On Wisconsin…to the championship

first_imgScott Gudmandson (left) and Brendan Smith (right) celebrate their 8-1 victory Thursday over RIT in the Frozen Four. UW will face Boston College for the championship Saturday.[/media-credit]DETROIT — Oh, they’re halfway there.But instead of relying on prayers, seven different Badgers scored a goal and 13 skaters registered at least one point as the Wisconsin men’s hockey team beat the Rochester Institute of Technology 8-1 in the national semifinal to advance to Saturday’s title game.It took just 1:27 of game time for forward John Mitchell to give UW the lead, and the Badgers never looked back from there. The 6-foot-5 senior crashed the net on a shot by Cody Goloubef and knocked in the rebound to put Wisconsin up 1-0.A Derek Stepan redirection made it 2-0 after one period.Although the Badgers were relieved to come out fast — they scored in the first six minutes of the game for the fourth consecutive time — they weren’t going to let their guard down.“The two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey, they say,” senior tri-captain Blake Geoffrion said. “You’ve still got to play your game, stick to the game plan, not let guys get selfish out there.”It was the second period that proved the backbreaker for RIT, though. UW scored four goals, including three on the power play in the second frame, as the Badgers took advantage of nine minutes with the man advantage during the period.The Tigers’ Mark Cornacchia was called for hitting from behind at 10:26 of the second, resulting in a five-minute major and game misconduct just 17 seconds after Tyler Mazzei received a two-minute minor for roughing. Michael Davies and Geoffrion would score on separate five-on-three power plays to stretch the lead to 6-0.“They had the puck the whole time they were on the power play. So I almost want to throw out that period,” RIT head coach Wayne Wilson said. “You can’t take a five-minute major and also take other minors on it as well and be five-on-three and expect to win at this time of year.”The Tigers were also burned by a video review. Brendan Smith fired a shot just wide from the point and freshman Justin Schultz was able to jam the rebound off the back wall in past RIT goaltender Jared DeMichiel. The play was whistled dead and not initially ruled a goal.“Every single time we’ve got it under review, it’s been a goal,” RIT center Cameron Burt said. “I don’t know what the deal is. Maybe we need somebody up in the booth giving us some help there.”Tyler Brenner got RIT’s lone goal, a power play tally at the end of the second period to make it 6-1 going into the third. Jordy Murray scored the Badgers’ other goal, after some nice moves by senior Aaron Bendickson to take the puck in on net around a defenseman.Up to that point, the Tigers managed just 10 shots on goal. Wisconsin’s defense was effective in getting the puck up the ice and out of its own zone. Add that to the Badgers’ victories in the physical battles on the boards, and RIT just didn’t get a lot of good chances on UW goaltender Scott Gudmandson. The Tigers finished the game being outshot 37-14.UW stayed unbeaten when taking a lead into the third period (26-0-2), and Craig Smith and Stepan scored 20 seconds apart in the third period to reach the final score of 8-1. Brendan Smith finished the game with five assists. The first 17:28 of play in the third was scoreless though, partly because RIT played better and partly because the Badgers were content to play conservatively to protect the lead.But yet again, a good start to the game spelled good things for Wisconsin, which improved to 19-2-1 on the season when scoring first.“We did what we needed to do and we were able to get that early lead,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said. “But getting that good start was paramount for us.”It was the end of a Cinderella run for the Tigers, who were the 15th overall seed in the 16-team NCAA field. RIT shocked second-overall seed Denver 2-1 in the first game of the East Regional and then dominated New Hampshire 6-2 to reach the program’s first Frozen Four — in just the school’s fifth year as a Division I squad.The jump RIT showed in stunning the Pioneers and Wildcats didn’t seem to be there against a Badger squad that, at times, just seemed faster and tougher than the Tigers.“They had an answer for everything,” Wilson said of the Badgers. “They were physically, I thought, stronger and quicker and really answered anything that we tried to generate. And we had a tough time generating anything.”Saturday will mark the eighth official time the Badgers will play in the national title game. UW won two previous titles in Detroit, in 1977 and 1990. Wisconsin will face Boston College in a rematch of the 2006 championship game, which UW won 2-1.“It’s a good win for us, and we gotta continue to play hard and play smart,” Stepan said. “We gotta get ourselves ready and focused to play one more.”last_img

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