It was too quiet in the Colorado College locker room last season. No one was stepping forward to say what needed to be said after a practice or during games.
Then Luc Gerdes stepped forward and assumed a vocal leadership role for the first time in his playing career.
"After Stoyks (former captain Peter Stoykewych) left, we didn't have any vocal guys anymore so I think it was the role that we needed to fill," the senior center said. "I have never been much of a talker. But you need to have that guy saying what needs to be said, especially on a young team."
He has made his share of noise since, both on and off the ice. Gerdes is one of the more defensively sound forwards for the Tigers, who conclude the National Collegiate Hockey Conference regular season at No. 19 St. Cloud State this weekend.
His defense has led to offensive opportunities, but Gerdes and the rest of the Tigers (7-21-4, 3-15-4-1 NCHC) are still working on being consistent in their effort night in and night out this season.
"When Gerds is really good, his compete level is high," CC coach Mike Haviland said. "I just keep reminding him that he has to compete every day and that makes the message mean more. I think when he is leading with his compete and his smarts, he is a big asset for this hockey team."
That is one reason Gerdes became the center on CC's top-scoring line with sophomore leading scorer Mason Bergh (21 points, 13 goals) and senior right winger Matt Hansen (career-high 13 points).
Gerdes leads CC with 83 shots. He fires away to create rebounds for Bergh and Hansen. Eleven of his 16 points, second on the team, are assists.
"(Gerdes) can make a play," Haviland said. "That's why that line has done well. He can make a play to the guys who can skate and then you have a guy who is reliable on the defensive end."
Gerdes' defense-first approach mirrors how the Tigers, averaging only 2.03 goals, need to perform against more offensively talented teams, said Hansen, a St. Cloud native.
The sixth-place Huskies (15-16-1, 9-12-1) are led by sophomores Mikey Eyssimont (29 points, 14 goals) and Patrick Newell (23, 20 assists) and junior Blake Wienecki (23 points, 12 goals). They enter the weekend looking for a sweep and a chance at fourth place and home playoff ice next week.
For CC, this weekend is about playing well against a SCSU team that rolled past the Tigers, 7-3 and 4-1, in Colorado Springs in November.
"It will be a good measuring stick from then," Haviland said. "I know we are a different team and I am sure they are too. The biggest part is we want to be playing well going into the playoffs. It's now March and this isn't a time for maybe next weekend, maybe next weekend. We have to make sure we are playing well each night."
The Tigers will play at either No. 1-ranked Denver or No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth in the first round. The first-place Pioneers win the regular-season title outright with a victory in the first overtime or regulation at Nebraska-Omaha on Friday or a Duluth loss earlier at No. 8 Western Michigan.