For the Boston College Eagles, the third time was indeed the charm. After losses in the national championship games in 2006 and 2007 to Wisconsin and Michigan State respectively, Boston College has soared to the heights of collegiate hockey as they defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver to claim the 2008 NCAA National Championship. This was Boston College’s third national championship title and first since 2001.
How they both got here
In Thursday’s semi-final games, Boston College defeated North Dakota 6-1 and Notre Dame defeated Michigan 5-4 in overtime.
In the early game, Boston College thoroughly dominated North Dakota from beginning to end thanks to their effective use of their speed, relentless attacks at the net and some costly North Dakota turnovers. It also became the Nathan Gerbe (BUF) show, when he recorded his third hat trick of the season. The goals came on the power play, shorthanded and at even strength. Junior Andrew Orpik (BUF), senior Dan Bertram (CHI) and sophomore Ben Smith also figured in Boston College’s scoring. Freshman defenseman Jake Marto tallied the Fighting Sioux’s lone goal of the game at the 18:44 mark of the third period.
“It hurts pretty bad. The guys deserved a better fate,” said a clearly disappointed Jean-Philippe Lamoureux during the post-game press conference. “You have to take your hat off to BC. They played a great game and had a lot of really nice goals tonight, capitalized on a lot of turnovers on our part. But I couldn’t be prouder to have spent my four years here at UND.”
“I think one of their defensemen kind of took a shot and just whiffed on it," Boston College junior Andrew Orpik said in describing the opening goal for the Eagles that he scored. "Kyle (Kucharski) did a great job of tipping the puck through on it and we had gotten a two-on-one out of it. The defenseman played him and I just tried to get myself open, then he made an unbelievable pass getting it through the slot and I just one-timed on net. I didn’t see it go in, but I heard the horn.”
In the late game, Swedish-born rookie Calle Ridderwall became the hero for the Fighting Irish as Notre Dame pulled off yet another stunning upset when they handed the top-seeded Michigan Wolverines a 5-4 loss in overtime.
“We told ourselves that we were coming here to make some noise and that we weren’t happy to just be here," said Notre Dame junior Christian Hanson. "So to be able to knock off the number one team in the nation is just a great feeling.”
Ridderwall tallied the first and last goals of the game. He, senior captain Mark Van Guilder and sophomore Ryan Thang (NSH) staked Notre Dame to the early 3-0 in the first period. Prior to the start of the second period, Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer (COL) was pulled in favor of rookie Bryan Hogan.
Michigan came back with two tallies in the second period from senior Chad Kolarik (PHO) and freshman Matt Rust (FLA). Kolarik would add a power-play goal in the third period as the teams exchanged goals in the period. Notre Dame sophomore Kevin Deeth and Michigan freshman Carl Hagelin (NYR) also posted goals in the period.
Ridderwall tallied the game-winner at the 5:44 mark of overtime when he picked up the rebound from senior defenseman Dan VeNard’s shot in the slot area and fired it past Hogan for the score.
“I don’t think that I’ve ever scored an overtime goal like that, especially not in a big game like that,” Ridderwall said of his overtime game-winner during the post-game press conference.
“Brock (Sheahan) and I got paired off and he’s probably one of the best defensive defensemen in the league,” Notre Dame rookie defenseman Teddy Ruth (CBJ) said in going up against the Kevin Porter (PHO) line. “He and I get matched up against the other team’s top lines, to shut them down and try to not allow a goal against us. If that’s what the coach wants me to do, then that’s what I’m going to do to win.”
The National Championship game
While the score may say otherwise, the game was for the most part an evenly played, tight-checking match that featured some great defensive play and rock solid goaltending by both teams.
The opening period did not see any scoring, but it featured some great end-to-end action and quality scoring opportunities by both teams.
The second period was when things started to really open up.
At the 2:23 mark, junior Nathan Gerbe (BUF) continued his torrid Frozen Four scoring pace when he got Boston College on the board with his first of two goals in the game. It resulted from some great cycling along the boards before it got to Gerbe, who proceeded to backhand a one-timer from the left faceoff circle for the score.
