A year after giving up his spot in the lineup for a senior, UND's Jackson Keane scores on his own Senior Night
The Winnipeg product buried his second goal of the season in the second period Friday.
Jackson Keane was supposed to be in the lineup for Senior Night last season.
He won the hard hat as the team's best player during the series opener against Western Michigan, so head coach Brad Berry penciled Keane's name into the lineup again for the series finale.
But that changed the morning of the finale, Feb. 29, 2020.
Keane knocked on Berry's office door, walked in and asked the coach to pull him from the lineup if one of the team's seven seniors was going to be a healthy scratch. He wanted to make sure all of the seniors got to play on their special night, even if it meant giving up his spot.
It was an especially notable gesture considering Keane had spent much of the year as a healthy scratch trying to claw his way into the lineup, and that game was going to be his first time playing twice on a weekend in four months.
"It took me back," Berry told the Herald last year. "I got a little emotional. I'll tell you what, I don't know if I've ever been prouder. I've had a lot of proud moments here. I don't know if I've ever felt any prouder."
Berry thought about it and made his decision: Keane was out, all seven seniors were in.
UND ended up clinching the Penrose Cup as National Collegiate Hockey Conference regular-season champs that night on an overtime goal by Shane Pinto. The seniors were on the ice to celebrate the evening, which became even more special when that group had their careers abruptly ended by the coronavirus pandemic without a chance to chase the NCHC playoff title or the NCAA national championship. The Fighting Hawks were the favorites to win both.
"I'd do it again in a heartbeat," Keane said about giving up his spot.
This year, Keane is a senior.
And fittingly, he had a special moment Friday night on his own Senior Night.
The Winnipeg native scored his second goal of the season in the middle frame, burying a rebound of a Louis Jamernik shot. Keane's goal helped spark the Fighting Hawks to rally from a two-goal deficit and force overtime, though they fell 3-2 to Omaha on a power-play goal.
Keane's parents, Mike and Tammy, were among the 2,723 in Ralph Engelstad Arena. He hadn't seen them since June because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"It was nice to get one in front of them and to be part of a special night, regardless of the outcome," Keane said. "It's a great group of guys that welcomed me with open arms. Obviously, I wasn't here for their freshman year. I was kind of looking up to them and building relationships. To be a part of the night was pretty special."
Keane arrived at UND three years ago, but the NCAA took away a year of eligibility because he took full-time college classes while playing junior hockey, which started his five-year eligibility window. The NCAA has ruled this season does not count against anyone's eligibility because of the pandemic, so Keane could wind up returning to school next season.
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound forward has been a key penalty killer for UND this season, but he's also added to the offense lately. After going the first 16 games of the season without a goal, Keane has scored in two of the last four for the No. 1-ranked Fighting Hawks (18-5-1).
"Tonight, he made a big play to get us going in the second period," Berry said. "I think that's going to be very critical and key down the stretch, having guys like him step up as leaders."
While Keane doesn't often garner much attention, Berry said he's vital to UND's success.
"He absolutely embraces every role that's given to him," Berry said. "He doesn't complain, works extremely hard. That's what team guys do. You could call him a glue guy in the locker room. Guys love him. He's the type of guy you want on your team."