Eagles set pace early for fourth title
DETROIT -- Mike Eaves and the Wisconsin hockey team have a slogan that applies to every game and every opponent. They call it TWIG.
It stands for Take What Is Given.
"It's about us doing what we would like to do and that's get the puck and put pressure on the defense," Eaves said before the Frozen Four championship game. "If we put that type of pressure and create turnovers and play with it, we will be able to take what's given."
Boston College clearly didn't get the message because the Badgers are still waiting for an opportunity, any opportunity, to present itself.
BC flipped the script and used TWIG to its advantage and skated past, around and through the Badgers all night long en route to a 5-0 win for the 2010 NCAA hockey championship in front of a world indoor record hockey crowd of 37,592 at Ford Field on Saturday night.
And in the process the Eagles (29-10-3) took home their fourth national championship and second in the past three seasons.
"To win two national championships for the juniors and seniors has never been done in Boston College history," BC coach Jerry York said. "We've had seven of them that have repeated and I think it will be interesting if they feel this one is a better year.
"I think the next one is always the best one."
York's message before the Frozen Four final was simple. "We feel very good about playing Wisconsin on Saturday night, that's for sure," he said after Thursday's 7-1 semifinal win over No. 1 overall seed Miami (Ohio).
The BC coach wasn't being cocky, he was simply confident about how his team's style of play would match up against Wisconsin and how the Eagles were playing on the final weekend of this college hockey season.
And you don't win a record 33 NCAA tournament games and a current NCAA-best 850 overall games without knowing a good matchup when you see one.
Going into the game, the matchup looked like two statistically equal teams with Wisconsin having the edge in size and strength and BC being the speedier of the two clubs.
From the first puck drop, the Badgers tried to impose their will on BC, but the Eagles wouldn't allow it.
Instead, Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player Ben Smith scored what would be the championship winner at 12:57 of the first when he found a soft spot in the Wisconsin penalty kill and took a pass from Steven Whitney in the slot and beat Badgers goalie Scott Gudmandson through the five-hole.
More importantly, though, was that the Eagles set the tone for the game in other areas. They took the body when necessary and neutralized Wisconsin's strength, and then gave up the body to get in the Badgers' shooting lanes. After the first 20 minutes, BC had nearly as many blocked shots (four) as UW had shots (five) that actually found their way to Eagles goalie John Muse.
"They did a tremendous job of getting in our shooting lanes," Eaves said. "We couldn't get pucks to the net and they blocked a ton of shots. To me that was one of the keys to the game. The fact that they did that, that Muse didn't have to stop as many shots because they got into the shooting lanes and were willing to give up their bodies."
Wisconsin, which came into the title game averaging 38 shots a game, found the net only 20 times while being shut out for the third time this season.
For the game, the BC forwards and defensemen blocked 17 shots while Muse was perfect in his third shutout of the season, improving his NCAA tournament record to a perfect 8-0. The junior was 4-0 this spring and 4-0 during his freshman season that ended with BC's win over Notre Dame for the 2008 national title.
"Whenever we didn't do a good job, John was there to save the chances," Smith said. "So we were solid in the defensive zone and playing through the neutral zone. Their game plan was to dump it in and try to chase down our defensemen. But we went back there and got it right out. We did a good job."
When BC wasn't blocking shots or frustrating Wisconsin's offense, the Eagles were looking for opportunities to show off their speed.
With the game still very much undecided heading into the third period, BC found another gear in the final 20 minutes -- just like it did against Miami on Thursday night -- and buried the Badgers early and often.
The Eagles scored on their first two shots of the final period, just 2:02 apart. The first came when sophomore winger Cam Atkinson wheeled around a Badgers defenseman and flipped a backhander that beat Gudmandson through the five-hole again to make it 2-0.
Atkinson made it 4-0 with a literal repeat of his first goal, this time at 7:20. And an empty-netter by captain Matt Price made the final 5-0. BC scored four goals on just eight shots in the final period.
"They like to keep the puck on the outside and use their speed and try to go around us," Wisconsin captain and defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "I thought we did a pretty good job handling it in the beginning of the game but they got around us a couple of times and made us pay."
The payoff for York was his fourth national title, which elevated his legacy and moved him into third place on the NCAA all-time list. The 38-year coaching veteran now trails only Michigan's Vic Heyliger (six) and Denver's Murray Armstrong (five).
The legacy of this Frozen Four, the one played in an NFL stadium, will be of record crowds (albeit amazingly quiet ones) and record blowouts. This marked the first time in NCAA history that all three Frozen Four games were decided by five or more goals.
The scoring trend (8-1, 7-1, 5-0) was headed in the right direction, but unfortunately there can't be four more games played in order to get to a competitive finish.
Then again, with this Boston College team in the mix, there's no telling if anyone could find a way to stop it.
Maybe the other legacy of this Frozen Four should be that the turbo-powered Eagles need a slogan too. How about Catch Us If You Can?
Or better yet, Speed Kills.
David Albright covers college sports for ESPN.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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