Blugolds skate to upset in front of home crowd
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The sound of the foghorn welcomed the Blugold men’s hockey team onto the ice to a full house of cheering fans Friday night against St. Norbert College. UW-Eau Claire didn’t disappoint, winning 3-0 and holding the Green Knights scoreless for the first time since 1994.
Facing off at Hobbs Arena, the two teams
fought over which team would be No. 1 in the National Collegiate Hockey Association. It was a fast-paced game with the puck flying back and forth.
In a quick and aggressive opening, both teams made attempts on the goal, but the puck did not make it into a net until senior forward Devin Mantha hit one in with just five minutes left in the first period.
Senior goalie Brandon Stephenson had a busy night, blocking four fast breaks within a minute and catching several pucks in the body throughout the night to contribute to St. Norbert’s scoreless game.
“Games where I’m seeing a lot of action, I feel like I’m always better in just because it’s keeping me active, it’s keeping me in
the game,” Stephenson said. “We were able to just shut them down.”
Pushing for points, the Green Knights played hard and kept pressure at the net against Eau Claire’s defense.
However, Eau Claire’s defense held strong and the score remained 1-0 Blugolds at the first period
Kurt Weston scored the third and final goal, taking advantage of the Green Knights’ empty net after they pulled their goalie with just a few minutes left in the game.
Head coach Matt Loen said he was impressed with Stephenson’s performance against the Knights.
“He’s been consistent for three years,” Loen said. “He hasn’t really stolen games, but he’s been consistent and he stole the game tonight. Hopefully that focus can stay there.”
The Blugolds top scorer, senior Jordan Singer landed the second goal just 45 seconds into the second period with cheering from the full crowd in the arena.
“It was really exciting doing it right in front of the student section and get them going,” Singer said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Though the Knights outshot the Blugolds 40- 31, Stephenson blocked all of the attempts by St. Norbert to bring the Blugolds to an overall record of 15-3-2.
They are now ranked No. 1 in the NCHA, which was maintained from their recent win against the Pointers. Loen said the winning outcome could be the mark of a change for the Blugolds, mainly that the scoring and systems were well executed by his players.
“We have a very similar system, very similar players,” he said. “I think beating St. Norbert was the turning point for us, now we can play even more aggressive.”
The packed crowd enjoyed themselves through- out the game, chanting out cheers and singing along to “Sweet Caroline” during intermission.
Jordan Burnett, a senior attending the game, said she enjoyed the passion of the players and thought it was exciting to see the fights breakout between the two teams.
“It was just a really great game, a really fun game to watch,” she said. “You could just feel the energy from the boys and the crowd, and it was a game you should not have missed.”