Gerbe would extend the Eagles lead once again just over three minutes later. At the 4:48 mark, sophomore Ryan Thang (NSH) would be assessed an interference penalty, putting Boston College on the power play. Coming into the Frozen Four, the Eagles had the nation’s seventh-best power play, clicking at just under 22 percent.
At the 5:27 mark, Gerbe would cash in. It began with a nice cross-ice feed by sophomore Ben Smith. Just as Gerbe was coming to the net, he got Smith’s feed and made a diving sweep of the puck, getting just enough on it to get it inside the near post.
Freshman Joe Whitney would again extend the Eagles lead to 3-0 on a five-on-three power play at the 8:11 mark. With traffic in front of Notre Dame junior netminder Jordan Pearce, Whitney executed a slapshot from the slot area. The puck ended up deflecting off of a Notre
Dame defender’s skate and went airborne before going into the net.
Just under a minute later at the 9:07 mark, sophomore Kevin Deeth cut Boston College’s lead to 3-1 when he got Notre Dame on the board on a four-on-four goal. The play started with a nice give-and-go between Deeth and sophomore defenseman Kyle Lawson (CAR). After Deeth got Lawson’s pass, he waited to for Boston College rookie goaltender John Muse to make the first move before snapping a shot over Muse’s shoulder for the score.
In the third period, things got really interesting.
One of the problems that plagued Notre Dame all season long was their anemic power play. It didn’t fare any better during the Frozen Four. One of the Fighting Irish’s best scoring opportunities came in the opening minutes of the third period. Just eight seconds into the period, Boston College freshman defenseman Nick Petrecki (SJ) would be assessed a minor for elbowing, putting Notre Dame on the power play. The Fighting Irish looked disorganized on the man-advantage and were reluctant to shoot often. The aggressive forechecking executed by the Eagles didn’t help matters either.
“They came pretty hard with a lot of pressure, not letting us get set up. I think we had a couple of plays to be made, but we couldn’t finish,” Notre Dame senior captain Mark Van Guilder said in the post-game press conference. “I think we had a couple of good looks, but you have to give credit to their penalty killers and their goalie made some big saves on the penalty kill. I think that was the key to the game, their power play was effective and ours wasn’t.”
One of the turning points of the game came at 4:56 when Lawson appeared to have cut Boston College’s lead to 4-2, but his goal was disallowed after the officials ruled that he had kicked the puck toward the net. It appeared that Lawson was attempting to kick the puck lodged in his skates up to his stick. But the official ruling was that his kicking motion was directed at the net and thus was disallowed.
“Personally, it was very tough," Lawson said of his reaction to the no goal. "The team actually responded better to the disallowed goal than I did.”
While it was a tough blow to Notre Dame, it was also a sign of what was to come. With the score still 3-1, the Fighting Irish got back to business. But at the 5:31 mark, sophomore Ben Smith would seal Notre Dame’s fate with his 25th tally of the season. The goal was actually a bit of fluke. Smith took a nice feed from Gerbe before one timing the pass from just inside the right faceoff circle that went off of the leg of a Notre Dame defender and into the net.
Down three goals and time running out, the Fighting Irish regrouped and relentlessly attacked the Eagles net, but the excellent defensive play by the entire Boston College team, particularly in their many shot blocks, coupled with some great goaltending by Muse would frustrate the Fighting Irish until the final buzzer.
Notre Dame was given two glorious opportunities on the power play and again failed to capitalize on them.
In the late stages of the period, Gerbe almost made it 5-1 when he took possession of the puck, then raced towards the Notre Dame goal, only to be denied by Pearce in what was one of the best saves of the game.
When the final horn sounded, Boston College could finally celebrate. They grabbed the early momentum and never looked back.
“It feels unbelievable," Petrecki said. "There are so many tears, emotion and so much emotion in the locker room right now. I’m so happy for our seniors, our university, and everybody.”
