BC-Wisconsin Ready to Go
by Gregg Paul/CHN Correspondent
MILWAUKEE Boston College and Wisconsin meet for the national championship Saturday, giving the championship an East-West feel again, after a one-year hiatus.
Boston College was a program that went through some down years in the '90s, then got revitalized under Jerry York and is playing in its fourth NCAA title game in the last nine years. This wasn't supposed to be the year for BC, though.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, also went through a down period, and hasn't made the final since 1992. Now revitalized under Mike Eaves, the program has made steady strides, both over the last four years and within this season to get here. But unlike BC, this was expected by the Badgers, especially with it set up for them with a Regional in Green Bay and the Frozen Four in Milwaukee.
"Yes, it's been an exciting journey", said Badgers captain Adam Burish before Friday's practice session. "Somebody asked that last night, what it's like being here, what's the journey been like. To be where we are right now and to potentially win a national championship, I wouldn't change anything."
Just how exciting has the journey been for the Badgers? How about an 18-2-2 start, key road sweeps at North Dakota, Colorado College and Minnesota, which are traditionally all buildings that give the Badgers fits.
If that isn't enough excitement for you, how about playing an outdoor game in front of 41,000 fans in historic Lambeau Field? Or perhaps the epic six-period game against Cornell in the Midwest Regional in Green Bay? Followed by a hard-fought victory against Maine in the National Semifinal in Milwaukee?
"It helped us understand how hard you really have to work to be a champion, to be successful", said Burish.
"We saw the trophies and knew what we wanted to accomplish", added sophomore Joe Pavelski. "We had a goal set for us."
So now that the Badgers have made it here, how much does playing in front of the home crowd factor into the game?
"We've been working for it all year," said senior defenseman Tom Gilbert. "Our crowd is the best in the country and to have 19,000 out here cheering for us ... it's awesome. It gives us momentum in the games when nothing's going on and it's nice having them behind us."
The Badger crowd can be nearly as intimidating as the Badger team is on the opposition. Boston College wouldn't be the first team to buckle under that type of hostile environment. Yet somehow, it has approached the game embracing the environment.
"We've had people wearing red and white yelling at us before", said BC forward Brian Boyle, alluding to BC's long rivalry with the red and white clad BU fans.
"It will be crazy," added goalie Cory Schneider. "Watching the game last night it was loud and obnoxious. They have very good fans and they are very enthusiastic. It will make it that much more exciting. It will be great to have all that electricity in the building."
Yet as rowdy and loud as the Badger faithful can be, they alone cannot bring home the hardware. That is still up to the men in the locker room to earn. Winning a championship doesn't come easy, especially in the final game.
The prevailing formula for success for the Badgers this season has been to keep things simple and execute.
"It's going to take more than two little things," said Burish. "It's going to be a war out there. But our game plan is not going to change. It's going to be the same thing that we've done all season. Have a great start, do the little things, do the hard things, move our feet."
Boston College has to find a way to score on the Badgers stellar goaltender and Hobey Baker finalist, Brian Elliott. Something that not many teams have found success thus far.
"We know that he's a very good goalie, so the more shots the better," said BC forward Brian Boyle. "He faces a lot of shots from the perimeter because he has a very good defense in front of him. I think we have to get those second chance opportunities before their defense can. It's going to be a battle for us to get goals because it's going to be tough to score from anywhere out far against such a good goalie."
Should BC get those second-chance opportunities, they had better capitalize on them. It's not often that teams get a second chance come playoff time.
The Badgers aren't looking to give them those chances.
"If we continue what we've been doing, what's helped us to be successful, we'll be fine," said Burish. "And as long as nothing changes, that will give us the best chance to be successful".