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Hockey: Seven stars ink promise to suit up in South Bend

Dan Murphy | Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The future of Notre Dame hockey continues to look bright with the official announcement of the 2007-08 recruiting class. The Irish will welcome seven new players to their roster next fall – four forwards, two defenseman and a goalie.

The group already has an unusually high level of chemistry, with each member having played with at least one of his teammates at some point in their hockey careers.

“It was about finding guys who could skate, guys who competed hard and guys who could think the game,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said.

All seven players have been ranked by NHL scouts as either an A (mostly likely will be drafted in the first three rounds) or a B (a potential late-round selection) for this year’s entry draft.

The most recent commitment came a few weeks ago from forward Robin Bergman. Bergman joins fellow Swede Callie Ridderwall as the first two players from their country ever to come to Notre Dame. The two wingers, who are currently both playing in the USHL, were teammates in their home country before coming to North America. Ridderwall currently leads the Tri-City Storm with 15 points in the young season. Bergman is also holding his own with four goals in eight games for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.

“He is more dynamic than anyone that we have had here. He has some tremendous offensive upside that is going to help us a lot,” Jackson said.

Ridderwall has also played a season alongside Billy Maday – the third of four new forwards. Maday and Ridderwall were numbers one and two respectively in scoring last season when they led the Chicago Chill to the Midget AAA finals before losing in the last game.

The seven degrees of separation continues with Maday, who recently spent three days in Blaine, Minn. at the USA Hockey Junior Jamboree. Ben Ryan, the final Notre Dame offensive recruit, joined him in Blaine.

Ryan is currently in his second season in the USHL with the defending champion Des Moines Buccaneers. He is currently fifth in the league in scoring with four goals and 12 assists in his first dozen games this year.

Before playing with the Bucs, Ryan played AAA Midget hockey in Detroit with incoming defenseman Ian Cole. Cole weighs in at 210 pounds and is the biggest of the seven new bodies. His size will be needed to help replace graduating defenseman Wes O’Neill (6-foot-4, 231 pounds) and Tom Sawatske (5-foot-11, 196).

“We were not necessarily looking to get bigger on defense, but we were looking to get a little more physical,” Jackson said.

All three defensive additions for Notre Dame are currently teammates on the US National U-18 team.

Teddy Ruth is a tough defender from Naperville, Ill. who was also has the ability to put the puck in the net when it is needed. From his spot at the point this season, he has five goals and eight assists in 16 games.

The defensive corps is rounded out by goaltender Brad Phillips. At 6-foot-2, 163 pounds the netminder will likely need to put on some weight before stepping between the pipes, but he has proved that he has the mental and physical tools needed to be one of the best in the nation.

Meanwhile, the current Irish team will be spending the abbreviated break on the road in Omaha, Neb. The Mavericks (3-6-3, 2-5-1 CCHA) are currently on a five-game losing streak dating back to a 4-3 loss to Alaska Nov. 3.

“They’re going to be dangerous. They will be back at home and I’m sure they will be fired up,” Jackson said. “I don’t think they want to lose six in a row.”

Last season Notre Dame beat and tied UNO in a two game series in Omaha. The Irish were led by Josh Sciba, who had two goals and an assist in the 4-1 victory to start off the weekend.