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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Badgers rout RIT, will face BC in title game

Smith: Junior defenseman Brendan Smith tallied five points for Wisconsin against RIT, all on assists. Now only Boston College stands between the Badgers and a national championship.

Badgers rout RIT, will face BC in title game

DETROIT—On paper, Wisconsin looked a lot like the first two teams that Rochester Institute of Technology knocked out of this year's NCAA tournament, hailing from a power conference and possessing top talent, hockey tradition and championship aspirations.

Unlike Denver and New Hampshire, however, the Badgers succeeded in the role of Goliath. UW jumped out in front early and never let up, displayed an overwhelming combination of size, speed and tenacity, and powered past the tournament darlings by a count of 8-1.

With the win, Wisconsin moves into the national title game against Boston College and has a chance to bring a seventh championship banner home to Madison. 

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There never seemed to be a doubt about the outcome, as senior forward John Mitchell tallied the Badgers' first goal just 1:33 after the opening faceoff and sophomore center Derek Stepan capped the scoring off with just 2:22 to play. 

""They put us on our heels right from the beginning,"" RIT head coach Wayne Wilson said. ""Their first couple of shifts were very strong."" 

Not only did the Badgers get consistent play over the entire course of the game, they got production from all corners of the depth chart. 13 of the 18 Badger skaters tallied at least one point, and four had two or more.

""We started rolling over the bench with four lines,"" said Stepan, who collected two goals and two assists in the contest. ""That's when we're at our best.""

The Tigers found some rhythm and skated with confidence after Wisconsin scored the first goal of the night, but Wisconsin broke the game wide open in the second period on the strength of three power-play goals. RIT sophomore forward Mark Cornacchia was assessed a major penalty for checking from behind—one of two five-minute infractions for the Tigers in the period—and subsequently ejected in the midst of the Badger onslaught.

""We were effective in the specialty teams in the second period and that was kind of the turning point of the game,"" Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. ""It separated the gap a little bit.""

Junior defenseman Brendan Smith tallied an assist on all three power play goals for the Badgers and finished the night with five helpers. His fellow blue liners stifled the Tigers offensive attack all night, allowing just 14 shots on net and continually denying scoring opportunities.

""They just pinned us down,"" Wilson said. ""We never really got a good look up the ice to make clearing passes or long passes.""

The seven-goal differential stands as the largest margin of victory in a national semi-final game since Denver topped Harvard 9-2 on March 15, 1969. With an upperclassman-heavy squad, Eaves said he is not worried about his team maintaining focus after such a lopsided affair.

""This group has the ability to enjoy the moment and [then] get back to the task at hand,"" he said. ""We're going to need to be able to have that happen again.""

If the Badgers can indeed renew Thursday's focus and execution for 60 minutes on Saturday evening, those championship aspirations could very well become reality.

 

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