Saturday night, en route to a 5-0 thrashing that would leave the Badgers in a bitter second place; they played like a team without any strengths.
For the season, the Badgers proved to be an overwhelming force on offense, capable of striking from the blue line, with a man advantage and through all four lines. The team boasted four 50-point scorers — including some recent Hobey Baker award winner named Blake Geoffrion — and ranked third in the nation scoring 3.98 goals per game.
Saturday night, all 20 shots were turned away en route to a shutout, including six grade A chances on Boston College goaltender John Muse's doorstep. Michael Davies whiffing on a wide open break away should tell you everything you need to know about the kind of night it was for UW.
For the season the team's uber-talented defense core (five first or second round NHL picks) had been able to bottle up opposing forwards of any size, speed or age. Despite chipping in heavily on the rush, UW blueliners helped limit opponents to 2.58 goals per game, good for No. 15 in the nation. Plus, Ryan McDonagh grew a wicked mustache.
Saturday night, the defensemen were exposed by the speedy midgets Boston College loves so much. Five-foot-8 Cam Atkinson found the back of the net two times, while 5-foot-6 Joe Whitney chipped in three assists. The Wisconsin defensemen were constantly forced to turn their shoulders and the furious rush led to goals No. 2 and 3 for BC early in the third period.
For the season Wisconsin ranked top-10 in both power play and penalty kill percentage. Geoffrion led the nation in power play goals with 15 and formed a remarkable one-two punch with Brendan Smith firing away from the point. The special teams took their title very literally.
Saturday night, the Badgers never came close to lighting the lamp in three chances with the man advantage, but allowed the Eagles to camp out in the slot, giving up way too much of Mike Eaves favorite saying — time and space. BC took advantage two times in five chances.
For the season Wisconsin managed to keep all bones, ligaments and muscles intact. Of the key scorers, only Geoffrion sat three times as a result of a concussion. Eaves likes to talk about getting the bounces, well, the Badgers rarely bounced into the training room.
Saturday night, UW lost Derek Stepan (54 points) after a nasty crash into the boards and the sophomore went out with a possible concussion. Wisconsin trailed 3-0 at the time and the team's leading scorer just might have made a difference for any attempted comeback.
For the season, goaltender Scott Gudmandson improved month by month. After finally nailing the No. 1 netminder spot, Goody was playing his best hockey of the season in the NCAA Tournament. Through the first three games of the tourney, the junior was allowing an average of two goals per game, and had come up big in the opening round nail biter against Vermont.
Saturday night, Gudmandson let in a softie five-hole for the second tally of the game. It went down hill from there.
Chances are, you are reading this frustrated, upset, disheartened or drunk. The team was as sharp as a butter knife when the occasion called for one of those infomercial knifes that can cut through cans.
But the season should still be considered an overwhelming success — even if it takes players and fans a few days to see it.
"We can walk out of here, even though as disappointed as we are, our heads can be held high," Eaves said. "I think the boys alluded to in a couple of days we can step back — we did some wonderful things this year. Didn't lose back-to-back games all year…we did some wonderful things."