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HOCKEY: Jackson’s five

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, November 1, 2005

In the midst of last spring’s resignation of Notre Dame head coach Dave Poulin and the hiring of current head coach Jeff Jackson, five players signed on to play for the Irish.

The coaching change shook up the Irish program significantly, but freshman left wing Garrett Regan said he never faltered in his decision.

“I liked Coach Poulin when I talked to him when he was recruiting me, but that wasn’t the only reason I wanted to come play here,” he said. “When I saw Coach Jackson was hired I was pretty excited just because of his resume. He’s got a lot of wins under his belt in a lot of leagues, which is exciting. He’s a winner and he’s proved that.”

Centers Erik Condra, Christian Hansen and Justin White, goaltender Jordan Pearce and Regan stuck with Notre Dame despite the coaching switch.

Each player came to South Bend with accolades from both high school and the United States Hockey League.

“I think the USHL prepared me well as far with the speed and skill,” said Regan, who played the last three years with the USHL’s Waterloo Blackhawks. “It’s obviously a step up and the players are top-notch players, bigger and stronger.”

Regan also noted other differences, including the officiating at the NCAA level.

“With the amount of penalties that are being called, especially the last couple years, in college, opens up the game a lot and makes the power play more important,” Regan said.

The newcomers have made quite an impression on the Irish.

Condra has registered five assists in the first four games of the season while Regan scored his first career goal in the victory over Princeton Saturday.

Pearce has made perhaps the biggest splash of all, starting two games and shutting out the Tigers to earn his first career win Saturday. The victory was also the first of the season and the first in 22 games for the Irish. Even for the freshmen who didn’t go through last year’s painful 5-27-6 season, beating Princeton was a major step forward for the program.

“[The team’s] a lot more positive,” Regan said. “That’s what happens when you’re winning. The first one is the hardest to get, especially with the little streak they had going, although we don’t talk about that anymore. We’ve got one and now we’re just trying to keep going with the wins.”

The Irish face Michigan in a home-and-home this weekend. But beyond this season and the game with the Wolverines, the Irish Class of 2009 hopes to bring Notre Dame hockey back to where it was in 2003-04, when the Irish made the NCAA tournament.

“We’re working hard together to turn the program around and put Notre Dame on the map,” Regan said. “Just playing together and working hard I think we’ll have a good chance of doing well.”

Jackson’s first class of freshmen has the credentials to make Regan’s prediction a reality.

Regan came to Notre Dame from Maplewood, Minn., where he led Hill-Murray High School to a second-place finish in the state tournament as a junior. In his three years with the Waterloo Blackhawks the team won a USHL title and a Clark Cup as the national junior champions. So far this season for the Irish, he has scored one goal on just seven shots.

Condra, who leads the Irish in assists this season with five, grew up outside of Detroit but has bounced around the country the past few years playing for several junior teams. When he committed to Notre Dame in the spring of 2004, he was playing for the Texarkana Bandits of the North American Hockey League, but he spent the 2004-05 season playing with the Lincoln Stars of the USHL. He was second on the team there and eighth in the league with 60 points on the season.

Hanson comes to South Bend from McMurry, Penn., where as a freshman he led Peters Township High School to the state championship. He played for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL and won the coveted Curt Hammer Trophy as the league’s “most gentlemanly player.”

He has eased smoothly into the collegiate game as a center, winning two thirds of his face-offs.

Pearce, who jumped onto the scene with the shutout of Princeton, spent two years in the United States National Team Development Program and also played with Condra for the Stars. So far this season he leads the team in save percentage and goals-against-average.

White, who saw his first ice time of the season against Princeton, played for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL.