Friday, April 9, 2010

2010 National Championship: Boston College vs. Wisconsin

To quote Leo Bloom in The Producers: "Well...THIS IS IT!"

For the fourth time in five years, the Eagles' hockey team will play for all the marbles, participating in a 2006 rematch with the Wisconsin Badgers.  Wisconsin, also then a one-seed, won that game 2-1 over three-seeded BC.

To get to this game, the Eagles first defeated Alaska-Fairbanks 3-1 in the regional semifinal and then Yale 9-7 in the regional final to reach the Frozen Four.  Yesterday, the Eagles defeated Miami 7-1 in the national semifinal.  Wisconsin defeated Vermont 3-2 in the regional semifinal and advanced to the Frozen Four with a 5-3 win over conference rival St. Cloud State.  In the national semifinal, the Badgers demolished RIT by an 8-1 score in a game that was never competitive.

Boston College has won three national championships: 1949, 2001, and 2008.  The last two of those were under legendary head coach Jerry York, as this one would be if the Eagles were to win.  Wisconsin has won six hockey titles and are seeking their seventh tomorrow night.  The Badgers' last Frozen Four appearance was the year they most recently won it all in 2006.  The Badgers have now also appeared in the title game a whopping nine times, but for Boston College, this is their tenth appearance.

On paper, both of these teams are very even.  I'm going to post the key stats below just so you can see what I mean.

It's crazy how close these two teams are to one another in terms of what they've accomplished to this point.  Both teams, for example, have won 28 games this season, in addition to how close they are statistically.  Boston College, however, won their conference tournament, as opposed to Wisconsin who did not.  That did not stop both teams from getting one seeds in this tournament and advancing to this point.  Still, in these key categories I've outlined above, Boston College and Wisconsin are matched up closely.  Goals per game and goals allowed per game are almost even.  Total scoring and goal differential are almost even (taking into account the fact that Wisconsin has played one more game than BC this season).  Power play conversions are dead even though Wisconsin's penalty kill is ever so slightly better.

The second-highest points leader in the nation, Derek Stepan, is playing for the other team with 54.  Cam Atkinson (51) leads Boston College.  Blake Geoffrion, Inside College Hockey's Player of the Year and quite possibly the Hobey Baker winner (we'll find out tonight), is Wisconsin's leading scorer with 28 goals, which is the second-most in the nation.  Cam Atkinson for BC also has 28 goals.  Geoffrion leads the nation with 15 power play goals, while Atkinson leads BC with 10.

Wisconsin's goaltender is junior Scott Gudmandson who has a save percentage of .915 and allows 2.2767 goals on average.  Boston College junior John Muse, seeking his second national title, is saving at a .908 rate and has a GAA of 2.488.  Both men allowed very nearly the same amount of goals this season: Gudmandson with 67, and Muse with 69.

It will take another excellent effort from Boston College like the one against Miami to beat Wisconsin.  BC drew a top team in their semifinal, whereas Wisconsin drew a 4-seed that was just happy to be there.  The net result was pretty much the same in both games: two blowouts.  Boston College's, however, was more impressive because of the quality of competition.  The Eagles will have to keep it going for one more game if they're going to have a chance at winning.  Clearly, limiting Blake Geoffrion will have to be a top priority for BC, but this Badgers team has a number of threats.  They're a complete team and BC will have to stay aggressive throughout.

The people I know who follow college hockey (and don't have a rooting interest in this game, by the way) tell me that despite the apparent evenness of this matchup, Wisconsin will win handily.  I haven't watched enough Wisconsin to know, but I'm certainly more inclined to think that the Eagles will have a good fight in store for Bucky.  The last time BC faced Wisconsin (albeit two years ago), BC won at Conte Forum.  I don't know what will happen here, but we've come too far with this team.  I'm not surrendering any hope.  BC is near the top of the national rankings for a reason.

Let's do this thing.  Gametime is at 7pm Eastern on ESPN, Saturday night.

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