On preparing for tomorrow's match up versus Boston College... "I agree with the gentlemen. There's not that much to say. I think being excellent with the puck, getting the puck deep, nobody likes to play defensive when they're in their defensive zone. I think that's going to be key for us to not have turnovers. We always talk about fellas playing well, goaltenders and special teams and turnovers. I think if you're grading yourself ‘A' in those areas, you have a pretty good chance."
On the growth of the program back to where Wisconsin wants it to be... "Well this is its eighth year. We came in and if you had a plan, you would hope that by the fourth year you would be competing for a national championship and that happened the first time around. I like the teams that we had but the only problem we had was that we were perpetually young. Now we have grown and we are an upperclassmen team since that championship team. There's no college coach that would tell you different that that is a big, big factor. So we have a good group of young men, upperclassmen team talent, maturity, good goal-tending and when those things come together, they give you a chance to compete for a national championship. There's not a magic formula. There really isn't. We have been able to work this thought process we've had as a coaching staff and its brought us back here."
On the 2006 National Championship... "I just remember the feeling in the rink. It was like winning it in your own backyard, the specialty of it. And coming home, we were driving back from Milwaukee and all of a sudden there were forty emergency vehicles on the highway. And we were thinking, oh my gosh there must have been a big accident up here. And there wasn't. It was an escort for the bus. So all of the guys piled over to one side of the bus. That was pretty special."
On whom his sons are rooting for and how Jerry York was bummed when he chose to play at Wisconsin... "Well I'm going to use Patrick's response, which I think is brilliant, he said, in this situation they're kind of in a win-win situation because they are going to win no matter what happens. Either their alma mater is going to win or their dad is going to win. I think that's a great answer but it's tough to remember back that far. I was 17 years old and I remember that my last two choices were between Michigan and Wisconsin. And I came to Wisconsin in the springtime and didn't have a chance to see a game in the rink but I just fell in love with the campus and that's where I felt the most comfortable in my heart. I went with that feeling.
On if his game plan with his defense changes against BC... "We would want to do that but the key is if we're going to be able to do that based on what BC is able to do and how we play. But yes, it would still be the same concept of being able to control the puck in their zone and take time off the clock, have good puck position, protect the puck, make good decisions with the puck. But our ability to do that will be based a lot on what they do and how well they play in their own zone."
On taking a on dynamic from BC... "It's about us doing what we would like to do and that's get the puck and put pressure on the defense. I think that will be a key factor. The ‘TWIG' (take what is given) aspect is once we have the puck, we take it but in order to do that we have got to get it and get it in deep. I don't think there is any team in the country that likes to go back into the zone not determined to go get the puck and try to break it up with somebody running down their back. If we put that type of pressure and create turnovers and play with it, we will be able to take what's given."
On the common opponent of Yale... "We watched their game when they played Yale obviously. The comments that Barry Melrose made last night on TV were very accurate in the fact that they won that game, you could be damn sure that Jerry had their attention when they went back to work on their own defensive zone coverage. They played very well last night in that area. So we watched the game, we'll see what they do. I thought coming into last night's game against RIT they were also excellent in their own zone and we were able to do some things because we were smart with the puck. We will try to do that again and see if we can create chances off of that."
On contrasting Boston College's 2006 team compared to this year's team... "I think it's very similar. I think Jerry's philosophy hasn't changed very much. They like to have small, quick, competitive forwards and they sprinkle in some size there and their goaltending has been solid. They get after you. Like all good teams they try to take away time and space and jump on turnovers and be good on the special teams. I think their philosophy has worked since Jerry's been there and I think this team falls into that category."
On the production he has been getting from his defensemen... "It's interesting when we first came to Wisconsin we were dubbed as a defensive club. The philosophy has always remained the same. If you're going to be a contending team you want that second attack from your defensemen. As our time with Wisconsin has evolved, we've been able to, through the efforts of Coach Osiecki and Coach Patrick, we can go out there and find talented young men that have come in and they have a base level of talent that a coach can't teach. When you blend them in, the offense that we have this year is a direct result of having people with natural skills playing to the thought process that we want to get up in the rush, we want to have balance on our attack. Because of their talent and the way we play, the philosophy, you can see the numbers have come out the way they have."
