Ryan Lambert

Frozen Four Three Stars: Blowouts for Wisconsin, BC set final

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy

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In which we recap the previous day's events in the NCAA tournament.

It's tough to come up with a more emphatic statement than that.

Most knew that it would be tough for the Cinderella RIT Tigers to compete with a big, physical, skilled, fast Wisconsin -- but it's unlikely anyone saw this coming. Wisconsin's John Mitchell(notes) scored 1:27 into the opening period and it just got worse from there as the Badgers coasted to an 8-1 win that, in all honesty, could have been a lot worse.

Seven different players scored for the Badgers, 13 had points, four had multiple points. Wisconsin put 37 shots on net and held RIT to 14 and no more than six in any period.

Earlier in the week, RIT goalie Jared DeMichiel, the de facto face of the team in the media since the Tigers toppled Denver and UNH two weeks ago, tweeted that he was buying every shirt with "RIT" and "Frozen Four" he could find. For all I know, Blake Geoffrion stocked up as well, but it didn't show up on his Twitter account -- and it's at least a little indicative of the teams' approaches to the game.

The difference, I think, was that RIT was (rightly) happy to be there, and Wisconsin has designs on, y'know, winning a national title.

Indeed, it was 2-0 through 20 minutes, but no one was particularly outstanding. Wisconsin certainly had the better go of things and enjoyed the lead, but RIT seemed like it could be one mistake from halving the deficit.

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But Jordy Murray scored 2:18 into the second and set the Tigers adrift in a sea of Badger scoring chances and odd-man rushes. Wisconsin got a power play goal 2:08 later to stretch their lead to four, and RIT was taking on water.

A needless five-minute major to Mark Cornacchia was the final, damning torpedo. Coupled with minors to Tyler Mazzei and Taylor McReynolds, it gave the Badgers a pair of 5-on-3 power plays and they, of course, scored on both of them.

With 26:36 to go, it was 6-0 Wisconsin. RIT cut the deficit to five with a late power play goal from Tyler Brenner, but it barely mattered.

The true indicator of the game's one-way nature is exhibited by the third-period stats. The Badgers, up 6-1 through two, had clearly pulled back on the throttle considerably for a number of reasons. Most obviously they didn't want to embarrass their opponents on national television, and they easily could have.

They also saw that RIT was getting understandably frustrated with their situation and wanted to keep anyone too important from getting injured by a questionable hit (and there were a few down the stretch). Blake Geoffrion, who looked to be nursing an injury after a check in late in the second, and Derek Stepan had maybe six combined shifts in the third. The third and fourth lines were coming over the boards with alarming frequency.

All that, and final shots in the period were 14-4, and goals were 2-0, so yeah, it was that bad. Scott Gudmandson went long, long stretches without having to make a save, and finished with just 13.

DeMichiel did all he could to keep the game even remotely close, but six goals against on 33 shots is an ugly final line. Backups Jan Ropponen and Shane Madolora, who were just getting a run out for the sake of the experience, gave up two goals on four combined shots.

The savage beating is, of course, reminiscent of Lake Superior State's 9-1 win over BU in the 1994 national title game, the most lop-sided affair in recent Frozen Four history Minnesota beat BC 14-1 back in the ‘50s.

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Boston College 7, Miami 1

Last year, the RedHawks lost to BU in the national title game, and after tonight's clowning, they must hate drawing Boston-based teams in the NCAA tournament. A lot.

It's now 0-4 all-time against Boston College in the NCAA tournament with a minus-16 goal differential. Really.

As with the Wisconsin game, there were many, many point-getters for the Eagles. Okay, six to be exact. Ben Smith led the way with two goals and an assist, Joe Whitney had a goal and two helpers, and Brian Dumoulin had three assists. Brian Gibbons and Pat Mullane had two assists apiece. Jimmy Hayes had a goal and an assist. Joe Hartman had the lone Miami goal.

Unlike the Wisconsin game, this was in fact closer than the score indicates. BC scored six of its seven goals in the space of a combined 6:11 in parts of all three periods. It opened the scoring at 18:32 of the first behind Ben Smith's goal, and by 3:08 of the second it was 3-0. Three goals, two on the power play, in 4:36. And after Hartman cut the lead to two early in the third, BC scored at 10:10, 10:44 and 11:45, a run of three goals in 1:35, to make it 6-1. They added the seventh at 16:21.

By the way, if you want postseason success, you call up Johnny Muse. His next loss in the NCAA tournament will be his first one. He's 7-0 all-time.

Three stars

1. Derek Stepan, Wisconsin

Even without having played for much of the third period, this was a monstrous performance for Stepan, a New York Rangers prospect, who had a pair of both goals and assists. He was simply everywhere for the Badgers. His first goal came when he won a draw and went to the net in time to redirect a point shot from fellow Ranger farmhand Ryan McDonagh. His second came with the game pretty well over to make it 8-1 just 20 seconds after Craig Smith's third-period goal. And not that the stat "game-winning goal" means much in a game where a touchdown separated the winner and loser, but he had that too.

2. Ben Smith, BC

Both teams seemed intent on going to the mattresses, at least until Smith showed them the light. His power play goal late in the opening period sparked the first of BC's two brief outbursts and allowed BC to abandon what had, to that point, been a defense-focused game plan. Once BC opened it up, they took over in a hurry and the game was never really in doubt after that. Smith later assisted on Patch Alber's first goal of the year that made it 5-1, and scored the Eagles' seventh goal as well.

3. Brendan Smith, Wisconsin

He definitely won't win the Hobey Baker tomorrow, but he just might win a spot on the Detroit Red Wings' roster next season as a consolation prize. Smith was immense in every zone and seemed content to breakup a dizzying number of RIT passes and shots. But once Wisconsin had a comfortable lead, he turned his attention to the attacking zone, where he piled up five, count ‘em, five, assists.

Ryan Lambert will be live-tweeting the entire NCAA tourney for Puck Daddy and writing daily recaps like this one. You can e-mail him here if you want.

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