Jeff Jackson still has a place in Sault Ste.
Marie, but he won’t be staying there this weekend.
For the first time in his life, the former
Lake Superior State bench boss will be visiting Taffy Abel
Arena as a Division I opponent of the Lakers, which means
staying with his new team, Notre Dame, at a hotel while
a perfectly good home sits just minutes away.
Notre Dame and defenseman Kyle Lawson, back from a
stint with the U.S. team at the World Junior Championship,
visit Lake Superior State this weekend.
But the situation doesn’t seem to matter
much to Jackson, who is treating this weekend’s CCHA
series as a business trip more than a homecoming.
“Those 10 years I spent there were among
the best years of my life,” said Jackson, who arrived
at LSSU as an assistant coach in 1987 and later led the
Lakers to national championships as a head coach in 1992
and 1994. “I’m excited to go up there to play.
I’m sure it will stoke some memories and feelings,
walking back into the building.”
Jackson, in his second year at Notre Dame
after a lengthy stint in professional and junior hockey,
faced the Lakers last season, but only in South Bend. This
will be different. He said he has gotten a few calls this
week from people wanting to get together after the Fighting
Irish arrive Thursday or after Friday’s series opener.
To be sure, Jackson won’t need a tour
guide to get around town. When he was working in professional
hockey and the OHL after his run with the Lakers, Jackson
said he could spend the entire summer in the Soo. But now
that he’s back in college, he only gets up there for
a few weeks. The daughter of one of his friends lives in
his place during the winter.
All in all, Jackson is glad to have a heavy
social schedule on this trip, but he emphasizes that the
No. 1 priority should be the series. Notre Dame is tied
for first place in the CCHA, and LSSU is tied for fourth.
“I’m happy they’re doing
well,” Jackson said of the Lakers. “There are
a lot of quality people up there, and the team is similar
to what it used to be: outworking the opponent. I’m
looking forward to it.”
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
True to Blue: While Jack
Johnson (another J.J., eh?) was playing in the
World Junior Championship in Sweden, we were inundated with
the sophomore Michigan defenseman would turn pro after the
Hogwash, he says.
“I don’t know where that came
from,” Johnson said Wednesday. “I heard
about it over there. Some people know more than I do, I
“I said hi to a couple of (Kings) scouts
in Sweden, but we never talked about me leaving. I think
they respect the fact that I want to finish the season and
not walk out on my team.”
Johnson, the No. 3 pick in the 2005 NHL draft
whose rights were traded by Carolina to Los Angeles last
year, said he’s excited to be Kings property, but
he would never leave U-M in the middle of a season. The
next time he’ll evaluate his pro options will be in
Johnson and fellow WJC participant Andrew
Cogliano weren’t slated to practice with U-M on Wednesday
nor Thursday as the coaches gave them time to recuperate
from the trip. They played on very little rest Tuesday against
Northern exposure: Offense
has been hard to come by for Michigan’s next opponent,
Northern Michigan. Just last weekend, the Wildcats snapped
a seven-game losing streak during which they scored two
goals or fewer six times. (The other game featured a whopping
Coach Walt Kyle is baffled by the lack of
production, but he’s ready to move forward under the
assumption that it’s simply the way things are going
“If we’re not going to score,
then we had better make sure we play really good defense,”
While optimistic about the 10th-place team’s
chances for improvement, Kyle said NMU needs more offense
from upperclassmen such as captain Pat Bateman (eight points
this year vs. 29 last season) and others. It’s not
that Bateman and company are playing poorly, they’re
just not playing well enough to win.
“I’m happy with our leadership,”
Kyle said. “It’s easy to turn negative when
going through a stretch like this, but the only way out
is through it. We have a lot of guys that are working very
hard. When I evaluate our quality of play over the last
10 games or so, it has not been bad. We just need some guys
to come to the forefront and do a little better job.”
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
Dame at Lake Superior State (Fri.-Sat.)
Aside from the Jeff Jackson storyline, this series
is worthwhile simply for the goaltending. ND’s
David Brown and LSSU’s Jeff Jakaitis have been
the top two netminders in the league this season,
and among the best in the country. Laker coach Jim
Roque promised Jakaitis that he will start
both games, as long as he plays OK. “He deserves
to go against Brown head-to-head – and he wants
to do it,” Roque said. “I don’t
think Jeff has gotten enough credit from our league
for what he has done. If he is going to be mentioned
for the Hobey Baker, this is his chance.”
While you’re there: We’re
not advocating skipping Saturday’s game, OK?