On Brendan's Smith defensive play... "Brendan is one of those young defensemen who is a high risk, high reward. You have to live with some of that. I think our process with Brendan is trying to narrow down his decision making so they're high end-decisions, high-percentage decisions. But because he has a natural instinct, you don't want to take that away, you want to fine tune it. The thing about Brendan that doesn't get enough credit is that he takes great pride in the fact that he's improved with his play without the puck. His gap, his stick, his presence in front of the net has grown immensely that will make him a better, more well rounded defenseman when he wants to make that next step."
On how Scott Gudmandson has been viewed as a weak link... "If Scotty's our weakest link, then that link has gotten stronger. The way he's handled himself up here and the way he handles himself on the ice. Scotty's biggest growth is his ability to handle things between his ears, the six inches between his ears. His growth, mentally and emotionally, he used to have a hard time letting go of goals he gave up and that is no longer a concern. He's playing confidently right now, his teammates believe in him. He's improved his ability to handle the puck. He's playing the best he's ever had here at the University of Wisconsin. If people are looking at him as our weakest link, its gotten better and we're excited to have him with us."
On what Blake Geoffrion means to the team this season... "The thing that Blake brings to our team and I think is one of the reasons that he is a strong candidate for the Hobey Baker award, is that his balance across the board. His leadership, his ability to play in all situations, our top faceoff guy, he's probably one of the best in the country. He's our first guy to go out there to kill penalties. He puts his body out there to block shots. On our power play, he's our post guy. He's the guy in front of the net that has a real good feel for that. He's the guy that's going to be on the ice when we're up by a goal, down by a goal. His ability to play in all situations, his ability to lead, his ability to come up offensively for us, are the things he brings to the table and it's nice to hear his teammates recognize that. Blake was out for a couple of games and a couple guys came up and they said that, ‘You know, we're a really different team without Blake.' And that's coming from the inside out, I think that's a high compliment."
On relishing the opportunity to go up against a coach with so much history and such a great program... "I relish being up against anybody at this point. But the fact that it's Coach York and we have history, makes it all the more interesting. He coached one of our boys for six years and we get together at the coaches meetings down in Florida. We have a ritual of having breakfast one of the mornings down there. Along with Coach York and his coaching staff, they do a great job, there's a lot of respect there. Their teams are ready to play. They play at the top of their game so you better be ready to play at the top of your game because they're going to come after you. For me, it's a great formula for having a great night of entertainment with college hockey."
On combating BC's speed in the offensive zone... "There are no secrets at this point. You mentioned them in your question. Being excellent with the puck at the blue line and being able to turn and go and play. If we can get to the puck and have good puck protection and be patient with the puck and make good decisions that will be a key part to the game tomorrow."
On if his risk tolerance as a coach with letting his players play with creativity has changed... "Absolutely. You have to play to the strengths of your players. We talk about with our offensive defensemen, we put some of the responsibility on our forwards to recognize when a defenseman is up on the play to give us balance. We can play offensive hockey and have good balance because if a defenseman has jumped up, it's the responsibility of that forward to stay back until that cycles out. We can play with balance and still have that offensive thrust if you will. It's something we teach and something we talk about, and the kids are pretty good with it."
On how he's learned from getting to this particular point in the tournament... "I have been pretty blessed to have been around and be a part of championships all my life as both a coach and a player. And as a coach, you will prepare and you will get good kids and you will lay it out and you will go out and try to execute that plan. The thing that comes to my mind when you ask that question is that there is an X factor that is out of your control. I can talk to you about four or five different stories. I'll take our last championship. The puck hits the post and kicks out. That was an X factor. We played a very good game and did a lot of good things, but in the end, it could have gotten in. I think patience and understanding that rubs off on your kids. If it's meant to be our time, we will do whatever we can to help it tilt that way, but in the end there is an X factor. Your kids look at you and how you handle when a referee makes a call, hey we're going to kill it off. We're going to make good clears, have good sticks, block shots. Not to get rattled with the referee. There's things you can't control. I don't know about you, but I've never seen a referee change his mind. So, that's what we try to do and that's what I've learned. We're going to try to do the things that we can, control the things that we can. But in the long run, there is an X factor there and it's best to be patient and let it play out."
