DETROIT - The ‘it' factor is hard to measure on any scale or define accurately, but is without a doubt a noticeable one to detect.
Through three post season clinics, Wisconsin had the offensive firepower, the defensive moxie, the swagger, the confidence and the ‘it.' But when it came down to its chance to secure the program's seventh national title, Wisconsin's ‘it' was gone, and it cost them in the worst possible way.
Wisconsin's quest to climb the mountain saw its carefully built foundation crumble, as the inability to capitalize on scoring chances and generate any semblance of flow from beginning to end sent the Badgers home with a bitter 5-0 loss to the Eagles in front of 37,592 at Ford Field.
The victory gives Boston College (29-10-3) its second national championship in three years (2008), its fourth overall and got sweet redemption from that 2-1 defeat to the Badgers at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee in the 2006 national final.
"We invested so much into it," said a teary-eyed junior goalie Scott Gudmandson is a desolate Wisconsin locker room. "This was our goal. This was what we wanted to accomplish. Anytime you invest so much in something and you don't accomplish it, it burns."
Wisconsin (28-11-4) won NCAA titles in its only two Frozen Four visits to Detroit (1977, 90) and looked poised to add a third after a 8-1 drubbing of Rochester Institute of Technology Thursday. However, the second-highest scoring team in the nation (3.89 goals per game) was shutout for the third team this season and for only the second time in the school's postseason history (a 7-0 quarterfinal defeat to St. Lawrence in 1988), due in large part to a Boston College defense that skated two sophomore and three freshman.
"We never got pucks to the back of the net," said senior tri-captain Ben Street, "which is what we needed to do to break what they had going."
The Eagles smothered senior tri-captain and Hobey Baker winner Blake Geoffrion and the nation's leading scoring defenseman Brendan Smith every time they touched the puck in the offensive zone and only went on the penalty kill twice.
"I just didn't think we had our best effort tonight in terms of being sharp," UW Coach Mike Eaves said.
When Wisconsin broke through to connect on one of its six grade A chances – junior goalie John Muse was there to stifle any potential momentum changes. Muse was credited with 20 saves to improve his career record to 8-0 in the NCAA tournament and add a second title ring to his collection.
"Johnny has been a rock all year for us, especially for us in the playoff run," senior captain Matt Price said. "He's played awesome for us."
Dictating tempo and offense, Boston College out shot Wisconsin 12-5 opening frame, and took a 1-0 lead when senior center Ben Smith – named the tournament's most outstanding player - knocked his power-play shot from the slot over Gudmandson's stick at 12:57.
"I think the air came out of us a little bit," Street said. "It just wasn't our night."
The Badgers made some hay into the second but Davies couldn't execute a couple of momentum changers. After Muse smothered two of his chances in the first, Davies had an open look at the right post off a fluky bounce off the boards, but senior Carl Sneep flipped his stick in Davies' path to break up what would have been a sure goal.
It got worse for Davies, who had three grade A chances, fumbling a breakaway attempt late in the second and was unable to get a shot on goal, a play that represented UW's last golden scoring chance.
"(After that), it just didn't seem to be our day," Eaves said.
Sophomore Cam Atkinson made the self-inflicted wounds sting greater, as the sophomore right winger sandwiched a pair of backhanded goals around a Chris Kreider's deflection in the first 7:20 of the third period, giving him a nation-leading 30 tallies and turning a 1-0 nail biter into a 4-0 Beantown party.
"They took advantage on our mistakes and capitalized on their chances," said Gudmandson, who finished with 21 saves.
When Eaves made the desperate move of pulling Gudmandson with 5:50 remaining in the game, Price's empty net goal sent most of the largest crowd to ever watch an indoor hockey game to the exits.
Eaves post-game comments began with congratulatory remarks towards Boston College and to good friend Jerry York, as the Eagles' head coach secured his 850th victory and fourth national title overall. It turned much more melancholy when Geoffrion and Street took the podium, faces of the program and two of the seven seniors that returned this season with their eyes at the mountain top.
After seeing the summit, Wisconsin just ran out of air.
"We got near the top of the mountain," Eaves said, "but we weren't quite able to stick the flag in the top."