Cal Burke discusses team mentality heading into rematch with Bulldogs
Tobias Hoonhout | Friday, October 26, 2018
Only four games into the regular season, Notre Dame will face off against No. 3 Minnesota Duluth in a rematch of last year’s national championship. While the Irish (3-0-1) have skated to a strong start this year, climbing up to a No. 1 ranking, it will be the Bulldogs (4-1-1) who have the upper hand of late, after emerging victorious in St. Paul, Minnesota, last year to claim the title.
For junior forward Cal Burke, the opportunity to face the Bulldogs comes at a good time as the Irish start to find their identity.
“I’d say our team is doing a good job of starting to come together,” Burke said. “I think you saw in the second game we were really starting to build some chemistry, we’re starting to play disciplined, Notre Dame hockey, so it’s going well.”
Notre Dame opened the season with a 6-6 tie against Mercyhurst before ratting off three straight wins — one over Providence, and a sweep of Nebraska Omaha — which saw the Irish outscore their opponents 15-3 over three games. Burke has been at the heart of Notre Dame’s offensive explosion, becoming the first Notre Dame player since Anders Lee to record multiple hat-tricks with three goals against Mercyhurst, as well as a two-goal, three assist performance in last Saturday’s 8-2 win over Omaha. For the junior, Notre Dame’s offensive prowess stems from its depth and experience.
“My line, we’re kind of an older line, with two seniors [Joe Wegwerth and Dylan Malmquist] and me as a junior, we’ve known each other for three years,” he said. “I’d say we’re really good friends as people, and that translates to good chemistry on the ice. I played with Malmquist last year, so we already had some good chemistry from that, and I just think our skills complement each other real well. … We just try and take it day by day. Every day of practice, we have a new thing to work on, a new skill or tactic or system, so we just try to focus on the little things rather than focusing on the big things. We take everything one step at a time.”
As the Irish prepare to host the Bulldogs before opening a daunting conference schedule in the Big Ten, which currently has six teams in the top-25 rankings, Burke said the key for Notre Dame is to keep building its confidence by sticking to its strength in numbers, taking one game at a time. After a strong start to the season, Burke said the Irish are starting to find their swagger as a team that once again belongs in the national conversation.
“You know, especially with the freshmen, the confidence has been growing a lot over the last four games. It’s good to see our older guys, too, playing the way that they should,” Burke said. “No one is too afraid to make mistakes out there, and that’s how you have to play. … Our identity is a fast, disciplined team. We’ve been together for a long time here with summer school and preseason, I think we have a good group of leadership guys that have helped establish the culture, and have helped lead the way in showing how to act and represent ourselves as Notre Dame men.”
Burke said the Irish are still mindful of not getting ahead of themselves in looking forward to the rest of the season.
“Of course, you need to have your confidence to play games, and you can’t be afraid of any team, no matter who it is,” he said. “We try to not look too far down the stretch, we’re just focused on Friday’s game at this point, once we overcome that obstacle we’ll look to Saturday and just keep moving forwards like that.”
With the mindset firmly in place, Burke and the Irish are looking to erase any doubts about their mental toughness. While the Bulldogs may still be fresh in Notre Dame fans’ minds, for Burke, this year Duluth offers simply another opportunity to get better.
“It’s just like any other team, they have their unique talents and skills, and we have to prepare for them like anyone else,” he said.