DENVER — You can call it a butt-kicking, a blow away or any combination of terms. Whichever you choose, it’s another Boston College victory over North Dakota in the Frozen Four.
Things started badly and slowly got worse for North Dakota, as the Eagles ran off four first-period goals en route to a 6-1 victory in the opening game of the 2007 Frozen Four. The Eagles will face the winner of Thursday’s second semifinal between Michigan and Notre Dame in Saturday’s title game.
It’s the third straight year Boston College has ended North Dakota’s season in the national semifinal.
Hobey “Hat Trick” finalist Nathan Gerbe was the offensive fireplug for the Eagles, scoring a hat trick and adding an assist. His hat trick was of the rare variety, with one goal coming shorthanded, one at even strength and the final on the power play.
The victory seemed so easy and effortless, you would wonder if someone went to Staples and gave BC head coach Jerry York an easy button.
“This will happen once in light years that [BC and North Dakota] will be separated by that many goals,” said York. “This was a game where I didn’t think the score was indicative of the game.”
BC, in essence, put the game away in the opening 20 minutes. After weathering an early onslaught by North Dakota, BC rattled off four goals before North Dakota even knew what hit them.
“When we went down 2-0, I thought we were fine,” said North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol. “Even after the third goal we thought on the bench that things would be OK, but we didn’t get out of the period that way. Once we were down four, that was a little too big of a hill to climb.”
The hill may have been big, but York and his team understand the explosiveness of the North Dakota offense — so much so that York didn’t even have to tell his players the importance of remaining focused.
“We’ve got veterans on our team who have been through some big games,” said York. “So before I ever went in the locker room [between the first and second], I could hear the players talking about the fact we needed to keep the pressure on.”
BC would add two goals in the second to extend the lead and they then were able to put things on cruise control. The only question left was whether goaltender John Muse (29 saves) would get his fourth shutout of the season. Despite making some incredible saves in the third, he wasn’t able to stop Jake Marto with 1:16 remaining, the only goal he’s allowed the Sioux in two meetings this season.
The Eagles opened the scoring at 7:08 of the first when Kyle Kucharski and Andrew Orpik skated in two-on-one. Kucharski got the North Dakota defender to commit, then slid the puck to Orpik, whose one-timer went far-side on J.P. Lamoureux (21 saves).
The Sioux nearly responded on the power play when Chay Genoway’s shot from the right faceoff circle rang off the left post at 10:17. That would be the last solid chance the Sioux would have in the frame.
Another BC penalty at 12:00 gave the Sioux another opportunity, but instead it was the Eagles that capitalized. Gerbe picked up a loose puck at his defensive blueline and skated in untouched, firing a shot five-hole at 13:14 to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
Gerbe again found the net less than two minutes later, this time rushing up the right side and firing a shot and then getting his own rebound and shooting from a bad angle in the right corner. Lamoureux was caught off guard and the shot trickled between his legs and over the line to extend BC’s lead to 3-0 at 15:13.
As the final seconds ticked away, BC scored yet again. Pat Gannon picked the pocket of the Sioux defender and centered a pass to the point that Dan Bertram rifled under the crossbar with 15.8 seconds remaining.
The Eagles extended the lead in the second period when Gerbe completed his hat trick. With Lamoureux down, Gerbe skated from behind the net and roofed a shot at 6:37.
Later in the period, it was Gerbe setting up BC’s sixth goal. After a BC penalty expired, Ben Smith took a pass from Gerbe on a two-on-one and fired it high over Lamoureux for a 6-0 Eagles lead at 11:58 of the second.
Muse seemed poised to pick up the shutout, making incredible third-period saves on Ryan Martens and Rylan Kaip, but he couldn’t stop Marto as the seconds ticked away, the only blemish for the Eagles on an otherwise perfect game.
The Eagles advance to the national title game for the third straight season and sixth time in 11 years under head coach Jerry York. The only title in that stretch for BC came in 2001.
North Dakota’s season ends in the national semifinal yet again and the club finishes the season with a 28-11-4 record. Though a somber ending, Hakstol had no desire to take anything away from his team.
“This is a pretty special group of guys and obviously tonight is not the way we envisioned things going,” said Hakstol. “That doesn’t take anything away, though, from the character and the class of these guys.”