Badgers use partisan crowd to clinch NCAA title

Thursday night Wisconsin captain Adam Burish said the Badgers' fans clapped, cheered and sang at odd times during his team's 5-2 national semifinal victory over Maine.

However, in the next breath Burish acknowledged that the thousands of Wisconsin faithful who made the short trip from Madison to the Bradley Center might not be as clueless as they seem. When they start singing "On Wisconsin" in the doldrums of the second period "It gets you going, it's a great boost," he said.

Wisconsin fans provided their team with a similar pick-me-up in the final against Boston College two nights later.

When the Eagles' Anthony Aiello was hauled off for hooking at 8:34 in the third period, Wisconsin fans gave their team a standing ovation even though they were 0-for-5 on the power play to that point.

As if on cue, the Badgers finally converted at 9:32 in the third when defender Tom Gilbert scored the game-winner on a wrist shot from the slot, giving Wisconsin a 2-1 victory and its sixth NCAA men's ice hockey national title.

"It was truly an emotional energizer," Badgers head coach Mike Eaves said of the "wacky Wisconsin fans" in the crowd. "Our kids talked about it, they wanted to give them a reason to cheer. It was a phenomenal atmosphere."

The crowd did not have much to cheer about in the first half.

Boston College got on the board first when fourth line center Pat Gannon knocked a backhander over Wisconsin goalkeeper Brian Elliot's left shoulder at 9:01.

The play was set up by Dan Bertram who out-hustled a trio of Wisconsin defenders to the puck in the corner and when the Badgers failed to clear it around the boards he centered it to Gannon.

It did not take long for Wisconsin to tie the game.

Less than two minutes into the second period, Boston College star Chris Collins used a hip check at mid ice to up end Robbie Earl. Earl got up slowly and made his way toward the bench nursing a sore shoulder, but when he saw the puck enter the Eagles' zone he took a chance and streaked toward the net.

The decision paid off when Burish launched a pass into the crease and Earl knocked the puck in. He finished with three goals and four points in the tournament and was named the Most Outstanding Player at the Frozen Four.

Without Gilbert's heroics, the honor probably would have gone to Boston College goalkeeper Cory Schneider. The sophomore kept the Eagles in the game, recording 17 saves in the first half and 37 for the game.

Schneider twice stymied Gilbert on shots from the slot early in the game, but could not stop his third attempt.

"I was thinking to myself I'm not going to strike out three times," Gilbert said. "Joe Pavelski made a great pass to me. I just buried my head. I knew that puck was going to go in, I can't describe how I feel."