff Jackson for the first time in May 2005, current senior defenseman and alternate captain Brock Sheahan didn’t need one.

“When I first came in here, it wasn’t difficult to pick out the guys who I thought could help us build our identity as a program, and Brock was one of those guys from day one,” said Jackson, who took over after Sheahan’s freshman season when former coach Dave Poulin resigned. “That’s because he has great intensity, a great work ethic, a great desire to become a great player; and I could tell immediately that he’d be one of the guys to try to build the culture around.”

Sheahan, a native of Alberta, Canada, has lived up to Jackson’s lofty expectations, emerging as a vocal leader, an elite blue-line defender and a gritty, hard-nosed player for the Irish.

“He’s a warrior,” Jackson said. “He’s not the biggest man, but he plays extremely big. He has no fear, he constantly will physically pay the price, and he’s smart with the puck.

“I’m extremely proud of Brock and what he’s done, and I don’t know if there’s a better defensive player in the CCHA.”

Sheahan’s tenacious, hard-hitting style stems in part from what he calls being a “late bloomer” – the trait that led him to Notre Dame in the first place.

“My goal was to play college hockey – I wasn’t going to be playing major junior hockey back home because I was too small,” Sheahan said. “I’ve learned I have to play a hard-nosed game to be successful at this level, and hopefully in moving onto the next level. That’s just the I way I play, and that’s the way the game should be played – hard and physical.”

As important as the protection he provides for Irish goaltender Jordan Pearce is the role he has acquired as a mentor to freshman defenseman Teddy Ruth, a second-round NHL pick and one of Notre Dame’s budding stars.

“We’ve become pretty good friends off the ice, which is interesting for a guy five years younger than me,” Sheahan said. “It’s pretty unique having a relationship with a guy who I think is going to be in the NHL some day.

“He can be a leader for years to come on this team, even as a sophomore [next year], and that’s something I’ll tell him as I’m moving on – just make sure he keeps working and carrying on the Notre Dame tradition.”

After the Irish won only five games in his freshman season, Sheahan has seen his squad’s win totals more than double in each of the past two years: from five to 13 as a sophomore, to a school record 32 last season.

“We were here in that transition period, so we definitely got to see the program transform into more of a powerhouse, nationally-prominent program,” said Sheahan, one of Notre Dame’s five seniors. “Our class, along with the senior class from last year, had a big part in changing the culture of the program and the expectations of the players, and that’s my biggest memory.”

Those with whom he shares that memory realize both the impact Sheahan makes on a daily basis and the imprint he’s put on the team and program.

“He’s fired up every day, and he brings it in practice every single day,” senior forward Evan Rankin said. “When you have a guy who’s one of your leaders, a captain, and he’s coming out every single day in practice like that, it make you want to give that extra effort, too.”

As much of an impact Sheahan has had on the Notre Dame program, Jackson has returned the favor to the defenseman.

“Ever since Coach Jackson has been here, it’s been about doing all the little things to the best of your ability – little things in practice like doing push-ups after you miss the net,” Sheahan said. “I hope to carry that over into every aspect of life, and hopefully that helps me as a person – just doing the right things and good things will happen.”