March 27, 2008
Colorado Springs, Colo. – The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team arrived in Colorado Springs on Wednesday, March 26 at 5:00 p.m. (MDT) in preparation for the NCAA West Regional versus New Hampshire on Friday, March 28 at 4:30 p.m. (MDT).
The Irish were able to get a practice in on Wednesday night at the World Arena’s practice ice and then had their official NCAA practice on the World Arena’s Olympic sheet of ice (200 X 100). Prior to the practice, ESPN’s broadcast crew spent time with Coach Jackson, Jordan Pearce, Ryan Thang, Mark Van Guilder and Brock Sheahan, getting their thoughts on Friday’s game.
Following the practice, Jackson, Van Guilder and Pearce attended the official NCAA pre-tournament press conference. Here’s the text of the press conference:
Moderator: Coach Jackson if you would like to talk about your preparations today and then turn it over to the players.
Jeff Jackson: “Obviously we are excited to be here, it’s a great opportunity for us. This is the site of our first game together, my first game as head coach at Notre Dame was here against Colorado College. I look back to where we were as a program then and where we are today and I’d like to believe we are in a much better situation than we were three years ago. It’s been an up-and-down second half. We made positive progress in certain areas of our game and we are in the situation where we are coming here to win. We have a tough opponent that will be a challenge for us. We certainly aren’t here to recognize the four seed. In fact, I remember a four-seed last year that took us to two overtimes. When you get to the NCAA Tournament, anything is possible.”
Mark Van Guilder: “This is something really special for us as players. We grew up watching the tournament on TV hoping to be there someday. We were in the tournament last year, but o get the opportunity to be here again is awesome! It’s a great experience and it’s what we all play for. There is going to be a lot of emotion and passion this weekend. This is a great regional and it’s going to be a great weekend.”
Jordan Pearce: “Some of the top goaltenders are here (Kevin) Regan from UNH, (Jeff) Lerg from Michigan State and (Richard) Backman at Colorado College. I’m excited like Mark said, as a kid you grow up watching it and hope to get here someday. Last year was a fun time, but I didn’t get any ice time because of David Brown. I’m excited to get a chance to get out there and play and have some fun. UNH is a great team but we’re looking forward to going out and getting a win.”
Media Question: All four teams in this regional are coming off a loss. How does your team respond to losses?
Mark Van Guilder: “We’ve handled it in different ways this year, coming off losses. We’ve had games that we didn’t respond well and then we’ve had one of our best games coming off a loss against Ferris State. Our season was on the line like it will be tomorrow night. It’s all about attitude; you just have to forget about what happened last weekend, or in the second half. It’s all about how we play against New Hampshire. We’re not worrying about how we played last weekend.”
Jordan Pearce meets the media at the NCAA West Regionals.
Jordan Pearce: “You can’t worry about the past or the future. You have to play for today. Right now we are focused on UNH. Last weekend and the second half of the season are behind us and we are really focused on getting ready for tomorrow.”
Media Question: I read an article somewhere that after losing to Northern Michigan you didn’t know what was going to happen with the tournament this week. Was there any thought of shaving the playoff beards or did you just let them go?
Mark Van Guilder: “Well, my razor is still at home. You’re not done until they take your gear away from you. We’re really excited to be here. We were really on the bubble, so it’s a little different than last year, but the razors never came out and they won’t until they make me.”
Jordan Pearce: “It’s exciting but I can’t let it get to me too much. I just have to go out and play like I have all year and worry about stopping the puck one shot at a time.”
Media Question: With all the big name goalies in this regional, do you feel like the underdog in any way?
Jordan Pearce: “All the goaltenders here have had great years and have gotten all the awards and recognition that go along with it. It’s one of those things that you just have to go out and prove that you deserve to be here with all the other ones.”
Media Question: I don’t cover the CCHA and have never seen you practice before but I was wondering if there is any significance with the number 7 on the back of your practice jerseys?
Mark Van Guilder: “Yes. (With a big smile – followed by laughter from the media). “I guess we could make a story up.”
Moderator: Wasn’t that Joe Montana’s number?
Media Question: Is it a team thing?
Jordan Pearce: “Yes, it’s a team thing. It keeps us together and focused and all on the same page.”
Media Question: Was it decided before the start of the season?
Mark Van Guilder: “We decided on it last season, so this is our second year with the 7.”
Moderator: A question for Jeff Jackson – Is the size of the ice sheet an issue?
Jeff Jackson: “Only if you let it be. It’s still the game of hockey, still the same rules. There are a couple of idiosyncrasies that go along with playing on the big sheet. Our team skates well, so I’m not concerned. We played well at Northern Michigan, we played well at Alaska. My only concerns are that if you play outside the dots offensively, your chances to score are minimal. If you play outside the dots, defensively, then you are in trouble. Outside of that, it’s just a state of mind in a lot of ways.”
Media Question: Any thoughts on the altitude? Did it feel different skating out there?
Jeff Jackson: “There is a definite factor there. That’s why we got here to practice last night and then again today. It has an impact on your oxygen intake so you want to make sure you keep your shift lengths short. The longer the game goes; you have to monitor the rest ratio for the guys, which we track as the game goes. The biggest thing is just keeping the shifts short and focus on making good line changes.”
Mark Van Guilder: “I felt pretty good today. I was a little sluggish yesterday with the travel, but I felt good today. UNH has to deal with the same thing, so it’s not an excuse. It’s only a factor if you let it be a factor.”
Moderator: Any more questions? Thanks coach, thanks Mark and Jordan. Good luck tomorrow night.