Two down and two left.
On Thursday, the Frozen Four semi-finals took place at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. The third seeded Boston College Eagles and the top seeded Wisconsin Badgers emerged victorious and will play for the NCAA National Championship on Saturday night.
The opening game saw Boston College face off against North Dakota that ended in a wild 6-5 win for the Eagles. Sophomore goaltender Cory Schneider (VAN) was brilliant in net, despite allowing five goals. Senior Chris Collins showed why he’s a ‘Hobey Hat Trick” finalist with a hat trick that help propel Boston College to victory. He scored his three goals three different ways – even strength, power play and short-handed.
In addition to getting scoring from one of their top players, the Eagles got some scoring from other members of their roster as well, particularly from their freshmen. Two of the goals came off of the sticks of defensemen. Brett Motherwell and Anthony Aiello (MIN) both tallied for Boston College. In Aiello’s case, his unassisted goal at the 15:38 mark of the second period was his first career goal. The Eagles third freshman, diminutive forward Nathan Gerbe (BUF) scored one of the Frozen Four’s most memorable goals. His use of speed and shiftiness led to what would become Boston College’s game-winner at the 10:33 mark of the third period.
Schneider earned the win behind a 36-save performance that also included earning an assist. He demonstrated not only an unshakeable confidence in the game, but also some great puck-handling skills and outstanding rebound control as well.
The game also featured three short-handed tallies. Two were by North Dakota, including a great individual effort by sophomore Travis Zajac (NJ). The Winnipeg native displayed some great patience with the puck and was one of North Dakota’s best players in the game, finishing with three points (one goal, two assists) in the losing cause. Freshman defenseman Brian Lee (OTT) helped engineer a late push for North Dakota and finished the game with a goal and an assist.
The second game between Wisconsin and Maine was an intense, extremely physical affair that escalated to downright ugliness at times. The Badgers got a well-deserved 5-2 win behind the great work of their top line of junior Robbie Earl (TOR), sophomore Joe Pavelski (SJ) and senior Adam Burish (CHI). The trio accounted for six points (three goals, three assists) in the game. Junior goaltender Brian Elliott (OTT) demonstrated why he is a Hobey Baker finalist, stopping 32 of Maine’s shots and holding the Black Bears to just two goals.
The Black Bears battled valiantly only to see their season come to a disappointing end. Senior Greg Moore (NYR) was outstanding in the game. He generated several good scoring opportunities, finishing the game with an assist on a third period tally by junior defenseman Mike Lundin (TB). Towering freshman goaltender Ben Bishop (STL) was superb in the game, despite the loss. He stopped 34 shots, including 15 in the third period, in the losing cause.
Wisconsin won the game with a stingy, stifling defense and some near flawless penalty killing. Maine, whose power play ranked among the best coming into the Frozen Four, went 0-7 with the man advantage. The Black Bears also came in with the nation’s best penalty-killing unit, but allowed two Wisconsin power play goals.
Boston College and Wisconsin will meet for the first time ever in a national championship game. The last time both of these teams met came back on Oct. 20, 2002 with the Eagles emerging with a 4-2 victory. The last time the teams met in the NCAA Tournament goes back even further to Mar. 26, 2000 in the quarterfinals. Boston College also won that game 4-1.
It’s been a few years since both teams have won the national title. Boston College will be seeking their third, and first since 2001. The Eagles are the most recent non-WCHA team to win the national championship. Wisconsin will be seeking their sixth national championship and first since 1990.
Saturday’s game features a must-see goaltending matchup that pits the nation’s two top goaltenders against one another. Schneider and Elliott both came into the Frozen Four with shutout streaks only to have them broken in the semi-finals. Both will be looking to backstop their respective teams to another championship.
Boston College’s speed will be tested mightily against the stingy Wisconsin defense. Both teams are excellent defensively and loaded with offensive talent. The predominantly young Eagles will be facing a more veteran Badgers team. The matchup will also feature two of the nation’s most lethal and exciting line combinations. Boston College’s excellent line of senior Chris Collins, junior Brian Boyle (LA) and freshman Brock Bradford (BOS) will be going up against Wisconsin’s dynamic trio of junior Robbie Earl (TOR), sophomore Joe Pavelski (SJ) and senior Adam Burish (CHI).
The game is certain to be an exciting and entertaining one between two of the nation’s premiere and most storied programs.
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