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Hockey: After two big wins on the road, Irish return to CCHA play

Sam Werner | Friday, November 14, 2008

A week after Friday’s marquee 4-1 non-conference win against Boston College, Notre Dame will get back to work in the CCHA with two games against Lake Superior State.

“The guys are confident right now, a little bit loose, but not cocky in my estimation,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “It’s good that they’re starting to see the fruits of their labor.”

Jackson said even after the big win in Chestnut Hill, he wasn’t worried about his team having a letdown against the Lakers.

“If anything, we should have had a letdown against Providence [on Saturday night], and I think we did for maybe 10 minutes,” Jackson said. “The guys understand if they want to be an elite team, they’ve got to show signs of consistency. They’ve got to play at a high level every night, regardless of who the opponent is.”

Notre Dame captain Erik Condra said the solution to staying hot was simple.

“We just got to make sure we’re intense,” Condra said. “And bring the same intensity in practice that we do in the games.”

Lake Superior is tied for second in the CCHA, along with four other teams. The Irish sit in 10th place, but have played two fewer conference games than the Lakers and at this early stage of the conference season, all 12 teams are within eight points of each other.

“Everybody in our conference can win, I don’t care who it is,” Jackson said. “If you’re not ready to play, you’re going to get beat on a given night.”

This game is more than just a regular conference game for Jackson, though. The Irish coach spent 10 years with the Lakers, from 1986 to 1996, and won two national championships in 1992 and 1994.

“It’s always going to have a special place in my heart,” Jackson said. “I always want to see them do well, obviously not this weekend. They are a very important part of my history and I’ll never forget my time there.”

Jackson said the Lakers’ most dangerous weapon was their versatility, and the fact that their best players are spread out over four lines.

“You can’t take a nap at any point against this team,” he said.

Jackson also said Lake Superior sophomore goaltender Brian Mahoney-Wilson has improved significantly since last year.

“I think that the goaltending has been the biggest improvement for them from last year,” Jackson said. “I think they’re getting real solid goaltending.”

The Irish have also been receiving balanced scoring recently, notably from the “Don’t Call Them the Fourth Line” line of Justin White, Ryan Guentzel, and Garrett Regan, reigning CCHA player of the week.

“They’re playing well,” Jackson said. “They’re playing with a lot of energy and a lot of confidence.”

As for the rest of the lines, Jackson said he wanted to integrate more freshmen into the lineup, but didn’t want to remove players that were succeeding.

“I can’t take guys out if they’re not giving me reasons to,” he said. “If our team’s having success, you don’t want to fix what’s not broken. We have to stand by the guys that are helping us have success on the ice. As long as those guys continue to play well, it makes it difficult to get some of those younger guys in.”