Wisconsin Earns National Title
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
MILWAUKEE Boston College fought off a furious forecheck, a lot of shots and shot chances, and 17,000 dancing, hooting and hollering Badger fans — and then it fought off six power plays.
But on the seventh, it was too much.
Tom Gilbert found a seam, after some nice movement in the offensive zone, and the senior from Bloomington, Minnesota, buried it past a screened Cory Schneider, sending the Bradley Center into a frenzy and giving Wisconsin (30-10-3) a 2-1 lead it would never relinquish. Ten minutes later, that translated into a national championship, the first under coach Mike Eaves.
"It's a storybook ending and a Cinderella story," said senior forward Ryan MacMurchy. "Looking at the schedule, you saw the Green Bay Regional and Milwaukee with the national championship. We wanted to be there so bad. We knew it would be a great sea of red fans. It was everything it lived up to be in our dreams, and we got it done."
Sixteen years removed from their last championship, the Badgers didn't let this one slip away. But not for a lack of trying by BC. After having to kill off two more late penalties, BC pulled the goaltender and with 1.5 seconds remaining, a shot by senior defenseman Peter Harrold — either deflected by Brian Boyle or not — hit the post, dead on, to the left of Wisconsin goalie Brian Elliott. When it kicked out harmlessly, the Badgers went into euphoria.
"You just have to get the puck down to the net, and I threw it toward open ice," said Harrold, who played with an ankle injury suffered Thursday. "You throw it at the net and hope something good happens. Maybe you get a tip, maybe the goaltender doesn't see it and it goes in."
True, but the goaltender's best friend was there instead.
"I was dead tired, but that wasn't anything," said Wisconsin sophomore forward Joe Pavelski. "It was just something you're trying to gut out. You heard, 'Three, two, one,' and then all of a sudden, it couldn't come fast enough.
"It was just a shot, you saw it get tipped, and you're just like, 'Oh, please.'"
As opposed to Wisconsin's eight power-play opportunities, including one after a boarding penalty to Harrold with 3:28 remaining in the game, Boston College only had four chances, and seemed cautious during them.
"They capitalized on their power play — we didn't on ours. That was the difference," said York. "We had to defend a little bit more than I would have liked tonight. We did a great job on the (penalty kill); most games I would take one out of eight."
But Wisconsin has been perfect, and that's the difference. The Badgers' shorthanded unit finished the season with 36 consecutive penalty kills. That meant it took only one good play for Wisconsin to get the edge. And the game-winning play was better than good — it featured a no-look pass from Pavelski to Gilbert.
"In the second period, we threw an interchange at them and they didn't know what to do," Pavelski said. "They started running at us, so we're like, 'Let's go down low and throw it right back at them.' They came out and they were fading. I kind of gave a look to (Robbie) Earl, they both kind of collapsed and Tom was just sitting there."
Wisconsin set the pace early, outshooting Boston College 17-9 in the first period, and putting 33 attempts at the net. But none of them went in.
On the other hand, one by fourth-liner Joe Gannon did sneak in for the Eagles, and Boston College (26-13-3) had an early 1-0 lead.
"I think we took the crowd out of it for a little while," said Schneider. "They were pressing all game and the crowd was getting into it. After a while, you just tune it out. ... I thought we played very well under that kind of scrutiny and pressure."
But Wisconsin started to execute its game plan to perfection after that, taking away opportunities for BC stars Boyle and Chris Collins, and turning on the jets enough to force BC into too many penalty kills.
"BC really made it difficult for us because of their competitiveness over the puck," Eaves said. "I think for a little bit, that took us off our game and then we picked it up and carried on. The one thing I kept saying on the bench is be patiently persistent."
The tying goal, in the second period, was a goal-scorer's goal. Robbie Earl, ever ebullient and emphatic, was hopping off the ice after taking a hit in the shoulder, but saw that his teammates were rushing it up the ice. Joe Pavelski had done a nice job knocking down a puck for Adam Burish. So the junior Earl did a u-turn, darted to the net, and pushed a long pass from Burish just past Schneider.
"Pavelski went the other way and I decided to take a chance," said Earl, who was named Most Outstanding Player. "I went to the net and it was a great pass by Adam Burish."
Still, it wasn't a bad place for the Eagles to be.
"I thought our club got just what we wanted, we got into the third period in a very tough environment to play and shortened the game to 20 minutes," York said.
"There were a lot of comments in our locker room and from our players about how well they're coached, how talented their players are, and how well they played tonight," said York. "They are a very deserving national champion."
The title was the fifth in a row for the WCHA, just like the five straight Hobey Baker Award winners. BC was the last non-WCHA to win a title, but it could not stop the WCHA's run.
Burish, a senior who assisted on both Badger goals, joins his sister Nikki in becoming the only school to earn a men's and women's championship in the same year.
"We had season tickets (to the Badgers)," Burish said about growing up in Madison. "I went to every game that was going on. I always wanted to play for the Badgers. I always wanted to be a captain and always wanted to win a national championship.
"We accomplished all three of those."