Jackson Breaks Down the Finals
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
ST. LOUIS Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson is one that has faced both of Saturday's NCAA championship game participants this season.
After handling Michigan State during the regular season, Jackson's Irish lost to the Spartans in the Midwest Regional final, one step from the Frozen Four.
Against Boston College, it was an early-season meeting in Chestnut Hill, a 7-1 throttling of the Eagles, that announced Notre Dame's arrival this season.
So the question Jackson is getting asked today is, can Michigan State defeat Boston College?
"That's probably the most dangerous question to ask," said Jackson, College Hockey News' 2006-07 Coach of the Year. "Nobody gave us a chance against BC early in the year too, so ... I think (Boston College is) playing with a lot more sense of urgency than they were early in the year. They're extremely talented and skilled and I think Schneider's playing on top of his game, which makes them pretty balanced.
"They're a good puck-control team, which is the best defense."
Jackson said that playing against Michigan State can be frustrating, which is also how many people would describe playing against the Irish.
"The biggest challenge will be, the way Michigan State plays, they're extremely balanced, they're extremely strong defensively," Jackson said. "As long as Boston College doesn't get frustrated and impatient with the puck, they can have success. But generally high-skilled teams get impatient when they don't get a chance to carry the puck into the zone. They're going to have to make the decision at times to dump it in."
When the Irish played BC, Eagles captain Brian Boyle was still playing forward. Jackson said it's an unusual move for such a high-profile player to make the kind of switch to defense like he did, but that he sees him handling it well.
"He's such an intelligent player and makes such good decisions with the puck, that sometimes makes him more dangerous back there," Jackson said.
As for Michigan State, Jackson knows better than anyone not to take them for granted.
"They're just playing a better game right now," said Jackson, who won national titles in 1992 and 1994 as head coach of Lake Superior State. "When we played them at Munn Arena earlier in the year, that's how they played — very good team defense.
"(Goalie) Jeff Lerg, when he's on his game, is as good as there is in the country. And he controls rebounds so well there's not a lot of second shots. And Michigan State - they get in the way. They do a good job of coming back to the house, and being in shot lanes, sticks, bodies — it's hard to get pucks through on them and when we do, you have to deal with Lerg.
"They play a very smart, tough defensive game and hey, they're no slouch. They take advantage of their opportunities when their opponent loses his patience."