WORCESTER, Mass. — Most players would dream of a week like this, but Boston College senior forward Matt Lombardi might be one of very few exceptions.
Lombardi scored a goal and helped lift BC to a 3-1 victory over Alaska in Saturday's opening round of the NCAA Tournament at the DCU Center. The Northeast Regional's top seed will play either second-seeded North Dakota or third-seeded Yale on Sunday to earn a trip to the Frozen Four.
Lombardi, a checking forward who entered the BC program as a walk-on, recorded his first career hat trick in last Saturday's 7-6 overtime win against Maine in the Hockey East championship. But it was also his first career multi-goal game and a shocking statistical anomaly for Lombardi, who had just seven goals in 140 career games prior to that night.
In other words, he averaged one goal in every 20 games and three goals in every 60 nights at the rink, and the hat trick comprised 30 percent of his career’s goal-scoring total.
"Just think, 'no limits,'" Lombardi said. "I kind of had some personal success last weekend. I didn't set goals for myself to go out and score. I just play my role and do my job. It's not a goal of mine every game to score a goal. I just got a good bounce on the penalty kill and was able to walk right in."
After winning the Hockey East title, and again after defeating Alaska, Lombardi did his best to deflect questions about his personal success. His teammates have raved about his genuine interest in team success, and that's why Lombardi closes down the weight room every night, dedicating himself to be the hardest working, most prepared, durable grinder on the team. Hey, those boards hurt, especially when another guy is trying to bulldoze you through them.
"He's been a great leader for us all year long," said Eagles junior forward Joe Whitney. "He's the hardest worker on our team, and I think it's rewarding for us to see him play that way. He's a big part of our team."
Lombardi gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead with a fancy, short-handed goal in the first period, and it helped elevate a BC team that was far from its best. Senior forward Matt Price, who has been Lombardi's roommate for four years, stole the puck out of the BC zone, and Lombardi corralled it in the neutral zone. He broke free toward the Alaska net, showed the puck on the forehand and flipped it to the backhand to shovel it past goalie Scott Greenham.
With four of Lombardi's 11 career goals coming in the last eight days, he said he's definitely added some confidence in the offensive zone. It's not going to change his style, and he's got no plans to embark on a Nathan Gerbe-like tournament run. Lombardi just kept his head down all week and kept grinding, and his teammates are getting a real lift to see it pay off on the stat sheet.
"At the end of the day, everyone is a good hockey player out there," Price said. "It's not completely as unexpected as everyone thinks. He's a great player. He works hard, and he focuses real well. It's not like we were all shocked. He's been working hard all week. He doesn't get a hat trick and say, 'OK, I'm done. Boys, it's up to you.’ It’s great for him. It’s a testament to how hard he works."
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