Wisconsin, BC score lopsided victories
Eagles to face Badgers in Frozen Four final
DETROIT -- Everyone had it all wrong.
Turns out the issue with putting in a temporary ice rink at Ford Field had nothing to do with what the quality of the ice would be. Rather, the problem appeared to be that the rink was tilted.
How else do you explain two routs in Thursday's Frozen Four national semifinals?
Wisconsin started the day when it rolled Rochester Institute of Technology 8-1, with the largest margin of victory in a Frozen Four game since Lake Superior State beat Boston University 9-1 in the 1994 final.
That was followed by Boston College's 7-1 crusher against No. 1 overall seed Miami.
The 13-goal combined differential was the second largest in Frozen Four play behind a 15-goal day way back in 1954.
Thursday's two victories, in front of a surprisingly quiet record indoor hockey crowd of 34,954, set up a rematch of the 2006 championship game, which was won 2-1 by the Badgers at Milwaukee's Bradley Center. BC and Wisconsin will meet Saturday night (7 p.m. ET, ESPN HD, ESPN3.com) to decide the 2010 NCAA hockey champion.
Both of Thursday's semifinals were decided in the second period.
The Badgers (28-10-4) used a 13-4 shot advantage to turn a 2-0 lead into a 6-1 bulge -- thanks in large part to three power-play goals (which tied a season high for UW).
"We ran into just a powerhouse tonight," RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. "They have a tremendous power play, and we knew that going in. But they had an answer for everything. They were physically stronger and quicker and really answered anything we tried to generate."
Center Derek Stepan's two-goal, two-assist night led a Badgers barrage that saw 12 of 18 skaters record points -- including a five-assist effort by defenseman and Red Wings draft pick Brendan Smith.
Bucky ended up with a 37-14 shot advantage for the game, highlighted by a 14-2 edge in Grade A chances.
"We talked about all year how one of the strengths of our team is our depth, and guys stepped up," captain Blake Geoffrion said.
Wisconsin will be going for its seventh national title, and third (in three different venues) in this town. But the Badgers know Thursday's easy skate won't likely be repeated Saturday.
"It's a good win for us, but we gotta continue to play hard and play smart and we gotta get ourselves ready and focused to play one more," Stepan said. "And having that balance of not being too hot or not being too low is kind of a key. With being confident comes that poise, and having that poise is very crucial."
In the nightcap, BC (28-10-3) outshot Miami by the same 13-4 margin in the middle period and scored two goals 62 seconds apart to jump out to a 3-0 lead and chase starting goaltender Connor Knapp in favor of Cody Reichard.
Miami closed to within 3-1 in the third period, and it looked for a brief moment like the RedHawks would make it a game. Then BC exploded for three goals in 1:35 to make it 6-1 in a flash.
"That was a total domination for Boston College," Miami coach Rico Blasi said. "First goals are huge in these games. Once they got the second one and the third one, they just kind of took off. Tonight wasn't our night. We didn't play well."
BC has now beaten Miami four consecutive times in NCAA tournament play (2006-08, 2010). And when you add the RedHawks' 4-3 overtime loss to Boston University in last year's championship game, it's now five straight losses for Miami to teams from Boston.
"I thought we'd get some luck, but it looks like the curse of Boston continues," senior forward Jarod Palmer said. "We're disappointed with our performance."
The question now is whether a team from the Hub of Hockey will win the title for the third consecutive year. When they face Wisconsin on Saturday night, the Eagles -- whose most recent championship came two years ago -- will be looking to win the school's fourth national title, and third under coach Jerry York.
If they play as complete a game as they did Thursday night it will be difficult to slow BC down.
The Eagles got goals from six different players, led by senior forward Ben Smith's two-goal, one-assist night. Goaltender John Muse made 17 saves and improved to 7-0 in NCAA play, and freshman defenseman Patch Alber scored his first career goal to give you an idea what kind of night it turned out to be for BC.
"We were very, very sharp tonight," York said. "We moved pucks really well and got excellent goaltending from Johnny Muse. We blocked a lot of shots, and we were very quick and creative with our shots.
"It's just good players making good plays. Postseason success is because we've won a lot of battles at the kitchen tables in recruiting. If you have a lot of good players, like we have at BC, you're going to win an awful lot of games. We feel very good about playing Wisconsin Saturday night."
And the Badgers, who lead the nation with 171 goals (4.1 per game), have to feel pretty good about their chances, too, heading into the championship game.
"I think this group, because of the upperclassmen, has the ability to enjoy the moment and get back to the task at hand," Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. "I think that is one of the guys' strengths is being able to do that. And we're going to need to be able to have that happen again."
And with any luck the final game of the college hockey season will be played on level ice.
David Albright covers college sports for ESPN.com and can be reached at email@example.com.
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