MILWAUKEE — Friday night they were honored as the first-team All-American goaltenders for the West and East Regions, respectively. Saturday night Wisconsin’s Brian Elliott and Boston College’s Cory Schneider proved worthy of their plaudits again and again and again.
Elliott made 22 saves to help lead the Badgers to the national championship here, with a 2-1 win over the Eagles at the Bradley Center. In four NCAA Tournament games, Elliott gave up just three goals, while making 109 saves for a ridiculous .973 save percentage and a 0.62 goals against average.
Elliott’s final season statistics were astonishing: a 27-5-3 record, school-record 1.55 goals against average and a school-record .938 save percentage.
“Coming in this season we knew he was going to be something special even though he never started that much last year,” senior wing Ryan MacMurchy said. “We knew he was going to be a great goalie just by his work ethic.
“Playoffs is all about having that big-time goalie who can win those championships for you, get those big saves for you. He was just tremendous.”
Elliott was excellent Saturday. He had little chance to stop the one goal he allowed, when a centering feed led to Pat Gannon’s point-blank backhander into the top shelf.
But it was Schneider whose star shined brighter Saturday, if in defeat, and as a result of the extraordinary duress the Badgers placed on him throughout the game.
Schneider was especially brilliant in the first period, when he stopped all 17 shots on goal UW fired at him to allow BC to take a 1-0 lead despite being out played for much of the opening 20 minutes.
In fact, Wisconsin dominated quite a bit of the action Saturday, but Schneider, who finished with 37 saves on 39 shots, refused to allow the Badgers to pull away. While he may not have dazzled with highlight reel saves, Schneider thwarted numerous prime scoring opportunities because his positioning and technique made difficult situations look relatively benign.
“He’s a great goaltender,” Elliott said. “He’s been like that all year.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be a high-scoring contest. It just came down to who wanted it more. We said going into the third period, ‘Our will versus theirs.’ And our will was definitely stronger.”
In the end, UW defenseman Tom Gilbert’s power-play shot from the slot found the net at 9:32 in the third period, beating Schneider and the Eagles.
“Cory Schneider was just outstanding tonight — darn near stole the hockey game, he was that in charge of the game,” Boston College coach Jerry York said. “The power play goal that Wisconsin scored was very well executed, with some tic-tac-toe passes. The defenseman who scored it put the shot a foot-and-a-half off the ice, short-side — a really difficult place for the goaltender.”