Heading To Chicago, Petersen Remains Notre Dame's Rock
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As he wrote in The Player's Tribune last week, Petersen said that Jackson promised him as much playing time as he would earn.
Petersen has earned all but 19 minutes between the pipes for Notre Dame this season, and he has started all 39 contests for the Fighting Irish.
Last season, Petersen started all 37 games for the Irish and played all but 18 minutes.
Petersen made 32 starts as a freshman. The last time someone other than Cal Petersen started a game in goal for the Irish was Feb. 6 2015, when Chad Katunar allowed four goals on 29 shots, giving way to Petersen in the third period of what eventually was a 4-4 tie against the Maine Black Bears.
Now a junior, Petersen isn't just Notre Dame's workhorse starting goaltender. He's the Irish's captain.
“To me as a college hockey coach, he is the total package of doing things the right way," Jackson said. "When I made the decision to make him captain, which I had never done before, I wanted to make sure everybody understood that being a captain is a lot more than just talking to the referees on the ice, which he cannot do. His responsibilities are more day-to-day in the locker room, in the weight room, in the social environment. And he’s lived up to all those expectations with community service work and not just being one of our best players but also one of our best citizens and students."
Jackson and Petersen don't have the typical coach-player relationship. Jackson knows he leans heavily on Petersen, and there are days he forces him off the ice at practice in order to rest up for a weekend's set of games.
There are other times where Jackson pulls Petersen aside and does specific goalie work.
Jackson applies pressure, but he's fair.
"He just has his priorities in line and he’s not one to shy away from hard work," Jackson said. "He does things the right way in practice. Sometimes because of how many games he plays I force him to miss a practice and I’ll do special goalie work with him, just to make sure I am preserving his energy for the weekends. He has been our rock back there. He isn’t perfect, but he certainly give us a chance to win almost every night.”
Heading into last weekend's regional final against Mass.-Lowell, Jackson said that he stayed away from Petersen. The week before, in the Hockey East semifinals, Petersen wasn't Notre Dame's rock, and the Irish fell, 5-1.
Jackson was critical of his entire team after that loss in Boston. There was no sense in piling on. Petersen knew he didn't play well, and Jackson knew that Petersen knew.
The weekly video sessions never happened. It was March, they had watched plenty of video and watching video of that Lowell game the Friday before only could have injured confidence, which Jackson admitted he thought was fragile heading ito the regional.
"I have certain expectations for Cal and he’s the rock back there," Jackson said. "He had a rough game against Lowell (two weeks ago). I talked to him about it and I think it was the first week of the season that we haven’t watched clips because I didn’t want to watch those clips from the Lowell game with him. I’m his resident goalie coach too, so I know when to leave him alone and when to challenge him. I challenged him before this weekend to be our best player, and most nights he is."
Petersen will enter this weekend hoping to finally bring Notre Dame its elusive national championship. Petersen knows what an honor it is just to be in the Frozen Four, and said that there's extra pride in the accomplishment for "doing things the right way."
"I think the most special thing is I found a real home with Notre Dame and it far exceeded my expectations," he said. "I’m just really happy for everybody in the locker room, the coaching staff, and all of Irish hockey to finally be rewarded for doing things right and I think we pride ourselves on doing that. Sometimes those kinds of teams that do things right don’t always get rewarded."
Petersen and the rest of the Irish revel in being the underdogs, as crazy as that might sound for Notre Dame, one of the premiere universities in teh world.
However, they were underdogs last weekend, and they won twice. They will be again on Thursday, when they face Denver in the Frozen Four semifinals at the United Center in Chicago.
They should be underdogs. The Pioneers have gone almost wire-to-wire as the top team in the land according to the Pairwise. They've run through opponents all season.
Notre Dame struggled to find consistency early in the season, and were barely over .500 in December. But somewhere along the line, the Irish found that consistency. Petersen did, too.
Now, Notre Dame finds itself just one win away from a national championship game, and two wins away from the sport's ultimate prize.
"The guys in the locker room have really stepped up in crucial moments and for us to get rewarded like this, going to Chicago, being an underdog, it is something really special," Petersen said. "I know regardless of however it goes I think this is going to be a special memory for everybody."