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Hockey: Phillips steps into big skates

Sam Werner | Friday, October 9, 2009

Players have come and gone during Jeff Jackson’s tenure at Notre Dame, but solid goalkeeping has been a constant. First David Brown, then Jordan Pearce. Now, it’s junior Brad Phillips’ turn to carry the torch.

Phillips first broke on the scene in 2007 when, as a highly recruited freshman, he was one of the three candidates, along with Pearce and senior Tom O’Brien, to replace Brown.

Pearce ended up winning the job, but Phillips played in five games that year, posting a 1.53 goals against average. Jackson said he had planned on Phillips playing in about 10 games last season, but a leg injury kept him out for the entire season.

“It’s not where it was before, still a little pain,” Phillips said. “When you’re out on the ice you don’t even notice it. When you get off you just have to ice it.”

Irish coach Jeff Jackson said he didn’t notice any significant difference in Phillips’ play.

“I know he’s full strength,” Jackson said. “He looks good. There’s no signs of any issues with him right now.”

Even though he didn’t play in any games last season, Phillips said he learned a great deal watching Pearce.

“I think it helped me a lot mentally,” Phillips said. “Just rehabbing and watching Pearce play well the whole year.”

Phillips said the one thing he took away from Pearce’s play was his consistency.

“He didn’t really let in any soft goals and helped the team every night when the team needed him,” Phillips said.

In addition to Pearce, Phillips said Jackson, who has a history of developing goaltenders, has been invaluable as a teacher.

“Going out there once a week and doing goalie drills before practice, he helps me out a lot,” Phillips said.

Now that it’s finally Phillips’ turn, he said it’s a mixture of emotions.

“I’m excited and kind of nervous,” he said. “It’s good to be nervous I think. I haven’t played a game in a couple of years so it should be fun.”

The last time Phillips did play, it was in a 5-1 loss to Michigan at the Palace at Auburn Hills on Jan. 19, 2008. Phillips gave up four goals in two periods before being replaced by Pearce. Despite the rough outing, Phillips said he had put it behind him.

“I don’t really think about that,” he said. “It’s in the past.”

Phillips also said he’s grown up since that game, both mentally and physically.

“I’m more mature now,” he said. “I think I got stronger as well as far as leg strength and moving side to side.”

Jackson also noted Phillips’ newfound maturity, and said he was more than confident in his junior goaltender.

“I remember the kid that I recruited,” Jackson said. “I recruited him to win us a championship.”