CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — All in all, it was a great way for 7,770 fans to spend a Friday night.
No. 1 Wisconsin invaded No. 2 Boston College and fell behind early, but scored twice in the third period to emerge with the win. Although the BC loyalists went home disappointed, the game’s fast-paced action was anything but disappointing.
Neither team scored while at even strength and both went 2-for-5 on the power play. As a result, the final outcome in a game with a host of All-Americans and marquee names came down to the blue-collar duo of Matt Murray and Andy Wheeler, who combined for a shorthanded game-winner at 6:01 of the third.
“The kind of line I play on with Wheeler and [Erik] Jensen — we aren’t the guys who are going to pump home a ton of goals a year,” said Murray. “We’re going to go out there, work hard, get pucks down low and grind defensemen down. When we score, it’s a bonus for our team. To get a game-winner is pretty big.”
The Badgers entered the third period down, 2-1, but on the remnants of a four-on-three power play. BC killed enough time for both teams to get one player back, but at the 55-second mark, Brad Winchester swatted the puck out of midair into the net and it was anybody’s game.
It turned out that anybody was Murray and Wheeler, juniors who had previously combined for 18 goals in 130 collegiate games. Wheeler, a left-handed shot, went wide on the right wing, cut behind the net and came around in front on his forehand. He shot and Murray knocked the rebound through BC goaltender Scott Clemmensen’s legs.
With Wisconsin in possession of its first lead, 3-2, one team surged and the other countered. However, despite another BC power play and then an extra skater over the final 1:10, the Eagles couldn’t get the equalizer nor could the Badgers get one for insurance.
The game marked a rematch of last year’s West Regional NCAA Quarterfinal, in which Boston College ousted the top-seeded Badgers, 4-1.
“They were a real good club then and they’re a real good club now,” said BC coach Jerry York. “Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to play again late in the year because that’ll mean that we’re both in the nationals.”
The Eagles held a significant first-period territorial advantage, outshooting Wisconsin, 10-4, and grabbing a 1-0 lead. Arguably, they had chances to apply a knockout punch, but couldn’t.
“We had a very good first period, but they’re a tough club to knock off,” said York.
BC drew first blood with a power-play goal at 5:45. Brian Gionta broke into the offensive zone with a teammate straddling the blue line, arms raised to claim innocence of any interference in the picking off a Badger defenseman. Gionta dropped a pass back to Krys Kolanos, who shot and then whacked his own rebound past Wisconsin netminder Graham Melanson.
A borderline holding call on Heatley put the Eagles on the power play again at 12:24. Off the resulting faceoff, defenseman Bobby Allen rang the crossbar from the point. Chuck Kobasew then missed redirecting a pass from J.D. Forrest at the weak-side post. And Jeff Giuliano made it a hat trick of close-but-no-cigars when he couldn’t pull the trigger quickly enough on a backhander into a temporarily open net.
Back at even strength, Heatley evened up the marginal calls, adding a dive to make sure that BC got its share of time in the box. The Badgers got their two minutes on the man advantage, but couldn’t generate a single strong scoring chance.
“First period, they really came at us,” said Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer. “I don’t want to say that we were tentative, but we haven’t had a game this year that was a skating game like that. Everybody has tried to defend us and slow us down.
“We didn’t handle it well in the first period, but we adjusted to it.”
The adjustment began in the opening minutes of the second period. Just eight seconds in, the Badgers went on the power play again. This time, they controlled the advantage and evened the score. At 1:22, Matt Hussey flew through the neutral zone, left defenseman Billy Cass standing flatfooted in his wake and beat Clemmensen low to the far side.
“He just picked the puck up and said he was going to score a goal and get us back into the game,” said Sauer. “Trust me, that wasn’t a set play. He just took the puck and went and scored.”
The score remained knotted at 1 until another BC power-play goal at 6:26. The Eagles moved the puck from point to point and then down low, where Kolanos fed it across the goalmouth to Ales Dolinar on the right post. Dolinar stuffed the puck into the open side for his third goal of the year and a 2-1 lead.
Wisconsin’s third-period comeback, which came on the heels of two comebacks last weekend against MSU-Mankato, put its record at 7-0-0. The mark ties a school record, last achieved in 1981-82.
The Badgers travel to another Hockey East destination, Northeastern, for a game on Saturday. Boston College kicks off its league schedule on Sunday when it hosts UMass-Amherst.