For the second-straight year, the Penguins have a national champion.
In 2007, prospect Tim Crowder helped Michigan State claim an NCAA championship. This year, it was Carl Sneep’s turn as Boston College upended Notre Dame, 4-1, for the national title.
“It was a great accomplishment. And, it’s been an unbelievable experience,” Sneep said.
Sneep, the Penguins’ 2006 second-round choice (32nd overall), was one of Boston College’s top defensemen and a key to the Eagles’ run back to the Frozen Four. However, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound sophomore was knocked out of the national championship early in the contest when he blocked an Irish shot in the first period.
Sneep was helped off the ice and it was revealed he suffered a contusion and high ankle sprain, an injury Penguins fans have become very familiar with this season.
“It was a weird play. I blocked a shot and there was initial pain,” he said. “When we got in the locker room and the trainers were checking me out, somehow I got a little bit of an ankle sprain during the play, too. I still haven’t seen a replay of it so I have no idea how I got a high ankle sprain from blocking a shot.
“It’s moving along nicely. It’s not much of an issue because I probably won’t put the skates on for a while anyway.”
Nevertheless, while Sneep was being attended to, the Eagles went back to business and held on for a 4-1 win over Notre Dame last Saturday at the Pepsi Center in Denver. It was tough for Sneep to miss out on the final two periods of action, but he made sure he got his skates back on to join his teammates on the ice for the postgame celebration.
“It would have been a lot more frustrating if we had lost. I was just as happy as everyone else when we won. If we would have lost and I couldn’t have gone back in the game, I would have really disappointed,” he said. “It would have been a little more exciting to have been out there and playing at the end of the game, but I still got to go celebrate it with my friends and I was just as big a part of it as everyone else. I’ve been working so hard at it all year long. To be out there with my teammates was just an unbelievable feeling.”
Despite the injury, Sneep gained valuable experience playing in more big games after he helped Boston College reach the Frozen Four a year ago.
“Being there twice is such a good experience to play in games that are so, so meaningful for your team,” he said. “This time around, I wasn’t even really nervous out there after my first couple of shifts. It’s great to learn how to play under a lot of pressure.”
Sneep follows in the footsteps of current Penguins defensemen Rob Scuderi and Brooks Orpik. Those two won a national title with Boston College in 2001.
“It’s very special. A lot of good players have come through BC,” Sneep said. “A lot of them have been there, but not all of them have won the national championship. It’s pretty special to be part of this 2008 championship team.”
Sneep led all BC defensemen in scoring with 15 points (3+12) in 44 games played. His minutes and role increased when the team lost two defensemen to injury earlier in the season.
“Since the second game of the year, we’ve only had six defensemen on the roster. I have gotten a lot more ice time this year than maybe I would have if those two other guys were able to play,” he said. “I feel like I made huge strides in my game this year and really improved a lot. I am really happy with the way I improved this year.”
|Carl Sneep was the 32nd player taken in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. |
It’s been a whirlwind for the Eagles since they claimed their championship. They’ve attended numerous ceremonies honoring their feat, including a Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game at Fenway Park and a Boston Bruins-Montreal Canadiens game.
“For the Red Sox-Yankees game, we were honored on the field. Not a lot of people get to say they were out there, but that’s just the perks of being the victors. We were honored at a Bruins game, too. There have been some great experiences for us,” he said. “We’re going to get to go to the White House in a couple weeks, too. It’s just a whole bunch of awesome stuff going on for us.”
While the grind on the ice came to an end, the final stretch in the semester is upon the Eagles, too.
“It’s definitely been very tough. We missed an entire week of school and we’re running out of time. There are only two weeks left until finals,” he said. “I’ve been meeting with my teachers a lot and I really have to crack down here and put some hours in in the library. I’m not really looking forward to it, but you have to do it.”
Sneep hopes to focus on his studies for the rest of the semester and relax and recharge before getting back into summer training.
“I’ll take a few weeks off and let the ankle get better and then get right into the summer workout program and get going for next year,” he said. “Hopefully, we can make another run at it.”
He’s looking forward to returning to Pittsburgh this summer for the Penguins’ rookie camp.
“Yeah, definitely. Last year was a very fun experience to get to see the city – I had never been there before – and to check out the rink and meet all the other guys I will hopefully be playing with in the future,” he said.
After that, it’ll be time to focus on defending the national championship for the Eagles, who return a very talented squad.
“I’d say we’d have to be the favorites right now. We have so much skill returning; it’s pretty ridiculous,” Sneep said. “Our freshman class next year is going to be really good, too. If we can keep Nathan Gerbe here, that’d be a help. Whether he signs or not, I think we’ll have a very, very good team next year. I’d be surprised if we didn’t make it back to the Frozen Four.”