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Hockey: Lavin makes mark quickly

Chris Allen | Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A year ago, Irish senior defenseman Joe Lavin hadn’t even officially joined the Notre Dame team. Today, he is the captain of a No. 13 Irish squad coming off a 2-1 upset of previously top-ranked Boston College squad on Saturday and the unquestioned leader of the Notre Dame blue line. So much for slowly rising the ranks.

“I think coming in [this year] as a senior, the seniors have a certain amount of responsibility. Even though everybody works together, as a senior you do a little more because you’ve been here the longest,” Lavin said. “The things that I had to do to get here gained a lot of their trust. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do transferring schools — there was a lot of work to do. I needed to catch up on all my work and catch up credit-wise. So just because I made the commitment to do that I think it earned a lot of trust with the guys.”

The long journey that ended with Lavin suiting up as captain in his first full year with the Irish (4-1-0) began at Providence College, where Lavin recorded eight assists in his freshman campaign before leaving the Friars twelve games into his sophomore season. Lavin played out the rest of the year with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL.

“At Providence, it was an up-and-coming team, but things didn’t get rolling as soon as people thought,” Lavin said.

Eventually, Lavin set his sights on South Bend and envisioned himself playing for the Irish — more specifically, playing for coach Jeff Jackson.

“It’s a lot different. There’s a lot of history here, you know. Coach Jackson is one of those coaches that has a lot of respect around the country, and even throughout Canada. The teams that have been through here in the past have been really good, so there are a lot of expectations,” Lavin said. “It was up to me to decide what I wanted to do, and this was a place that I wanted to come to, just because of coach Jackson’s history and the successful teams over the years.”

The respect that Lavin expressed for Jackson has served the senior well in his stint as captain, a stint that has begun with the young Irish squad reeling off four wins in their first five games and losing only a late 5-4 decision to No. 6 Boston University. Lavin also said that, in his role as captain, he strives to be a liaison between the team and Jackson.

“I have a great relationship with coach Jackson. He’s very open with me and I’m very open with him. He tells me what he wants done, and I tell him, you know, what the guys want,” Lavin said. “If there’s a message to be relayed to the team, and it would be more effective through me, that’s what my job is. I do feel I have a responsibility keeping the team motivated and at their best.”

Lavin’s biggest challenge has been leading a team that lines up with a staggering amount of youth throughout the roster. Notre Dame has 12 freshmen on the roster with only four seniors.

“I think that a lot of the 12 players that came in were the best players on their teams beforehand. So I think that they were leaders, and once you’re a leader, you’re always a leader. You always have those leadership skills,” Lavin said. “Then you have the three other seniors who are great, and the other upperclassmen, so it’s not really as tough as people think.”