For some Boston College players such as junior Benn Ferriero (PHO), it was difficult to put into words because it hadn’t all quite sunken in yet.
“I really don’t know what to say. I’m just speechless right now and so happy for the seniors. That’s it.”
“I think we really got the concept of team," assistant captain Dan Bertram (CHI) said of what made this year’s team so special. "We weren’t worried about who was scoring or who was making the big plays. We all counted on one another to be accountable and do their job. At the end of the day, we wanted to win games. That was kind of what was everyone’s first priority, and that really shows what can be achieved when everyone kind of buys in.”
For Notre Dame, it was a magical ride that ended too soon. The Fighting Irish, who surprised many people and were able to silence their critics at the same time, fought valiantly throughout the game. In spite of everything that had happened in the game, Notre Dame never gave up – a virtue that they possessed all season long and one that was so crucial to their successful run.
“Coach Jackson says that no matter what the score is and no matter what was goes on out on the ice, there are two things that you’re not going to do," Lawson said. "You’re not going to disgrace the Notre Dame jersey and you’re not going to quit.”
While the defeat was a painful one to take for Notre Dame, for some of the team’s players such as sophomore Ryan Thang (NSH), the loss was particularly difficult to fathom.
“We’re pretty sad right now," a somber Thang said with tears welling up in his eyes. "In a couple of weeks, we’ll look back and really see where we’ve taken this program to new heights. There were first times for a lot of things, making it to the Frozen Four and making it to the championship game, that’s a really big deal, especially for our seniors. In their freshman year, they won five games the whole year and got a chance to play for a national championship and that’s all we can ask for. I’m really proud of the team and the character of our program right now is really strong. It’s something that we can definitely build on. It’s not something like a one-year deal like it was last year. Everyone was saying that we weren’t going to do it again. We made it further, so I think we’ve really established ourselves in college hockey and hopefully we’ve earned some respect as well.”
To no one’s surprise, Boston College junior Nathan Gerbe was named the Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player after posting eight points (five goals, three assists). He finished the season as the nation’s top scorer with 68 points (35 goals, 33 assists).
“I don’t really think about it at all. It’s just numbers to me,” said Gerbe of his eight points in the Frozen Four. “The biggest thing is this trophy right next to us. We’ll do whatever it takes to get that. A lot of guys stepped up. Tonight was just a night where everyone stepped up a notch to get a championship.”
G: John Muse, Boston College
D: Mike Brennan, Boston College
D: Kyle Lawson (CAR), Notre Dame
F: Kevin Deeth, Notre Dame
F: Ben Smith, Boston College
F: Nathan Gerbe (BUF), Boston College
MOP (Most Outstanding Player): Nathan Gerbe (BUF), Boston College
2007-08 All-Americans Announced
On Friday, the RBK Men’s Division I All-Americans were announced. Below are the players who were named to the First and Second Teams.
East First Team
G: Kevin Regan (BOS), University of New Hampshire
D: Matt Gilroy, Boston University
D: Mike Moore, Princeton University
F: Nathan Gerbe (BUF), Boston College
F: Lee Jubinville, Princeton University
F: Mike Radja, University of New Hampshire
West First Team
G: Richard Bachman (DAL), Colorado College
D: Tyler Eckford (NJ), University of Alaska (Fairbanks)
D: Jack Hillen, Colorado College
F: Ryan Jones (MIN), Miami University
F: T.J. Oshie (STL), University of North Dakota
F: Kevin Porter (PHO), University of Michigan
East Second Team
G: Josh Kassel, Army
D: Grant Clitsome (FLA), Clarkson University
D: Brad Flaishans, University of New Hampshire
F: Bryan Ewing, Boston University
F: Matt Fornataro, University of New Hampshire
F: Peter MacArthur, Boston University
West Second Team
G: Jeff Lerg, Michigan State University
D: Chris Butler (BUF), University of Denver
D: Alec Martinez (LA), Miami University
F: Chad Kolarik (PHO), University of Michigan
F: Ryan Lasch, St. Cloud State University
F: Chad Rau (TOR), Colorado College