Last-minute goal punches Wisconsin’s ticket to Frozen Four finale

Wisconsin Badgers win a dramatic 1-0 contest; advance to the NCAA national championship game on Sunday.

Momentum in hockey is a powerful force and, while teams work hard to fight it, it can’t always be denied. The Boston College Eagles learned that lesson as painfully as possible on Friday evening, as they were unable to withstand an onslaught of chances from the Wisconsin Badgers in a 1-0 Wisconsin victory.

Though BC grabbed the early chances, they were unable to cash in on their early opportunities and spent the majority of the final two periods leaning heavily on junior goaltender Katie Burt.

“Our best periods were the third and second,” said Wisconsin goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens. “We kind of grew as the game went on.”

Burt was outstanding, stopping Wisconsin’s first 35 shots. The 36th, however, was a point shot through traffic from senior Wisconsin defender Mellissa Channell that evaded Burt and found the back of the net to record the game-winning goal.

“In all honesty, I blacked out,” said Channell. When asked what the previous biggest goal of her career was, she laughed and said, “I don’t score much.”

The Eagles were unable to sustain any pressure, after their hot start, and allowed themselves to lose momentum through several penalty kills. Wisconsin’s depth proved sufficient to smother their meager scoring opportunities, and they remained unable to break through.

Boston College’s speed was noticeable immediately, as senior winger Kristyn Capizzano had several chances down the boards that challenged the mobility of the Wisconsin defense.

“They looked fast on video,” said Channell. “We were able to match them.”

The Badgers’ Sarah Nurse had a handful of breaks of her own, but she was largely unable to create dangerous opportunities in the face of Megan Keller’s defense and Burt’s goaltending.

The game remained scoreless through two periods, though the swings in momentum were substantial. Boston College jumped out to a 13-1 lead in shots on goal, putting Desbiens to the test.

Wisconsin was able to weather the storm, however, and took advantage of power play opportunities to generate their own momentum. Ultimately, BC would record 12 shots in the first period and only 10 through the remainder of the game.

Boston College’s Keller, Makenna Newkirk, and Erin Connolly were all penalized for body contact, and though the penalty kill was able to keep Wisconsin around the perimeter, Wisconsin poured on the pressure.

After surrendering 13 of the game’s first 14 shots, the Badgers then recorded 16 of the next 17. One particularly dangerous opportunity occurred early in the second period and required Burt to knock a fluttering puck from the air with the paddle of her stick while lying nearly prone.

Desbiens nearly allowed BC an easy opportunity to jump out to a lead, as a chance to play the puck in the corner with minimal pressure turned into a nasty deflection off her own goalpost and right to BC’s Newkirk in the slot.

Newkirk was unable to release a strong shot, however, and the opportunity passed with only a skip of the heartbeat for Badgers fans.

Boston College’s preference for playing a physical game was evident from their enthusiasm to initiate contact, including a forceful crease defense by Keller early in the third. Each power play, however, seemed to feed Wisconsin’s momentum, casting doubt on the viability of that strategy.

Desbiens was lauded as the tournament’s top player at the start of the weekend, and though she did little to dispel that notion, Burt’s standout play was the highlight of the game.

Ultimately, as Wisconsin continues to the championship game, they may find themselves fortunate that their goaltender was able to leave gas in her tank. That may be sufficient to continue to push the all-important momentum their way.