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Boston College will advance to yet another NCAA Championship Game after ousting Miami (Ohio) yet again the the tournament, 7-1. The Eagles will face Wisconsin in the final Saturday night in a rematch of the 2006 final, which the Badgers won. Wisconsin also won their semifinal easily, 8-1 over RIT. The Eagles have now beaten Miami in the tourney in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010. BC missed the tournament in 2009, but BU did the honors, shocking the RedHawks in the final. The Eagles make the final for the fourth time in five years. They beat Notre Dame in 2008 after the 2006 loss and another in 2007 to Michigan State.
The game started out as a classic with John Muse and Connor Knapp appearing to take control of the game. Muse, with the win, improved to 7-0 in the NCAA tournament and was the number three goalie in Hockey East (behind fellow Eagle Parker Milner). Knapp was also second on his team, but teammate Cody Reichard was number one in the nation and Knapp was a not so bad second in the country. Miami Coach Rico Blasi normally alternates Knapp and Reichard, but he felt that Knapp’s effort against Michigan in the Regional Final was worthy of the back to back start. His gamble did not pay off and Reichard came in in relief in the second.
The first period was quiet with very few stoppages and a lot of up and down trips across the sheet in one end zone of Ford Field. BC got a power play at the end of the first and were finally able to capitalize as Ben Smith redirected a Joe Whitney shot to open the scoring with a minute and a half to go and gave the Eagles the 1-0 lead after one. Miami outshot the Eagles 6-5 in the frame.
The Eagles wasted no time adding to the lead to open the second. Jimmy Hayes beat Knapp on a power play two minutes in and Whitney buried another from the slot against a defenseless Knapp as the RedHawks were all focused on a puck behind the net. With two goals in a minute, Knapp’s game was over as he was relieved by Reichard.
The nation’s top goalie was tested, but held the deficit at 3-0 as Muse continued to stonewall Miami. BC owned the period with a 13-4 shot advantage as they simply outskated Miami with their speed. Miami’s size advantage was used against them.
Five minutes into the third period, Joe Hartman beat Muse to pull Miami to within two and right back in the game. The RedHawks were the nation’s top team for most of the season for good reason and sport a good offense. However, BC iced the game five minutes later with three goals in in 95 seconds. Muse stopped 17 of 18 shots in the win and Smith tallied two goals and an assist.
The final will be a Hockey East-WCHA matchup, an east-west grudge match featuring arguably the two best conferences in the land. Hockey East has won the last two titles and Wisconsin beat the Eagles in that 2006 game. Wisconsin Senior forward Blake Geoffrion may win the Hobey Baker award for the nation’s top college hockey player. He is their star with 28 goals and 22 assists this season. Sophomore forward Derek Stepan recorded and astounding 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists). Michael Davies and Brendan Smith are just two of the other Badger weapons as all four are in the top 10 in the nation in scoring.
The Badgers are the nation’s number two offense (4.07 goals per game) and BC is third at 4.05. Yale was number one and BC defeated them 9-7, so this could look more like a lacrosse game. Wisconsin (2.52 allowed per game) and BC (2.54) are 11th and 12th in the nation on defense. The Badgers have a slight power play edge: 20.9% to 20.3%. They also are slightly better on the penalty kill: 85.5% (five shorthanded goals) to 83.9% (seven SHG).
Scott Gudmandson will be between the pipes and was number 11 in the nation with a 20-4-4 record, 2.28 GAA, and a .915 save percentage. Muse is 17-8-2 with a 2.54 GAA, and .907 SV%. The biggest advantage BC would seem to have is Muse’s stepped up game in the tournament. Wisconsin is among the most penalized team in the country due to their size and physical play. The best way to beat BC is to slow them down, so look for the Badgers to try to throw their weight around. BC will try to keep a fast paced and with the power play back on track, they will look to leverage the man advantage.