Gerbe's Tournament, Absolutely Hobey-Like
by Dane DeKrey/Staff Writer
DENVER Kevin Porter's lucky that the Hobey Baker is announced the day before the national championship game instead of the day after.
At least that's what Norte Dame's Jeff Jackson thinks.
"The great respect I have for Kevin Porter," Jackson began, "naming the Hobey Baker after this weekend they may change their mind."
What — or more appropriately, who — Jackson was referencing was none other than Nathan Gerbe of Boston College. Gerbe, who sat at center ice of the Pepsi Center and graciously watched Porter receive college hockey's top individual honor just 24 hours before, capped off a convincing campaign that he, not Porter, was college hockey's best player in 2008 with a two-goal, two-assist clinic in Saturday night's 4-1 championship victory over Norte Dame.
This followed his hat trick in the semifinal.
But in all honesty, it was never a question of Gerbe's skills in contemplating his Hobey-worthiness; rather, it was his character as a player, on and off the ice.
On Saturday night, Gerbe's postgame eloquence and poise helped dispel any lingering questions.
"Coming into the weekend, I took responsibility in my owns hands for losing the last two years, and as a player, our team needs goals and that's something that I needed to do," said Gerbe, not even mentioning his incredible 7-goal, 11-point performance in the NCAA Tournament. "My linemates have done a great job and Brian Gibbons had another great game; it's just been that way all season."
And while it was evident from Gerbe's face that he was perhaps growing tiresome of the saturation of media attention he was receiving, he made his way around to each and every reporter looking to get a sound bite, even with his team celebrating the victory in the locker room without him.
However, it wasn't as though the team had forgotten about the 5 foot 5 inch fireball.
Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth.
"I think he should probably be the Hobey Baker (winner)," said teammate Andrew Orpik, who, in an incredibly rare and incredibly entertaining turn of events, was being faux-interviewed by teammate Brock Bradford via Bradford's makeshift water bottle microphone. "You know the votes are done before the weekend and I think he turned a lot of heads this weekend and showed why he should have won the award."
After pausing briefly, Orpik added: "Rooming with him is exceptional."
It was a moment that epitomized the misconceptions of Gerbe that have frequented the college hockey world all season long.
Yes, he's "feisty." Yes, he's taken some liberties. But no, he's not a jerk. No, he's not arrogant. No, he's not in it for himself.
He's simply an incredible player who delivered when his team needed him most.
It was such a clutch performance that when asked about Gerbe, Norte Dame's Jackson could hardly stop doting on his one-time player at U.S. National Developmental program.
"God bless the small guy because he plays fearless and with a lot of jam and skill," Jackson said. "He reminds me of another small player from BC — Brian Gionta — although he might even be quicker than Brian."
Perhaps it was his speed that propelled Gerbe to score the title game's first two goals and set up the final two goals, but how it happened doesn't really matter. What matters much more is the fact that Gerbe, playing with a bull's eye on his jersey as the team's most dangerous scoring threat, still produced. And produced. And produced some more.
With the four points tallied by Gerbe on Saturday night, he finishes the season as the nation's leader in goals, points and points per game with 35, 68 and 1.58, respectively. Who is second to Gerbe in all three categories?
You guessed it, Kevin Porter.
Still, with a resume that continued to bulk a little more with every playoff game, Gerbe didn't give much play to the notion that he deserved to win the Hobey Baker award over Porter.
"Yeah, it might be a different story," Gerbe said, when asked his thoughts on if the Hobey would be named tomorrow instead of yesterday. "But our goal was to win a national championship not a Hobey Baker, and that's what we did. The Hobey would have been great for an individual honor but for a team honor this national championship is as good as it gets."
As he finished his last round of interviews, the still-dressed Gerbe found himself glancing to his Boston College locker room door each time a hoot or holler erupted.
Sensing he was missing out on the tidal wave of emotions that come with winning a national championship, Gerbe fielded one last question: What was the best thing about Denver?
"Just winning," he said, as he turned, opened the locker room door and rejoined the team he had just led to its third national championship in its history.
For Gerbe, it was the perfect end to the perfect Frozen Four.