Commentary

Experienced Eagles keep Frozen Four streak intact with OT win

Originally Published: March 30, 2008
By David Albright | ESPN.com

WORCESTER, Mass. -- Miami scored the most goals in college hockey this season, but it appears Boston College has the nation's most lethal attack.

Don't believe it?

Late in the second period, the Eagles ripped off three quick goals to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead in the Northeast Regional final Sunday afternoon at the DCU Center.

And though the RedHawks tied it in the third before losing 4-3 in heartbreaking fashion in overtime, that one small segment of a 70-plus minute game was the difference between advancing to next week's Frozen Four in Denver and having to take the sweater off for the final time this season.

"We're both pretty quick teams, but we wanted to stay away from the run-and-gun game because they're better at it than we are," Miami captain Ryan Jones said. "Our main goal is puck possession down low, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that for two periods. When we got away from that, they scored three goals against us."

In a hurry.

[+] EnlargeNathan Gerbe
AP Photo/Mary SchwalmHobey finalist Nathan Gerbe added to BC's flurry of goals in the second period.

"They had us down 2-0 and were controlling the game, and then we just caught fire in a bottle," BC coach Jerry York said. "Three rapid-fire goals gave us more life and more energy, and it really was the key to the hockey game because at 2-0, they were controlling everything."

BC had just killed off a pair of penalties to keep it a two-goal game when Miami was going to be called for its own infraction. But before the RedHawks could get possession to get a whistle, the Eagles made it 2-1 with 3:12 left in the second when defenseman Nick Petrecki one-timed a Pat Gannon pass past Miami goaltender Jeff Zatkoff.

"Once they got that first one, they kind of rolled a little bit," Zatkoff said. "I thought we did a good job of shutting them down for the most part, it was just that last five minutes or so of the second period. They were able to make the most out of their odd-man rushes.

"It all happened so fast."

Just 14 seconds later, BC tied it up when center Brian Gibbons found Nathan Gerbe in the slot, and the Hobey Baker top-10 finalist one-timed the puck past Zatkoff for his 30th goal of the season.

Miami coach Rico Blasi chose not to call a timeout to settle his team down -- a decision he may regret all offseason -- and the Eagles took the lead with 1:14 left in the period on another odd-man rush when Benn Ferriero found Ben Smith in the left circle, and the sophomore scored his 23rd goal of the year.

Three goals in 1:58 is nothing if not lethal.

Without the sudden second-period burst, BC's season would be over.

It looked like that might be the case in overtime, too, as Miami controlled the play in the extra session and ended up outshooting the Eagles 10-4.

Joe Whitney
AP Photo/Mary SchwalmFreshman Joe Whitney, right, preserved BC's season with his OT goal.

Recognizing that his team was clearly playing on its heels, York decided to stop play and get his team refocused on finishing the first task at hand.

"In OT, Miami clearly had the better chances and the better of the play, and the assistant coaches said we better call a timeout," York said. "So we called a timeout and just reassured the kids that let's not think about Denver and the chance to go to the Frozen Four, let's try to win a hockey game. At that point we were sitting back and we weren't being the aggressor."

The timeout did the trick, and BC started to level the ice a bit. And then another odd-man rush (what else?) created the game-winner.

Center Dan Bertram, who was robbed by Zatkoff in the closing minute of regulation, skated up the right side and blasted a laser toward the Miami net. Zatkoff, who finished with 38 saves, made a pad save, but the puck deflected out to his right.

Arriving to meet the puck was freshman winger Joe Whitney, who spun and dove before he swatted a backhander under Zatkoff's blocker at 12:12 of overtime for the 4-3 final -- which also gave Miami (33-8-1) its only loss of the season (22-1-0) after scoring the game's first goal.

"I knew it was a 3-on-2 coming down and unfortunately I wasn't able to control the rebound," Zatkoff said. "I picked [Whitney] up at the last second and he made a good effort and swatted it, and I wasn't able to get to it."

For Whitney, who leads the nation with 40 assists, it was by far the biggest of his 10 goals in his young college career -- the kind of goal he thought about as a kid growing up in nearby Reading, Mass.

"You always dream growing up to get an OT winner to send your team to something special," Whitney said. "Fortunately it was on my stick, but it could have happened to anyone. It's a team effort and we had a bunch of chances. Berty got robbed in the last minute; it could have been him, it could have been anyone on the team, but thankfully it was me."

Whitney was named the regional's most outstanding player. Joining him on the All-Tournament team were Jones, Gerbe, Petrecki, Miami defenseman Alec Martinez and Air Force goaltender Andrew Volkening.

With the win, Boston College (23-11-8) advances to the Frozen Four for the third consecutive year and for the 21st time in school history. The Eagles, who have lost in the national title game each of the past two years, will play North Dakota on April 10 (ESPN2, 6 p.m. ET) in one national semifinal, while No. 1 Michigan faces CCHA partner Notre Dame (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) in the other game at the Pepsi Center.

"We're on a roll right now," York said. "We've won seven straight and we're playing pretty good hockey. I think this is the best team I've had in terms of making the most out of what we have, the karma that exists in the room and the confidence level. We just seem to get things done.

"When you start going to these Frozen Fours, you start building up a little bit of pedigree and you feel like, 'We belong and we're going to advance.'"

A lethal eight Frozen Four appearances in the past 11 years -- including four in the past five years -- clearly shows BC belongs.

David Albright is the senior deputy editor for college sports at ESPN.com. He can be reached at david.albright@espn3.com.