While much of the country is awaiting this weekend's Final Four, there is another exciting "Final Four" yet to come - men's ice hockey's Frozen Four - which the ACC's own Boston College is in for the third consecutive year. The run to the Frozen Four included a Hockey East title, a win over Minnesota in the opening game of the Northeast Regional, before a 4-3 overtime win against top-seeded Miami (Ohio).
The Eagles' junior forward Nathan Gerbe is a big part of that success. Gerbe is one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award - college hockey's highest individual honor - after leading the Eagles in scoring this season. He tallied 30 goals and 30 assists for 60 points. He took a few minutes to talk to theACC.com about his hockey experience and Boston College's success this year.
When did you start playing hockey?
I started skating when I was about three years old on the pond in my backyard. When I was six or seven, I started playing with organized teams. The first team I was on was Honeybaked (Hockey Club in Michigan). I was there for probably about six years, and then I went to play with the US National program for three years and then found myself here (at Boston College).
Can you talk about your experiences with the US National team?
It's one of the highlights of my life. It's an honor to be named to that team. They take the top 20-24 players from each age group - 16 to 18 - and compete against other junior teams. It's fun because you get to move away from home, go to a different school with all your teammates. It's a great time and you learn on your own. We traveled internationally three times a year for tournaments. We also played college teams in exhibitions and junior teams from around the nation.
What is the best advice you've received from a coach?
The best advice is to never quit. I'm a small player (5'5"), so size is a huge factor for me. Many people said I couldn't make it because I'm too small, but a lot of people said I could do it. Never quitting is great advice.
Who is your most influential role model?
My most influential role models are my parents. They've done everything for me and my five siblings. It's always great to watch them and great to watch how they carry themselves. It carries through the family when you get to watch your parents be role models.
What is your most memorable moment in sports, either as an athlete or as a sports fan?
I think the most memorable is being in the Frozen Four the past two years with BC. Some teams never get to, but we're in it again this year to make it three years.
What is your greatest accomplishment as an athlete?
Being able to get to Boston College. I always wanted to play Division I hockey, so being able to come to a school like this is probably one of the greatest highlights of my life.
What do you still hope to accomplish?
I want to just grow as a person. Obviously I want to accomplish a lot of things - win national championships and other awards - but I think Boston College is a great place to grow, find myself and meet others.
Why did you choose Boston College?
It's a great school and a tough opportunity to turn down. When I visited the campus, I thought it was beautiful, the city is beautiful, and it's a great education and a great coaching staff. I felt like it was home when I visited.
Your online biography says you're active in community service. Can you talk about your involvement and how it has benefited your student-athlete experience?
I do a lot of food kitchens for homeless shelters. I also visit area hospitals for the kids. Those are the main ones. I think it's great - a lot of people give you opportunities here at Boston College and you have to be thankful for what you've got. It's nice to be able to give back to the community and help others. A lot of people appreciate it, and it looks good for the school since that's what we're representing.
Do you have any plans yet for after graduation?
Hopefully I get to play pro hockey somewhere. (Post-graduation) is not something I want to think about right now, but that's my main goal.
Switching gears back to hockey, what do you think made Boston College so successful this year?
I would say how close our team is. When you look at games down the stretch, we've gone into overtime a lot and won. Our team trusts each other and trusts that we're going to get the job done. Everyone's out there playing for each other, which I think is the biggest thing for our team this year over other years.
Are there any games this season that stand out as being a great game or a great accomplishment for the team?
In the semifinals of the Hockey East tournament, we were losing 4-1 to New Hampshire halfway through the second period. We scored three goals to tie it up and won it in triple overtime. That showed a lot about our team, a lot about the character.
Can you talk about your experience in the previous two Frozen Fours and how you think that experience will help going in for a third time?
We have a lot of guys who have a lot of experience from the past two years. It's tough to think about those memories of losing tight games, but I think that will help this year. The team's experience level is really high, and I think everyone's going to be excited and ready for it. We have some unfinished business. We went to the national championship game in both years.
What do you think it will take for Boston College to win the national championship this year?
I think just playing smart and sticking to our elements. When we start losing is when we get away from our own game and start playing other people's game.
Can you describe the passion that fans have for hockey in the Northeast for those who may not be familiar?
It's great when you come to the arenas around here. The hockey fans are unbelievable, always cheering. A lot of buildings - especially in Hockey East - get sold out when our team comes into town. It's like Duke or North Carolina in basketball, the way they pack stands and everyone's excited to see them play. I think that's the feeling that people have when our team comes into town. It's always a special feeling.
||Nathan Gerbe and the Eagles face North Dakota in the national semifinals on Thursday, April 10, at 6 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com.|