Smith gives boost to Badgers
Wings' prospect Smith collects five assists, advances to NCAA Frozen finale
Every puck Brendan Smith touched on Thursday turned to Wisconsin gold.
The Red Wings’ prospect notched five assists and was a plus-4 in the Badgers' 8-1 thumping of Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology at Ford Field. UW now faces Boston College in Saturday’s NCAA national championship game.
“Coach (Mike Eaves) and I were talking about it, the old fable of King Midas,” said Smith, a junior defenseman. “It was pretty much my night. I think I had three or four second assists. I have to give credit to everybody else, but it was a great feeling. It was one of those fortunate nights, and I’ll take it.”
Smith, known for being an offensive-minded defenseman, was uncharacteristically quiet in the first period. He then exploded in the second period to record three of his helpers.
He has sometimes been at odds with Eaves for his penchant to gamble with the puck. The coach made him a healthy scratch for the second game of their opening season series against Colorado College, for two poor decisions that led to a loss in the first game.
Thursday, however, the Badgers were so dominant that Smith didn’t need to take unnecessary chances.
“I don’t like to totally consider myself as a gambler, but here and there I may take one or two,” he laughed. “The biggest thing is we had such great back pressure that I didn’t have to do that. We took it to them and had a lot of puck control, so it helped my game out a lot.”
Some of the Wings’ front-office staff was in attendance at Thursday’s game, and Smith is excited to show them and the Detroit fans what he can do.
“To even get a chance to show everybody else in Detroit what I can bring to the table and what not, it’s a great feeling,” said Smith, who was the Wings' first draft pick in 2007.
While he’s looking forward to his future with the Wings, all he’s focused on now is winning a national championship.
“We want that national championship,” he said. “So I’m really not thinking about (the Wings) too much, but it’s always in the back of my mind.”
Smith is the nation’s leading defenseman in points with 52. His five-point game Thursday was a career-high, and tied the highest point total by a Badgers' player this season.
MUSE COMES OUT ON TOP: Boston College’s goalie John Muse allowed seven goals to Yale in the East Regional final; but his team scored nine to get the win.
Thursday, it was Miami’s Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard that allowed seven goals, while Muse only gave up one.
“At this point in the season, all you’re looking for is wins, no matter how they come,” Muse said.
Muse, a junior, is now a perfect 7-0 in the NCAA tournament. He backstopped his team to a national championship in 2008, winning 4-1 over Notre Dame.
He now has a chance to lead his team to another title on Saturday against the Badgers.
“We were very, very sharp (Thursday),” Eagles coach Jerry York said. “We got excellent goaltending from Johnny Muse.”
While the end result of 6-1 seems lopsided, Boston College was only up 3-1 going into the third period.
But Muse came up big when needed, especially when he stoned Miami senior forward Andy Miele on a shorthanded breakaway in the second. The Eagles were only up 1-0 at that point.
“The save he made on the shorthanded breakaway was a real turning point in the game,” York said. “They’ve got a really good chance to tie it 1-1, it was just a really good save.”
It was Muse who emerged victorious in the goaltending battle between him and Miami's highly touted duo. Reichard was one of the top-10 finalists for the Hobey Baker award; while Knapp made 55 saves in a 3-2 overtime win over Michigan to advance to the Frozen Four.
Despite the loss, Miami coach Enrico Blasi was proud of his goalies.
“Both our goaltenders are the reason why we’re here,” he said.
RECORD BREAKER: Ford Field, home of the NFL's Detroit Lions, drew an announced crowd of 34,954 for Thursday's semifinal games, setting a world indoor attendance record for a hockey game.