19 , 2005
names are in Plzen, Czech Republic, this week, representing the
United States at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship. Minnesota
freshman-to-be Phil Kessel is there. So is defenseman Jack Johnson,
who’ll attend Michigan next fall. Future Wisconsin Badger
forward Jack Skille is on the team along with another Gopher recruit,
forward Peter Mueller. All four are likely first-round NHL draft
picks…assuming there will be another draft in our lifetimes.
The fans will come
to see Kessel, Johnson and the like, but they won’t be able
to take their eyes off Nathan Gerbe, a forward who’ll skate
for Boston College next season. At 5-foot-5, 160 pounds, the Oxford,
Mich., native is built like a fireplug and only slightly easier
to move, a Tasmanian devil on skates who plays each shift as if
someone smeared wasabi inside his helmet.
5-foot-5, 160 pounds, Boston College recruit Nathan Gerbe
is built like a fireplug and only slightly easier to move
be scared being 5-5,” Gerbe said following a U.S. Under-18
team exhibition match against a college opponent. “This
is what I’ve got. I know how I’ve got to play to make
it. I’m going to go out there and throw my body around,
take hits and make plays.
“I have to have
a mean streak being this size. Have to.”
Saying Gerbe throws
his body around isn’t entirely accurate – that description
would make you believe he’s flinging himself at anything
wearing the opponent’s sweater that moves. He’s more
like a human cannonball, locking in on his target and delivering
a blow as he did in a game against Michigan State in January when
he caught 6-foot-2 defenseman Jared Nightingale off guard behind
the Spartan net.
it easy on me when the go to hit me, but I’ve got the low
center of gravity,” Gerbe explained. “So it works
out to my advantage.”
advantage is less about things just working out and more about
“He works hard
and he’s all heart,” said U.S. Under-18 team coach
Ron Rolston. “He battles, he’s one of the strongest
guys on the team physically and every night he consistently gives
you everything he’s got. Lots of energy.”
Men on Campus
2004-05 All-5-8 and Under Team
Lest you think
Gerbe is a plugger, note that he scored 29 points in 38 games
with the Under-18 team this season and through three games of
pool play in Plzen, he’s picked up two goals and an assist
for the unbeaten U.S. squad. He’s even spent time on a line
with the silky smooth Kessel, which is like Sean Connery teaming
up for a buddy flick with Jack Black.
great player,” Gerbe says of Kessel. “Makes things
a lot easier for me.”
The feeling is mutual.
“He definitely sparks something,” Kessel said. “He
can score a goal or make a physical play. He’s a little
tough kid who has no fear. He plays his ass off.”
In roughly six months,
Gerbe will shift that posterior into high gear for Boston College,
where he’s destined to become a fan favorite in a program
that has welcomed the likes of 5-8 Tony Voce, 5-8 Ben Eaves and
the patriarch of mighty mites, 5-7 Brian Gionta, to its campus.
”I watch all
the small guys – Gionta, Martin St. Louis, Mike York,”
Gerbe said. “Brian Gionta played with my older brother [Joe,
who bypassed the college route for the OHL’s Guelph Storm],
so I kind of watched him growing up.”
It’s mildly amusing
to hear a kid who’s a shaved head away from not being able
to ride most theme park roller coasters talk about growing up.
In Gerbe’s case, however, size doesn’t matter.