College hockey: Frozen Four coaches talk about exciting week ahead
The Frozen Four is officially set.
Next week, Harvard will take on Minnesota Duluth and Notre Dame will face Denver on Thursday, April 6 at the United Center in Chicago.
As the teams begin to prepare for the week ahead, all four coaches spoke with media on Tuesday to give their thoughts and insight heading into next week’s action. Each coach spoke about the excitement of the playing in the Windy City, while giving updates about their respective teams and opponents.
Check it out below:
Coach Ted Donato - Harvard
On how tournament wins in Beanpot and ECAC prepare the Crimson
“Well, I think they help a lot. They help from a confidence standpoint, they help from an experience standpoint. Our guys played in front of a sold out crowd in the Beanpot championship against a very good [Boston University] team. So I think that is an experience that our guys will lean on and take confidence out. We are looking forward to another great opportunity with a great venue and great opponent. I do think it gives us something to use as a reference point, but obviously it’s a whole new situation, but I do think that is helpful to the overall team."
On the impact of having a core group of guys (seven seniors)
“It’s been a great part of our success is that we have great senior leadership and guys who have played in the NCAA tournament. Guys who are familiar with the big stage and have learned from past success and failures. I think it’s been a great season mainly because of our core leadership which comes from our senior class."
Thoughts on upcoming opponent Minnesota Duluth
“We have a great amount of respect for Minnesota Duluth. I think Coach Sandelin is amongst the best in the country. They’re a team that is tremendously successful year in and year out. They have a great balance, great goaltending, they have a good mix of size and skill. They just go about their business winning hockey games. They are the NCHC tournament champion and they came out of a difficult region out in Fargo. So there is a great amount of respect for their program and a great challenge for us.”
Coach Jeff Jackson - Notre Dame
On the leadership of goaltender Cal Petersen
“To me as a college hockey coach, he is the total package of doing things the right way. 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. He just has his priorities inline and he’s not one to shy away from hard work. 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.”
On Anders Bjork and his clutch performances in the postseason
"He’s been our most consistently offensively gifted player this year, and he was close to being that last year as well. He has the ability to break a game open. This past weekend was what we saw quite a bit the first half of the year. He had some big moments in big games like against Boston College. There were a games where he made the difference in the end. For him, he’s a pretty humble kid. He comes from a good family of Notre Dame people. I am just as proud of what he does off the ice...he’s not a big ego kid, which sometimes happens with really talented players. He’s still young, age-wise is almost like a sophomore. He’s still growing up as a kid and he’s got the right character and attitude to be great for us in many situations. He does a lot of things to help us win."
On being the only team in the Frozen Four that was not the top seed in its region and being considered the underdog
“Let’s face facts: We are the four seed. You know when you are in that situation when you are selected in the last grouping. We have been there before, we actually play better when we are in that situation compared to when we were first or second seeds. I think at this time of the year seeding kind of goes out the window because there are so many good college hockey teams that it’s hard to really evaluate. We played two very good teams this past weekend who could very easily be going to the Frozen Four. It’s hard to get there and it’s even harder when you get there. But hey, we are going to just enjoy this opportunity and prepare ourselves to play and try to continue the things that we’ve been doing."
On what makes Denver a strong defensive team
“Well, [Pioneers goalie Tanner] Jaillet has certainly improved, I think he really started to take over the No. 1 job when we saw him last year on New Year’s. I thought they played against us well. ... The thing is, they certainly got some dynamic forwards, but I think the key to their team is their defensive core, they’re great skaters, they don’t give up much space, they have good defensive sticks. I think a lot of it has to be with their skating and skill in the back end and obviously with goaltending that is a great combination. They certainly have a great work ethic, and their forwards do a great job of supporting their defenseman. They don’t give you a lot of time or space. That’s a sign of a really talented team, and obviously I have a special place in my heart for Coach Montgomery. He is a tremendous coach and he’s got his guys playing the best hockey in the country right now."
Coach Jim Montgomery - Denver
On his relationship with Jeff Jackson
"I think I was very lucky and fortunate that during the first year of my career I was able to work for and under Jeff Jackson and the entire staff that is there, Paul [Pooley] and Andy [Slaggert]. I learned organization skills, I learned how to cut video. I learned A to Z how to run a program at a high level. It was the best decision I ever made to go there as a volunteer, because I could of had a paid job as an assistant coach. But I wanted to learn from someone who is great, and I think Jeff Jackson is great."
On being back at the Frozen Four after falling in the semifinals last season
"I think if you watched our team, this year when we one we weren’t very emotional when we won. This was part of the business plan that I think our seniors have given a rock-steady attitude to our group. Last year, when we beat Ferris State to go to the Frozen Four, it was euphoric. I don’t think we came down emotionally, we didn’t have a good practice till Saturday [leading up to Frozen Four]. Now being around the players, they are ready to get back to work, they are hungry for that next step and they have been there before. So I think that is the biggest difference that experience will allow us to prepare better starting earlier than we do last year."
How much did the loss in Frozen Four fuel this season
"It was heavy discussion, first it definitely fueled the fire. Not so much the bitter loss, but more the success we had getting to that point and how our team came together gave us a blueprint on how we needed to act and behave in order to be elite. The second part is we discussed at length last spring — myself, the captains and the senior group — we talked about what is it we need to do to be better. And I think a lot of those healthy discussions and communications has led to a lot of trust among everyone in our program."
Biggest concerns about Notre Dame
"I really can’t give you much besides Andre Bjork and Cal Petersen are the two biggest factors I am looking at."
Coach Scott Sandelin - Minnesota Duluth
On facing the other teams in the Frozen Four prior but not Harvard
"I don’t think it really matters, we played Notre Dame earlier in the year and Notre Dame before Christmas. Obviously, both teams are a little different teams right now, they are both playing well. When we went on that run in 2011 we saw four new opponents, sometimes that is good, sometimes familiarity is good. But it doesn’t really matter this time of the year. Whoever you are playing is obviously a good team, and certainly Harvard is a very talented team and on a good winning streak right now, so we just have to figure out how to beat them."
On progress for injured defenseman Carson Soucy
"We’re hoping to get him back. He is making progress here, it’s a weekly evaluation here. He is making great progress, so we are really hoping by next Thursday we will have him in our lineup."
Thoughts on facing Harvard and its playing style
"I did watch the Beanpot final and a little bit of the Beanpot semifinals. I thought they played a great game, obviously they won that. I was very impressed with their team. They are a team that can score. They are also strong defensively, have a very talented group of forwards. Their goaltending is solid as well. Just watching I was very impressed but the way they played and certainly a very deserving team to be there with the season they have had."