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Hockey: Ridderwall thriving early

Allan Joseph | Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Irish senior left wing Calle Ridderwall had a unique prediction in The Observer’s Oct. 8 Irish Insider, published before Notre Dame’s football game against Pittsburgh.

“Honestly, I have never in my life seen an entire football game,” Ridderwall said. “I predict the Irish will win 96-3. That sounds reasonable, right?”

Ridderwall hails from Sweden and moved to the United States in 2005, which is the reason behind his lack of understanding of football. He had a purpose for his pick, however.

“I knew my pick was going to be a guess and so I wanted to show the team that I believed they were going to win,” he said with a laugh. “I was half-serious, yes, but I believed they would win.”

That style of leadership and belief in Notre Dame is Ridderwall’s defining characteristic and one that he will need as alternate captain of a green Irish squad.

“He’s a great example for a lot of players as far as his commitment,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said.

The Stockholm native understands how important his leadership will be in his final year playing in the Joyce Center.

“Being an older guy on a young team like this, you’ve got to lead by example probably more than talking,” Ridderwall said. “Stay positive, [have a] good attitude, and try to keep everyone happy.”

Ridderwall, the first Notre Dame player from the land of Ikea, moved to Chicago to play for the Chicago Chill, where he was a teammate of current Irish junior Billy Maday. After graduating from high school he played one season in the United States Hockey League, leading the Tri-City Storm in scoring and making the all-rookie team. Throughout it all, however, Ridderwall had his eye on the Golden Dome.

“Living in Chicago, people build up Notre Dame to be something out of this word. I think I knew right from the beginning after coming to the States that this place was unbelievable,” he said. “I really believed in the direction the program was headed, and with the business school, I think it was a good fit.”

Ridderwall’s first season with the Irish started slowly. He didn’t notch his first goal until his tenth contest, and only had one more goal in the regular season. When the playoffs started, however, Ridderwall found his stride. He peaked in the Frozen Four semifinal game against Michigan, scoring twice, including the game-winner in overtime.

“That run we had to the Frozen Four was definitely the greatest hockey experience I’ve had with any team. Playing on that level in front of that kind of crowd is something you don’t do too often,” he said. “Now when I look back at it I only wish we could make it happen again.”

The Irish squads of the past two years were not up to the level of that Frozen Four squad, but Ridderwall continued to improve. He led the team in scoring his sophomore year, finding the back of the net 17 times and earning a selection to the CCHA all-tournament team. His junior year was more of the same, scoring 19 times including two hat tricks. That most recent season, however, was a struggle for Notre Dame – a trend Ridderwall wants to reverse.

“We all believe that we can get back to the Frozen Four and do some damage,” he said. “I think obviously the ultimate goal is to win a national championship but short-term we want to do better in the CCHA.”

The Swedish striker has done his part to improve on his play from 2009-2010.

“I think I’ve gotten a little bit bigger and stronger,” he said. “This year especially I’ve improved my defensive game and awareness of the system we play.”

Looking back on his time in South Bend, the finance major is satisfied with his decision to play for Jackson.

“Hockey-wise, we played in the Frozen Four, we won the CCHA regular season and the playoffs [and] we’ve continued to build off of that and make this program great,” he said. “I’ve definitely liked the experience I’ve had here.”