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"rish fighting their way up college polls
James Murphy | correspondent Nov 30, 2006, 12:00 PM EST

Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson
is leading the Fighting Irish to one of
their best seasons in school history.
The Notre Dame hockey program is off to one of its best starts in the last 20 years. The Irish are 10-3-1 and ranked fifth in the nation. After splitting their season-opening series with Minnesota State, Notre Dame shocked then top-ranked Boston College, 7-2, at Conte Forum and then followed that up with a 6-2 thumping of another Hockey East school, Providence.

The Irish have lost only twice since then and while that may be a surprise to most in college hockey, it is not surprising to those familiar with the program and more importantly to their current head coach, Jeff Jackson.

When Jackson decided to return to college hockey after a five-year hiatus with the U.S. Junior program, the Guelph Storm, and the New York Islanders, he wanted to join a school that was serious about its hockey program and an athletic department that wanted recruits to take them seriously.

“I wanted to join a program that had potential, could recruit and could be one of the top programs in the country,” the longtime Lake Superior St. assistant and head coach recalled.

Notre Dame is best known for their deep tradition in football and to some extent basketball, but with the exception of a 27-4-2 season in 1987-88, for the last 20 years Irish hockey have never really woke up the echoes and made noise in the college hockey world.
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From 1996-2004 former NHLer and Notre Dame alum Dave Poulin gradually changed that perception. And after stepping down as head coach following the 2004-05 season, Poulin is working on the final steps that should eventually make Notre Dame a perennial contender in the CCHA. As special assistant to the senior associate athletic director for athletic development, Poulin heads the fundraising and planning for a new hockey arena. His dedication and passion for the program is one of the main reasons Jackson decided to succeed him and make his return at South Bend.

“People had this perception that Notre Dame didn’t support their hockey program and after one interview with Dave and the athletic department, I realized that wasn’t true,” Jackson said. “All the tools were there. Dave had done a great job of bringing a winning attitude back and is doing an unbelievable job of making the move from the old building to a new one a reality.”

Jackson knows that the new arena will be the final chapter in the school’s transition to a big-time hockey school and believes that Poulin’s passion for the program and getting the new arena built is already luring in recruits.

“You look at our freshmen and you can see the impact they’re having already,” Jackson said. “We’re doing our best to keep bringing in top-notch recruits.”

Freshman center Kevin Deeth was recently named CCHA Rookie of The Week with three points in two games last weekend and has fourteen points overall. Meanwhile freshman right winger Ryan Thang also has contributed offensively with 13 points. On the blue line, freshman defenseman Kyle Lawson has six points.

While the Irish frosh have contributed, the leadership and production throughout the lineup, as well as the stellar netminding of David Brown who has been the backbone of the team, have gotten the Irish to this point. Heading into this weekend’s two-game set with Alaska, the Pittsburgh Penguins' eighth round pick in the 2004 Entry draft is 9-3-1 with a 1.45 goals-against and a .941 save-percentage.

Irish goaltender David Brown, drafted by
Pittsburgh in 2004, has rebounded from
an injury to post impressive numbers.
“He’s been unbelievable for us,” Jackson said of Brown.

After going 4-5-1 with a 1.47 goals-against in the second half of last season, Brown injured his ankle in the CCHA playoffs. But he went through the rehab process and also made a point of becoming tougher mentally.

“It’s been an interesting ride of highs and lows since last January,” Brown said. “But I really focused on staying mentally tough and ready for this season as well as on my physical conditioning. I knew from the way the team and I played in the second half last season we could do well this season and it’s just been a matter of staying confident, and keeping an even keel.”

Jackson noticed all those qualities in Brown since the first day he coached him and believes he has only grown stronger and more confident with every game.

“He has the perfect demeanor for a goalie in that he has the ability to bounce right back,” Jackson said. “He is tough mentally and it shows with the way he plays game in and game out.”

Jackson has also noticed those characteristics in all his players. One who translates those traits into scoring is sophomore center Erik Condra, who leads the team with 16 points.

“Condra had a good freshman season and became a better scorer as the season went on,” Jackson said. “His main strength is his intelligence and knowledge or sense of the game. He has used that to become a better scorer.”

So while the players continue to improve on the ice under the tutelage of Jackson, Poulin continues to build the program off the ice. Jackson couldn’t be happier with his choice to come and coach the Irish.

“I’ve really been impressed since that interview and it’s only gotten better,” he said.

Brown made a point of saying the culture around the team is “one of confidence and winning”.

Looks like his coach found what he was looking for.

On Campus Clips -- Vermont Senior forward Torrey Mitchell was named the Inside College Hockey Player of the Week. Mitchell scored two goals and two assists for four points in wins over No. 14 UMass and No. 2 Maine last week. He has a team-high 16 points. The Catamounts have also benefited from the stellar play of junior goalie Joe Fallon, who after those two wins was 7-3-1 with a 1.53 goals-against and .933 save percentage. … Another Hockey East school has made some noise of late as UNH beat Maine two weeks ago and then Boston College. Consider the Wildcats Road Cats as they pulled both upsets on the road as they are now 7-0-0 on the road, but only 4-2-1 at the usually comfy confines of the Whittemore Center. UNH has also won nine straight and rocketed six spots in the rankings to No. 2. … Speaking of the Wildcats, congratulations to former UNH star and Hobey Baker winner Jason Krog on making it back to the show last week. Krog spent the last two seasons in Europe and started this season in the AHL with the Atlanta Thrashers affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. Krog lit up the AHL with 43 points in only 20 games and got the call to Atlanta last week. … Niagara continues to be one of the pleasant surprises this season as they lead the CHA with a 4-1-3 conference record and are 8-5-3 overall. Senior Sean Bentivoglio and freshman Ryan Annesley were recognized by the CHA for their efforts in Niagara’s tournament title winning, holiday weekend. Bentivoglio was named CHA Offensive Player of the Week while Annesley picked up rookie of the week honors. Bentivoglio was named Rensselaer/Bank of America Holiday Tournament Most Outstanding Player over the weekend, leading the Purple Eagles to their first in-season tournament title in five years. The senior scored a team-high three goals, including two shorthanded tallies. Annesley was named to the All-Tournament Team after scoring the game-winning goal on the power-play in the championship game, a 3-1 victory over Colgate."

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Good Job Irish

Rids could you possibly post the first 2 or 3 par. from the story then Hyperlink the rest by clicking the link at the top and Hyperlink to say "Full Story"
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