DENVER - This time, it was not going to elude them. This time, it was not going to end in devastating disappointment. This time, it was going to be theirs.
After losing in the NCAA Frozen Four championship game two years in a row, this time it was Boston College's turn to raise its collective arms in triumph, beating upstart Notre Dame, 4-1, last night in front of 18,632 at Pepsi Center.
The Eagles' superior scoring - led by junior left wing Nathan Gerbe's two goals and two assists - and the remarkable poise of freshman goaltender John Muse (20 saves) resulted in BC's third national title and first since 2001.
At times this season, it appeared that BC was going to be an also-ran in its conference. But then came the Beanpot championship, the Hockey East championship, and the Northeast Regional title, leading to the ultimate prize.
"I couldn't ask for a better way to end my career at BC," said senior center Dan Bertram. "I'm on Cloud Nine right now. I am speechless. I am just so proud of everyone in this locker room to accomplish what we did this year. I think there were some doubters in midseason but we rebounded and we got it done when it counted the most."
Gerbe, who was named the Frozen Four's Most Outstanding Player, tied the record for goals in an NCAA Tournament with seven. He finished as the nation's leader in points (68), goals (35), and points per game (1.58). Coach Jerry York, who earned his third title (Bowling Green in 1984 and BC in '01), moved into a tie for all-time NCAA Tournament wins with 26, equaling Boston University's Jack Parker.
The scoreless first period was defensive oriented, playing into the hands of the Fighting Irish. BC (25-11-8) had to adjust in the second period for a couple of reasons. One was because the Eagles were reduced to five defensemen after sophomore Carl Sneep was struck in the right ankle by a Notre Dame shot at 16:36. He did not return.
Gerbe and his teammates took charge in the second period and took a 3-1 lead into the second intermission.
At 2:23, Gerbe broke the ice with his first of two goals. Freshman center Brian Gibbons, positioned deep in the left circle, backhanded a pass to Gerbe at the left faceoff dot. Gerbe's shot beat junior netminder Jordan Pearce.
At 5:37, Gerbe boosted the lead to 2-0 with a power-play strike. He picked up a loose puck off the end boards and while diving forward, beat Pearce from just outside the right post.
Freshman left wing Joe Whitney, who was the overtime hero against Miami University in the NCAA Northeast Regional final, netted BC's third goal at 8:11, another power-play score. Gerbe, with the puck in the right circle, dished a pass to Whitney, who was high between the circles. Whitney's shot glanced off the right skate of freshman defenseman Teddy Ruth, changed direction, and beat Pearce to the blocker side.
Notre Dame (27-16-4) got one back at 9:07 on an even-strength goal. With the teams skating four a side, sophomore center Kevin Deeth fired a shot from the left circle that beat Muse to the glove side.
There was a controversial call at 4:56 of the third, which went against Notre Dame and changed the tenor of the contest for good.
The Fighting Irish rushed up ice during a three-on-two break and freshman defenseman Ian Cole threw the puck at the net from the left circle. Sophomore defenseman Kyle Lawson, positioned on the right side of the crease, had the puck first hit his left skate. He tried to kick it to his right skate to gain control of it and then put it on his stick, but the puck went off his right skate and slowly trickled over the goal line as BC defenseman Tim Filangieri took Lawson out of the play. It was ruled no goal because video replay official Greg Shepherd ruled Lawson had used a distinct kicking motion with his right skate to propel the puck.
Only 35 seconds later, the Eagles put it out of reach. With the top line cycling low, Gibbons fed Gerbe, who threw the puck to Ben Smith in the slot. Smith's shot bounced off the chest of Irish defenseman Brock Sheahan and past Pearce at 5:31. The Irish, in their first ever title game, simply didn't have the firepower to climb back.
Experience didn't hurt the hungry Eagles.
"I know in the previous two years we were nervous and maybe a little more uptight," said Bertram of the title-game defeats. "But we had the philosophy tonight that we were going to go out, play our game, and just enjoy it. I think that's the best mentality we've had so far, especially now with the national championship, but it's just a great feeling."