Cole taking on former coach in Fighting Irish's Jeff Jackson
On Friday and Saturday, the Spartans' hockey team will face off against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, led by a man that MSU head coach Danton Cole knows quite well.
At the helm of the Irish hockey program is Jeff Jackson, an MSU alum who coached Cole early on in his hockey career.
“I played my sophomore year in high school — played midget major for him down in Detroit, and then he moved on to a junior team in Fraser,” Cole said. “So my junior year in high school, I played for him as well. Believe it or not … he’s only like 10 or 12 years older than I am, but he was outstanding. I was lucky. I had him and then got to move into Coach (Ron) Mason after that. So six out of those seven years — from a sophomore in high school to the end of college — got to play with guys that were really prepared."
The duo also shares a connection through the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, as Jackson and Cole both held head coaching positions with the program. Jackson was the team’s first-ever head coach, and Cole just recently left the program to fill MSU’s head coaching vacancy after the former head coach, Tom Anastos, resigned.
“My interaction with him was real good,” Cole said. “We think along the same lines. I think my approach to the game is, in terms of how you prepare and the intensity and the focus that a team has to have and the way the team plays, is very similar. And I was that way as a player, so I loved playing for him. He was a hard guy to play for because things had to be done right, so I appreciated that.”
Jackson, in his 13th season behind the Irish bench, has led Notre Dame to eight NCAA Tournament bids, four trips to the Frozen Four and one national championship game appearance.
“He understood the game,” Cole said. “He had a lot of people around him that came and helped at practices. He taught you how to play the game, play the right way, and that hasn’t changed with him; he’s just gotten better.”
This weekend marks the third time this season Cole will compete against a fellow MSU alum turned college coach. MSU currently has more alums (4) than any other university coaching Division I teams.
Despite the close connections, Cole admitted he has gotten used to coaching against Jackson.
“We’ve played him before,” Cole said. “I’ve lined up against him in college hockey, so that was real weird — anytime you have somebody that you played for and now you’re coaching against him. Kind of used to it now, but the challenge of where they’re at as a team and where he’s at as a coach, you always want to beat (those) guys, especially if they’re your friends and guys you have a good relationship (with); that’s the competitor in all of us. … It’ll be a good competition this weekend.”