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Top-seed BC breezes into Frozen Four championship with 4-0 victory over Michigan

Boston College couldn't bring home the first trophy it chased this season. The Eagles lost to crosstown rival Boston University in the Beanpot tournament nine weeks ago, sulking back to campus that February night in a very foul mood.

"We had a lot of anger," center Cutter Gauthier said. "That definitely put some fire in the pot for us."

That flame was still burning Thursday, and it carried the Eagles one step closer to the trophy they covet the most. Top-ranked Boston College blew past Michigan 4-0 in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals, earning a showdown with No. 3 Denver in Saturday's championship game.

The Eagles haven't lost since that disappointing night at the Beanpot, running their win streak to 15 consecutive games. A very young team, they played like old hands at Xcel Energy Center, getting every goal from an all-sophomore top line and a second line composed of three freshmen.

First-year phenom Will Smith connected for two of those. The nation's leading scorer finished off a two-on-one just 80 seconds into the game, then banked the puck off a Michigan defender at 12 minutes, 25 seconds of the second period. Gauthier potted a breakaway goal 49 seconds later, and the Eagles (34-5-1) were soaring to a program-record 34th victory of the season.

Gabe Perreault added a third-period goal for Boston College, and goaltender Jacob Fowler handed Michigan (23-15-2) its first shutout loss in a Frozen Four game. BC will play for its sixth NCAA championship and its first since 2012.

A crowd announced at 18,598 attended the two semifinals.

"There's no doubt in our game in the locker room," Gauthier said. "We've been super confident all season long, even being the younger guys.

"It was a fortunate night for us to pop four (goals) in. And it's the ultimate goal on Saturday night."

Michigan outshot BC 32-22, firing 17 shots at Fowler in the third period. Eagles coach Greg Brown said the game quickly became a track meet, which he anticipated, and lauded his defense for shutting down the Wolverines' ability to score off the rush.

Coach Brandon Naurato said Michigan could have put more net-front pressure on Fowler. The Wolverines entered the game with the nation's third most potent offense, averaging 4.23 goals per game, and were shut out for the first time this season. But the bigger issue was the inability to contain the Eagles' high-flying youngsters.

"All credit to their team, but those guys are special," Naurato said of the four first-round NHL draft picks on BC's top lines. "They won that game. They broke it open."

BOXSCORE: Boston College 4, Michigan 0

During the buildup to Thursday's semifinal, Michigan leaned into its tradition. The Wolverines kept the school's 1998 NCAA championship trophy — the last one of the nine it brought home — in its locker room. It sharpened their focus on the prize at hand, and it gave them a motto: How far are you willing to go to win this?

The Eagles turned to more recent history. They were doomed by a slow start in the Beanpot final, and they were determined to avoid a repeat in the NCAA semis. Though they were outshot 9-6 in a first period packed with fancy stickwork and swift skating, the Eagles got the only shot that mattered.

Smith, who leads the country with 71 points this season, put them on top at 1:20 of the first period by firing the team's first shot on goal past Michigan netminder Jake Barczewski. A solid first period led to a stellar second, with a pair of goals scored during four-on-four play.

Smith got the first, knocking a backhanded shot off the skates of Michigan defenseman Ethan Edwards and past Barczewski. Gauthier followed up with his 38th goal of the season, most in the nation, slipping a shot through Barczewski's pads.

The victory gives Boston College a chance to make up for another earlier disappointment. Denver beat the Eagles 4-3 in Boston last October, handing BC its first loss of the season.

With one final trophy on the line, the Eagles have plenty of fuel left.

"We owe these guys," Gauthier said. "Ever since then, we haven't let that sour taste out of our mouth. We're going to be ready to go."