Badgers Seize the Energy
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
MILWAUKEE Players like to say that the crowd doesn't matter, but usually that's the visiting team that says that.
With 90 percent of the 17,691 people at the Bradley Center firmly in the Badgers' camp, Wisconsin fed off the energy and hounded Maine all night to the tune of a 5-2 win in Thursday's second Frozen Four semifinal.
"Outstanding," Wisconsin captain Adam Burish said. "The warmups were a thrill, the band, the crowd. It was an extra boost, extra push. And they would start at weird times. In the second period when the game starts to get long, and all of a sudden they start clapping or singing 'On Wisconsin' and it's a boost."
Even Maine had to begrudgingly admit it was a factor, after getting flustered all night, and going 0-for-7 on the power play.
"It's a tough environment to come into," Maine captain Greg Moore said. "It's like having an extra guy on the ice. But it can work against you. There's pressure, if you get down you feel like you're letting the building down. But they captured the momentum well."
And a reason for sustaining the momentum was Wisconsin's ability to shut down the Maine power play (0-for-7). That's something that has been very effective this season, but it ran into a Wisconsin team that has not allowed a power-play goal in the entire postseason, a streak of 32 kills.
"We had trouble setting up," Moore said. "They did a good job taking away time and space. We were constantly trying to rim the puck around and find space. They did a good job forcing us to make mistakes."
To top it off, Ross Carlson scored a shorthanded goal at 4:18 of the second period to give the Badgers a 2-1 lead, one they would never relinquish.
"Probably the only reason we're here was special teams, so it's ironic that's what cost us," Whitehead said. "We lived on the edge all year with our power play, so it's not surprising to allow a shorthanded goal. We give our guys freedom."
Carlson's goal came after a pirouette, and then he put it through the five-hole of 6-foot-7 Maine goalie Ben Bishop.
"I was lucky. It was a good bounce behind their 'D,'" Carlson said. "I knew I was going to cut to the middle, I just didn't know when or how. The puck bounced up over their 'D.' (Andrew) Joudrey didn't come. We would've had a nice 2-on-1."
Wisconsin then immediately went about putting its hands on Maine's throat.
"Any time you score a shorthanded goal, or any goal, you have to bear down because they're going to come back strong," said Burish. "Being on that side, I know what they're going through. It's frustrating."
Once building a 3-1 lead, Wisconsin was playing textbook Badger hockey, with a strong forecheck and a suffocating defense. Brian Elliott gets plenty of deserving accolades for his solid goaltending, but he rarely sees a quality shot.
"We want to take away time and space," Eaves said. "We want to make them hurry. A couple times, the best penalty killer has to be the goalie, and Brian was a couple of times."
"We got the puck in deep on their 'D' and didn't let them win the one-on-one battles," Carlson said.
But with Bishop keeping Maine in the game, the Black Bears did eventually break through, finding a tiny seam. Josh Soares made a drop pass to Greg Moore, who floated one across ice to Mike Lundin. Lundin then put a shot in the top corner, over Elliott's glove, to make it a 3-2 game with eight minutes to go.
But before Maine could seize on that momentum, the Badgers got it right back. Maine defenseman Bret Tyler tried to pinch at the left point and missed, and then a miscue at center ice all helped lead to a 2-on-1 for Wisconsin. Ben Street's shot was stopped by Bishop, and then Bishop robbed Ross Carlson on the rebound. But Street kept working and put in a backhander over Bishop for a 4-2 cushion.
"He's a big goalie," Burish said. "You thought we could get him moving from side to side. We wanted to throw it at him from anywhere and throw them at his feet."
Said Eaves, "It's like a three-act play. They took over the second part, but we came back. Our great players came up big, Brian Elliott, Robbie Earl, Adam Burish. ... We said we needed our goalie to be good, our specialty teams to be good, and the big players to come up big. And that's what happened."