Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct.10, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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8 OCT. 10, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME Jeff Jackson is in his 12th season in charge of the Irish hockey program. In his first 11 seasons, he produced a record of 245‑155‑47, seven NCAA Tournament appearances and a pair of Frozen Four berths. Notre Dame was ranked No. 9 in this year's United States College Hockey Online preseason poll, and also was tied for second — along with Northeastern, behind only Boston University — in the preseason Hockey East coaches' poll. BGI: How do you feel about the team this year? Jackson: "We've got a young group. We've got a big freshman class again, and the junior class is basically our upper class. We have nine of them. "It's a lot of young guys … I think we are faster. It seems we have better team speed at this point." BGI: What do you expect of goalie Cal Petersen, given his play his first two years? Jackson: "You have to hope it's not the oppo‑ site. He may have had the opportunity to sign. I've never talked to him about it, but I knew he was coming back. I think that's the type of kid he is. He feels there is business left unfinished here. "He's primed to have another great year. Of all the returning goalies in our conference and the country, he's got to be considered one of the best. Last year he was right around the top‑10 markers as far as goals against and saves percentage. He's got to be a top five guy in the country this year. He's got to be a potential All‑American. That's how he's going to have to play." BGI: Do you feel the goals scored last year from players now gone are on this roster? Jackson: "I like to believe so. We lost 50 goals or something like that from last year. You hope some of the freshmen step up. We've got candidates to be productive. "Last year, we didn't know 100 percent where our scoring was going to come from either. We've got some guys that are showing some potential right now." BGI: What will the last year in Hockey East be like for you? Jackson: "Hopefully like the last year in the CCHA [when the Irish captured the tournament championship]. I'd be happy with that. It's a great conference. Last year, there was a little bit more separation [between the top teams and the oth‑ ers schools]. I think that separation is closing a bit. " The same cast of characters will be in the top five or six probably. Providence is going to be good, BC [Boston College], BU [Boston] and Northeastern, which didn't lose anything and had such a great run last year. It's hard to predict. "UNH [New Hampshire] and Maine have way too much tradition to stay down too long. I don't know if there will be as much separation as there was last year between the top six and the bot‑ tom six." BGI: Is there any extra motivation with leaving the conference to go out as a champion? Jackson: "Every year we want to play for a championship. That's why we play the game. There's going to be a part of me that feels bad about leaving Hockey East. "You develop relationships with the coaches, and it's a great conference. There are so many quality programs there. We hope to continue to play some of the teams in that conference, specifically BC. It's not like we're not going to see a lot of those teams again. We will probably continue to play a number of them." — Corey Bodden Five Questions With … HOCKEY COACH JEFF JACKSON However You Slice It, It Will Come Up Short By Lou Somogyi Success in college football is relative, as it is in life. A 10‑3 record at Vander‑ bilt is heaven, while at Alabama it's hell. Notre Dame is somewhat of a "tweener" in this area. A 10‑3 mark such as last year was not bad, but it also was unfulfilling, as it should be. Its "marquee" victory was against No. 18 Navy, and it fell to the only other three teams that finished ranked. Nevertheless, it did amp up expectations that in Brian Kelly's seventh season in 2016, the Fighting Irish were on the threshold of becoming a program with the capability to win 10 or more games four years out of five. If not by now, then when? Most preseason projections had Notre Dame pegged generally from No. 8 to No. 12, a College Football Playoff dark horse, and maybe only USC in the finale pos‑ sessed more individual talent based on recruiting rankings. To have playoff hopes dashed by Sept. 17 and be 1‑3 on Sept. 24 after a loss at home to 21‑point underdog Duke is too deflating. If this were Kelly's first season like in 2010, when he also started 1‑3 and was 4‑5 at one point, it's different. Not now. The season could still end okay, but also without a major bowl win for the 23rd straight year. A continued inability to reach "the next level" is unsuccessful in the big picture, although only from a football angle. There Is Still Plenty To Play For By Bryan Driskell Notre Dame entered the season with playoff aspirations, and the fact those were gone before midnight struck Sept. 17 is incredibly disappointing. That does not mean the 2016 season is a total waste. There is still plenty that could happen between now and the end of the season to make this fall a success. Of course, that will require the Irish to run the table, which will be incredibly hard to do. Notre Dame still has games against its top two rivals — Stanford and USC. Winning both of those games would allow the Irish to continue its dominance over the Trojans (Kelly is 4‑2 against USC), and would give the Irish two wins in three seasons over the Cardinal. A victory over Stanford would also serve to knock the Cardinal out of playoff contention as well. Notre Dame has done well in Florida in recent seasons, and a third victory over Miami with Kelly at the helm is just what the recruiting doctor ordered. Despite its 10‑3 season in 2015, the Irish had no momentum going into the offseason. Running the table would give the Irish the same record it had last fall, but they would finish the season on a high note. Doing that could help the Irish finish strong on the recruiting trail and send it into 2017 with a great deal of confidence. A 10‑3 finish would also give Notre Dame several of the "marquee" victo‑ ries it supposedly lacked last fall. Point ✦ Counterpoint: IS THERE ANY WAY NOTRE DAME'S 2016 SEASON CAN BE DEFINED AS SUCCESSFUL? BRIAN KELLY Jackson's team will be playing its final year in the Hockey East Conference, before moving to the Big Ten next season. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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