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Hockey: Lucky Charms

Dan Murphy | Wednesday, December 17, 2008

When Notre Dame arrived at Ferris State for a pair of games last weekend goaltender Jordan Pearce realized that he forgot a key piece of equipment – his lucky boxers.

“I forgot the boxers this weekend so I was like, ‘Oh, darn,’ but I didn’t really let it bother me,” Pearce said.

Apparently not. Pearce stopped 55 of the Bulldogs’ 56 shots to pick up two more wins and his second shutout of the season on Saturday night – so much for the luck of the Irish.

“If I was really superstitious I would have been so worried about that I might not have gotten ready the same way,” he said.

Pearce was named the CCHA Goaltender of the Week for his performance at Ferris State. According to Irish coach Jeff Jackson, the award is a good recognition of how well the senior netminder has been playing all year. Pearce is currently second in the CCHA in both goals against average (1.66) and save percentage (.937). Only Alaska’s Chad Johnson has slightly better numbers.

“Right now he’s playing really well,” Jackson said. “I just don’t want him to get distracted by the awards or attention, but he’s a pretty humble kid.”

The Alaska native had a red hot month of November. His 1.36 goals against average led the No. 1 Irish to a 12-game win streak, which is currently the longest in the country. The streak includes two shootout victories featuring game-saving stops from Pearce. For his efforts, he was named the RBC Financial Group’s CCHA player of the month.

“You get confidence the more you play,” Pearce said. “Last year we had a lot of young guys, myself included. A lot of our blue-liners were freshmen and sophomores. I think this year guys have a lot more confidence and experience.”

Jackson agreed that the biggest change in Pearce’s game since taking over the starting duties at the start of last season has been his confidence. He spent his first two years at Notre Dame backing up the program’s statistical leader in almost every category, Dave Brown.

“I think the ability has always been there,” Jackson said. “I think once he knew Brown was leaving… mentally he said, ‘This is my chance’ and I think he took a hold of it. I give him a lot of credit for that because some kids would have packed it in.”

Pearce said watching Brown play for two years taught him he had to be more consistent with his game. He also said that he has improved a lot from his work with Jackson, who played in net for Michigan State during his college days.

Jackson and the team’s three goaltenders have at least one session a week where they show up early and work on very specific technical weaknesses for each goalie. The group also watches film every week to see where they need work.

“[Jackson] knows a lot about goaltending. You might not expect that from him being such a great head coach. He is really good at pointing out a lot of subtle details and working on those things,” Pearce said.

That extra work has Pearce climbing in the Irish record books. Saturday night’s shutout was the sixth of his career, tying him with Morgan Cey for the second most in program history.

His first chance to move ahead of Cey comes Friday night at Bowling Green. Pearce said he still hasn’t decided which undies he will be packing.