Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson directs practice in 2008. He has left his mark throughout the CCHA, which is coming to an end. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Detroit — Jeff Jackson has a history with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
And if he has it his way, he'll close the league on another historic note — with another title.
Jackson leads Notre Dame into the CCHA championships, which bring an end to the league after 42 years. (Notre Dame moves to Hockey East; Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State join the Big Ten; and Miami heads to the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference).
"Jeff's done a tremendous job with that program," Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki said of Jackson, the Roseville native whose team plays the Buckeyes in today's semifinals.
"They are so unbelievably well-coached and very disciplined with their systems. They are so gifted talent-wise. You look down their roster and they probably have four, five or six NHL players."
Jackson has left his mark not only in South Bend, but also throughout the CCHA.
He guided Lake Superior State to four CCHA tournament championships in the 1990s and three straight national championship game appearances, winning titles in 1992 and 1994.
Jackson left Lake Superior State to start the U.S. National Development program in Ann Arbor, but returned to college hockey after a 10-year absence. He guided the Irish to the CCHA tournament title in his second season back, 2007, before leading it to the national championship game in 2008 (a loss).
Jackson has won six CCHA tournament titles, third in league history behind Ron Mason (13) and Red Berenson (9).
Jackson also has the respect of his peers, a reason Minnesota coach Don Lucia sent his son, freshman Mario Lucia, to Notre Dame.
And it's because of Jackson's coaching and the talent he's attracted to South Bend that Notre Dame has a legitimate shot at winning the national title.
The Irish boast a talented No. 1 line consisting of 6-foot-3, 220-pound center Anders Lee (19 goals), Bryan Rust (Novi) and Jeff Costello.
"I think it's the chemistry of the group," Jackson said of the line's success. "We moved Anders to center and he's a big power guy, and Jeff Costello is a similar player, big, physical kid who has good puck skills and instincts. Bryan Rust is the key — he's gained a competitive edge."
Jackson, too, has been impressed with Lee, an all-CCHA first-team center.
"He's certainly known for his ability to move the puck and score goals," Jackson said.
He also has a solid goaltender with Steven Summerhays (1.99 goals-against average, .921). But the Irish aren't oblivious to the threat the Buckeyes pose.
Ohio State goaltender Brady Hjelle (2.00, .935) is an all-CCHA first-team selection and beat Notre Dame, 6-3, in February. The Irish won the second game in a shootout.
"They certainly have one of the best, if not the best, goalie in the country and that certainly solidifies everything that they do," Jackson said.
2 Notre Dame vs. 4 Ohio State
Faceoff/TV: 1 p.m./FSD+
Records: Notre Dame 23-12-3, Ohio State 16-16-7
Breakdown: Notre Dame is on a 7-1-2 run. … Ohio State beat Ferris State in three in the quarterfinals
1 Miami vs. 7 Michigan
Faceoff/TV: 4:30 p.m./FSD+
Records: Miami 24-10-5, Michigan 17-18-3
Breakdown: Miami is on a 7-4 run, defeating Michigan State in three in the quarterfinals. … Miami split with Michigan on Oct. 26-27. … Michigan enters with an eight-game winning streak (7-0-1, shootout win).
2 p.m., FSD