Players to Watch: Boston College
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
Some players to look out for on Boston College at the Frozen Four.
Ben Smith, Sophomore Forward
Left-winger and Hobey finalist Nathan Gerbe draws most of the attention on Boston College's top line, but sophomore Ben Smith lines up on the right side and is a force to be reckoned with in his own right.
After scoring 18 points in his freshman year, the Avon, Conn., native has exploded for 23 goals and 22 assists for 45 points this season. Smith has also scored a goal in each of the last five games for the Eagles.
And in four of the last five games, Smith scored the first goal of the game for BC. In the Hockey East semifinal game against UNH, Smith's second period power play goal sparked the eventual comeback for the Eagles, who trailed 2-0 at the time.
Said coach Jerry York, "He's had a remarkable year. Twenty-three goals now. Last year, he was a checking forward for us. Benny Smith had a great stretch last year, moving up to the top line. I would think he's a real candidate to win an all-league honor next year. He's kind of been under the radar screen.
"He's an excellent player, and we're very proud."
Smith, who also had a memorable hat-trick in a 4-3 Dec. 1 win at Boston University, leads the Eagles with 10 power-play goals this season.
Matt Greene, Senior Forward
Joe Whitney and Benn Ferriero have been two of the most productive forwards for Boston College this year. In fact, with 50 and 41 points, respectively, they are both in the top four in team scoring.
And they have something else in common — they are centered by senior forward and Eagles assistant captain Matt Greene. The Plymouth, Mass., native has only 34 points in 159 career games, but he makes up for that lack of scoring with his unbridled energy.
The 5-foot-8, 180-pound forward has been a sparkplug for the Eagles, and opposing Hockey East coaches have taken notice.
"I'm a fan of the guys who are a little smaller in stature but have big hearts," said Mass.-Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald. "Guys like Greene and [5-foot-7 senior forward Pat] Gannon are just playing great. They just win a lot of shifts. They really impact the game with their energy, their speed, their puck pursuit. They're very, very good."
In last weekend's first round NCAA game against Minnesota, Greene assisted on Gannon's game-winning goal. The Eagles won the game 5-2.
Added Providence coach Tim Army, "Guys like [Nick] Petrecki and Greene — they add depth to their lineup. They don't lose much as they change lines or mix in their six defensemen. These guys create tempo, they poke in big goals, and they maintain the same speed as guys like [Nathan] Gerbe, [Ben] Smith, their elite players."
Nathan Gerbe, Junior Forward
It would be hard not to notice Gerbe, the Eagles' leading scorer with 30 goals and 30 assists in 41 games. The junior forward has scored seven goals and seven assists in BC's last seven games, and last week, was named one of the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.
Gerbe leads an offense that has proven to be explosive. BC is averaging 4.57 goals per game in the postseason.
"They can score goals quickly and in bunches," said Providence coach Tim Army. "They have the ability to change the course of the game in about two minutes."
Or 1:58 to be exact.
That's how long it took for the Eagles to score three goals against Miami in the Northeast Regional final last weekend — turning a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead. Gerbe scored the second of those three goals, racing up the ice with his trademark speed and firing a shot past Miami netminder Jeff Zatkoff.
Speed may be the name of the game against a fast North Dakota team on Thursday at the Frozen Four, and the Eagles will likely need Gerbe to continue his hot streak in order to be successful and return to the NCAA championship game for the third consecutive season.
Tim Kunes and Tim Filangieri, Junior Defensemen
Kunes and Filangieri only have 14 points combined this season, but it's not offense that this duo brings to the table.
The New York natives comprise the Eagles' best statistical defensive pairing. Kunes has an on-ice rating of plus-22 to lead all Boston College defensemen, while Filangieri is second with a plus-21 rating.
With the Eagles' national semifinal opponent North Dakota boasting 2007 Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan, as well as one of the 10 finalists for the '08 honor, T.J. Oshie, the duo of Kunes and Filangieri will likely be called upon to slow down the quick Fighting Sioux attack.