• The Kreider Watch
• The McDonagh/Stepan Watch
Rangers prospects Derek Stepan
, Ryan McDonagh
, and Chris Kreider
will all be on display Saturday night, when Wisconsin faces Boston College for the NCAA hockey championship.
Wisconsin's 8-1 win over Rochester Institute of Technology in Thursday night's first NCAA Frozen Four semifinal and Boston College's 7-1 rout of No. 1-ranked Miami University in the second semifinal, ensured that the Rangers will have one of their drafted players on the national championship team for the first time since 1993, when 1990 draft pick Jason Weinrich won the title with maine.
Saturday night's championship game, which will air on ESPN at 7 p.m., is a rematch of the 2006 NCAA title game in which Wisconsin beat Boston College 2-1. Current Rangers forward Brian Boyle
played in that game for the Eagles.
Stepan, McDonagh and Kreider all picked up points in their teams' victories on Thursday. Stepan led the way with a four-point performance -- two goals and two assists -- in the Badgers' rout of RIT. McDonagh had an assist on Stepan's game-winner at 9:38 of the opening period of that victory, and Kreider also had an assist in the Eagles' blowout win.
Neither game was ever close, but Saturday's finale shapes up as a classic. Wisconsin (28-10-4) is in position to win its first national championship since 2006 and the first for the junior McDonagh and sophomore Stepan. Boston College (28-10-3) will be looking for its second title in three years after winning in 2008. No matter how the game turns out, Kreider, the Rangers' 2009 first-round draft pick, could not have asked for a more exciting freshman year.
In the opening game, Stepan's two assists both came with the man-advantage in the second period. He helped set up a power-play goal by Justin Schultz at 4:26 of the second for a 4-0 Wisconsin lead. He later assisted on Blake Geoffrion's power-play goal at 13:24 of the second to make it 6-0 before RIT finally broke the shutout with 28 seconds left in the middle period.
Stepan added his second goal of the game to close out the scoring at 17:48 of the third period. He finished the night with a game-high six shots and a plus-2 rating, while McDonagh was plus-1.
In the second game, Kreider was on the ice for three BC goals, including one on the power play. He picked up his assist on the game's final goal at 16:21 of the third period, when he used his speed to lead a rush up ice and drop a pass to Jimmy Hayes, who found Ben Smith for a 7-1 lead.
For Kreider and Stepan, Saturday's championship game will mark a kind of reunion. The two both attended the Blueshirts' Prospect Development Camp last summer and were teammates on the U.S. team that won a gold medal at the World Junior Championship tournament three months ago.