Beyond Nova Nation: Boston College wins Frozen Four

Kaitlin Santanna

While the NCAA basketball tournament has its Final Four, the NCAA ice hockey tournament boasts a Frozen Four. With 16 teams starting the tournament in hopes of a national title, the competition was chopped down to four talented teams all vying for the right to be called the National Champions.

The 2008 Frozen Four began on April 10 in Denver, with both games drawing sold out crowds. Boston College was the first team to punch its ticket to the NCAA Championship game, whick took place on April 12. This first matchup of the Frozen Four saw Boston College taking on North Dakota in semifinal action. The Eagles conquered North Dakota the last three years in the semifinal round, and the last Boston national title came against the Sioux in overtime in 2001. Boston College continued this trend, easily disposing of North Dakota by a score of 6-1 to move on to its third straight NCAA title game.

Not even the top-ranked goalie in the league, North Dakota’s Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, could slow down the hot Boston College offense. BC star Nathan Gerb scored a hat trick and added an assist in his team’s victory over the Sioux. Andrew Orpik, Ben Smith and Dan Bertram rounded out the Eagles’ scoring for the evening.

While Boston’s road to the title match was fairly easy, Notre Dame’s journey to the championship game was a more arduous one. The Fighting Irish’s semifinal match came against hockey powerhouse University of Michigan. This matchup was a back-and-forth battle, and it took extra minutes to decide a winner, marking the first time a Frozen Four game went into overtime since 2003. Notre Dame’s Calle Ridderwall opened the game’s scoring five minutes into the first period. The Swede buried an outlet pass from junior center Justin White to get Notre Dame on the board first. The Irish added to their lead just 42 seconds later. Defenseman Brok Sheahan started a rush up ice, dished the puck off to left wing Ryan Thang, who made a pretty drop pass to Mark Van Guilder. The captain netted his 13th of the season and the second of the tournament to put his team ahead 2-0.

Michigan’s evening began to look grim when Thang scored a shorthanded goal at the 19:25 mark of the first. The Wolverines never let up, however, and responded with two goals of their own, separated by 15 seconds. Michigan’s Chad Kolarik, who signed an NHL entry-level contract with the Phoenix Coyotes Monday, put a centering pass from Kevin Porter past Notre Dame goalie Jordan Pearce. Aaron Palhshaj picked up his first point of the game with an assist en route to posting a total of three helpers on the evening. Kolarik potted his second goal of the game on the power play 2:16 into the third, and the two teams traded goals to even the score at 4-4 at the end of regulation. It took less than five minutes into overtime for Ridderwall to strike again, solidifying Notre Dame’s first spot in the NCAA Championship game.

Despite their different paths through the semifinals, Notre Dame and Boston College met Saturday night at the Pepsi Center in front of a sold out crowd of 18,700. The two teams held each other to a stalemate after the first 20 minutes, recording the fourth scoreless first period in NCAA title game history. The Eagles standout Gerb continued his strong postseason by opening the scoring in the championship matchup. He put Boston on the scoreboard 2:23 into the second period with a one-time shot before pulling the Eagles ahead by a score of 2-0 nearly three minutes later. Gerb went on to assist on Boston College’s third of the game, scored by Joe Whitney.

Kevin Deeth netted the first goal for Notre Dame midway through the second, sparking the Notre Dame offense and creating momentum for the Wolverines. ND almost made the score 3-2 five minutes into the final period, but the goal was waved off, with officials citing that the puck was kicked into the net. This controversial call quite possibly sealed the Irish’s fate. Boston College solidified its fate with Gerb’s fourth point of the game, assisting on Smith’s goal under a minute after the waved-off goal. Boston College goalie John Muse carried the Eagles throughout the tournament, only allowing two goals in the Frozen Four. The Eagles held on to win the game and the NCAA men’s hockey championship for the third time in the school’s history.

Going into the selection of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, college hockey’s version of the Heisman, Gerb was an obvious finalist for the honor. He had a part in every Boston College goal scored in the championship and seven goals in the NCAA tournament as whole, matching the all-time scoring record for that category. A Buffalo Sabres fifth-round draft choice, Gerb recorded 11 tournament points, the most by any player since 2005. Standing at only 5-feet-5-inches, the junior proved that the little man is capable of posting big numbers.

Although Gerb put up impressive numbers, the Hobey Baker Award went to Michigan standout and senior captain Porter. This past season, Porter has been named the CCHA Player of the Year. He is tied for the national lead in points (63) and goals (33) and is second in power play goals (15). Porter leaves Notre Dame with 183 career points. Porter will join his teammate Kolarik in Phoenix.