Who? Unheralded Ridderwall the Hero for Notre Dame
by Dane DeKrey/Staff Writer
DENVER Michigan's senior captain Chad Kolarik had played him twice in the regular season, but he didn't know his name.
He scored twice, including the game-winner in overtime to lift his Norte Dame team over the Wolverines, 5-4, in Thursday night's semifinal game at the Frozen Four, but still, Kolarik didn't know his name.
"Number 22, I don't know his name, but he played a heck of a game," said Kolarik.
His name is Calle Ridderwall.
A native of Stockholm, Sweden, the freshman Ridderwall came into the playoff game with only two goals and three assists on the season; he left the game having nearly doubled his goals for the year.
Ridderwall, of course, downplayed his surprisingly clutch performance, and to such a degree that the laconic description of his overtime goal drew chuckles from the media.
"We got the puck out to the point," said Ridderwall, traces of a Swedish accent lacing his speech. "And Dan VeNard just put it on net and I was fortunate enough to get the rebound. It was just a rebound, I was in the slot and I just took a quick shot and got lucky."
Luck may have had something to do with the fact that Norte Dame, the clear underdog in the game, prevailed the victor thanks to the stick of Ridderwall, but don't be fooled — the Irish earned the win, especially when the game went to overtime.
"I told the guys that we had an overtime to play for a national championship game," said senior captain Mark Van Guilder. "I don't think you have to say much more than that."
Less must have meant more for Ridderwall, as just 5:44 into the overtime frame, his through-traffic rebound shot beat Michigan freshman goaltender Bryan Hogan, who replaced usual starter Billy Sauer after Sauer gave up three first period goals.
Again, in true Ridderwall fashion, he didn't have much to say.
"I had a sense going into overtime that we had it," Ridderwall said. "I was just the guy who scored the goal tonight."
Ridderwall, who wasn't even a blip on the radar all season, drew a horde of attention after his season-saving performance against Michigan. Most obvious: How does a kid from Sweden end up playing college hockey for a private catholic school in Indiana?
"Well, I came here two years ago and I knew a coach in Chicago who coached a midget team, so I came over in the summer and skated with them," explained Ridderwall. "That year, I got in contact with Notre Dame and I also was drafted into the USHL and I played for the Tri-City Storm last year. That's pretty much what happened."
For Ridderwall's teammates, they couldn't care less if he came from Stockholm or Singapore, with the performance he notched against a Michigan team many considered to be the odds-on favorite to win the 2008 Frozen Four, all that matters to them is that Ridderwall and his Norte Dame team is playing in its first-ever national championship Saturday night against Boston College.
"All year, different guys have stepped up at different times," said sophomore forward Ryan Thang. "Same thing with Calle tonight; he was the guy tonight, but it's different guys every night."
On Thursday night, Ridderwall did his part and then some.