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Hockey: Ridderwall on a hot streak

Matt Gamber | Wednesday, December 3, 2008

He scored arguably the biggest goal in Irish hockey history, but sophomore left wing Calle Ridderwall’s Swedish accent and fashion sense is still the butt of constant jokes from linemate Kevin Deeth.

“I always impersonate his accent – I can’t talk to him without talking in his accent anymore, which is ridiculous,” Deeth said with a laugh. “His haircut and his style is so ‘Euro’, he just takes it to the next extent. He’ll wear the tightest jeans ever and these ultra-metro polos that you’d never, ever wear … It’s hilarious.”

Ridderwall’s overtime game-winner against Michigan in last year’s national semifinal didn’t grant him reprieve from his teammates’ teasing, but maybe the CCHA offensive player of the week award he earned over the weekend will.

“It’s awesome,” Ridderwall said of the award. “It’s one of those things that shows all the work you’ve been putting in is paying off. It’s good to get awards, but a lot of it is also because of my linemates. We’ve been clicking these last couple games here.”

Ridderwall, a native of Stockholm, Sweden, scored five points (two goals, three assists) in two games against Western Michigan over the weekend. He has now tallied 14 points over a five-game point streak that includes a pair of four-point outings.

Ridderwall’s 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) tie him for the team lead, and his five goals and 12 points on the power play are also team highs.

“Calle’s been playing well for a while now, but this is the first real opportunity to show the offensive skills and the scoring skills we felt he had when we recruited him,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “I think part of it was [freshman right wing] Billy Maday coming on board and the chemistry those two have with Kevin Deeth. It’s just worked out to our advantage.”

After Ridderwall joined the Irish last fall with high expectations, Jackson said he gave the freshman too much responsibility by starting him on the power play and penalty kill units.

“Calle fit right in. He’s a great kid, he’s always got a smile on his face, and I think his teammates liked him a lot as a freshman,” Jackson said. “The biggest problem was that we knew what kind of player he could be, and I gave him too much … and he kind of struggled with it.”

When he reduced Ridderwall’s role, Jackson said the freshman’s confidence suffered for a period of time – but once Ridderwall regained it, he showed why his future looked so bright in the first place.

“We expected him to be a pretty exciting player for us, and it didn’t happen right away,” Jackson said. “Once he got back in [the lineup] near the end of [last] year, he started to show some real improvement in his understanding of the game … Now it’s not even a concern of mine. He’s done a really good job of learning to play the system.”

That learning experience has been vital to his success early in his sophomore season, Ridderwall said.

“I needed a longer adjustment period, having kind of a slow freshman year, so I think last year was more a learning experience for me than a productive year when it comes to hockey,” Ridderwall said. “I think freshman year has definitely helped me [in terms of] confidence and getting play time … Now, it feels awesome when you have a little bit of confidence from the coaching staff and you can play your own game, make a mistake and still play. I’d say confidence is a huge part of success.”

But Ridderwall is a different player than he was a year ago from a physical standpoint as well. He stayed on campus for summer school and additional strength training and then continued that program for the rest of the off-season, putting on nearly 15 pounds of muscle.

“We always knew he had a good shot and really good puck skills,” Jackson said. “The biggest thing for him coming into college hockey, I don’t think he was strong enough physically … The additional strength has helped him win a lot more of those battles for loose pucks and rebounds, and getting second opportunities at pucks helps you score goals.”

As for the ribbing he receives from his teammates, Ridderwall knows it’s all in good fun.

As for that hockey thing? He’s got that down.

“We’re a pretty close team and we’re all friends,” Ridderwall said. “Whenever there’s something I don’t really get or something I don’t understand, I always have a teammate to help me out. But when you get out there on the ice, it’s not that different.”