Junior Defenseman Brendan Smith
On differentiating yourself from such a similar playing team…??"I think we're going to be successful, obviously we are very similar but they work off their speed and we work off our strength and our size so to be successful I think we are going to have to dig deep and do what we do best and get the puck in the corners and guys like John Mitchell and Andy Bohmbach, they're going to be key players for us in this game because those are the things that they do best and I don't know how well they (Wisconsin) can handle those kinds of players."???
On having five assists against RIT and playing so offensive mindedly…??"That is the most assists I've had, but coach and I were talking about how everything I touch turns to gold so it was one of those nights how everything good just worked out for me and I was just in the right place at the right time or somehow my passes just ended up squeaking through. It ended up how I wasn't the one that scored so I have to give credit to all of the boys that did score and that was the reason I got those five assists. Our D-Core, what we talked about before the game, was trying to get the puck up real quick and stop their fore check. Sometimes it ends up that I get some easy assists out of that and our D-Core is so good at it, that we shut down teams and they don't get their fore-check in. Our defense has been the backbone of our team right now and if we keep that up we'll be great for tomorrow"
On where he was during the Wisconsin championship game in 2006…??"I was already committed and I remember Earl's goal but the one that really sticks in my mind was Tom Gilbert's goal and all I said was ‘I want to be like that guy' so Tommy Gilbert is a guy that I have always wanted to imitate. You watch him playing in the pros now, but after scoring that goal he was the guy I wanted to be. That's what I remember"??
On key moments throughout the season that stand out in his mind as turning points…??"Our team believed that this was the year and I think we all bought into that and we knew this was the year and even during the summer we had our training shirts that had 0.002 is what we blocked out last year in regionals so we had that feeling in our stomachs the whole summer and the whole year so we believed. But I think the turning point for me and some people can attest on our team was at Camp Randall. That game, in front of 55,000 fans, and I think that was when some teams were in the middle and starting to slow down, but we were just getting amped up for this Holiday Classic and all of us out there with 35,000 fans was maybe giving us a little bit of an edge and obviously BC played in one too at Fenway so it could have helped them too with playing in a big atmosphere but I'm going to have to say that was a pretty big moment to keep us going instead of maybe sometimes in the middle of the year you can find maybe a slump or something that doesn't really work and you have to change it but I think we just kept rolling from there."??
On playing competitively against RIT as preparation going into the highest pressure game of the season…??"I wouldn't say the game wasn't competitive, I think it was competitive I mean they were really on us in the start, we got that quick goal with John Mitchell, but I think they crashed the net real hard there and almost created some chances so I think the whole game was competitive. I think we edged out with some power plays and our power play came out big, but once you get to this stage and with NCAA hockey every game is competitive and you go into the corner and everybody wants to win that battle so I wouldn't really say it wasn't competitive and what not. But the biggest thing like Gudi was saying is our maturity is sometimes you can create bad habits and you can see during the game that some people were trying to do too much, but coach talked to us during periods and was trying to tell us that we have to keep playing our game and our style and that was the biggest thing and that just shows the leadership in the boys and our maturity."
Junior goaltender Scott Gudmandson
On similarities between Wisconsin and Boston College … "I think we have to go out there and do the small things and I think that will be the biggest difference in the game. We've got to have great puck management and get the puck deep. I think that BC kind of lived off of turnovers after watching the game last night, so if we have good puck management I think we will be fine out there."
On where he was in the recruiting process when Wisconsin won the national championship in 2006 … "I had already committed to come to Wisconsin when that game was being played. I remember telling my dad that it would be cool to finally be in the championship game and now I'm finally here. So, it's an exciting moment."
On key moments throughout the season that helped get the team to this point … "I don't think there really was one moment that defined our team this season. I think one of the things that defined us was our consistency. We've been such a consistent team and it has really helped us throughout the season. We haven't lost back-to-back games and I think that really shows a lot about the guys that we have on this team."
On affects of playing in a semifinal game that wasn't really that competitive … "I think we showed a lot of team maturity in that game. The score wasn't that close, but we did the small things. We kept our good habits and that helped prepare us for the upcoming game."
