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Canadian Press
Feb 7, 2007, 3:03 PM EST


(CP) - David Brown will be an NHL goaltender if he continues on the path he's on now, says Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson.

"He's got the right athleticism and mindset," says Jackson. "He'd probably have to play in the AHL at first but there's no question he knows how to play the position.

"He just has to continue on the track he's on now" to make it to the NHL.

Notre Dame has earned No. 1 ranking in the United States for the first time, and Brown has had a lot to do with it.

Brown, a 21-year-old from Stoney Creek, Ont., has started all but two of his team's 30 games and has lost only four, compiling a goals-against average of 1.70 and posting a save percentage of .928.

"He's the backbone to our team," says Jackson. "He's learned to be mentally tough and play the same way every night.

"He's one of the top goalies in the country and is being recognized for that by being named a Hobey Baker candidate."

The award goes annually to the most valuable player in U.S. college hockey.

Brown played junior hockey for the Hamilton Kilty Bees before enrolling at Notre Dame, where he had an impressive freshman season. That led the Pittsburgh Penguins to draft him in 2004, but he was a relative unknown at the time so he was still available in the eighth round. He was the 228th player selected.

He was injured during his is sophomore campaign and it was a writeoff. He won only twice in 15 starts. He lost some confidence. Jackson took over the program last season, and Brown began playing like an all-star. The six-foot, 185-pound goalie just keeps getting better.

"He really turned the corner and was a key to our resurgence," says Jackson. "He took over the No. 1 spot and he ran with it.

"We were just an average team and he made us better. He gave us a solid foundation to build around this season."

Defencemen Wes O'Neill of Essex, Ont., a New York Islanders draft pick, and Brock Sheahan of Lethbridge, Alta., are the other Canadians in the Notre Dame lineup.

O'Neill opted for the college route after being the first pick in the OHL draft.

"He was inconsistent early on, probably because he started college hockey at an early age," says Jackson. "He's only 20 now and he's a senior.

"He's had a lot of pressure put on him regarding what his future was going to be. That pressure probably hurt him. The last two years, he's really started to come into his own.

"He has great instincts for the game. He's become a leader on our team. As one of our captains, he's taken on that roll full throttle. Because of his size and instincts, he has a legitimate chance of a good future in hockey."

Sheahan is a third-year player who has become one of the best defensive defencemen in college hockey.

"He's tenacious," says Jackson. "He's not real big but he plays a big-man's game.

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