Recap: Wisconsin 5, Maine 2

Badgers earn a spot in NCAA title game against Boston College

MILWAUKEE — Ross Carlson tallied a short-handed goal early in the second period to give Wisconsin the lead for good, as the Badgers held off Maine Thursday night to advance to Saturday's NCAA championship game against Boston College at the Bradley Center here.

"That short-handed goal was a big momentum swing," Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. "We have lived on the edge a bit with our power play this year. This is not unusual and unfortunately we can get scored on short handed. We give the guys the freedom to make plays under pressure and sometimes it bites us."

Carlson's short-handed goal seemed to give Wisconsin's offense a charge, with the Badgers padding their lead minutes later. After Maine center Derek Damon was called for cross checking at 7:42, Wisconsin took advantage during a Black Bear line change. Coming off the left boards, senior wing Adam Burish and junior wing Robbie Earl led an odd-man rush into the Maine zone. With Burish getting the defender out of position, Earl beat Bishop on the far side to increase the Wisconsin lead to 3-1 going into the third period.

Maine would not surrender in front of the pro-Badger crowd however, as the Black Bears began to stage a comeback in the beginning of the third period. After killing off a 5-on-3 advantage early in the period, Maine closed the gap to one on defenseman Mike Lundin's third goal of the season, as he was able to beat Elliott on the high side after the Wisconsin netminder was inadvertently screened by his defense.

As the Wisconsin crowd began to become restless and the small contingent of Maine fans began to get back into the game, the Badgers shut the door on any hopes of a Maine comeback. Less than a minute later, freshman Ben Street took a shot above the right face-off circle that was initially stopped by Bishop. Street's rebound came right to Carlson, who attempted a shot as he was falling down that forced Bishop to get out of position to stop the puck. Street grabbed the rebound and flipped it over the sprawled out goaltender to once again give the Badgers a two-goal lead.

"The [puck] was just laying there for me to put in," Street said. "I was coming in too fast, but then I kind of gathered myself and stopped, and then got some composure and buried the backhand."

"Ben Street's goal was just a huge goal for us," head coach Mike Eaves said. "They just score and it's not too long after that when Street's unit scores a huge goal. That was a pivotal moment in the game. When that puck went in, I thought we were doing some good things and had responded well."

Robbie Earl capped the Wisconsin scoring when he added his second goal of the night on an empty netter at 18:16 to put the exclamation point on the Badger win.

"I just did my part," Earl said. "It's my job to put up the numbers and do my job offensively and I thought I did that tonight. I guess it's just another day at the office and we'll come back Saturday and hopefully do the same thing."

While Carlson's short-handed goal was the turning point of the game, the outstanding play of Wisconsin's penalty kill helped bail out the Badgers and kept Maine off the scoreboard.

The Badgers also continued their dominance when they are the first team to score. When Burish registered his ninth goal of the season at 10:11 in the first period, it marked the 32nd time the Badgers have scored first in a game. In those contests, they are 26-5-1.

"[Scoring the first goal] is a huge emotional lift for this team," Burish said. "It takes the pressure off you and it helps us relax a little bit once we get that first one. The message all year is "Have a great start," and we did that again tonight."

The Badgers also benefited from another sparkling performance from goalie Brian Elliott, who had 32 saves, including 19 in the second period. Although his shutout streak ended at 269:52—a new UW and WCHA record—with a Maine goal in the first period, Elliott held the Black Bears in check while Wisconsin padded its lead.

"We knew we were going to have to get a lot of shots to score on him, which we did," Whitehead said. "We drew some penalties by working hard, but we just weren't able to get the puck through on the power play … My hat goes off to him."

The win gives Wisconsin a chance to claim its first national championship since 1990. The Badgers square off with Boston College at 6 p.m. Saturday.

"We have a chance to win the last game of the year and that's something we have talked about since day one," Eaves said. "The first period we had a little bit going and our big players came up big the rest of the way. The goalie needs to be good, your special teams have to be good and your big players need to play well. That seemed to be the case for us tonight."

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