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Blues' pick Cole staying motivated

by Shawn P. Roarke

Ian Cole was one of the players identified by coach Ron Rolston as a leader when the 2008 USA Hockey National Junior Camp convened in Lake Placid, N.Y., in early August.

Cole was tabbed for leadership duty not only because he was one of eight players on the Team USA that finished fourth at the 2008 World Junior Championship, but also because he is the dedicated, driven type of player that USA Hockey would like to see more of on its international teams.

Ready to enter his sophomore season at the University of Notre Dame, Cole has done everything in his power to achieve his goal for this season.

"My goal, my game plan for next year is to win a national championship," said Cole, a first-round pick of St. Louis in the 2007 Entry Draft. "Whatever that takes, obviously (I'll do it). I just want to become a more consistent, well-rounded player, that's definitely something I have tried to work on."

An honorable-mention selection for the CCHA all-rookie team last season, Cole scored eight goals and 20 points in 43 games as Notre Dame dropped a 4-1 decision to Boston College in the 2008 NCAA Championship Final.

The pain of that loss still lives with Cole and he has used it to fuel a summer of preparation. Even before he reported to Lake Placid in an attempt to cement his place as a viable member of the team that will compete in the 2009 World Junior Championship, Cole was hard at work. He stayed in South Bend, Ind., to work with the school's strength and conditioning coach.

"I feel like maybe I'm in the best shape I have ever been in," Cole said.

He also took some summer classes to get ahead of the program academically. Cole believes that the extra credits he piled up this summer -- taking a math requirement and a jazz music class to fill a Fine Arts requirement -- will help him on the ice because he take a lighter course load  this spring when the demands of the collegiate hockey season are at their most pressing.

"I just want to become a more consistent, well-rounded player, that's definitely something I have tried to work on." -- Ian Cole

"I took a full schedule last year, so these two classes will put me ahead of the curve a little bit, which will be nice," Cole said. "Hopefully, maybe, it will lighten the load a little bit next year. Instead of taking five classes, taking four second semester when we will be traveling more and hopefully away for long periods of time with tournaments and stuff."

Summer school wasn't a complete drag, even though the Introduction to Jazz class was far more difficult than Cole envisioned. But he did walk away with an appreciation for a genre of music that was not really on his radar before the class.

"It's nice to type papers too, it just sort of goes along in the background," Cole said. "It's not my favorite genre, but it's not as bad as I had first thought going into it."

There's a lot that can be said of experience, it seems.

Cole went through the National Junior Evaluation Camp last summer and graduated to make the World Junior team, playing the role of solid, stay-at-home defenseman for the Americans. So there were few surprises this time around in Lake Placid.

"Obviously, a year makes a huge difference," Cole said. "Knowing how it goes and having done it last year helps. Knowing what it takes to really not play hockey for a few months and hopping in with the best players in the world, it's definitely a shock that first year."

There are no shocks for Cole this time around. He has a World Junior Championship under his belt. He has a college season -- including a run to the Frozen Four -- in his memory bank and he even has a developmental camp with the Blues on his impressive resume.

In retrospect, it comes as no surprise that Cole was tabbed as one of the leaders at the U.S. evaluation camp, which featured 53 of the best U-20 players America has to offer

"I think everyone knows what's expected and what we have to do," Cole said at the time. "Obviously some of the guys that are coming to camp this year were there last year. They didn't make the team, but they have experience being at that the camp. Obviously, we were not happy with fourth place, so we will definitely be pushing the envelope, for sure.

"Fourth place was not what we were thinking of, so we have to do better."

Clearly, Cole has done everything possible to live up to his individual part of the collective bargain.

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