In a season where the Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team has plenty of hardware to show off, another accomplishment took place on Tuesday, when head coach Jeff Jackson was named as the winner of the Spencer Penrose Award as Divison I men’s hockey coach of the year.
The award is the second for Jackson, who is in his thirteenth year as head coach at Notre Dame. In 2007, he won the award after a season that saw the Irish win their conference regular season and tournament championships, just as they did this season. That team failed to reach the Frozen Four, losing to the eventual champion Michigan State Spartans in the Midwest Regional Final.
As noted in a One Foot Down spotlight on the head coach earlier in the season, you can certainly make the case that Jackson has been the driving force behind Notre Dame evolving into the hockey powerhouse that it has become in recent years. All four Frozen Four appearances have come with Jackson at the helm, as have nine of the school’s ten NCAA Tournament appearances.
One of the most well-respect coaches in all of college hockey, Jackson’s list of career accomplishments is a reflection of how much he has meant to the university. His overall record as a head coach is 477-228-79 and has won 8 conference tournaments. Since the award began in 1951, he is the only Irish head coach to win it.
It’s likely that right now, the achievement is not the first thing on Jackson’s mind. His team will face the Michigan Wolverines on Thursday night for a trip to the national championship game. The Irish and Wolverines have met four times this season, with Notre Dame winning three of the meetings. In the other semi-final, the Ohio State Buckeyes will face the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. Buckeyes head coach Steve Rohlik was the award’s runner-up.
With his second Penrose Award, this just cements the fact that it was a slam dunk for Notre Dame to bring in Jackson to lead its hockey program. The native of Roseville, MI has won two national championships as head coach of the Lake Superior State Lakers, but has only made it to one national championship game with the Irish, which was a 4-1 loss to the Boston College Eagles in 2008. He’s one win away from returning, and two away from realizing the ultimate achievement, which has never happened at Notre Dame.