April 9, 2008
DENVER -- The Notre Dame hockey team took part in a variety of activities during its second day at the NCAA Frozen Four in Denver. The Irish players and coaches met with the media, while also holding an open practice session at the Pepsi Center, continuing their preparation for Thursday night's NCAA national semifinal game vs. Michigan (to be televised live on ESPN2 at approximately 7 p.m. MT/9 p.m. ET).
In addition to Wednesday's press conference (selected quotes listed below) and photos from the day's activities, UND.com has several video offerings from the NCAA Frozen Four that can be viewed free of charge through Fighting Irish All-Access. Wednesday's video selection includes a practice report from the Pepsi Center (with special behind-the-scenes footage from Notre Dame's meetings with ESPN broadcasters Gary Thorne and Ray Ferraro), the official NCAA press conference with the Fighting Irish (shown in its entirety) and a special one-on-one interview with Notre Dame assistant coach Andy Slaggert.
Stay tuned to UND.com for the most complete coverage of the Irish at this year's NCAA Frozen Four.
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Notre Dame Press Conference
2008 NCAA Frozen Four
Pepsi Center - Denver, Colo.
Head Coach Jeff Jackson
"It's an honor to get to this point in your season- if you're playing in April, you've had a good season. People might talk about our second half and our first half, but what really matters is what have you done lately. The fact that we're here - it's important to emphasize that this is the first time in Notre Dame history that the team's in the Frozen Four, and you don't do that by accident. We played well at the right time, and it's a great opportunity for us against a great opponent tomorrow night."
Q: How much has the Frozen Four changed since you last brought a team here?
"It's a little early for me to say that. Even though I was away from college hockey for a number of years, but I had followed it pretty closely and went to a of them in the meantime. I think it's the pinnacle of our game - back when we were in St. Paul or Milwaukee, it was always full houses- the environment is spectacular for college athletics, and its no different than the Final Four in basketball - it's a big celebration. A lot of people come from across the country to follow hockey, not just the fans of the four teams. I remember a few years ago in Milwaukee seeing jerseys from every school around the country. A lot of the same people come to this who were coming back when I was at Lake Superior. You don't get here all the time, so you have to enjoy it and take advantage of it when you do."
Q: What was your perspective on the last Notre Dame-Michigan meeting back in January?
"I thought it was a great hockey game - obviously I wasn't happy with the last minute of play. We took a 2-0 lead, and they pecked away at it going into the third period. It was a tie hockey game, and they scored a nice goal in the last minute of play. That epitomizes our second half- we had a similar game a week earlier at Michigan State, we had a game like that with Miami at Joe Louis Arena. The positive is that it started dwindling away - instead of minutes, it went to seconds. By the time we got to Colorado Springs [for the regional], we eliminated the late-game losses."
Q: Can you talk about the play of goaltender Jordan Pearce?
"I think he's played well for a majority of the season. It started against Wisconsin - we didn't play particularly well as a team on the opening night of the season, and he was the difference in that game. It hasn't been a surprise how he's played. He's shown signs of brilliance throughout the season. I think that how he approached his role the last two years playing behind David Brown allowed him to be able to come in and flourish. He could have complained or quit or done a lot of things - but he stuck by what he was here for and that's why I felt I had to give him the first opportunity to be the No. 1 guy, because he had handled it in that way."
Notre Dame Players
Jordan Pearce, Jr., Goaltender
"It's been a tough season for us, especially this second half. We've battled through adversity. We're starting to get our things together and we had a good weekend two weekends ago. We're just excited to be here and we're excited for this weekend."
Brock Sheahan, Sr., Defenseman
"We had a really good start to the first part of the season, which was a little unexpected, a lot of people thought we were going to slip from last year. We slipped a little bit down the stretch, but kind of got it together now and we're playing some of our best hockey right now."
Mark Van Guilder, Sr., Center
"The past two weeks have been kind of antsy, and we're just excited to be out here. I guess the two weeks gave us a chance to come back down to earth and realize we've got some work to do. So, we're just excited to be here and get on the ice tomorrow."
When you reflect on that series with Michigan earlier this season, what do you take from that? Is there a sense of unfinished business coming away with two losses?
Mark Van Guilder - "Absolutely there is, because I think we played such a good road game at Yost. We got up early, and we defended well, we did a lot of things well that we had planned on going into the game. So those losses hurt when you execute well, but a couple of mistakes cost you the game. So we can bring a lot of confidence from that series, we did a lot of things well, but we can also learn from the mistakes we made in the last minute, the PK, so we can carry some confidence with us from that series."
Brock Sheahan - "It was a really good start to that series, we both played well. It was just us breaking down, and them capitalizing and that's what they do, so we have to make sure we minimize our mistakes because they're talented and they've got guys who can put it in the back of the net."
Jordan Pearce - "Just to second what Brock said, we know we have to play the best of our games, collectively, if we want to beat Michigan."
How do you stop Kevin Porter?
Mark Van Guilder - "I think it basically takes all five guys. We're not gonna put one guy on him. I think it takes three forwards coming back hard back-checking, a whole group of five to stop that whole line. Just being aware in our defensive zone when they've got the puck, and being aware of where he is when he's doesn't have the puck."
Brock Sheahan - "Just making sure you're on him all the time. I've played against him a lot the last three years, so if you give him any space, he'll take advantage of it, both him and (Chad) Kolarik. Just paying attention to them when they're on the ice because they both do a good job of getting lost where you can't see them."
Jordan Pearce - "I just have to worry about the puck. You just have to be aware when he and his linemates are on the ice. All four lines for Michigan are very talented. But they just make plays when there aren't plays being made, so you just have to be aware of where they are, and where other guys are without the puck."
Was there a point this season when you really got your confidence going and you felt like you really stepped into the role?
Jordan Pearce - "All summer and preseason, (Brad) Phillips and (Tom) O'Brien our third string goalie, pushed me really hard and as we were going into the season, I thought it could've been any one of us to step up. Just as the season went on, I won't say it was one weekend, but just as the games and minutes piled up, I just felt more and more confident, and started worrying more about the game than my own performance, so it was more of a cumulative process, not necessarily one big game thing."
What was it like going back to campus after you had won the regional?
Mark Van Guilder - "It's nice. I haven't heard the `is hockey Division I at Notre Dame?` I heard that a couple times my freshman year, but I think everyone's figured out that we're a Division-I program. It's fun with all the support from our classmates and professors. Instead of `did you guys play this weekend?` it's `it was a great game, we watched every second.`"
Brock Sheahan - "The thing I noticed the most was that all the other sports teams are pushing for us, getting involved, asking how we're doing, what time the game is, so that's been cool, getting all the support from all the other athletes on campus."
Jordan Pearce - "We had a sour year for our football team, so I think everyone is looking for a team to get behind and cheer on."