Published April 08, 2010
DETROIT (AP) — Wisconsin wasted little time showing why it is a college hockey superpower and that Rochester Institute of Technology isn't quite ready for the sport's biggest stage.
The Badgers scored in the opening minutes of the first two periods and went on to rout the Tigers 8-1 in the Frozen Four on Thursday night at Ford Field.
"Like a snowball, it just got rolling and got bigger and bigger," said Derek Stepan, who scored Wisconsin's second and eighth goals.
Third-seeded Wisconsin, shooting for its seventh NCAA hockey title, will play Boston College for the championship on Saturday night in a rematch of the 2006 final won by the Badgers.
RIT, seeded 15th in the 16-team field just five years after moving to Division I, ended its first Frozen Four appearance with a thud.
"We ran into a powerhouse," Tigers coach Wayne Wilson said.
John Mitchell scored 1:27 into the game and Jordy Murray made it 3-0 at 2:18 of the second, allowing Wisconsin (28-10-4) to coast against the overmatched Tigers. Scott Gudmandson made 13 saves for the Badgers.
RIT's Jared DeMichiel stopped 27 shots before being replaced late in the game by Shane Madolora, who gave up a goal on the only shot he faced. Jan Ropponen then came on and allowed one goal on three shots.
The game was played at the home of the NFL's Detroit Lions. About 35,000 tickets were sold as of Wednesday, but empty seats and a lopsided game without a local team led to a lackluster atmosphere.
"Being on the bench, the crowd noise seemed so distant," Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. "A lot of the noise, you didn't really hear it."
When Detroit landed the Frozen Four, organizers dreamed of putting the ice in the middle of the field and packing 70,000-plus fans around it as was done for the men's basketball Final Four last year.
The plan was wisely downsized, putting the ice near an end zone, and placing portable sections along the boards opposite the team benches.
It felt like a hockey arena with a game-time temperature of just under 60 degrees and 47 percent humidity thanks to air conditioning that created a breeze strong enough to make curtains that cut off portions of the venue sway from side to side.
"The ice wasn't ideal, but it was the same ice for both teams," DeMichiel said. "A little snowy along the boards. The atmosphere in the rink was a cool experience. I'll remember it for the rest of my life."
Vendors rented binoculars to fans for $10, plus a $10 deposit, and those were likely needed for those who paid a total of $40 for upper-deck seats for three games.
RIT fans who made the trip from upstate New York tried to create a buzz 90 minutes before the puck dropped — chanting "R-I-T! R-I-T!" — but the Badgers quickly quieted them and made the final score the only thing in doubt.
Mitchell scored off a rebound on the second shot of the game, and Stepan put Wisconsin ahead 2-0 midway through the second period. After Murray scored early in the second, Justin Schultz made it 4-0 a couple minutes later.
Wisconsin had a pair of two-man advantages midway through the second and took advantage of both, on goals from Michael Davies and Blake Geoffrion, to lead 6-0 with its second and third goals of the period with at least an extra skater.
Geoffrion is one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, which recognizes the nation's top college hockey player, and is a grandson of Hall of Famer Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion.
RIT called a timeout after Geoffrion's 28th goal, but there was nothing that could be said or done to change the outcome.
"One of our strengths is our depth," Geoffrion said.
The Tigers did, though, avoid a shutout with 28 seconds left in the second when Tyler Brenner banged in a shot from the left side off a crisp pass to make it 6-1.
Craig Smith and Stepan scored 20 seconds apart late in the game to finish the scoring barrage for the Badgers, who had the largest margin of victory in the semifinals since 1969.
RIT (28-12-1) accomplished quite a bit this season by making it to the Frozen Four — stunning perennial powers Denver and New Hampshire to advance in the NCAA tournament — with a 12-game winning streak to experience playing in a stadium that looks nothing like its 2,100-seat arena.
DeMichiel helped the Tigers get to Detroit, earning most outstanding player honors at the East Regional after giving up just three goals on 66 shots. He and his teammates couldn't slow down the Badgers.
RIT center Cameron Burt, who is from Detroit, said he had about 60 family members and friends in the stands.
"Playing in a football stadium was a great experience and I'll cherish it," Burt said. "I'll tell my grandkids about it if I make it that far."