Nathan Gerbe no longer has to be a gracious runner-up. Twenty-four hours after missing out on the Hobey Baker award, the nation's leading scorer led Boston College to the NCAA hockey championship that had eluded the talent-laden Eagles the last two seasons.
"Who needs the Hobey Baker? I've got the national championship," exulted Gerbe, who scored twice and added two assists in B.C.'s 4-1 win over Notre Dame on Saturday night.
Gerbe had a hat trick in the semifinals against North Dakota and finished his command performance at the Frozen Four with five goals and three assists.
The 5-foot-5 fireplug from Oxford, Mich., who led the nation in scoring with 35 goals and 32 assists, shrugged it off Friday night when he lost out to Michigan's Kevin Porter for hockey's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
With the Eagles (24-11-8) finally hoisting the trophy after losing in the title game to Wisconsin in 2006 and Michigan State last year, Gerbe danced to Kool And The Gang's "Celebration" on the ice after the horn sounded.
"For our team to share these memories, it's going to be footprints in each other's hearts forever, this trophy," said Gerbe, a junior whose NHL draft rights are owned by the Buffalo Sabres. "I'd way rather hold this than the Hobey."
Boston College also won titles in 1949 and 2001.
Despite the loss of top scorer Erik Condra to a knee injury last month, coach Jeff Jackson guided the Fighting Irish (27-16-4) to their first national title game just three years after taking over the moribund program that won only five games in 2004-05.
Boston College simply had too much experience and too much Gerbe for the Irish to pull off the upset.
The Fighting Irish thought they had cut B.C.'s lead to 3-2 5 minutes into the final period, but the goal was disallowed after a long review. Kyle Lawson turned his skates to form a 'V' and the puck went off his left skate and then his right. He tried to get his stick on it but couldn't as B.C. defenseman Tim Filangieri hit him as the puck slide into the net.
"If that goal stands, 3-2, then it's a lot different type of game," Eagles coach Jerry York acknowledged.
It proved a costly waive-off for Notre Dame. Just 35 seconds later, the Fighting Irish were down three goals instead of one when Gerbe sent a blind pass to Ben Smith, whose slap shot from the slot made it 4-1.
"It was a tough break for us," Lawson said, "especially for them to come back and get that flukey fourth one that put us away."
This game featured just the fourth scoreless first period in NCAA championship history, including last year's, when Boston College lost to the Spartans 3-1.
The Eagles, the first Eastern winner since their '01 title and only the third in the last 13 seasons, seized control this time with a three-goal onslaught in the second period.
The game was shown on the scoreboard at Fenway Park during a rain delay of the Red Sox game against the New York Yankees. Those remaining in the stands cheered when Gerbe made it 1-0 when he took a pass from Brian Gibbons and one-timed it from the lower left circle past Jordan Pearce 2:23 into the second period.
Gerbe made it 2-0 with a power play goal three minutes later. Smith dumped the puck off the backboards and Gerbe picked up the ricochet and sent it past the glove of Pearce while falling chest-first onto the ice, an effort that even left the Notre Dame bench in awe.
"I don't know if there's a kid in the country that works harder than he does, and he was finally rewarded tonight," Lawson said. "He's a catalyst for that team and he stepped up in the big moments. I think that second goal epitomized what he is: sprawling out, diving and putting it away.
"It's definitely a hard one to take, but it's good to see a kid who works so hard succeed in a moment like this."
Joe Whitney's shot glanced off the right skate of Notre Dame defender Teddy Ruth, deflecting it into the net for a 3-0 lead, but the Fighting Irish caught Boston College in a line change a minute later when the Eagles weren't back to defend Kevin Deeth's goal past freshman goalie John Muse, who saved 20 of 21 shots.
Notre Dame was 0-for-8 on the power play with just five shots on goal. The Eagles, who killed all eight North Dakota power plays in their 6-1 semifinal rout, killed 41 of 43 power plays in the postseason.
And they did it on this night largely without star defenseman Carl Sneep, who injured his right ankle in the first period and was helped off the ice.
B.C. captain Mike Brennan said it was a bittersweet moment taking off his Eagles sweater for the last time. But what about Gerbe? Will he bolt for Buffalo and NHL's riches now that he has his cherished championship?
"I haven't thought about it at all," he insisted. "My main focus this whole year was to bring this trophy back to Chestnut Hill and I try not to think about the future. Coach keeps me here in the present. So, that's something that I don't really want to talk about or think about."
Neither is it something the Eagles fans want to ponder right now.
Notes:@ Jackson, who won two titles at Lake Superior State in the 1990s, fell to 6-2 in Frozen Fours. This was the fifth time York led Boston College to the title game, and the second time his team won.
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