A relentless, gritty Wisconsin hockey team was too much for Frozen Four first-timer Rochester Institute of Technology in Thursday night's semifinal action. A veteran Badgers squad showed why it is known to have one of the most powerful offenses in the country, flexing its scoring muscles in an 8-1 victory.
After manhandling RIT, the Badgers sent a stern message to college hockey: This team is on a mission to capture its seventh national title.
Wisconsin's John Mitchell sent the message just 1:27 into the opening frame as Justin Schultz wheeled the puck behind the net and found a wide open Cody Goloubef on the point. Goloubef's initial shot was stopped by RIT netminder Jared Dimichiel, but Mitchell was parked in the high slot and buried the rebound.
The Badgers would make it 2-0 at 9:38, when Derek Stepan redirected a Ryan McDonagh slap shot from the point once again.
Penalties were costly for RIT in the second period, and Wisconsin capitalized on three of their five power-play opportunities. Jordy Murray continued Wisconsin's fierce pace, extending the lead to 3-0 just 2:18 into the period. Aaron Bendickson skated the puck down the middle of the ice and sent a soft shot on net through traffic. Dimichiel made the initial stop but lost sight of Murray's rebound.
Wisconsin's next three goals came on the man advantage before the end of the second. Schultz continued the scoring frenzy at 4:26, when he was parked on the doorstep to stuff home his sixth of the season just under the pad of Dimichiel.
Michael Davis found the back of the net at 13:25 on a well executed cross-ice pass from Brendan Smith. The Badgers' final goal of the period came from Hobey Hat Trick finalist Blake Geoffrion, who buried a loose puck in front of the net at 13:24.
RIT was finally able to break the scoring silence with time winding down in the second. Tyler Brenner caught Badgers goaltender Scott Gudmandso sleeping for the first time to slip in his 11th of the year from just outside the crease.
Wisconsin, however, still dominated the period, outscoring the Tigers 3-0 and outshooting them 13-4 overall.
The Badgers would effectively stick the dagger in RIT's coffin by securing two more goals in the third. Andy Bohmbach and Stepan would score the Badgers' seventh and eighth goals of the game and ultimately put the lead out of RIT's reach.
Wisconsin looked sharp for the entire 60 minutes and put forth quite possibly its best effort during this postseason run, proving why it has topped the league and national standings all season. The Badgers' offense and power play came to life, contributing their highest output during the tournament
Though RIT's night didn't go as it hoped, its route to the Frozen Four was part of a historic year for the program and has set the tone for seasons to come.
Wisconsin will face the winner of the Boston College-Miami matchup on Saturday at 7 p.m.