Blugold men’s hockey stings the yellowjackets
After a somewhat slow start to the second half of their season, the UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey team racked up two wins against UW-Superior this weekend at Hobbs Ice Arena, getting back into the game after coming out winless last weekend.
Junior defenseman Alex Olson said since returning from winter break the team hadn’t been playing as they had early on in the season. But, he hopes the team will continue to improve.
“Playing strong teams like Superior brings a better game out of us,” Olson said. “I think maybe our success early in the year is why when teams are playing us, we’re going to be playing their best game of the season, and we need to be prepared for that.”
The men came out hard on Friday and defeated the Yellowjackets 5-2.
Senior forward Jordan Singer scored the first two goals of the game, both in the first period, but the Yellowjackets finished off the period with a score of their own from John Kesler.
Junior forwards Jon Waggoner and Mark Pustin each racked up a goal of their own in the second, Waggoner scoring not too long after losing the blade on one of his skates.
“I thought I was screwed when I lost my blade in my skate, but I came back,” Waggoner said. “We were just dominating in the offensive zone and my line was playing really well, and we got some bodies up there and I got the puck in.”
Scoring went back and forth in the third, but with 23 seconds left on the clock for the game, Singer netted the last goal of the night.
Saturday, it took the Blugolds started slow, but they won 3-1.
While the only goal of the first period was scored by Superior, the Blugolds fought their way back and senior forward Travis Peckskamp scored Eau Claire’s first goal of the night almost halfway through the second period.
Waggoner scored his second goal of the weekend on Saturday, at 10:36 in the third period.
Waggoner said the team had been having a tough time on Saturday nights since coming back from winter break, and the pickup in the game during the second period really helped get them back on track.
“We were just a little behind one or two steps on our forecheck and it was kind of not working out for us,” he said. “We regrouped as a team and came together and in the third period came out hard and just got back to what we do that works, getting the puck in and running bodies.”
Head Coach Matt Loen said he thinks the weekend’s wins are a good sign for the team.
“We were 1-1-1 against the Minnesota Intercolegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) schools, which I wasn’t really satisfied with,” Loen said. “But we just got two wins against a very good team, so it makes up for those losses.”
The biggest surprise of the weekend was the Blugolds’ final goal, netted by Olson. In his first goal of the season, the puck bounced off the glass and found its way into the net halfway into the third period. Even Olson said he was surprised when the puck went in.
“We call that a Hobbs bounce,” he said, with a laugh.
Senior goalie Brandon Stephenson had his 12th win of the season, and made 25 saves on Friday and another 38 saves on Saturday.
Waggoner said Stephenson’s performance over the semester has been pivotal to the men’s success.
“He definitely keeps us in every night, every weekend,” Waggoner said. “You definitely don’t have a championship team without a championship goalie. And that’s going to take us to
Coming up next, the ‘Golds will face Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) rivals St. Norbert at Hobbs Ice Arena.
The Blugolds are tied with St. Norbert right now for first place in the conference, and the game is expected to be an exciting one, Loen said. St. Norbert are No. 1 in the country, with the Blugolds at No. 6.