Second Glance: A Honest Representation

Throughout the progression of a six-month season, Wisconsin hockey had displayed a stifling defense, a wealth of senior leaders and enough firepower to put teams on their heels. Its 8-1 victory over RIT to propel UW into the national finals did not diverge from that plan.

DETROIT – "I think this group of young men being represented here did the things they needed to do," Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves began his post-game press conference. "They got off to a great start. We were effective on the special teams in the second period, which kind of was the turning point of the game, and then played pretty smart in the third period and went on to the victory."

Indeed, they did. The Badgers were up only 2-0 at the first intermission on a pair of even strength goals despite strong work on two high-energy power play chances. Then they really got clicking on the man advantage in the second, scoring three power play goals in a span of nine minutes to open up a 6-0 lead just after "halftime" as the Ford Field rink management crew gave consideration to installing a revolving door in the RIT penalty box.

Wisconsin's total control of the puck possession battle completely eclipsed whatever offensive potency the Tigers' brought to the Motor City after an impressive offensive showing of their own in a 6-2 win over New Hampshire in the East Regional Final. It set the decided underdogs back on their heels and led them to take penalties as a result of fatigue in the defensive end.

"It's a good win for us, and we gotta continue to play hard and play smart and we gotta get ourselves ready and focused to play one more," commented sophomore forward Derek Stepan, who tallied two goals and two assists. "With our confidence, we've had it at a pretty good level already. And we've got to make sure we keep that good balance and not trying to be too confident and not getting down too far. Having that balance of not being too hot or not being too low is kind of a key. With being confident comes that poise. Having that poise is something that's very crucial."

Senior co-captain and Hobey Hat Trick finalist Blake Geoffrion echoed that sentiment: "You have to play the game, stick to the game plan, not let guys get selfish out there, keep doing the things you're doing, getting to the net, getting by in front of the goalie who has been hot lately, and getting pucks in and getting pucks out."

With the Badgers having taken such a large lead in such a dominating fashion at such a relatively early stage of the game, there was chatter among fans and media as to whether Eaves would instruct his team to hold off in the third so as not to show up their opponent, dump pucks in deep and be content to hold the line and keep the puck along the wall where they would be able to kill time on the forecheck.

At the same time though, Bucky did not want to do anything that could lead to the development of bad habits going into Saturday night's title game, the second such affair they will play against Boston College in a five year span. The Badgers defeated the Eagles 2-1 in 2006 for their sixth national championship and first under Eaves.

"That's kind of always our battle cry; we always want to get a good start and get all four lines rolling," said darkly mustachioed senior forward John Mitchell. "I think sometimes you disrespect a team by letting up. You want to play hard all the way through, but with class at the same time. And we don't want to form any bad habits, which we didn't. We kind of stayed on the gas pedal, but I don't think they look at that as being disrespectful. It's a one and done game for a championship, so you want to leave it all out on the ice (no matter what)."

Bucky did as Mitchell said in the third. They kept at it, scoring the periods only two goals, but did so with class and respect for their opponent, not celebrating these late goals as they would normally by going down the bench and receiving high fives from their teammates but instead just going back to center ice to get ready for the upcoming face-off.

Wisconsin's post-game press conference was a veritable stand-up comedy performance fronted by Mitchell, who added levity at several points by admitting he was not paying attention when a question was asked and then jokingly questioning a reporter as to the meaning of the word "indicative."

"I think this group has - because of its being an upperclassmen team has the ability to enjoy the moment and get back to the task at hand," Eaves said about the light mood in the interview room. "And I think that's one of the guys' strengths is being able to do that. And I think that we're going to need to be able to have that happen again. I hope they get a chance to go to the fan fest at the hotel. See some of the stuff. I understand they had a dryer open you could shoot the puck in that. I know they were talking about that. So I think they do have that ability, though, to enjoy the moment and then get focused on the task."

Another one of those moments may come tonight for Geoffrion, when the winner of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award is announced. The leader of the Badger power play is in the unusual and enviable position of enjoying the suspense of whether he will be named college hockey's best player for the 2009-10 season all the while knowing he will be playing for the national championship less than 24 hours later.

As things turned out, the second semifinal was another lopsided affair with Boston College defeating Miami 7-1. They did so in slightly different fashion though, pulling away in the third rather than making the decision a foregone conclusion early on. One of these teams will obviously experience a much different fate two days from now.

One thing that both victorious teams felt likely helped them tonight was their growing experience playing games in the cavernous environment of large football stadiums, now both inside and out.

"Definitely I think (it helped us)," said Geoffrion, referring to UW's 3-2 victory over Michigan in the Camp Randall Hockey Classic. "Just knowing what to expect with the temperature and all that was a little different. But as far as the mindset about the ice and adapting to that, definitely helped us."

"It definitely helped us, for sure," BC's Ben Smith concurred. "We weren't overwhelmed, I think. At Fenway we were certainly overwhelmed for a little bit of that game. But I think that experience definitely helped us in this  it's a different venue. It's a great place to play, don't get me wrong. And it was a lot of fun out there tonight. But it's different. And so I think that experience definitely helped us."

Something will have to give on Saturday though, when the two best teams in the nation take the ice with everything they have both played all season for on the line.

"It won't be as high scoring, so we'll see," added Smith, anointing himself an official prognosticator. "More excitement."

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