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Hockey: Big brothers help freshmen adjust to college

Dan Murphy | Friday, March 9, 2007

There was never a doubt that the Irish hockey class of 2010 were a talented bunch. They key for Irish coach Jeff Jackson was providing them with a smooth transition into college – for both hockey and life.

So Jackson designated a senior to act as big brother for each of the freshman. The senior brother was responsible for making sure his freshman was as comfortable as possible in his first year at Notre Dame.

“I’ve always tried to have an upperclassmen make sure our young guys get a feel for the campus, get a feel for the community,” Jackson said. “Also, I want them to become a part of the family, that is a big part of building the team.”

Jackson’s methods have gone a long way in building what has become the No. 1 team in the country. A lot of that has to do with the major contributions freshmen have made in almost every aspect of the game this season.

“My guy was [senior forward Josh Sciba],” Irish forward Kevin Deeth said. “If I had any questions or needed any advice, it was nice to be able to go to him.”

Deeth was recently named to the CCHA All-rookie team along with linemate Ryan Thang and defenseman Kyle Lawson. Notre Dame becomes only the seventh team to place three or more players on the All-rookie team in CCHA history. Michigan State was the first team to register a trifecta in 1990, and the Wolverines have achieved the honor five times since then -including the 1993-94 season when they had four freshmen on the team.

“I think it’s special, and it is a good sign for where the program is going and shows all the possible outcomes we could have in the future,” Thang said.

Out of those six teams with several star rookies, four have gone on to win the conference championship and three have made it to the Frozen Four. Those squads have set a good precedent for what the No. 1 Irish hope to accomplish over the next month with help from their diaper dandies.

Deeth and Thang are joined by 2006 All-rookie selection Erik Condra to create a lethal scoring trio known by teammates as “the little-guy line.” The little guys have put up some big numbers all year for the Irish with a combined 46 goals on the season.

“We all like to create stuff offensively, and we all think the game very well,” Deeth said. “It’s been nice to have guys like that to play with.”

The two freshmen forwards were friends for a few years before college and decided together that Notre Dame was a good opportunity for both of them. The pair was almost immediately matched up with a like-minded playmaker in Condra. Since then, they have formed a chemistry that is evident both on and off the ice.

While Deeth and Thang have given the Irish forwards a spark, Lawson has also made some serious contributions from the point, leading all defensemen with three goals on the season. The Michigan native has played in 32 of the team’s 36 games this year and has been solid defensively in all of them.

Lawson joined the Irish after spending a year with the USHL’s Tri-City Storm and has flourished under the tutelage of his “big brother,” senior alternate captain Wes O’Neill.

“I don’t know if I could have had a better one to be honest,” Lawson said. “He’s a great player, and he showed me the ropes, so it went really well.”

This weekend the freshmen will once again turn to their senior brothers for advice as they enter uncharted waters . The seniors will try to repeat their performance from their own rookie season, when the team advanced to the CCHA Super Six in Detroit.