Nov. 21, 2002
Notre Dame, Ind. –
The look in his eyes more than told the story for Notre Dame hockey player Jake Wiegand.
While his teammates were busy preparing for another day of practice two weeks ago, the Irish senior forward sat and watched. With his left knee in a brace and crutches by his side, a well-meaning passerby asked, “How’s your knee Jake?”
With a roll of his eyes and a sigh, Wiegand smiled, tapped on the brace and said, “It’s getting there.”
The look in his eyes were not one of pain, but of frustration – the frustration of not being on the ice preparing for that weekend’s series with the red-hot Miami RedHawks.
“The knee is coming a long fine,” says Wiegand, who is expected to finally return to the lineup versus Michigan after missing five games due to the injured left knee.
“There’s really wasn’t any pain unless I did something crazy. I’ll have to wear the brace for the rest of the year. I really want to get back in the lineup as soon as I can.”
Wiegand remembers the play that sent him to the sidelines vividly. It came in Notre Dame’s 8-5 win at Western Michigan on Oct. 19 and resulted in a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
“We were breaking out of our zone and I passed the puck. About two or three seconds later a kid came at me. I jumped to get out of the way, but he hit me knee-on-knee at that was it,” recounted the senior marketing major.
“The sad part is that our line (Wiegand along with center Aaron Gill and right wing Cory McLean) was really flying in that series. We were playing well and having fun. It’s too bad it had to come to an end the way it did.”
Wiegand is one of those hockey players who doesn’t always get noticed in the course of a game. His job is simple, yet an important one on any successful hockey team – stop the opponent’s big scorer from scoring.
While his career scoring numbers aren’t spectacular (three goals and nine assists for 12 points), Wiegand is always in the lineup. Prior to his injury, the strong skating forward had played in 105 career games including 79 consecutive games, a streak that started early in his sophomore year.
Wiegand has worked hard to develop his defensive skills.
“Coming out of junior hockey, I was more of a scorer. Since I wasn’t scoring here, I had to concentrate on my defense. That got me in the lineup and got me ice time,” says the native of Northville, Mich.
The Irish defensive specialist really came into his own during the second half of the 2001-02 season when he moved from left wing to center. He quickly became a force for the Irish and one of the team’s unsung heroes in the late-season drive to the CCHA playoffs.
“It was a good change for me. It got me off the boards and more involved in the play,” says Wiegand.
“The move to center allowed me to keep moving and play defense down low instead of standing up on the point man like our wingers do. I got more involved and got more ice time. I really enjoyed playing center.
A product of Detroit’s outstanding youth and junior hockey programs, Wiegand got involved in hockey watching his older brother play. Initially, his interest with ice wasn’t involved with hockey, but more about driving the Zamboni, something he still wants to do.
“I never enjoyed watching everyone else playing. I always wanted to be the Zamboni driver. When I was five, my parents put me on skates and I’ve been a hockey player ever since,” Wiegand said with a smile.
He added laughing, “I’ve never actually been on a Zamboni, but I’d like to give it a try. The funny thing is, I’ve never asked anyone. I never thought anyone would trust me behind the wheel.”
Wiegand moved rapidly through squirts, pee wee, midgets and juniors. In his final year of high school, he played for Compuware’s junior team where his season was riddled with injuries. From there, he made the decision to leave Detroit and take his game to Lincoln, Neb.
“All my friends were going away to college, so I thought it was time for me to leave home, too,” says Wiegand.
Jake Wiegand came to Notre Dame after two strong seasons with the USHL’s Lincoln Stars.
In his first year with the USHL’s Lincoln Stars, the 6-3, 218-pound forward scored 20 goals and added 13 assists while leading the USHL in game-winning goals. He followed that with 23 goals and 23 assists in 56 games during the 1998-99 season. Among his 23 goals were 12 power-play markers.
“Lincoln was a great place to play. Since it was a college town, I got the college experience without going to school. They get great fan support there and treat the players like pros. It was a great experience for me because getting away from home makes you grow up. You learn to become more dependent on yourself. I developed both as a hockey player and as a person while I was there,” says Wiegand.
His hockey skills got him noticed and Notre Dame was one of the schools that came knocking on his door. He chose South Bend over Lake Superior State and Nebraska-Omaha.
“I was really looking for a place that was the right fit for me,” explained the son of John and Jane Wiegand.
“Notre Dame offered a great education that I wanted. Also, Coach Poulin was someone that I admired and looked up to. I thought I would enjoy playing for him and it was close to home so my parents could see me play. It really all came together for me at Notre Dame.”
While Wiegand counts the days until he can return to the ice, he will keep a close watch on his teammates as they look to put together a strong weekend series at Yost Arena.
He says, “We focused on getting off to a good start and we did that. Now we have to take that focus and carry it out for the rest of the season. We want to show people that we have a good hockey team here at Notre Dame.”