ERIE, Pa. — Wisconsin needed Brianna Decker to save the day, whacking home a rebound with 48 seconds left to give the Badgers a 3-2 national semifinal victory over a Boston College team that refused to give up. Wisconsin returns to the national championship game after a one-year hiatus when they won it in 2009.
The play was created by Meghan Duggan, thanks to a fancy move to get the initial shot off.
“Big time play by a big time player,” Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said. “If you look at our season, when we need something to happen and we need someone to score a goal and make the play, Meghan has been able to do that. So, to cap it off today with a beautiful goal with under a minute to go, obviously was a big play for us and gave us the opportunity to play for the big trophy on Sunday.”
The play started when Duggan made a great effort to get open with a toe drag past the defender. Her shot was saved by Molly Schaus, but the rebound was left in the crease. Duggan followed her shot up, but missed on the attempt. Behind her, Decker was also crashing the net, and was able to poke it through the five-hole.
“That last goal was just find a way to beat her [Schaus],” Duggan said. “Throw it on goal and crash the net. We were going to do anything we could to get the puck in the back of the net and give ourselves a chance to play on Sunday.”
“It just happens I got the goal,” Decker said, who leads the team with 12 game-winning scores.
“BC turned the puck over and Hilary Knight was in a great position to pick off the pass,” Duggan said. “She tipped it between her legs to me, and I just walked in and made a move and wanted to put it on Schaus. I know Decker was probably right behind me somewhere, and she should be able to get any rebound that squirted out. I think we both saw the puck there and just whacked at it, and we got lucky enough that it squirted through.”
The game started out as most expected, with the number one team jumping out to a 2-0 lead and dominating play. However, Boston College would not lay down and die, as they scored two beautiful, skilled goals to tie it up, forcing Wisconsin to dig even deeper to pull the win out.
“I’m extremely proud of my team for coming back against the great team of Wisconsin,” Boston College coach Katie King said. “I couldn’t be more proud of a team, not only tonight, but also in the success that we had this season.”
It didn’t take long for Duggan to show her Patty Kazmaier nominating talents. She gave the Badgers the first lead of the game at 4:23.
The initial attempt from in close by Hilary Knight was turned away by Schaus. However, the rebound came out to the high slot as Schaus got herself turned around. Duggan was there to pick up the loose puck, firing off a turnaround shot that caught Schaus flatfooted. The puck went through the goalie’s legs.
“Obviously, it wasn’t the start we wanted,” Schaus said. “I will take the blame for the first goal. It was a bad play and Meghan Duggan threw it on net, and it went in. I think that kind of set us back a bit.”
After Wisconsin dominated on their second power play but failed to score, they only needed 10 seconds to convert on their next one to make it 2-0 at 11:58.
Duggan passed it from the left point to Decker at the left dot. She fired a one-timer that found Brooke Ammerman at the backdoor, who redirected it past a hopeless Schaus.
“I think in that first period, we were a little jittery, a little nervous,” King said. “I thought our kids settled down after that first period.”
Boston College began picking the play up in the second period, and Blake Bolden singlehandedly put the Eagles back in the game on the power play.
She picked up the puck in her own zone along the boards and raced up the left side past everyone into the Wisconsin zone. When she got to the middle of the circle, Bolden cut toward the middle and then quickly shot it. She placed it perfectly between the near post and Alex Rigsby’s pads, with barely enough room to fit it in.
Afterward, Boston College tested Rigsby many times, but she came up with the save each time. The Eagles reward finally came but not until the final period at 11:23.
Just when everyone thought Bolden’s goal would be the highlight score of the game, along came Taylor Wasylk with an even more spectacular goal. She carried the puck into the zone, split the defense with a dispsy-doodle move, faked with the forehand, and fired a backhander into the upper corner as she was cutting across the net.
Both teams seemed to want to avoid overtime, as the game opened up with many good scoring chances the result. After Decker converted on one of those chances, Boston College applied pressure in the closing seconds, but surprisingly did not pull their goalie for the extra attacker.
Wisconsin wound up with a breakaway by Knight, but Schaus was able to stop it.
Boston College ends their season at 24-7-6.
“I learned about our team,” King said. “How resilient they were. I am just extremely proud of them tonight. We know how difficult it is to get here, and I know that the group coming back next year will be fired up to get back here again.”
Wisconsin (36-2-2) plays Boston University on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.
“Everybody in our camp is very excited for the opportunity Sunday afternoon,” Johnson said.