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Hockey: Jackson coaches against former team

Sam Gans | Friday, November 30, 2012

After a hard-fought split against North Dakota last weekend, the No. 6 Irish return to CCHA action when they host Lake Superior State this weekend.

Notre Dame (9-4-0, 5-1-0-0 CCHA) will face a Laker squad that is also coming off a split last weekend against Ohio State. Lake Superior State (7-7-0, 4-4-0-0) has split every series this season.

Irish coach Jeff Jackson said the Lakers are a better team than the one that finished seventh in the CCHA a season ago.
“They’re a team that could have legitimately finished in the top half of our conference. I think they’ve got good goaltending, they’ve got a solid defensive corps and they’re getting some good scoring throughout the lines, so I don’t want to look at them any different than we have any opponent we’ve played here in the last month,” Jackson said. “They’re just as much of a threat as anybody we’ve played, because that’s the way our league is.

“There’s no easy outs, and plus we have to prove we can play well at home consistently, that’s the other big challenge, so to me it’s a lot more about us than it is about them.”

The Irish are coming off weekends during which they played big names Boston College, Michigan and North Dakota consecutively. Jackson said he hopes his squad will not take the Lakers lightly.

“I’m relying on the fact that this was a different year than it was a year ago,” Jackson said. “The three points on Friday night mean as much to them as the three points at Yost mean to them. And if we don’t, we get beat and we learn more lessons. But I’m hoping that this year’s team is different in that approach, because that was kind of our ‘M.O.’ last year. We could play a great game against Boston College or Boston University and lose games that we probably shouldn’t lose.

“So hopefully we’ve grown up a bit and that we’re better prepared a bit to respond and play our game at the same level against any opponent. As far as I’m concerned, Lake Superior’s a great name. They’ve won a lot more national championships right now than Notre Dame has, so I’m not looking at them lightly.”

This weekend’s series will mark the first time the Lakers have visited the Compton Family Ice Arena, as the Irish traveled to Lake Superior State last season. It will also be the final regular-season CCHA matchup between the two teams as the CCHA disbands next season.

Jackson, who led the Lakers to two national championships as head coach in the early 1990s, said he feels more emotion than most other games when the Irish face the Lakers.

“I still have friends that are part of the staff and the administration, the radio announcer,” he said. “I have a lot of great friends up there and I still have some close ties to the university, and I want to see them do well when we’re not playing them. I still root for them … It’s a tiny little school that did some incredible things in the ’90s and late ’80s.”

Jackson also noted sophomore right wing Austin Wuthrich likely will not play this weekend. Wuthrich was scratched from Saturday’s game against North Dakota with an upper-body injury and, as of Wednesday, had not practiced this week.

The Irish and Lakers are set to face off in a two-game series at the Compton Family Ice Arena this weekend. Friday’s game starts at 7:35 p.m., while the puck drops Saturday at 7:05 p.m.

Contact Sam Gans at [email protected]