Boston College, Notre Dame advance at Frozen Four

Apr 11, 2008 - 7:02 AM By Dave Reed PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

DENVER (Ticker) -- The clock has not yet struck midnight for Notre Dame.

Freshman Calle Ridderwall scored his second goal of the game at 5:44 of overtime as the Fighting Irish upset top-ranked Michigan, 5-4, at the Pepsi Center on Thursday in the Frozen Four semifinals.

Notre Dame (27-15-4) looks to complete its Cinderella story on Saturday, when it faces Boston College in the national championship game. The Eagles rolled past North Dakota, 6-1, in Thursday's first semifinal contest.

The Fighting Irish, who became the first No. 4 seed to reach the finals, held a shocking 3-0 lead after one period. But Chad Kolarik sandwiched goals around one by Matt Rust as the Wolverines (33-6-4) pulled even.

"We didn't get the start that we wanted, but I liked the way that our team regrouped in the second period," Michigan coach Red Berenson said.

"It was kind of a crazy game," Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. "There was no time in which I felt comfortable. ... They are an explosive team to feel comfortable (against). I knew it was going to be a tight game."

Berenson replaced starting goaltender Billy Sauer with Bryan Hogan to start the second period. Sauer made just six saves before being relegated to the bench.

"He's been our bread-and-butter goalie all year, but I just didn't like the way that the game was going," Berenson said. "It looked like he was fighting the puck. There were two goals that he probably would have stopped any other night. ... It was a tough decision, but you're trying to win the game."

Kevin Deeth put Notre Dame back in front midway through the third period, receiving a pass in the right faceoff circle and skating to the net before beating Hogan at 11:30.

But Carl Hagelin scored a fluke goal with 5:21 remaining to knot the contest at 4-4.

After chasing down a dump-in in the right corner, Hagelin grabbed the puck and fired it toward the net. It somehow found its way between netminder Jordan Pearce's left skate and the right goalpost.

In overtime, Hogan stopped Dan VeNard's shot from the right point. But the rebound came to Ridderwall, who fired it past the screened goaltender from the slot to vault Notre Dame into the championship game for the first time in its 40-year history.

"I don't think I've ever scored an overtime winner like that, especially in a big game like that," Ridderwall said. "We got the puck out to the point, Dan Venard put it on net and I was fortunate enough to get the rebound. I got it in the slot and just took a quick shot."

Kolarik did not fault Hogan for the goal that put an end to his collegiate career.

"He did a heck of a job," said Kolarik, a seventh-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in 2004. "I thanked him because he gave us seniors a chance. That's all you can ask from your goalie, is to give you a chance. He played really well. ... It wasn't his fault. He played a heck of a game."

Hogan, who was playing in just his sixth game of the season, made 18 saves and also recorded an assist.

It was the third straight upset pulled off by the Fighting Irish, who breezed past top-seeded New Hampshire in the West regional semifinals before topping defending champion Michigan State.

"I have a rich tradition in playing the underdog role," Jackson said. "The underdog thing is overblown. When you get to this level, the teams in college hockey are so close where anything can happen."

"We're really happy," Deeth added. "We're excited to be (in the title game), but we're not done yet. We still have business to finish."

Boston College will be hoping the third time is a charm as it advanced to the title game for the third consecutive season with a dominant triumph over North Dakota in the seventh overall Frozen Four meeting between the teams in 10 years. The Eagles also topped the Fighting Sioux in the semifinals in 2006 and 2007.

"That's just the way it is," North Dakota goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux said. "It's something that's really out of our control. Hopefully in years to come, we can figure out how to beat those guys."

"We did a lot of just basic meat-and-potato hockey tonight - finishing checks, moving pucks," Eagles coach Jerry York said. "We're certainly not trying to re-invent the wheel here at BC. We're a solid, fundamental team, there's no trickery to our club. Tonight, we stayed right with our game plan."

The Eagles, who are 2-6 all-time in title games, lost in the championship each of the previous two campaigns.

"Each year is different, each team is different, each path is different," York said. "There's not a lot of similarity between this team and the last two years. It's just different makeup. Players leave and players come, and you change a little bit of your group dynamics, but certainly we feel proud of the fact that we're now playing in the last game of the season."

Meeting North Dakota in the Frozen Four semifinals for the third consecutive season, Boston College (24-11-8) scored four times in the first period and twice more in the second for a commanding 6-0 lead.

"I'd like to congratulate Boston College," North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said. "They came out and played a very good hockey game. They made some plays early on and certainly full value for the win. ... Tonight was not the way we had envisioned to end the year, but that doesn't take anything away from the character and class of this group of guys on this hockey team."

The Eagles, who defeated the Fighting Sioux in the 2001 championship game for its second national title in 20 tournament appearances, were led offensively by Nathan Gerbe. The Hobey Baker Award finalist recorded a hat trick and added an assist to deny North Dakota (28-11-4) a chance for its first national championship since 1997.

"I'm sure the award has already been picked," Boston College's Andrew Orpik said. "But I get to watch Nate play every day, he's one of my roommates and he is, to me, the most exceptional player in college hockey. He puts you on the edge of your seat every time he gets the puck. To watch him play is something special, I think everyone understands that."

After Orpik gave Boston College a 1-0 lead at 7:08 of the first period, Gerbe scored goals 1:59 apart, including a shorthander with 6:46 left in the session that proved to be the game-winner. The junior completed his hat trick at 6:37 of the second, skating out from behind the net and lifting a backhander past goaltender Lamoureux during a power play to make it 5-0.

"I felt like I came out and challenged," Lamoureux said. "He just beat me with a really nice shot."

"He's just so quick and dynamic that he's dangerous whenever he has the puck, whatever the situation," York said of Gerbe. "That power-play goal, he kind of went around the net and put it up top. A pretty spectacular goal."

Gerbe also drew the praise of his opponents.

"Nate Gerbe did a great job," Hakstol said. "He did some high-impact plays and was certainly the difference in the hockey game."

"The kid's a great hockey player," North Dakota senior forward Kyle Radke added. "The league's designed for him. It's made for little guys who can wheel with the puck and score like that. He's executing on (darn) near every one of his scoring opportunities."

Gerbe capped his four-point performance with an assist on a goal by Ben Smith, who converted his backhand pass during a 2-on-1 rush at 11:58 of the second.

"On that 2-on-1, he is always going to pass, every time," Smith said. "Nice pass."

"I think the biggest thing was going out there and having the mind set of having fun," Gerbe said. "It's always great to be able to represent Boston College on this stage."

Freshman Jake Marto spoiled John Muse's shutout bid, scoring his second goal of the season with 76 seconds remaining in the contest.

"Just trying to play for pride at that point," Marto said. "You're playing for the crest on the jersey and all the fans that came out. I was just trying to play hard and it ended up in the back of the net."

Muse finished with 29 saves.

Boston College was stellar on special teams, keeping North Dakota scoreless on eight power-play opportunities.

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