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Hockey: Breaking the ice

Allan Joseph | Friday, October 8, 2010

With the Compton Family Center rising on the southeast part of campus and a new infusion of freshman talent entering the Joyce Center for its final season, the 2010-2011 season will mark a transition point in No. 17 Notre Dame’s hockey history as the program looks to establish itself as one of the premier forces in collegiate hockey.

“[The Compton Family Center] is kind of a symbol of where we are and where we’re headed,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “Even though we’ve had some success in the last five years, the potential for us to be consistently in the mix will be helped by the building.”

For the 43rd and final season in the Joyce Center, however, the Irish will be sporting somewhat of a younger look.

Normally, Notre Dame has relied heavily on its seniors to provide leadership for a freshman class that played an important but limited role in the team’s development. This year, however, with only five seniors on the roster, compared to 12 first-years, the Irish will have to rely much more on the entire team for production and leadership.

“If you’re a leader, you’re a leader, no matter what level you are,” senior captain and defenseman Joe Lavin said. “I just think we need to stick together.”

Senior alternate captain Calle Ridderwall is excited by the opportunity to shape a young squad, as he understands that the transition to the collegiate game can be difficult at times.

“I’m really excited to teach these guys how to do things around here and to lead by example,” he said. “When you come from juniors to college, it’s a way different game. It’s way more professional.”

Jackson said he understands that his young squad will grow from game experience, but expects that the leadership ability of the seniors will help mitigate some of the errors that might come with a less-cohesive team.

“It’s still a work in progress, and it will be, probably, for the first month,” he said. “The upperclassmen have done a good job incorporating the young kids, and this group is really good at buying into what our culture is.”

Despite their youth, Notre Dame has not revised its expectations for the season — only its mentality.

“They’re the same goals we’ve always had. We want to get to the Frozen Four,” Ridderwall said. “We’re an underdog this year. We’re going to be a gritty team, a hardworking team.”

The Irish will kick off their season with a challenge unlike any other, as they travel to St. Louis for the Warrior College

Hockey Ice Breaker Tournament. On Friday, Notre Dame will face Holy Cross at 6:30 p.m., followed by a matchup between traditional powers No. 14 Boston University and No. 13 Wisconsin. The losers of Friday’s games will play for third place at 1 p.m. Sunday, while the winners will meet at 4 p.m. for the championship. The season-opening clash will provide Notre Dame with a sense of their identity, which Ridderwall sees as a positive thing.

“We’re going to find out who we are this weekend,” he said. “It’s good to play some tough teams in the beginning.

Lavin concurred with his teammate.

“I think it’s good to be playing the top-ranked teams,” he said. “Every team is going to face adversity, and it’s the really, really good teams that respond well to that adversity.”

The adversity will only keep coming, especially in the month of November, when the Irish will take trips to Michigan and North Dakota and will host Michigan State.

“It’s going to be a trial under fire, especially the month of November,” Jackson said. “That is a nightmare schedule.”

Learning from adversity will be the key for the Irish in this pivotal season as they work to incorporate a new batch of freshmen into the program.

“If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger,” Jackson said. “Those are the kind of environments that make you stronger.”

The Irish participate in the Ice Breaker Tournament this weekend and then kick off their home schedule on Oct. 15 against Lake Superior State.