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Earl Helps Win It for Wisconsin

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

April 9, 2006
Associated Press
Canadian Press

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MILWAUKEE -- Robbie Earl, Tom Gilbert and Brian Elliott each received another chance. With a national title at stake, all three -- and a post -- came through for Wisconsin.

Gilbert scored a goal on a power play, Earl added another and Elliott made 22 saves to lead Wisconsin to its sixth national title and first since 1990 with a 2-1 victory over Boston College on Saturday night.

The Badgers had trouble solving Cory Schneider, who was brilliant with 37 saves.

Wisconsin won the Frozen Four for the first time since 1990.
(Getty Images)

After stopping two earlier slap shots by Gilbert, the self-described offensive defenseman came through on the power play with 10:28 left in the third when he took a pass from Joe Pavelski and ripped one from between the circles that beat Schneider to give the Badgers a 2-1 lead.

"I was thinking to myself, 'I'm not going to strike out three times,' " Gilbert said. "Joe Pavelski made a great pass to me, and I just buried my head and I knew the puck was going to go in."

BC's Anthony Aiello hooked Jack Skille a minute earlier to set up the final goal just after Wisconsin (30-10-3) ran its successful penalty kill streak to 36.

Boston College (26-13-3) couldn't break through the bigger, stronger blue line defenders for Wisconsin, and Elliott didn't face the second chances the Eagles said they had to have to win.

Chris Collins fired a shot wide with just over 2 minutes to play, and BC failed to score after pulling Schneider with 23 seconds left as BC's last, desperation shot by Peter Harrold hit the right post with 1.7 seconds left.

"Unfortunately, a quarter-inch to the right and it bounces out," Harrold said. "That's the way it goes sometimes, I guess."

Said Elliott: "Posts are your best friends, and I got one tonight."

It looked promising early for the Eagles, who finished 0-for-4 on the power play. Wisconsin was 1-for-8.

"We had this where we wanted," BC coach Jerry York said. "Ten or 12 minutes left in the game, and it's 1-1. They capitalized on their power play. We didn't capitalize on ours. That was the difference."

Despite peppering Schneider with 17 first-period shots, Wisconsin trailed 1-0 when the Badgers broke through just over a minute into the second period. 

Boston College's Brian Boyle lost the puck in his zone to Pavelski, who finished with two assists. Pavelski found Adam Burish, who sent a pass to the crease that Earl tapped in for Wisconsin's first goal.

"That's just a goal-scorer's goal," Burish said. "He was in the right place at the right time."

Earl, who had been hip-checked hard and hurt his shoulder moments before by Collins, was skating off slowly for a change before deciding to jump back in the play.

Earl, selected the Most Outstanding Player, sped past defenseman Mike Brennan for a deflection of Burish's pass for his third goal of the Frozen Four.

"I took my licks, but it's well worth it," Earl said. "I saw the opportunity and I saw a chance to score, and I took it. It was just a great, great pass. That's how our season has been going all year. It's all about heart and being relentless."

Boyle nearly made up for the mistake minutes later on the power play, but he couldn't get his stick on a puck feathered across the crease by defenseman Brett Motherwell.

Schneider faced enough shots to be unsure of every stop.

After Nick Licari snapped a wrist shot into Schneider with just over 5 minutes left in the second, Schneider took a quick peek behind him to make sure the puck didn't squirt through.

It didn't.

Then, in the closing minutes of the period, Wisconsin's Jack Skille fired a slap shot that went off the crossbar, and the teams headed into the third period tied at 1.

Elliott, a Hobey Baker finalist, was solid, if unspectacular, at the other end. The nation's best goalie in virtually every category, he stopped every opportunity after giving up a gritty goal in the first to Pat Gannon set up by Dan Bertram.

Bertram, who committed three first-period penalties, jumped out of the box after his second one expired and outworked two Wisconsin defenders in the corner to find Gannon streaking to the front of the net.

Gannon sent a backhand shot high over Elliott's blocker to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead in the first.

Undeterred, Wisconsin, which had won only three games after giving up the first goal, continued peppering Schneider with shots.

Collins, who came into the game with 34 goals and 29 assists as Hockey East's player of the year, was quiet. He also went down hard moments after BC's first goal when he ran into teammate Brock Bradford.

Boston College, which scored 16 goals en route to the title game, was the first No. 3 seed ever to make the championship game.

It wasn't enough to overcome Wisconsin, the tournament's top seed, which survived its regional final with a 1-0 triple-overtime victory over Cornell before beating Maine 5-2 in the semifinals Thursday night.

Wisconsin retained its home state advantage in the crowd of 17,814, playing a little over an hour away from its Madison campus as the Frozen Four host. The Badgers' victory gave the Western Collegiate Hockey Association its fifth straight title.

"It was everything it lived up to be in our dreams," said Ryan MacMurchy, a senior and part of the Badgers' team that won just 13 games his first season. "We got it done with blood, sweat and tears."

Wisconsin, whose women's team won the Frozen Four title March 26, is the first Division I school to win both hockey titles.

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