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Wisconsin rolls past RIT in semis

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT -- A stellar performance by Red Wings prospect Brendan Smith lifted Wisconsin to an impressive 8-1 victory over Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology in an NCAA semifinal Thursday night at Ford Field.

Seven different Badgers scored to propel Wisconsin's record-setting seven-goal victory margin, the largest in NCAA tournament in 41 years. It was the largest margin of victory since Denver beat Harvard 9-2 in 1969.

Smith, a junior defenseman, whom the Red Wings drafted in 2007, led the Badgers with five assists. Forward Derek Stepan had two goals and two assists, and Hobey Baker finalist Blake Geoffrion had a goal and an assist.

“We ran into just a powerhouse tonight,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. 

John Mitchell opened the scoring just 1:27 into the contest, giving the Badgers the early lead. The senior forward knocked in a rebound off an initial shot from Cody Goloubef.

“Clearly we were able to get everybody out there,” said UW coach Mike Eaves, father of Red Wings' forward Patrick Eaves. “We had 12 people out of our 18 skaters get points. So it speaks to that depth.”

Derek Stepan added UW’s second goal nine minutes later, tipping a shot from the point by captain Ryan McDonagh past goalie  Jared Demichiel. The goal seemingly deflated RIT fans.

“We’ve talked about all year how one of the strengths of our team is our depth, and guys stepped up,” Geoffrion said. “We talked about getting a great start. Mitchy comes out with a goal and Stepan enters back with a quick tip-in. We talked about it all year. It’s one of our strengths and we’re happy.”

UW maintained momentum heading into the second, as Jordy Murray scored at 2:18. Then the Badgers took advantage of a frustrated Tigers squad, who finished with a total of 29 penalty minutes. UW scored three straight power-play goals in under nine minutes, as Justin Shultz, Michael Davies and Geoffrion all scored on the man-advantage.

Much of UW's power-play success came in the wake of Mark Cornacchia’s five-minute major for hitting from behind. The RIT first-line center also received a game misconduct for the play. Davies and Geoffrion each scored during the five-minute advantage.

UW goalie Scott Gudmandson wasn't very busy, stopping 13 of 14 shots.

“One of the toughest jobs a young goaltender has is when you’re not getting a lot of action and to keep your mind focused,” Eaves said. “Scotty did a nice job tonight and was disappointed in giving up the one goal, which usually goaltenders are. But he kept his mind sharp and did a pretty decent job for us.”

Craig Smith added a goal of his own in the third period, beating Demichiel while airborne just above the crease. Stepan picked up his second of the night for the final goal, scoring on his own rebound.

Wisconsin will face Boston College for the national championship on Saturday at 7 p.m. EST. The game can be seen live on ESPN.

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