We just want to make sure you know that Blue Oyster
Cult and Starship are playing at the Kewadin Casino
Dream Makers Theater that night.
college football is out of the way, college
pucks are getting some better air time –-
at least here in Michigan. Between FSN Detroit and
Comcast Local, both of which do admirable jobs with
their game coverage, dish-less fans in the Mitten
State finally are getting their wintry due.
Of course, it would be nice
to see games not involving Michigan or
Michigan State once in awhile. But beggars
can’t be choosers, eh?
• Michigan State
had some trouble with the flu during last week’s split
at Miami. “That’s as sick a group of kids as
I’ve coached,” coach Rick Comley told the State
News. “Honest to God, I looked down the bench
and, at one point, there were three of them throwing up.
We had one kid at the end of
the bench leaning over, and there’s glass between
the benches, and the Miami (player is) watching him the
whole time. I wanted to go bang the glass and say, ‘Give
the kid some privacy.’”
• Before falling ill, Comley’s
Spartans staged an academic contest during the first semester,
with four pods of players competing to attain the highest
combined grade-point average. The winners, with a GPA of
3.15, were Jeff Dunne, Dan Sturges, Brandon Warner, Justin
Mnich, and Chris Snavely. They won a dinner served by the
rest of the team.
• Names in the news: Bowling Green freshman
forward Kai Kantola thought he was going to play for Finland
in the World Junior Championship, but found out the night
before the games began that he was ineligible. He had been
overseas and practicing with the Finns for a couple of weeks.
... Northern Michigan sophomore defenseman Spencer Dillon
has left the Wildcats. He had one assist in 15 games this
season. ... Notre Dame radio play-by-play announcer Mike
Lockert is expected to miss another two weeks or so after
having eye surgery during the holiday break. ... Western
Michigan senior forward Brett John has received honorable
mention for the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup, a national
award that recognizes community service among student-athletes.
• Bet Ferris State and Northern Michigan
were happy to play each other last weekend. By splitting
their series in Marquette, the Bulldogs ended a seven-game
winless streak and the Wildcats nipped a seven-game losing
• By now, you’ve heard that Robert
Morris upset Notre Dame on Sunday. But did you notice the
winning goaltender? It was former Wildcat Joe Tuset, who
didn’t see any game action for NMU from 2002-04 before
transferring to RMU.
• Milestones: Bowling Green junior Jonathan
Matsumoto, Western Michigan senior Paul Szczechura and Michigan
junior Chad Kolarik each earned career point No. 100 within
the last week. ... Comley reached 700 career wins Saturday.
... Notre Dame freshman Kevin Deeth notched his first hat
trick Friday at Robert Morris. ... Michigan coach Red Berenson
has 599 career victories heading into this weekend’s
home series against NMU.
• Freshman Joseph Palmer has fought
off a mediocre start to the season and a challenge from
classmate Nick Filion to become Ohio State’s No. 1
goalie, starting eight straight games. “He’s
our guy,” coach John Markell verified.
• Penguins goaltending coach Gilles
Meloche reportedly made a point to watch Notre Dame senior
David Brown play Robert Morris on Friday at Pittsburgh’s
Mellon Arena. Brown was an eighth-round pick by the Penguins
• A rough series between Western Michigan
and Bowling Green will leave the Broncos short-handed on
Friday. Sophomore defenseman Chris Frank must sit out the
series opener against visiting Miami after picking up a
game disqualification for fighting on Saturday. BGSU senior
defenseman Jeremy Bronson served his suspension for the
scrap during Tuesday’s loss at Michigan. WMU senior
forward Kevin Labatte earned a DQ for fighting against BGSU
in Friday’s series opener and missed the Saturday
• Fun with numbers: Nebraska-Omaha has
played four straight overtime games, going 0-2-2. ... Miami
is 11-1-0 on Fridays and 5-5-1 on Saturdays.
• Did you know?: Only one CCHA head
coach is not an alumnus of a CCHA school. Nebraska-Omaha’s
Mike Kemp went to Gustavus Adolphus. Otherwise, Kyle, Berenson,
Enrico Blasi (Miami), Jim Culhane (WMU), Jim Roque (LSSU),
Tavis MacMillan (Alaska) and Scott Paluch (BGSU) are coaching
at their alma maters, OSU’s Markell went to Bowling
Green, Ferris State’s Bob Daniels and ND’s Jackson
went to Michigan State, and MSU’s Comley attended
A variety of sources
were utilized in the compilation of this report. James Jahnke
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.