DETROIT — Keep that championship trophy in Beantown.
Paced by an explosive third period in which No. 4 seed Boston College struck for four goals, the Eagles routed No. 3 seed Wisconsin, 5-0, in front of a record 37,592 fans at Ford Field, to capture the school’s fourth national championship and third in the last 10 years. It’s the third straight year a team from Boston has captured the title, with the Eagles winning this year and in 2008 and Boston University capturing the championship in 2009.
Cam Atkinson scored two goals, both in the final stanza, while BC netminder John Muse (20 saves) posted the shutout to improve his record in NCAA tournament play to a perfect 8-0.
While Muse was impressive in victory, becoming only the fourth goaltender to record a shutout in the national title game, his road to get to the game was possibly the most impressive part of his story.
Muse persevered through off-season hip surgery and then found himself as the backup goaltender behind rookie Parker Milner when the Hockey East playoffs began back on March 12.
Saturday’s victory, then, was the pinnacle to one of the ultimate personal comeback stories of the year.
“When the lights are brightest, [John Muse] shows up,” said BC captain Matt Price of the junior netminder. “Your goalie has got to be a rock and John’s been that for us.”
“Think of what he’s been through,” said BC senior assistant captain Ben Smith, who scored a goal on Saturday which, when combined with his two goals and two assists in Thursday’s semifinal, earned him the Most Outstanding Player award. “Even after his recovery [from hip surgery], in February, he was the backup. He just kept pushing and pushing and when he got his chance, he ran with it.”
While Muse was a difference maker on Saturday, particularly in the second period when BC clung to a 1-0 lead, the Eagles’ special teams also played a key role. BC’s power play scored twice in five opportunities while the penalty kill shut down Wisconsin’s potent power play in its three chances.
Wisconsin came out of the gates playing physical, but by the eight-minute mark of the opening period, BC changed the game’s momentum picking up its own physical play.
That momentum change paid dividends at 12:57 when Smith scored his 16th goal of the season on a power play. Steven Whitney dumped a pass to Smith in the slot, who fired a shot through traffic inside the left post for the 1-0 lead.
By the period’s close, BC had dominated things statistically, outshooting the Badgers, 12-5.
In the second, Wisconsin recovered nicely and took the play to the Eagles through stretches. Michael Davies had the frame’s best opportunities, first having a wide-open look at the right post at 9:45 only to have BC’s Carl Sneep deflect the shot and then again at 14:10 when he was sent in alone, only to have the puck bounce off his stick to spoil the bid.
In the third, Wisconsin seemed poised to continue its pressure, until BC’s offense became perfectly opportunistic.
The Eagles broke away from the Badgers’ pressure, getting two rushes early in the frame and scoring on both to turn the game on its head. Atkinson scored at 1:38 on a bad-angle shot that beat Wisconsin goaltender Scott Gudmandson (21 saves) inside the far post. Just 2:02 later, Chris Kreider redirected home a centering pass from Jimmy Hayes to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead.
Atkinson sealed the deal at 7:20 when he scored on a power play, breaking down the left wing and firing a low shot five-hole on Gudmandson. Price finished things off with an empty-net goal with 4:31 remaining.
The win closes out a picture-perfect Frozen Four for the Eagles, where they outscored their opponents by a combined 12-1 score and virtually shut down two of the most potent offenses in the country in Miami and Wisconsin.
“[Boston College] did a tremendous job of getting in shooting lanes,” said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves. “It just seemed that we couldn’t get pucks to the net. They blocked a ton of shots.”
The Badgers end the season at 28-11-4 and come up short in the national title game for just the second time in eight appearances; the other was North Dakota in 1982.
Boston College (29-10-3) captured the school’s fourth national title. The win is also York’s fourth title, three of which have come at the Heights. The victory was York’s 850th overall and 33rd the NCAA tournament, the most of any coach in tournament history.
“I had mentioned to my team tonight before the game that I’ve coached a lot of teams that have gone to the national championship game, but three have won the right to put your name on the trophy, and those three all shared common attributes I look at.
“They have to be very, very disciplined in a setting that’s hard to be, because it’s bright lights and it’s a big stage. And I thought all three teams shared that hard work, great discipline. And a team feeling. And I thought tonight we achieved those attributes.”