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Jackson hosts former team

| Friday, January 17, 2014

When the Irish left the now-disbanded CCHA at the end of last season to move to Hockey East, they left behind a number of traditional rivalries that they knew would be difficult to continue, at least with the same frequency as before. Irish coach Jeff Jackson has pointed out the loss of series with teams like Michigan and Michigan State as one of the drawbacks of joining the New England-heavy Hockey East.

Still, the team will get the opportunity to rekindle an old CCHA rivalry this weekend when Lake Superior State, Jackson’s former team, visits the Compton Family Ice Arena for a pair of games.

Senior goaltender Steven Summerhays stands guard in Notre Dame’s 5-2 win over Guelph on Oct. 6, 2013. His four shutouts lead the NCAA.Allison D'Ambrosia

Senior goaltender Steven Summerhays stands guard in Notre Dame’s 5-2 win over Guelph on Oct. 6, 2013. His four shutouts lead the NCAA.

“I think keeping things alive with old CCHA teams is a good thing, especially from a geographical standpoint,” Jackson said. “And Lake State, obviously with my relationship there I hope we can keep playing them, and maybe get up there at some point again too. I think it’s important for their program and ours to still have that rivalry mentality.”

Jackson got his start in coaching at Lake Superior as an assistant in the 1986 season, winning a national championship in 1988, and took over the reins of the program in 1990. He guided the Lakers to two national championships in his six seasons at the helm before leaving to become the first-ever program director of the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was inducted into the Lake Superior State Hall of Fame in 2009.

This year’s Lakers (11-10-1, 7-9 WCHA) are slightly over 500 on the year and sit in the middle of the pack in their first season in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Led by freshman forward Alex Globke and senior goaltender Kevin Kapalka, the Lakers are coming off of three consecutive losses, two to Bemidji State and one on the back-end of a weekend series with Michigan Tech.

Jackson said that Lake Superior is coming along at a good time in his team’s schedule. With two blowout wins over Alabama-Huntsville last weekend, the No. 15 Irish (12-8-1, 3-5-1 Hockey East) face the Lakers before restarting their difficult conference schedule against No. 11 Northeastern.

“When you talk about the level of competition ramping up, that was done intentionally,” Jackson said. “Since we fortunately had these couple weeks off from Hockey East scheduling, we had the chance to schedule non-conference games, and Lake State will be a much better opponent than we had in Alabama, so we’re going to have our hands full.”

With senior goaltender Steven Summerhays recording his NCAA-leading 10th shutout against Alabama-Huntsville, Jackson said the biggest room for improvement for his team is in the offensive end, particularly getting scoring chances off of the cycle and defensive zone transitions.

“We need to generate more five-on-five goals. We’re right around 20 percent on the power play, so if we could get more than two goals per game five-on-five, it would certainly help us,” Jackson said. “Then if we can get a power-play goal a game, that’s three-and-a-half or four goals a game, which is a high number in today’s game.”

To get to that number, more Irish players will need to contribute to the effort.

“There’s some guys that I still think have more in them. It’s good that we’re getting guys on track, but we’re still looking for more depth,” Jackson said. “[Sophomore forward Mario] Lucia, [senior forward Jeff] Costello, we need [senior forward TJ] Tynan to contribute more to goal scoring. He’s doing a good job scoring points, but we need him to put the puck in the net more.”

The Irish face off at home against Lake Superior State at 7:35 p.m. Friday.

Contact Conor Kelly at ckelly17@nd.edu

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