College Hockey: A Season Finished

    College hockey, the longest of seasons, finished its six-month run Saturday night as Boston College defeated Wisconsin 5-0 at Ford Field in Detroit. Below are some game reflections from the newspapers of record for both schools, from Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe and Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State Journal of Madison:

By Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe

DETROIT — The Boston College Eagles are champions of the college hockey world.

And they are all yours.

The BC goalie is from East Falmouth. One of the captains is from Milton, Massachusetts. They’ve got players from Weymouth, Boxford, Springfield, Reading, Braintree, Dorchester, Shrewsbury, and Needham. They’ve got a skater from Biddeford, Maine, and another one from Wallingford, Conn.

Oh, the coach is a New Englander, too. Try to find somebody in Watertown who hasn’t bumped into Jerry York at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Mt. Auburn Street.

Accepting the championship trophy after last night’s 5-0 thrashing of Wisconsin in the Frozen Four final, York said, “We’re going to bring it right back to Commonwealth Avenue.’’

Cheers to York for keeping his roster peppered with kids who grew up skating in MDC rinks. Double cheers for a program that has a quartet of seniors, all on schedule to graduate with their classmates May 24.

There’s nothing wrong with a college hockey program peppered with Canadians and young men who grew up following the Rangers, Red Wings, and Maple Leafs. The NCAA won’t punish a school if players leave for the pros before their fourth year of college hockey. But it’s nice when the local college hockey champions are Bruins fans.

The 2009-10 Eagles did what all champions do; they played their best hockey at the end of the season. BC was undefeated in its final 13 games. The Eagles vaporized the competition at the Frozen Four, beating Miami University, 7-1, then blanking the Badgers. That’s an aggregate 12-1 against the two other best teams in the country. It was only the third time Wisconsin was shut out this season. The Eagles of March and April were the proverbial army of steamrollers. It’s the fourth NCAA championship in BC history, the third this century, the second in three seasons.

BC seniors Matt Price, Matt Lombardi, Ben Smith, and Carl Sneep finished their careers with two NCAA championships, 101 career wins, and a record of 25-2 in postseason play.

“It was our senior leadership which got us through the tough part of our season,’’ said York. “It’s as good a class of senior leaders as we’ve ever had at Boston College. What a remarkable career they had.’’

Meanwhile, BC’s junior goalie, John Muse, is 8-0 in the NCAA Tournament. That’s a little bit like Tom Brady’s early-career playoff record.

“Johnny’s been a rock for us all year,’’ said Price.

In a Boston accent fit for “Good Will Hunting,’’ Muse said, “I think having so many local guys makes it easier for us to bond together. I was playing hockey with Brian Gibbons when I was 5 years old. We have a group of young guys who grew up playing with and against each other.’’

“It helps,’’ said Smith. “I think it’s one of the reasons why we’re so successful.’’

“I think it’s a great advantage,’’ said York. “Off the ice the local guys can take the kids from out of town home for dinner and show them around Boston. Boston College was always about having the local players. We tipped for a while and went to New York and Minnesota, but now it seems like a lot of our good players are Massachusetts players, and I think that helps us a lot.’’

The finale wasn’t a blowout until the third, but the outcome never seemed in doubt.

At 12:57 of the first period, Smith took a perfect pass from Steven Whitney (Reading, Mass., Lawrence Academy) and flipped a power-play goal past Scott Gudmandson. Scoring the first goal in a college hockey game is better than winning the coin flip before an NFL sudden-death overtime period. The first goal isn’t Game On, it’s Game Over. BC this season was 24-4-2 when scoring first.

It also generally takes the other team’s crowd out of the game. BC needed help in this area because Wisconsin fans outnumbered screaming Eagles by more than 10 to one. Maybe it’s because the Eagles get there too often. Maybe Detroit’s a tough draw in April. Whatever. BC did not travel well for this Frozen Four.

There was no more scoring until the second minute of the third period when Eagles sophomore Cam Atkinson (Greenwich, Conn., Old Avon Farms) rushed down the left wing and fired a backhander past Gudmandson. Two minutes later, Chris Kreider (Boxford, Mass., Phillips Andover) potted a table-hockey goal, taking a pass from Dorchester’s Jimmy Hayes. A couple of minutes after that it was Atkinson with a beauty double-deke backhand off the power play. It was jailbreak time. Captain Price found the empty net as the clock wound down.

Ford Field (where 37,592 watched last night) was much more than the NCAA needed for this event. The vast confines might have intimidated some teams, but nothing overwhelmed York’s Eagles. When you’ve played against Boston University in front of 38,000 at Fenway Park, there’s nothing intimidating about Wisconsin and Ford Field.

There’s a Beacon Street one block from Ford Field. Might as well be Commonwealth Ave. The NCAA hockey championship trophy has landed on the Green Line once again and most of the champs have their own Charlie Card.

By Andy Baggot, Wisconsin State Journal of Madison

DETROIT — How do you mourn an opportunity lost forever?

If you are members of the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team, you bow your heads, bend over at the waist from exhaustion and prepare to trudge sadly up a long incline to a tear-filled dressing room.