On handling pressure of playing goaltender throughout the season to get the national championship … "I think I have handled it pretty well. I have been satisfied with how my season has gone so far. Obviously, my goal is to win a national championship and I'll have that chance tomorrow night. I think I have played well and shown my ability throughout the year. I also have to give a lot of credit to the guys in front of me. We have a great defensive core, great forwards and I think that takes a lot of pressure off of me and leaves me a little room for error."
On being similar to John Muse for Boston College and being under the radar … "I don't mind my role. I just want to go out there and stop pucks. At the end of the day, if I have that "W" that is all that really matters. It's a credit to the guys in front of me. They deserve the credit that are receiving."
Sophomore forward Derek Stepan
On similarities between Wisconsin and Boston College … "I think it just comes down to playing hard, simple, smart and as a team. It's going to be a fun game and it's going to be energetic. I agree that we are similar teams and there is going to be a lot of up-and-down action."
On where he was in the recruiting process when Wisconsin won the national championship in 2006 … "I think I was still in Hastings (Minnesota) and wasn't really too into college hockey at the time. I was still in the Minnesota high school hockey box where you think about getting to the Excel Center and the state tournament. I don't remember much about the 2006 year."
On key moments throughout the season that helped get the team to this point … "There were a bunch of turning points throughout the year. Some teams can get into a slump, but we had the Camp Randall Classic and the holiday tournament to get us amped back up again. Those were good turning points, but there were a bunch of them that helped us and got us going again."
On affects of playing in a semifinal game that wasn't really that competitive … "I think you've got to play the full 60 minutes. Last night's game, even on the bench, we were talking about staying in our habits and not forming bad ones – playing simple and playing as a team. I think that will be key for Saturday night's game."
On what he can give to his team about defending Chris Kreider after playing with him at the New York Rangers camp and on the US World Junior team … "I was talking to Ryan Gardiner and Jake McDonagh about that today. If you give him a little space you better turn around and skate hard because he can boogie. Chris is a strong forward. He can skate and shoots the puck well. The key is to get him before he gets going. We're going to need great back pressure so that the defense can have good gaps and we're going to have to try to shut him down as fast as we can."
The Series – Boston College vs. Wisconsin
Boston College holds the edge in the all-time series with Wisconsin, owning a record of 11-9-0. UW and BC have met in NCAA tournament games three times previously. Boston College defeated Wisconsin, 4-1, on March 25, 2000, in the second round in Minneapolis, while the Badgers defeated BC in the semifinals in Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on March 20, 1990, 2-1, on the way to the 1990 NCAA title. Wisconsin also defeated BC in the 2006 NCAA Championship Game, 2-1, on April 8, 2006 in Milwaukee.
Boston College is making its fourth trip to the NCAA National Championship game in the last five years. In their most recent trip, the Eagles defeated Notre Dame, 2-1, to capture the school's third national title. Overall, this is Boston College's 10th appearance in the Men's Frozen Four Championship game.
BC head coach Jerry York is making his seventh trip to the NCAA Championship game and sixth during his tenure at Boston College. York won his first NCAA title in 1984, as he guided Bowling Green to the school's only national championship. While at Boston College, York has earned two national championships, his first in 2001 and again in 2008. York owns a 3-4 record in championship games.
This marks the third time the Badgers will play for a National Championship in the city of Detroit. UW won the 1977 NCAA title at Olympia Stadium, beating Michigan, 6-5, in overtime. The Badgers also earned the NCAA Championship in 1990, taking down Colgate, 7-3, at Joe Louis Arena.
The Badgers are appearing in the national title game for the ninth time in school history and the second time in the last four years. Wisconsin's last trip to the Championship game was a successful one, as the Badgers took down Boston College, 2-1, in the 2006 NCAA title game held in Milwaukee.
Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves is making his second appearance in the NCAA title game in just his ninth season behind the Badgers bench. Eaves was victorious in his only other trip to the championship game, beating Boston College, 2-1, during the 2006 title game.
With five assists in Thursday's semifinal win over RIT, Wisconsin junior Brendan Smith tied the Frozen Four record for helpers in a single game. The record is also held by Bob Poffenroth, a member of the 1969-70 Badgers squad. Poffenroth tallied five assists in a 6-5 victory over Michigan Tech in the third-place game.