This time, the Wisconsin fans weren’t swayed to Maine’s side.
This time the Black Bears couldn’t overcome the two-goal deficit in the final period.
This time Maine’s hopes for a National Championship at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee were dashed.
Wisconsin scored two goals on special teams in the second period and thwarted a Maine rally in the third in a 5-2 victory in the Frozen Four on Thursday.
The Badgers advance to Saturday’s NCAA Championship game against Boston College.
“Special teams was very important, it always is,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “It’s probably the only reason why we’re here, getting to the Frozen Four because we’ve had such good special teams. So it is a bit ironic that that cost us in this game.”
Unlike Maine did in 1993 in a NCAA Championship win at the Bradley Center, the Black Bears couldn’t produce a third-period comeback against the top-seeded Badgers.
Wisconsin (29-10-3) scored short-handed and got a power play goal in the second period to open a 3-1 lead. Though Maine (28-12-2) got within 3-2 on a Mike Lundin goal with 8:31 left, the Badgers answered 57 seconds later. Freshman Ben Street scored on a rebound with 7:34 left to squash the comeback.
“If you’re going to have a successful season, you’re underclassmen, freshmen and sophomores, have to contribute,” said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves.
Robbie Earl had two goals for the Badgers while Adam Burish added a goal and an assist. Brian Elliott, a Hobey Baker Award finalist, had 32 saves.
Maine went 0-for-7 on the power play, and also allowed a short-handed goal. The Black Bears top-ranked penalty kill also gave up a goal as Wisconsin broke a 1-1 tie in the second.
Maine had a strong start to the second with bids by Billy Ryan and Bret Tyler in the opening minutes. The Black Bears even got a power play opportunity, but it was Wisconsin that cashed in.
Michel Leveille couldn’t keep the puck in at the blue line. Ross Carlson stole it, carried the puck down the ice and shifted around Tyler and beat Ben Bishop at the 4:18 mark. It was the 12th short-handed goal Maine has allowed this year, second in the nation.
“We were pressuring them hard early in the second and got the power play,” said Maine goalie Ben Bishop. “I thought he was going to take a slap shot, and I didn’t think he was going to shoot it because he had all the time in the world. When he shot, it surprised me and it went five-hole.”
Wisconsin added to the lead with 11:44 on a power play. With Derek Damon off for a retaliatory penalty, the Badgers scored on a two-on-one rush. Elliott had just made a save on Greg Moore on an odd-man break. Wisconsin caught Maine in a line change and turned the quick transition into a wrister by Earl.
The Black Bears had ample opportunity late in the period to trim the deficit. Maine had three power plays but were thwarted by Elliott. The best saves came with 1:12 left when he kicked aside a Moore bid and then moved left to stop Damon on the rebound.
“We were just trying to move it around and find some kind of space and time to set up,” said Moore. “They were just pressuring us.”
Lundin scored off a Moore feed with 7:34 left. Street put in a rebound, and Earl scored an empty-net goal with 1:44 left to seal it.
With an arena full of Badger fans, the Black Bears had the chance to limit the noise with two power plays in the first period, but Maine came up empty.
“It was kind of interesting, trying to get a feel for each other,” said Moore. “I think we were trying to keep things simple and trying to get things deep.”
It was Wisconsin taking the early lead. Burish had his second attempt at a centering pass bounce off the arm of Maine defender Travis Wight with 9:49 left in the opening period.
“That one went off my pants,” said Wight. “That stuff happens. Those kinds of goals win big games. And we didn’t get any. I was trying to take my man, doing something right. I turned around, it hit me and I watched it go in the net. We didn’t dwell on it and came right back to tie it up.”
Maine tied the game with 2:23 left. With Keith Johnson in front of the net, Leveille’s wrister deflected in off the left of Badger defenseman Matt Olinger. The goal ended a shutout streak of over 270 minutes by Elliott.
“We just tried to get bodies and pucks to the net,” said Moore. “Shoot from anywhere. That was a great goal by Leveille, just hard work.”