Instead of winning the seventh NCAA title in program history Saturday night, the Badgers endured a thoroughly sound 5-0 whipping at the hands of Boston College before a crowd of 37,592 at Ford Field.

Five years after losing to UW in the Frozen Four title match at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, the Eagles got revenge for that 2-1 setback in an impressive way, squeezing the life out of one of the most potent offenses in the country.

The Badgers were held to a season-low 20 shots on goal — they ranked second nationally with an average of 37.9 coming into the night — and an outfit that averaged four goals an outing was shut out for the first time in 22 Frozen Four games dating back to 1970.

“I just didn’t think we had our best effort tonight in terms of being sharp,” UW coach Mike Eaves said. “I just didn’t seem to be our day.”

The Badgers (28-11-4 overall) had won national titles in two previous trips here — in 1977 at Olympia Stadium and 1990 at Joe Louis Arena — but if any of those ghosts were around, they were either ineffective or a total nuisance.

After seeing UW get shut out in a national tournament game for just the second time — a 7-0 setback to St. Lawrence in March of 1988 was the first — and seeing senior right winger Michael Davies muff a breakaway and sophomore center Derek Stepan suffer a possible concussion in the third period, the latter seems most likely.

BC got two goals from speedy right winger Cam Atkinson — giving him a nation-best 30 — and broke open a 1-0 game with a staccato burst early in the final period.

Goaltender John Muse was credited with 20 saves en route to improving his career record to 8-0 in the NCAA tournament and giving the Eagles their fourth national title.

The Badgers had 20 games with 40 shots or more prior to the Frozen Four, but were unable to get any sustained pressure on BC, which thrives on a beautiful mix of speed, grit and skill.

“Their game plan was to dump it in and try and chase down our defensemen,” said Eagles center Ben Smith, who scored three goals in the Frozen Four and was named the Most Outstanding Player. “But we got back there, got it right out. We did a good job.”

There’s more to it, though. The Eagles also were credited with 17 blocked shots and allowed only six shots that were categorized as high grade.

“I think their defense did a good job of blocking shots and collapsing down low and pressuring us pretty hard,” said Blake Geoffrion, the UW senior center, tri-captain and newly crowned Hobey Baker Award winner as the nation’s top college player.

“They did a tremendous job of getting in shooting lanes,” Eaves added. “It just seemed that we couldn’t get pucks to the net.

“They made good adjustments. We were not able to get as many pucks through because of the blockage they had.”

UW hadn’t faced a team this season with as much top-end speed as the Eagles, who featured it on four of their goals by driving around defenders and getting good shots at goaltender Scott Gudmandson (21 saves).

“I thought we did a pretty good job handling it in the beginning of the game,” junior defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “They got around us a couple times and made us pay.”

The record audience — the largest ever to see an indoor hockey game — was noticeably pro-Badgers, but the only bone thrown to them this day was having junior defenseman Brendan Smith named to the all-tournament team.

The first hint this night might end badly for UW came eight minutes into game. Stepan passed out of the right corner to Davies driving to the net, but Muse snuffed out the tip-in attempt.

After BC scored the only goal it would need — Ben Smith beat Gudmandson with an open wrist shot from the hash marks on the power play at the 12:57 mark — Davies pushed another point-blank one-timer wide right before Muse denied Geoffrion at the right edge of the crease.

Muse continued to annoy in the second, muzzling a turnaround wrister by Geoffrion from the hash marks with 12 minutes gone.

Once again, Davies had multiple chances to change the game, but couldn’t find the magic.

During a flurry in front of Muse, the puck came to Davies at the right edge of the crease, but his backhanded try was turned aside by defenseman Carl Sneep.

The next chance — a clean breakaway with 5 minutes, 46 seconds remaining in the second — is almost sure to haunt Davies.

He hauled in a great pass from sophomore defenseman Jake Gardiner and angled through the slot before loading up a wrist shot from the left hash. But the puck went airborne at the last second and Davies, the surest puck handler on the team, fanned on the shot.

“They were opportunistic and we weren’t,” Davies said.

All those missed opportunities came back to haunt the Badgers in the opening minutes of the third when BC pulled away.

Atkinson danced around freshman defenseman Justin Schultz along the left boards and gained enough separation that he was able to get off an open backhander from the near circle. The shot beat Gudmandson between the pads at 1:38.

Chris Kreider added to the lead two minutes later when he drove hard to the net and one-timed a pass from right winger Jimmy Hayes past Gudmandson (21 saves).

Adding injury to insult, UW lost Stepan when he crashed hard into the dasher boards behind Gudmandson after the goal. After lying on the ice for several moments, then getting to his knees, Stepan had to be helped by teammates up the long tunnel to the dressing room.

The next nail in the coffin for the Badgers came on the power play when Atkinson slipped another backhander between the pads of Gudmandson from the left circle at 7:20.

Center Matt Price closed things out with an empty-netter at 15:29.

It was a cruel end to an impressive season for UW, especially its seven seniors.

“It went by fast,” Davies said. “It was one hell of a ride and I can’t believe it’s over.”

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